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Martello Tower

Martello Tower

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Martello towers, sometimes known simply as Martellos, are small defensive forts that were built across the British Empire during the 19th century, from the time of the French Revolutionary Wars onwards.

Sri Lanka has one Martello tower, located at Hambantota on the south coast, which was restored in 1999. This tower may have been involved in repelling a French attack though there is nothing more than circumstantial support for the notion. 

British engineers commenced work on three towers to protect Trincomalee but never completed them.

Design and construction,

The towers were about 40 feet (12m) high with walls about 8 feet (2.5m) thick. Entry was by ladder to a door about 10 feet (3m) from the base above which was a machicolated (slotted) platform which allowed for downward fire on attackers. The flat roof or terreplein had a high parapet and a raised platform in the centre with a pivot for a cannon that would traverse a 360° arc. (Some towers were designed to carry more than one gun, with each having a more limited arc of fire.) The walls had narrow slits for defensive musket fire.

The interior of a classic British Martello tower consisted of two storeys (sometimes with an additional basement). The ground floor served as the magazine and storerooms, where ammunition, water, stores and provisions were kept. The garrison of 24 men and one officer lived in a casemate on the first floor, which was divided into several rooms and had fireplaces built into the walls for cooking and heating. The officer and men lived in separate rooms of almost equal size.

A well or cistern within the fort supplied the garrison with water. An internal drainage system linked to the roof enabled rainwater to refill the cistern.

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