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Martello tower no 9, Sandgate, Folkestone

A Scheduled Monument in Sandgate, Kent

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Latitude: 51.0739 / 51°4'26"N

Longitude: 1.1252 / 1°7'30"E

OS Eastings: 619021.234768

OS Northings: 135157.134688

OS Grid: TR190351

Mapcode National: GBR V0N.P8W

Mapcode Global: FRA F678.XVJ

Entry Name: Martello tower no 9, Sandgate, Folkestone

Scheduled Date: 24 September 1975

Last Amended: 14 December 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017226

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32254

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Sandgate

Built-Up Area: Folkestone

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent


The monument includes a martello tower, set within a dry moat and outer
glacis, and situated on the crest of a ridge on the south western outskirts of
Folkestone. The tower, which is Listed Grade II, is the most westerly of a
cliff top series of six moated towers, constructed in 1805-6 to defend the
coastline between Hythe and Folkestone, and lies around 400m west of tower
no 8.
The slightly elliptical, brick built tower measures up to 13m in diameter
externally and stands complete to its original height of about 10m. The upper
half of the tower protrudes above the lip of the brick retaining wall of the
moat, which encircles the base at a distance of around 10m and was intended to
provide further protection against both cannon fire and ground assault. Beyond
the moat, an earthen bank, or glacis, was constructed against the outer face
of the retaining wall, sloping away from the lip of the moat for a distance of
up to 24m. The glacis has been disturbed along its eastern edge by past modern
ground disturbance.
The tower was constructed on three levels, with battered (inwardly sloping)
walls, designed to deflect cannon shot, ranging from around 1.6m to 4m in
thickness, the most substantial section being the wall base on the southern,
seaward side. The external face of the tower was rendered in a cement mortar,
or stucco, which served to strengthen the outer skin of bricks, and traces of
this survive. A thick central column rises from the basement to the top of the
tower, from which springs the barrel vaulted first floor ceiling which
supports the gun platform on the roof.
Access into the tower was by way of a first floor doorway to the north, which
was approached by a footbridge which spanned the moat. The section nearest the
tower was designed as a drawbridge, capable of being raised to seal the
entrance. The bridge does not survive. The first floor was originally divided
into three rooms by wooden partitions which provided accommodation for the
garrison of 24 men and one officer. Two fireplaces heated the rooms, which
were lit by two windows to the east and west. The arrangement of rooms was
subsequently altered during later refurbishments to provide additional storage
for ammunition in the form of two first floor magazines.
The ground floor was reached by a trap door near the entrance, leading down
through a suspended wooden floor, which does not survive. This was used to
store ammunition and supplies, and provision for these originally included a
single, vaulted magazine, partly recessed into the thickness of the outer
wall. Two further ammunition stores were constructed during later
refurbishments and these were accompanied by two ammunition lift shafts,
linking the gun emplacement to the ground floor level, and air vents between
the ground and first floors, which were inserted into the thickness of the
The open gun platform is reached from the first floor by an internal stone
staircase constructed in the thickest part of the tower wall. The circular
roof space, designed to accommodate a 24-pounder cannon mounted on a wooden
traversing carriage, has been sealed in asphalt and, despite continuing
vandalism to the parapet wall and coping, it retains many of its original
features, including the central pivot and the inner iron gun rail. The
surviving parapet coping stones retain the original, raised chimney openings
and four ammunition stores in the form of arched recesses, a smaller niche for
a gunpowder flask, and the heads of the inserted lift shafts remain within the
parapet wall. The cannon, which had a range of around 1.5km and could be
turned through 360 degrees, was operated by a series of rope pulleys and four
of the six iron hauling-rings, used for traversing and preparing the cannon,
remain in place on the parapet wall.
All modern fixtures and fittings, such as the modern danger signs and the
bricks used to seal the doorway, and the modern fence, are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath these features, or the structures to
which they are attached are included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Martello towers are gun towers constructed to defend the vulnerable south
eastern coast of England against the threat of ship-borne invasion by
Napoleonic forces. Built as a systematic chain of defence in two phases,
between 1805-1810 along the coasts of East Sussex and Kent, and between 1808-
1812 along the coasts of Essex and Suffolk, the design of martello towers was
based on a fortified tower at Mortella Point in Corsica which had put up a
prolonged resistance to British forces in 1793. The towers take the form of
compact, free-standing circular buildings on three levels built of rendered
brick. The towers of the south coast were numbered 1-74 from east to west,
while those of the east coast were identified by a system of letters (A-Z, and
then AA-CC) from south to north.
Although they exhibit a marked uniformity of design, minor variations are
discernible between the southern and eastern groups and amongst individual
towers, due mainly to the practice of entrusting their construction to local
sub-contractors. Most southern towers are elliptical in plan, whilst the
eastern group are oval or cam-shaped externally, with axes at the base ranging
between 14.4m by 13.5m and 16.9m by 17.7m. All are circular internally, the
battered (inwardly sloping) walls of varying thicknesses, but with the
thickest section invariably facing the seaward side. Most stand to a height of
around 10m. Many martello towers are surrounded by dry moats originally
encircled by counterscarp banks, and/or have cunettes (narrower water
defences) situated at the foot of the tower wall. The ground floor was used
for storage, with accommodation for the garrison provided on the first floor,
and the main gun platform on the roof. The southern towers carried a single
24 pounder cannon, whilst the eastern line carried three guns (usually a 24
pounder cannon and two shorter guns or howitzers). Three large, circular ten-
gun towers known as redoubts were also constructed at particularly vulnerable
points, at Dymchurch, Eastbourne and Harwich. All three survive.
As the expected Napoleonic invasion attempt did not materialise, the defensive
strength of the martello tower system was never tested, and the tower design
was soon rendered obsolete by new developments in heavy artillery. Many were
abandoned and fell into decay or were demolished during the 19th century,
although some continued in use into the 20th century as signalling or
coastguard stations and a few saw use as look out points or gun emplacements
during the two World Wars. Of the original 74 towers on the south coast, 26
now survive, and of the 29 on the east coast, 17 now survive. Those which
survive well and display a diversity of original components are considered to
merit protection.

Martello tower no 9 survives well, and retains many of its original components
and associated features, including its glacis bank. The unique addition of two
magazines at first floor level contributes towards our understanding of the
subsequent development of the individual towers and, when viewed as one of a
series of six cliff top towers, no 9 illustrates the strategically planned
integration of the martello tower system and its role in the defence of
Britain during the early 19th century.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Sutcliffe, S, Martello Towers, (1972)
Telling, RM, English Martello Towers: A Concise Guide, (1997)
Telling, R M, Handbook on Martello Towers, (1998)
The Conservation Practice, , South Coast Martello Towers - a report of survey, (1996)

Source: Historic England

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