View of the tower, showing the cliffs in the background. The new bridge is just visible.
Seaford Martello Tower © Historic England
Seaford Martello Tower © Historic England

A New Bridge at Seaford Martello Tower

On Friday 5 October the South East team attended the opening of a new bridge at Seaford Martello tower, Lewes, East Sussex.

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. The towers design was based on a fortified tower at Mortella Point in Corsica which had put up a prolonged resistance to British forces in 1793.

Seaford Martello Tower was built in 1810, to defend the coastline between the rivers Ouse and Cuckmere. Remarkably the tower has remained in good condition, and it is still possible to see a nineteenth century gun barrel. The tower provided storage, accommodation for a garrison and a gun platform.

The tower in Seaford is now home to the Seaford Museum. The museum is a fascinating collection of exhibits telling the story of Seaford. It is run by the Seaford Heritage Society who have brought together exhibits that explore Seaford from its prehistoric origins to the 20th century.

Martello Towers were specifically designed to restrict access. This means that they can be difficult to access. The bridge, the lift and the ramps are all specifically intended to make it accessible to people who could not get past the narrow door and steep steps. Now it's possible for many more people to see the interior of a Martello Tower as well as the collections of the Seaford Museum. The bridge has been built in a modern style, and is situated in the same place as the original 19th-century access bridge. This brings to life the original design of the tower and also adds a new modern layer of history.

Historic England has worked with the tower to enable the new bridge to be built. The tower is a scheduled monument and so before the work could be carried out Scheduled Monument Consent was needed.

The work was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Keith Baker Charitable Will Trust, a charity supporting improved access for people with disabilities.