The British came across one of these fortresses during a fierce battle at Mortella Bay in Corsica. The year was 1794. The tower was manned by the French who had mounted cannons on the roof top. The British were so impressed they decided there and then to build similar towers to protect their empire.
Martello means hammer in Italian. In the olden days one would light a fire on the flat roof of the tower to warn of approaching enemies. On the West coast of Italy the alarm was done by striking a bell with a hammer or ‘Martello’. The Mauritius Martello Tower has been restored and transformed into a Heritage Museum.
Royal engineers were commissioned together with skilled stone cutters from India and carpenters. As usual slaves were used for heavy labour. Their task was to erect sand dunes called batteries in front of the towers.
Who would expect to see a Martello Tower alongside our tropical beach?
The mighty fortress stands guard at La Preneuse on the South West coast of Mauritius. One of the best examples in the world! The cannon overlook our gentle turquoise lagoon.
These towers are an important part of our history and culture. Let’s go back to the beginning of the 19th century after Mauritius was captured by the British. The British were worried about a French insurrection. The British decided to build 5 of these fortresses alongside the West coast to protect the island. The coastal batteries were erected at strategic locations near river mouths.
The Martello Tower Museum
In 1992, ‘Friends of the Environment’ started restoring the tower in La Preneuse with funds from the Government and other institutions. It was beautifully restored into a museum which was opened in 2000. These fortresses don’t have doors on the ground floor. One had to climb a ladder to an opening on the first floor. Once there a ladder was used to reach the ground floor. . A door and a staircase were constructed on the ground floor for convenient access.
The tower has several floors:
The basement where a tank was constructed for storing rainwater collected from the roof via pipes.
The ground floor used as a storeroom with an armoury for gun powder.
The first floor with a room for the exclusive use of the Chief Officer. Other rooms would accommodate soldiers.
The flat roofs were the cannons were installed. One facing the sea and the other facing inland.
Muskets, the officer’s deck and uniform, a fire place with various utensils and much more are displayed.
Tuesday to Saturday: 09h30 to 17h00
Sunday: 09h30 to 13h00
Public Holidays: open except on 1 May, 25 December, 1 and 2 January, 1 February, 12 March Mondays: closed
Guided tours take place every half hour. You don’t need to book in advance. Simply walk in and pay the entrance fee. You’ll be welcome by a guide who will soon take you on a tour.
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