Towering relics of our coastal defences built to stop Napoleon

An old print from 1860 of the Wish Tower in Eastbourne. Photographs courtesy of Michael Foley and Amberley Publishing Ltd'.
An old print from 1860 of the Wish Tower in Eastbourne. Photographs courtesy of Michael Foley and Amberley Publishing Ltd'.

The history of the Martello towers dotted along the coast is featured in a new book by author Michael Foley.

Martello Towers, published by Amberley, charts the part the towers played in both the First and Second World Wars in the full colour guide of the towers built to defend England’s coastline.

Michael said, “There are a number of strange buildings that stand on the south and east coasts of England thought to be water towers or ventilation shafts.

“They are in fact important historical defences, built to stop Napoleon’s army invading our shores during the wars of the early 19th century.

“Any ship approaching the coast could come under fire from at least four of the buildings at once. They are the Martello towers. More than 100 were built along the coasts and their creation caused severe differences of opinion between some of the best known men of the period. Names such as Nelson, Wellington, Pitt and Corbett all had something to say about them.

“Although never used in the Napoleonic Wars, they were in many cases updated and played a part in later conflicts including both World Wars. Many have succumbed to coastal erosion and experiments by the Royal Artillery.

“Of those that remain some have been converted into dwellings and others are now museums. They are still an important part of our military and social history and in the book I provide, history, details and photographs of all the remaining Martello towers along the coastline.”