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Martello tower A and associated battery, Stone Point

A Scheduled Monument in St. Osyth, Essex

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.801 / 51°48'3"N

Longitude: 1.0194 / 1°1'9"E

OS Eastings: 608280.015718

OS Northings: 215685.172666

OS Grid: TM082156

Mapcode National: GBR TQT.0JP

Mapcode Global: VHKGF.MZ8Q

Entry Name: Martello tower A and associated battery, Stone Point

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 16 April 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017052

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29429

County: Essex

Civil Parish: St. Osyth

Built-Up Area: Point Clear

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: St Osyth Saints Peter and St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford

Details

The monument, in two areas of protection, includes a martello tower and the
standing and buried remains of an associated forward battery, situated near
the tip of Point Clear (Stone Point) to face Mersea Island across the mouth of
the Colne Estuary.

The tower, which is Listed Grade II, was the first to be built in the
east coast series (and consequently identified by the letter `A'). It was
constructed in an isolated location known as Lost Marsh, on land purchased
under Act of Parliament in 1808. It now stands between a cluster of seafront
bungalows dating from the period between the two World Wars and a modern
holiday park. The tower stands complete to its original height of about 10m.
The date stone above the door and the denticulated stone mouldings around the
door and windows are flush with the exterior, indicating that the brickwork of
this tower, unlike many on the east coast, was originally left exposed and not
coated with coarse stucco. The first floor entrance, on the east side of the
tower, was designed to be approached by ladder as is clearly shown by the
stone chute at the foot of the frame. The oak flooring in the first floor
garrison room remains substantially intact, although a small section was
removed in the 1930s to allow a staircase to the ground floor. The trapdoor
which originally provided the only access to the magazine and stores still
survives, complete with the iron hoist ring set in the ceiling above. The
flagstone flooring surrounding the officer's fireplace (and covering the vault
of the main powder magazine) is also fully intact, although the original iron
cooking range has long since been removed. The two northern windows have been
framed and glazed since the 1930s. They also retain sets of iron bars, parts
of which may date from around 1818 when such bars were installed in most Essex
towers to allow the shutters to remain open and relieve the constant problem
of damp. The window embrasure to the south was expanded in the late 1950s or
1960s to provide a passageway to a small two-storey, brick-built annex
attached to the outer wall. This structure, formerly part of a post-war cafe
and now containing a small kitchen and toilets, is not included in the
scheduling. The south east window alcove, at the foot of the southern
staircase, has also been widened, allowing access to a steel fire escape
(excluded from the scheduling), itself replacing a set of wooden stairs.
The internal stairways to the roof both survive although the southern passage
is currently blocked and used as a wood store. Unlike many towers on the east
coast, the interior face of the rampart has not been subsequently rendered and
the masonry of the parapet and gun step retains its original appearance.
Several of the box-like recesses for ready-use cannon balls and other
equipment also survive unchanged, together with some of the iron hauling-rings
used for traversing and preparing the guns. The cannons themselves were
removed in the 19th century, and the pivots for the three rotating gun
carriages (further cannon barrels embedded muzzle upwards in the roof) are
also missing, presumably removed during the World War II. The forward
embrasure is almost completely obscured by an observation post built during
World War II. The forward section of this brick-built structure is constructed
over the original gun emplacement and matches the curvature of the stone
parapet. A slot-like aperture facing seaward beneath its concrete roof is now
glazed, but it was originally open and probably served as a light gun
position. Attached to the rear of this structure is a small rectangular tower,
now roofed, but built as an open-topped command post to control the detonation
system for a pattern of mines laid across the estuary. In the later stages of
the war these structures were used to observe large scale invasion exercises
in preparation for Operation Overlord. The entire installation, with the
exception of the modern roof on the command tower, is included in the
scheduling.

