Martello Tower E in the distance showing the historic shoreline and sea.
Martello Tower E shown in the distance along the historic shoreline it defended © Steve Daniels licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via
Martello Tower E shown in the distance along the historic shoreline it defended © Steve Daniels licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via

New Grant Funding Will Save Historic Martello Tower in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex

Historic England has awarded a grant of £118,000 towards the repair of Grade II listed and scheduled monument Martello Tower E in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex.

Defending England against the threat of invasion

Martello Towers, small coastal artillery forts, were built to defend England against the threat of invasion after the renewal of war with France in 1803. A chain of 103 towers was built in East Sussex and Kent (1805–1808) and Essex and Suffolk (1809–1812). Situated towards the western end of the Clacton shore, this tower was identified by the letter ‘E’ in a series of east coast towers classified by a system of letters.

According to a contemporary report, Martello Tower E was built to command ‘the landing place at Clacton Wash and the great road leading from it into the country’. When completed in 1812 it stood some distance back from the shoreline, positioned behind a forward battery built in 1805.

We're delighted to support the urgently needed repair of Martello Tower E with this grant. The tower is a valued local landmark and a striking visual reminder of Britain’s defence against the threat of invasion during the 19th century. We’re pleased to play our part in repairing this important site and protecting it for future generations to enjoy.

Tony Calladine, Regional Director (East of England) Historic England

A formidable structure

The tower stands at a height of 10 metres, with up to four-metre thick walls facing the sea and is sloped inwards to resist cannon fire. The open top floor, supported by a vast central pillar, carried three guns set on swivelling carriages. The middle floor formed living quarters for about 25 men and contained the only external door in the tower, some 3-4 metres above ground level. The semi-basement ground floor contained the powder magazine, alcoves for shot, cartridge and general stores and a water cistern.

The forward battery position, guard house and magazine that accompanied Martello Tower E have long since disappeared but the tower survives well. Despite some 20th century alterations the structure remains substantially intact and is known to retain original details dating from the period of construction. The openings, four windows, door and the ladder chute below it have all been sealed in recent years to prevent vandalism.

Repairing an important local landmark

Martello Tower E is in poor condition with a leaking roof and an unstable and damp interior. The £118,000 grant from Historic England will enable urgent repair work to make the building safe by removing the damaged exterior render and installing temporary support to the internal floor. The Gun Platform floor will be repaired and drainage installed. The current phase of work also includes the removal of debris from inside the building, which will be carried out under careful archaeological monitoring.

Historic England is the major funder for this repair project, contributing up to 80% of total costs.

Of the original 29 towers on the east coast, only 17 now survive. Eleven Martello Towers were constructed along the 20-kilometre stretch of Essex coastline known as the Clacton Beach, running from Stone Point on the north bank of the Colne Estuary northwards towards Walton on the Naze. In addition to Tower E, five others remain standing and are also scheduled monuments.

The Martello Towers showcase the history of the area, to see improvement and sustainable development, sensitive to their heritage would be beneficial to us all. My thanks go to Historic England for their ongoing support to us as we try to make best use of and safeguard our historic buildings, they have been a vital partner in the project so far.

Lynda McWilliams, Cabinet Member for Partnerships Tendring District Council

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