Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council have just announced plans for the restoration of the Martello tower in Williamstown, close to Blackrock. The Martello towers in Ireland are a prominent feature of Georgian defence architecture – however, over the years some of these towers have fallen into disrepair.
We will discuss the original motivations behind the construction of these defensive towers, the outcomes, and current restoration plans for the tower.
Martello Towers in Ireland
The Martello towers in Ireland were built at the turn of the 19th Century under fears of an attack from Napoleon. He had just conquered Spain, Italy, Switzerland and The Netherlands and it was thought that Ireland and England were next on his list.
Ironically, the look and name of the Martello towers resembled that of a coastal defence tower at Mortella Point on the island of Corsica where Napoleon was from. Spies for Napoleon informed him of the construction of the new coastal defence system in Ireland and England and it is said that this deterred the general from attacking.
Martello Towers – Construction
The towers were built in strategic defence locations around the country protecting the coastal cities of Dublin, Wicklow, Waterford, Cork and Galway. There were 74 towers originally planned for construction in Ireland but less than 50 were built. The contractor in charge of constructing the Martello towers was a Dubliner by the name Mr. Ross – Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Fisher purchased the land and supervised the construction. Although the name and look of the Martello towers were similar to that of the Mortella Tower, their design was different. The Martello tower design was based on earlier towers built by British forces in Minorca between 1798 – 1802.
Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council have allocated €100,000 for the restoration of the Martello tower in Williamstown. According to the Irish Times; a spokeswoman for the Council has said that restoration works, under the guidance of the architects and culture department, are being put forward for the conservation of the Williamstown tower to make it available for “exhibitions and appropriate civic uses”. Planned works include the restoration of the stone facade, repair works to the roof and interior of the tower as well as security and landscaping. Works are also planned for the James Joyce tower and the tower on Dalkey Island.