The ground floor of the martello tower is accessible via a passageway on the
east side, which was cut through the rear wall of a storage alcove in the
early 1940s. The other internal alcoves and the main magazine remain
substantially unaltered, although the floor level throughout was raised with
concrete during the World War II. The original ventilation system - an
arrangement of flues set within the thickness of the outer wall and linked to
slots and box-like apertures in the alcoves and in the internal walls of the
room above - is still very much in evidence.

All the Essex towers, except for that at Holland Marsh (tower H), were built
to accompany forward batteries, some of which had already been in place for
over ten years. The battery at Stone Point was built in conjunction with tower
A, and it is now one of only two surviving examples on the Essex coast; the
other lying near tower K at Walton on the Naze. The remains of the Stone Point
battery stand some 50m to the south west of the tower, in the gardens of
Nos.31-33 Tower Estate. The battery is of the barbette-type: a massive
`V'-shaped brick wall pointing east towards the estuary mouth, terraced to the
rear and originally equipped with five 24-pound cannons, set on traversing
carriages behind lower sections of the parapet. The northern arm of the wall,
some 40m in length and 2.5m high, survives particularly well, retaining the
upper course of dressed stone, the inner rifle step (or covered way) and two
embrasures complete with carriage pivots embedded in platforms below. The
central section of the southern arm also survives near to its full height and
retains evidence of two further embrasures. The seaward point of the battery
(including the forward embrasure) and the eastern end of the south wall
however, have been overlain by later houses or reduced leaving only the lower
courses and massive foundations in place. The standing and buried remains of
the battery wall and gun emplacements, excluding all features subsequently
attached or overlain, are included in the scheduling.

As with all the Essex martello towers and batteries, martello tower A was
armed and provisioned but not fully garrisoned after its completion around
1810. A report by the Ordnance Barrack Department in 1812 emphasised the
unhealthy nature of the Essex coastline and recommended that the artillerymen
be stationed at Weely (some 8km inland) where barracks had been built for the
Essex defence regiments in 1803. Throughout the period leading up to the
settlement of Europe in 1815 the entire line of Essex towers was in the
charge of `Barrack Sergeant Burnett' of Great Clacton. After 1816 married
pensioners from sapper and artillery units were appointed as caretakers - John
Brewerton being appointed to tower A. Given its position overlooking the
vulnerable River Colne the tower continued to mount cannon for some time after
the Napoleonic War; and the same was also true for the opposing battery at
Brightlingsea, which was later destroyed by railway construction. The tower
remained in Crown hands into the early 20th century, first as a coastguard
station and later as a piquet station in the World War I. After the war the
tower was converted for use as a restaurant, serving the seafront properties
which developed around Stone Point in the late 1920s and 1930s. During World
War II the tower, and later the entire point, was commandeered for military
use. The tower was used as a tea room in the late 1950s and 1960s, although it
was unable to match its pre-war success. It was briefly adapted as a bar and
discotheque for the new holiday park, although by the mid 1980s the tower had
fallen into disuse. The park's owners subsequently allowed the tower to be
used by a local museum group. This group (The East Essex Aviation Museum
Society) has undertaken renovations and equipped the interior with displays
concerning World War II (with particular reference to military aviation) and
the history of the tower.

