Reasons for Designation
Martello towers are gun towers constructed to defend the vulnerable south
eastern coast of England against the threat of ship-borne invasion by
Napoleonic forces. Built as a systematic chain of defence in two phases,
between 1805-1810 along the coasts of East Sussex and Kent, and between 1808-
1812 along the coasts of Essex and Suffolk, the design of martello towers was
based on a fortified tower at Mortella Point in Corsica which had put up a
prolonged resistance to British forces in 1793. The towers take the form of
compact, free-standing circular buildings on three levels built of rendered
brick. The towers of the south coast were numbered 1-74 from east to west,
while those of the east coast were identified by a system of letters (A-Z, and
then AA-CC) from south to north.
Although they exhibit a marked uniformity of design, minor variations are
discernible between the southern and eastern groups and amongst individual
towers, due mainly to the practice of entrusting their construction to local
sub-contractors. Most southern towers are elliptical in plan, whilst the
eastern group are oval or cam-shaped externally, with axes at the base ranging
between 14.4m by 13.5m and 16.9m by 17.7m. All are circular internally, the
battered (inwardly sloping) walls of varying thicknesses, but with the
thickest section invariably facing the seaward side. Most stand to a height of
around 10m. Many martello towers are surrounded by dry moats originally
encircled by counterscarp banks, and/or have cunettes (narrower water
defences) situated at the foot of the tower wall. The ground floor was used
for storage, with accommodation for the garrison provided on the first floor,
and the main gun platform on the roof. The southern towers carried a single
24 pounder cannon, whilst the eastern line carried three guns (usually a 24
pounder cannon and two shorter guns or howitzers). Three large, circular ten-
gun towers known as redoubts were also constructed at particularly vulnerable
points, at Dymchurch, Eastbourne and Harwich. All three survive.
As the expected Napoleonic invasion attempt did not materialise, the defensive
strength of the martello tower system was never tested, and the tower design
was soon rendered obsolete by new developments in heavy artillery. Many were
abandoned and fell into decay or were demolished during the 19th century,
although some continued in use into the 20th century as signalling or
coastguard stations and a few saw use as look out points or gun emplacements
during the two World Wars. Of the original 74 towers on the south coast, 26
now survive, and of the 29 on the east coast, 17 now survive. Those which
survive well and display a diversity of original components are considered to
Martello tower no 64 survives well, and retains many of its original
components. It is one of the surviving examples of a series of low-lying
towers, designed to defend a specific stretch of coastline and, as such, the
tower contributes towards our understanding and appreciation of the martello
tower system. The addition of a gun emplacement during World War II,
represents the continued significance of this defensive position well into the
The monument includes a martello tower and a World War II gun emplacement,
situated at the head of a shingle beach to the north east of Eastbourne, mid-
way between Langney Point and Pevensey Bay. The tower, which is Listed Grade
II, lies around 1km north east of its surviving neighbour, tower no 66, which
is the subject of a separate scheduling. The pair were constructed in 1805-6
as part of a long chain of low lying towers, spaced at 500m intervals, and
designed to guard the vulnerable coastline around Pevensey Bay.
The slightly elliptical, brick built tower measures up to about 13m in
diameter, and rises to a height of around 10m. Its battered (inwardly sloping)
walls, designed to deflect cannon shot, range in thickness from 1.6m to around
4m on the seaward side. Externally, the tower was rendered in a cement mortar
to protect the outer skin of bricks, although much of this has now been lost.
The tower was constructed on three levels, with a thick central column rising
between the basement and the top of the tower, from which springs the barrel
vaulted first floor ceiling which supports the gun platform on the roof.
A first floor doorway on the landward side, provided the original access into
the tower, and was reached from the ground by a retractable ladder. This was
sealed and replaced by three larger openings at ground floor level, which were
added when the tower was reused during World War II. The first floor was
divided into three rooms by wooden partitions and provided accommodation for
the garrison of 24 men and one officer. Two fireplaces heated the rooms, which
were lit by two windows to the north and south which were later adapted,
during World War II, to form gun loops.
Access to the ground floor was originally from first floor level, by way of a
trap door near the entrance, leading down through a suspended wooden floor.
The ground floor was used to store ammunition and supplies, and provision for
these included a single, vaulted magazine, partly recessed into the thickness
of the outer wall. Rainwater collection tanks were installed beneath the
floor, to supplement the water supply, and air vents, linking the ground and
first floors, were set into the thickness of the walls.
The gun platform is reached from the first floor by an internal stone
staircase constructed in the thickest part of the tower wall. The circular
roof space was designed to accommodate a 24-pounder canon, which had a range
of around 1.5km and could be turned through 360 degrees. The cannon was
mounted on a wooden carriage, supported on a central pivot, and was traversed
on inner and outer iron running rails by a series of rope pulleys and iron
hauling-rings set into the encircling parapet wall. The roof space is partly
concealed beneath a concrete World War II gun emplacement which is included in
All modern fixtures and fittings and all modern material within the tower are
excluded from the scheduling, although the structures to which they are
attached are included.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.