Martello tower

Updated on the 13th of April 2012

By the parking of La Preneuse Beach, in the west of the island, stands a ‘Martello’ tower which has been refurbished in the late 1990s and transformed into a museum.

 

Martello tower

 

This is a short (about half an hour) but interesting visit you can do on your way to the beach.

The tower was built while the island was a British colony for protection. With its round structure and very thick walls it was resistant to canon fire.

“The interior of a classic British Martello tower consisted of three storeys (sometimes with an additional basement). The ground floor served as the magazine and storerooms, where ammunition, 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…” source: Wikipedia

Diagram of a Martello tower's internal structure.

This is exactly what you can see in real!

The entrance is now on the ground floor whereas, at the time, the only access was on the upper floor. Soldiers had access to it with a ladder. A staircase has also been added inside for easy access to the upper floor which didn’t exist at the time.

 

Entrance of the tower

 

Unfortunately photographs of the interior of the tower are only allowed for personal use, so I won’t be able to post any here.

When you come into the tower you can see the water tank through a transparent glass. There is a lever so that the water can be moved. Children usually like that feature very much.

The powder store now contains some bullets and canon balls that have been found in the area. Soldiers had to take off their shoes when entering the powder store so as not to create any sparks that would have been dangerous.

On this floor, you will also see some explanations of the operations of the tower, similar to the cross cut picture of the tower above and some artifacts. There is also a model ship of ‘La Preneuse’, the ship after which the beach is named. This is fun as you can press red buttons to light up different places of the ship to show the emplacement of the anchor, captain’s cabin, etc. Although the lights are a bit tiny and not all the lights were in working order at the time of the visit.

On the upper floor, you can also see various artifacts that have been found nearby. The officer’s room gives a nice idea of how they lived at the time. There is also a chimney with some of the things they used at the time, like pots and an old iron in which coals were put to heat it up.

The roof or terreplein was surmounted with one or two cannon on a central pivot that enabled the guns to rotate up to 360 degrees. 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.” source: Wikipedia

At the time of operation, the tower apparently had two cannons, a bigger one facing the sea and a smaller one facing the land. The bigger one only has been found and can be seen on top of the roof.

The structure holding it is new, although you can see pieces of the old one that have been kept.

 

Cannon

 

There is a canon ball on display there that you can (try to) lift up to feel how heavy they were.

You can also see the holes and drains used to collect water.

Here are two views from the roof top:

 

View of the sea from Martello

View from Martello tower

 

On the way out, you can stop by the welcoming counter as there are various books and souvenirs that are on sale.

This is a nice little museum to know about. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to come visit it, but if you are in the area or visiting the west of the island, it is an interesting stop to add to your list of things to do.

 

Practical information:

Address: La Preneuse, Black River

Tel: 471 0178

Opening hours:

Tuesdays to Saturdays: 9:30 am to 5 pm

Sundays & Public Holidays: 9:30 am to 1:30 pm

Not open on Mondays.

Prices (at time of page creation):

Week days: Rs 70

Week-ends: Rs 50

Groups (more than 15 people): Rs 40

Senior citizens, children & students: Rs 20

Free on the last saturday of every month

Other prices may apply for different size groups. Contact them directly for more information

Guided visits: Every half an hour. A little sign at the entrance will let you know if a visit is ongoing and the time of the next ones.

They do take a short lunch break, but don’t have a specific closing hour for lunch as they are pretty flexible depending on the number of visitors. If you see that it’s closed for lunch, I suggest you check back after 10 to 15 minutes and they might be open again.

 

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