Dymchurch Martello Tower
Dymchurch Martello Tower
A 30-foot high artillery tower built during the Napoleonic period as part of a string of defensive fortifications along the south coast. It took half a million bricks to build Dymchurch Martello Tower, which is number 24 of an original 79 towers stretching along the coast of Kent into Sussex. It has now been restored to its original condition.
In 1803 Captain William Ford proposed a plan to erect a series of small artillery towers along the south and east coast of England in an attempt to counter the threat of an invasion by Napoleon. Ford was inspired by the French round tower at Mortella Pont on Corsica, ironically the birthplace of Napoleon himself. In 1804 the plan gained approval from William Pitt's government, and construction began the following year.

The Dymchurch tower was just one of 103 round towers built along the coast, and one of 6 built in Dymchurch itself. The tower design is very simple; it is 2 storeys high, with a basement and a gun platform on the roof. The basement level holds a water tank and food storage, while gunpowder and other supplies are on the ground floor. Quarters for officers and men occupy the first floor. There is a very clever drain system on the roof that feeds rainwater directly into the water storage cistern in the basement.

The gun platform supported a 24-pounder muzzle-loading gun. The gun could be turned a full 360 degrees, using ropes, but to operate the gun took a team of 10-14 men. The gun could fire round shot with a range of up to a mile. The garrison quarters theoretically could hold up to 24 men, but it would have been incredibly cramped if all 24 were there at once.

The French invasion under Napoleon never materialised, so the effectiveness of the Martello towers was never tested in battle. After the French defeat at Waterloo, many of the towers were used by the Coastguard to control smuggling. Once that threat, in turn, died down, some were simply allowed to decay, some were sold into private hands. Many of the latter are used as private dwellings today, including tower number 23, just north of Dymchurch on the Hythe road.

The exterior can be viewed at any time, but as of this writing, the interior is unfortunately only accessible by appointment.