The Martello Tower at Sandymount was built in 1804. There were 28 towers built in Dublin, 16 on the southside and 12 on the northside, for example in Sutton, Howth and on Dalkey Island and Killiney Hill.
This video is designed as a resource for primary and post-primary students up to Junior Certificate.
The Martello Tower in Sandymount
When you come along the Strand Road in Sandymount you will pass by a huge round tower which looks a bit like an upside-down flower pot. Fifty of these Martello towers were built along the coast of Ireland. They were built because the British government were afraid that the French Emperor Napoleon would invade Ireland during the war between England and France (1803–1815).
The first round fortresses of this type were built on the island of Corsica to protect villages along the coast from North African pirates in the fifteenth century. These towers were so strong that it took two British warships two days of continuous cannon fire to capture the one at Cape Mortella in Corsica during a battle in 1794. The British were very impressed by this and decided to build similar towers all over the British Empire including Ireland between 1804 and 1812.
There were 28 towers built in Dublin, 16 on the southside and 12 on the northside, for example in Sutton, Howth and on Dalkey Island and Killiney Hill. Their first name was ‘Mortella’. This was changed to ‘Martello’ over time, so we now have the name ‘Martello Tower’.
All towers were round, and had walls that were stronger on the side facing the sea. They were typically 12 to 15 metres wide and two storeys high, with a single doorway 5 metres off the ground. The door could only be reached by climbing a removable ladder.
The tower at Sandymount was one of the larger ones and had a one-storey building attached . This was used to house up to 20 soldiers and a stores. When it was completed in 1804, a small troop of soldiers were sent to defend it. Two cannons were mounted on top of the tower.
Fortunately, the towers were not needed as the expected invasion never happened. A sailor, when asked what use the Martello Towers served, replied: ‘the devil a use I can think of, but to please Mr. Windham (Secretary of War) and puzzle posterity’.
When the Sandymount Martello Tower was not needed for defence any more it was used as an office by the Dublin United Tramways Company. It later became a restaurant but now nobody lives there. This is the case with most of the other towers.
Close by the Martello Tower at Seapoint was once an ice-cream shop while the Martello tower at Bray was owned by Bono from U2. The best-known tower is the one at Sandycove because James Joyce, the author of the novel ‘Ulysses’, lived in it a short while and part of ‘Ulysses’ takes part in it. It is now the James Joyce Museum.