Martello Tower No. 24
Martello Tower No. 24 was one of 74 towers built along the south coast between 1805 and 1812 to resist the threatened French invasion. Restored to its original design and containing replica gunpowder barrels and a 24 pounder muzzle-loading cannon on the gun platform.
Dymchurch Martello Tower No. 24 is an example of a specialised type of coastal fortifications erected during the Napoleonic Wars to repel a feared enemy invasion.
In 1804 French troops were known to be mustering at Boulogne with the object of crossing the Channel. Plans were made to place towers along likely invasion areas in Suffolk, Essex, Kent and East Sussex.
The design of the bomb-proof towers was inspired by a fort in the Bay of Mortella in Corsica which had beaten off two British warships in 1794.
By 1812 there were 74 such towers sited on the South Coast and a further 29 in Suffolk and Essex. Some of them were placed in pairs to protect the gates of marsh sluices. Tower 24 at Dymchurch and its counterpart no 25 (now largely derelict) was an example of the latter type.
The gun platform was on the top. Dymchurch tower reveals all the features of the original design. The basement was for storing ammunition, fuel and provisions and these supplies were separated from each other by wooden partitions. In addition the gunpowder barrels were placed in a specially ventilated recess.
The design of the towers was simple with the seaward walls thicker than those to landward. A single entrance was placed at first floor level approached by a removable ladder. The only windows were small and high, facing inland.
The risk of fire was avoided by protecting the necessary lantern with a glass plate. Ventilation ducts were provided to keep the stores dry. The first floor contained quarters for both officers and men although it is apparent that the full complement of 24 would have been very cramped.
Sir Walter Scott, the Scottish historical novelist, playwright
and poet, described Martello Towers in the the first chapter
of his novel "Peveril of the Peak"
...built ... in such a fashion as if he had intended it, as an Irishman said of the Martello Towers, for the sole purpose
of puzzling posterity
The gun platform housed a muzzle-loading 24-pounder which could be turned through 360 degrees with the aid of ropes. It was worked by a team of 10 to 14 men using step-boards along each side. Such a gun could fire a solid or explosive round shot for over a mile.
The ingenuity of the design of Martello Towers was never put to the test since Nelson's defeat of the French fleet at Trafalgar in 1805 and Napoleon's decision to invade Russia removed the possibility of a French invasion.
Text Courtesy of English Heritage
For more detailed information, please see Description of Martello Tower No. 24.
With the end of the war with Napoleon in 1815, many of the Martello Towers were abandoned by the military but a renewed threat from France in 1830 and again in 1859 led to some of the towers being rearmed and then abandoned again.
With many of the other towers, Martello Tower No.24 was first used as a signal station. Then, from about 1830, the tower was used by the newly formed Coastguard organisation, and then with their families from about 1841.
Martello Tower No.24 Today (2017)
During the Second World War, it was used to spot incoming aircraft and the V1 & V2 flying bombs. It was manned for a time by a Forward Observation party from 64 Field Regiment, RA based in the Dymchurch and New Romney area,
The tower was acquired from the War Office by the Ministry of Works in 1959 when it was no longer required by the Coastguard. It was restored to its original state and opened to visitors as a museum in 1969 Today it is in the care of English Heritage and open to visitors at weekends during the summer months.
Martello Tower No. 24 is located in Dymchurch, just off the High Street. The tower is open to the public every Saturday and Sunday 2 pm to 4 pm until 29 October 2017.
If you wish to arrange an educational visit eg for school children, please call English Heritage
01483 252013 for details.
Officers and soldier of the time from the 16th Foot Re-enactment Group
Section through a Martello Tower
Plan of the First Floor of Martello24
Artists impression of a Martello Tower (larger picture)