As we left Pevensey Bay, a lone figure stood in his garden and waved goodbye to us.
The walk from Pevensey Bay to Sovereign Harbour is an amble along a shingle beach which runs in front of a new development. The area looks fresh, except for a lonely structure sat proud of the new blocks of flats, almost as if guarding the area from a frontal assault, which in fact is exactly what it was designed to do. Martello Tower #64 is in a rather sorry condition these days. As we walked around the far side of it we saw a man fiddling with a metal door.
Martello Tower #64 was built in 1806. It was one of the chain of towers designed (or copied, from a tower standing at Mortella Point in Corsica) to protect the English coast from a Napoleonic invasion. They were not designed with ground floor entrances, but rather first floor ones, so the door this man was fiddling about with was not an original feature. The man looked up and said hello, to which of course I said hello back. He looked at me for a moment. “Are you interested in Martello Towers?” he asked. I explained that we had learnt to become interested in them, because we had been following them all the way along the coastline since Folkestone, and that they had been our regular companions.
“You’ve walked all the way from Folkestone?” he asked.
“Not today,” I replied with a grin. “In fact we’ve walked all the way round here from Southend-on-Sea”.
The man looked at me. “Would you like a look inside?” he asked. “I’m the caretaker here and I was just locking up”.
Absolutely we would! He unlocked the doors and showed us in. Finally we could get an idea of what was inside these towers, of which we had seen so many. They essentially form a room at ground floor level, and another at first floor level, with a large central pillar holding the roof up. Each floor was separated into two parts. At first floor, half was dedicated to the Officers’ Quarters and the other half to the Mens’ Quarters. At ground floor, half was used as a powder store and half for supplies. The point of the floor was where the pillar becomes narrower.
The floor of the first floor was completely gone. We could see up to the original door at first floor level. I hasten to add that the red splotch next to the opening is not dried blood from a Napoleonic attack!
We finally got an idea of how thick the walls really are. We had read that they were 18 feet thick, but it is difficult to envisage from outside without imagining that the entire tower is one solid brick wall. Inside, we finally got our perspective. In fact, the wall is over twice as thick on the seaward side as the landward side (4m to 1.6m).
The alcove in the wall had some kind of a hole running upwards and out of sight. The caretaker speculated that this was some form of method by which to get the cannonballs from the ground floor up to the cannon at roof level. That may be the case, but I can find no reference to this in any of the searches I have done. It may therefore be a flu or ventilation shaft, but really I have no idea.
We were very grateful for this unexpected tour, even though it only lasted a couple of minutes. As we emerged back into the sunlight there were a couple looking at us enviously, with a dog. I could see they also wanted a peek inside. However, the caretaker did not offer and they did not ask. The tower was sealed, nd the caretaker bade us farewell. What a nice man!
We walked around the outside. This particular tower had also been used as a machine gun emplacement during the Second World War. I assume the more modern concrete windows had been added at this point.
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- Martello Tower #64: N 50° 47.750 E 000° 20.141
Walk #46 Statistics (of which this post forms the second part):
- Date of Walk: 18 February 2013
- Walk #46 total distance covered: 9.51 miles
- Coast of Britain Walk Total Distance Covered: 375.46 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!