Aldeburgh Martello TowerAldeburgh
Slaughden Road
Suffolk IP15 5NA
 
 
 

Perched on the isthmus between Aldeburgh and the lonely shingle spit Orford Ness is a unique Martello Tower. Instead of being a single round tower like the one on the south coast at Dymchurch, it is quatrefoil in shape - in effect four towers fused into one.

During the 19th century Britain was in real danger of being invaded by the French so between 1808 and 1812 a chain of 103 heavy gun batteries were built along the South and East coasts of England.

Their design was copied from a successful fortification on Mortella Point in Corsica. It was circular, of solid construction, about forty feet (12 metres) in diameter and the same in height. In 1796, with a garrison of 38 men and three not very large guns, it had withstood attack from two warships of the British Navy, one with 74 guns, and one with 32.

The British Board of Ordnance was so impressed by the tower's resistance to fire-power, that it adopted the design for its own towers. These too were round, or oval, and in their construction used up to a million bricks.

The Aldeburgh tower is the largest and most northerly of this chain of English Martello Towers. It is also the only thing left of the ancient fishing village of Slaughden which was washed away by fierce storms in 1936. The tower almost succumbed to the sea as well. A whole section of the moat had been washed away, allowing the sea to reach the base of the tower.

The Landmark Trust
Fortunately the tower was rescued by the accommodation arm of the National Trust. After massive restoration the tower is now available for rent as self-catering accommodation from the Landmark Trust.
 
Landmark Trust Contact
 
About the Tower
It is unknown why this particular tower is a totally different design to any other Martello Tower. Not only is the tower made up of four circles fused together to form one building, it has a central faulted chamber instead of the more orthodox brick support pier. Ventilation was provided by a shaft pierced through to the gun terrace above. Ammunition was winched up through this shaft.
 
The external gun terrace and parapet was designed to have four heavy guns but records show that in 1815 only two 24-pounders were installed (the extra two were added later).The guns were fired over the parapet. They sat on timber gun carriages shackled to ring mounts which still hang from their stone blocks. In the late 19th century, new guns were provided, with rifled barrels for more effective fire. The old guns were sunk vertically into the flat flag stoned roof to act as pivots.
 
A Martello Tower was not a luxury billet. A 14-man garrison from the local Volunteer Artillery were crammed into the tower. On the main barrack room floor, there were double berths for eight soldiers, and single berths for five NCOs.
 
The northern bay was partitioned off with a canvas screen, to provide a private room for the officer in charge. There were two fireplaces for cooking and the lower floor was used for storage - coal, water, food and ordnance. The powder magazine was reached by a separate stair, but lit by a window from the main store. It was placed on the landward side, for safety.
 
After the threat of invasion had vanished the tower underwent several reincarnations as an artist’s studio and a holiday home until its acquisition by the Landmark Trust and restoration.   
 
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Google Maps - Aldeburgh Martello Tower