The Wish Tower, one of a series of seafront towers originally built to fend off a feared attack by Napoleon, will be re-opening after 13 years.
The Wish Tower Friends group has just agreed a two-year lease with Eastbourne Borough Council and the Martello Tower will open its doors to the public in early 2014.
The tower, which was built around 1805 as one of a string of 74 along the costs of Sussex and Kent, will be hosting free torchlight tours for the public.
It would have had a gun on the roof and was built to withstand substantial bombardment. Many will remember the last permanent use of the Tower as a puppet museum.
The Friends group is not for profit and the opening is the result of volunteer effort.
Any money raised will be reinvested in the tower and getting the right experts involved to plan for its future.
The group’s long-term aim is restore the Wish Tower back to its former glory so it can be enjoyed as a relatively unspoilt Martello Tower.
Over the next two years the Friends group will start to plan and cost the works, ready to start funding at a later date.
Liz Crew, from the Wish Tower Friends, said, “Eastbourne is very lucky, the Tower is a rare commodity: a Martello Tower in mostly unspoiled condition in public ownership.
“We’re looking forward to sharing our enthusiasm for this piece of Eastbourne’s heritage with residents and visitors alike.”
Will Callaghan, also with the Friends, said, “It’s a great Christmas present for Eastbourne. If you’d like to help then please do get in touch – the more the merrier!”
Cllr Carolyn Heaps, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Tourism, said, “The council has a good relationship with the Wish Tower Friends and I’m pleased that together we have reached a point where this re-opening is possible.
“I look forward to seeing the Martello Tower develop next year and once again welcoming visitors.”
Martello towers, sometimes known simply as Martellos, are small defensive forts that were built across the British Empire during the 19th century, from the time of the French Revolutionary Wars onwards.
They stand up to 40 feet high, with two floors, walls about eight feet thick and typically had a garrison of one officer and 15–25 men.
During the first half of the 19th century, the British government embarked on a large-scale programme of building Martello towers to guard the British and Irish coastlines. In the later half of the century, there was another spate of tower and fort building.