Martello Towers

At the turn of the nineteenth century there was constant fear in England and Ireland of a possible invasion by General Napoleon Bonaparte. To try and forewarn themselves about an attack a number of Martello Towers were built along the coastline in both countries.

In this case the location for the towers was decided not by choice but by necessity, they had to be built in a good defensive location offering a suitable vantage point for the Irish against a possible invasion.

The Martello Towers of the area form a commanding physical presence along our coastline, reminding us of an uncertain period in our history when we feared an attack. In spite of the fact that they were not used for their original purpose, they may have deterred Napoleon.

He had received information from his network of spies about the Martello Towers, and other measures being taken in preparation for his attack. No doubt this information was a contributing factor in his decision not to attack Britain and Ireland.

Building began in 1804 in Ireland and the towers ran from Bray to Balbriggan. Many of the towers survive today, in varying states of repair.

The towers built in Ireland differed somewhat in design from their English counterparts. They were circular in design and consisted of two main rooms on two levels. The room at ground level housed the Gunpowder magazine, this room was used to store ammunition and food supplies.

Above this was the first floor used for accommodation purposes and to give access to the gun platform above. These gun platforms could launch a cannon about a mile out to sea. Each tower had a furnace for heating the cannons to inflict even greater damage on the enemy.Martello towers did not offer very much coverage or protection to the crew in charge of them and so left them vulnerable to attack. Originally 74 towers were planned for Ireland, in all less than 50 were built.

Fourteen towers stretch along the coastline from Sandymount to Bray together with ten artillery batteries, usually located adjacent to the tower. Colonel Benjamin Fisher was in charge of this process. The design of the towers/batteries was such that their lines of fire all overlapped.

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