Martello Tower Y is one of 103 ingeniously-designed artillery towers, built from 1805 at vulnerable points around the south and east coasts to resist Napoleonic invasion. They were meant to stop the French navy from reaching Britain’s shores, and were able to shoot cannon balls one mile out, but after Napoleon’s defeat, they became redundant.
Duncan Jackson and architect Stuart Piercy had their work cut out for them as this “make-over” of Tower Y was never going to be an easy job. Piercy admits: “When we first walked round, the cellar was five-foot deep in water, while the roof was covered in soil blown across the fields over the years. But the underlying structure was as strong as a battleship.”
“We made friends with the conservation and planning people. We needed them on our side. There are people who say the towers shouldn’t become homes because this takes away from their historic role. But if they aren’t going to be lived in, what’s to happen to them? Those that hadn’t been blasted away during target practice by the military have often been left to rot, and then demolished,” says Jackson.
photo by Sam Lucas via Guardian.co.uk