Martello tower no 74 on Seaford Esplanade


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2021. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1017359.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 28-Jul-2021 at 14:01:25.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Sussex
Lewes (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TV 48464 98492

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 merit protection.

Martello tower no 74 survives well, and retains many of its original components, as well as a 19th century gun barrel. As a slightly later, isolated addition to the chain of south coast towers, no 74 contributes towards our understanding of the martello tower system and its role in the defence of Britain during the 19th century.


The monument includes a martello tower set within a dry moat and situated at the eastern end of the Esplanade, overlooking the shoreline to the south of Seaford. The tower, which is Listed Grade II, is the most westerly in a chain of 103 towers constructed around the south east coast between Suffolk and Sussex. It was added to the existing chain of 73 south coast towers in around 1810, to defend the coastline between the rivers Ouse and Cuckmere. The slightly elliptical, brick built tower measures up to around 13m in diameter and was constructed on three levels. It stands to a height of about 10m, with battered (inwardly sloping) walls, designed to deflect cannon shot, ranging in thickness from 1.6m to 4m, the most substantial section being on the seaward side. The outer surface of the tower is faced in a cement render, or stucco, to protect the outer skin of bricks. Internally, a thick central column rises from the base to the top of the tower, from which springs the barrel vaulted first floor ceiling which supports the gun platform on the roof. The upper half of the tower protrudes above the lip of the brick retaining wall of the moat, which encircles the base at a distance of around 10m and was intended to protect the tower from cannon fire and ground assault. The south western half of the moat has been enclosed, forming part of the modern promenade, and provides additional storage, display and work rooms for the local history museum which now occupies the tower. The north eastern portion of the moat wall is surmounted by an ornamental balustrade, added during the later reuse of the tower in the early 20th century. An earthen bank, or glacis, was constructed against the outer face of the retaining wall, but this has been substantially destroyed by coastal erosion and construction of the modern road and adjacent car park. Access into the tower was by way of a first floor doorway to the north east, originally approached by a footbridge which spanned the moat. The section nearest the tower was designed as a drawbridge, capable of being raised to seal the entrance in times of attack. The bridge does not survive, and a new first floor entrance was inserted on the south eastern side during the 20th century, which is accessible from street level, across the covered moat. The first floor was originally 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 east and south west. The window openings have since been filled, and rendered externally. The ground floor was reached by a trap door near the main entrance, leading down through a suspended wooden floor. The floor has been replaced by modern timbers, and access maintained by way of a modern staircase. 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. The outer wall of the magazine has been pierced to provide access to the rooms in the south western section of the moat. The open 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 cannon, 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 traversed, on inner and outer running rails, by a series of rope pulleys and iron hauling- rings set into the encircling parapet wall. The roof retains many of its original features, including the running rails and several ammunition stores, in the form of arched recesses also set into the parapet wall. A 32-pounder cannon, mounted on a modern replica traversing carriage, is in position on the gun platform. The martello tower was subsequently used during the 19th century as a signal tower and a coastguard station and, during the early 20th century, as an amusement arcade and a cafe. In 1922, a residential apartment was superimposed onto the roof of the tower, but this has since been removed. In 1998 the tower housed a small museum and was open to the public. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all modern structures and concrete surfaces within the moat, the surface of the modern pavement around the edge of the moat, the stone balustrade, modern railings and litter bins, all modern fixtures, fittings and displays within the tower, all modern materials and equipment stored within the tower and all components of the modern plumbing, electrical and heating systems, the ground beneath and/or the structures to which these features are attached is included.

MAP EXTRACT 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Rose, C, Astell, J A, The Martello Tower at Seaford, (1970)
Sutcliffe, S, Martello Towers, (1972)
Telling, RM, English Martello Towers: A Concise Guide, (1997)
The Conservation Practice, , South Coast Martello Towers - a report of survey, (1996)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].