The metal porch covering the ground floor entrance on the south east side of
the tower; the former supermarket building (now museum workshops and stores)
attached to the tower's north side and the brick built annex to the south are
not included in the scheduling.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the steel
fire escape on the south east side of the tower, together with all other
interior and exterior fixtures and fittings which post-date World War II; all
museum displays and exhibits and all modern materials and equipment stored
within the tower, although the structure of the tower where these features
stand or are attached to it is included. All features attached or overlying
the standing and buried remains of the battery wall and gun emplacements are
also excluded, although all the original structures beneath are again
included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Martello towers are small coastal artillery forts constructed after the
renewal of war with France in 1803 to defend England against the threat of
invasion. Their design and name were taken from a tower at Martello Bay,
Corsica. The 103 towers in the chain were developed in two phases, those in
East Sussex and Kent being built between 1805 and 1808, and those in Essex and
Suffolk between 1809 and 1812. The south coast towers were numbered 1-74 (from
Beachy Head to Dover) while those to the east were identified by a system of
letters (A-Z from St Osyth to Alderton and AA-CC from Hollesley to Aldeburgh).
The towers are usually circular or near circular in plan, with an average
height of 10m containing three levels. They were built in brick, and often
rendered. The tower walls are both massive (up to 4m thick on the seaward
side) and battered (slope inwards) so as to resist cannon fire. The top floor,
open to sky and supported by a massive central pillar, carried swivelling
cannon or cannons within a deep embrasure. The middle floor served as living
quarters for about 25 men and contained the only external door in the tower,
some 3m-4m above ground level. The semi-basement ground floor was reached
via a trapdoor from the garrison room above and contained the powder magazine,
alcoves for shot, cartridge and general stores, and a water cistern. Some
towers were supported by forward batteries, and many were surrounded by dry
moats and/or water-filled moats, crossed by bridges or drawbridges. The east
coast towers are slightly larger than the earlier examples to the south,
measuring an average of 17.5m in diameter at the base. They are also oval in
plan rather than circular, allowing a still thicker wall to face the direction
of fire. They carried three guns on the fighting top (usually a 24 pound
cannon and two shorter guns or howitzers) set on swivelling carriages within a
clover leaf shaped embrasure, as opposed to the single rotating cannon of the
southern line, and had an additional internal staircase to speed transfer of
ammunition from the middle floor to the roof. East coast towers have four
windows at the middle level (compared to two on the south coast towers).
The defensive strength of the Martello tower system never needed to be tested
before the end of the Napoleonic War. They were brought to readiness on a few
further occasions in the early 19th century, but the whole concept of the
Martello tower was soon rendered obsolete by developments in heavy artillery.
Some served a variety of other uses (such as signalling or coast guard
stations) into the 20th century, and a few saw use as lookout points or even
gun emplacements during the two World Wars. Of the original 29 towers on the
east coast, 17 now survive. Those which survive well and display a diversity
of original components are considered to merit protection.

Eleven martello towers were originally constructed along the 20km stretch of
Essex coastline known as the Clacton Beach, some adding to existing batteries
or replacing earlier signal stations. The line of towers, identified by the
letters A to K, ran from the north bank of the Colne Estuary to Walton on the
Naze - with the large circular redoubt at Harwich punctuating the northern
end. In addition to tower A, five others now remain standing and are the
subject of separate schedulings : those at Jaywick (C), Eastness (D), Clacton
Wash (E), central Clacton (F) and Walton Mere (K).

Martello tower A, the earliest and most southerly tower on the east coast of
England, survives well. Despite a range of later uses, the structure remains
substantially unaltered and still retains numerous features dating from the
period of construction. In addition, this strategic position also retains a
rare example of a contemporary forward battery, one of only two now remaining
along the Clacton Beach section of the east coast line.

Although manned in World War I, the most notable addition to the tower
is the observation and command post constructed in World War II. This
structure is now recognised as being significant in its own right. It reflects
a further period of intense national crisis and relates specifically to the
defensive measures deployed in the east coast estuaries and the preparations
for the counter-invasion of Europe.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Walker, K, 'The Essex Review (October 1938)' in Martello Towers And the Defence of NE Essex in the Napoleonic War, , Vol. 188, (1938), 171-85
Other
Conversation with local resident, Lawless, Mrs B, Stone Point during World War II, (1998)
Conversation with long term resident, Lawless, Mrs B, (1998)
Conversation with tower's curators, Sippet, B and Scott, A, (1998)
Discussion with museum group, Sippet, B and Scott, A, Martello Tower A, (1998)
MPP Scheduling proposal, Went, D, SM:29434 Martello Tower K, west of Walton Mere, (1998)

Source: Historic England

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