Martello Tower

Aldeburgh, Suffolk - Sleeps 4

About this Landmark

The largest and most northerly of a chain of towers built to keep Napoleon out, this quatrefoil shaped building stands at the foot of the Orford Ness peninsula, between the River Alde and the sea.

  • Dogs AllowedDogs Allowed
  • CotCot
  • Fire or StoveFire or Stove
  • Open SpaceOpen Space
  • Parking AvailableParking Available
  • ShowerShower

Beds 2 Twin

  • Sleeps 4
  • 4 nights from £575
  • equivalent to £35.94 per person, per night

Keeping out Napoleon

This is the largest and most northerly of the chain of towers put up by the Board of Ordnance to keep out Napoleon. Built in the shape of a quatrefoil for four heavy guns, nearly a million bricks were used in its construction.

It stands at the root of the Orford Ness peninsula, between the River Alde and the sea, a few hundred yards from Aldeburgh. Here you may live with the sea, the wind and rain sometimes, and Aldeburgh at just the right distance.

A large, lofty space

The vaulted interior has a floor of teak and an intriguing echo, the canopy over the main living space giving it an agreeable nautical resonance of sails. The bedrooms are screened from the central living area but not fully divided, so that, lying in bed, you can still have a sense of being in a larger loftier space – and you can enjoy some conversation with your fellow guests.

A roof-top view

The stone-flagged battery on the roof, with the mountings of guns and a high, thick parapet for shelter, is a very pleasant place to be. There is no better place to eat your fish and chips (from Aldeburgh’s renowned purveyor) than on the roof, with the sound of the sea and a glass of the local brew in your hand. Many visitors bring sailing dinghies or just enjoy watching the boats race from the nearby club.

Floor Plan

‘We will remember the strange acoustics and the fishermen's lights along the beach.’

‘Aldeburgh is a little gem with the Martello Tower its shiniest sparkle.’

From the logbook

Map & local info

Martello Tower sits on the beach between the River Alde and the sea. The coastal town of Aldeburgh is a 10-minute walk away along a shingle beach. Look out for the fishermen's huts, where you can buy freshly caught fish, and the iconic Scallop sculpture, a tribute to the composer Benjamin Britten, who spent much of his life in this area. Britten lived in The Red House  in the town, now the Britten-Pears Foundation. Aldeburgh Music, an annual festival and year round programme of music and other arts, originates in a festival co-founded by Britten in 1948.

Walk in the steps of the composer by following the Britten trail around the Aldeburgh area. Follow the Sailors' Path from Aldeburgh to discover the popular Snape Maltings, with its restaurants, shops and galleries.

Don't miss one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time at Sutton Hoo, the Anglo-Saxon royal burial site. Framlingham Castle, a magnificent 12th century fortress and one time refuge of Mary Tudor, is about half hour from Aldeburgh by car and will make another great day out during your stay.

For more information on things to do during your stay at Martello Tower, please see our Pinterest page. 

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.

Martello Tower
Aldeburgh, Suffolk - Sleeps 4
Clear directions

‘We will remember the strange acoustics and the fishermen's lights along the beach.’

‘Aldeburgh is a little gem with the Martello Tower its shiniest sparkle.’

From the logbook

Your questions answered

    What you need to know about this building

  • Does the property allow dogs?

    Yes.
  • How is the property accessed?

    Via a walkway across the moated site.
  • What is the nearest railway station and how far away is it?

    Saxmundham – 7 miles.
  • Is there car parking specifically for Landmark guests?

    Yes – there are two spaces about 20m from the property. There are a few steps up to the bridge which has to be crossed to reach the entrance to the property. 
  • What type of heating does the property have?

    There is oil-fired central heating and a solid fuel stove.
  • How can I get fuel for the open fire or stove?

    Unfortunately, there is currently no arrangement for the purchase and delivery of fuel, however details of local sources will be provided with your order confirmation.
  • What are the kitchen facilities?

    The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc. There is also an electric cooker.
  • What are the bathroom facilities?

    There is one bathroom with a free-standing shower unit.
  • Does this Landmark have steep, narrow or spiral stairs?

    There are no internal stairs.
  • Can I access the roof?

    Yes,  but we would ask that care is taken in inclement weather and that children and dogs are supervised when on the roof.
  • Is this a property for hardier visitors?

    Yes the property can suffer with water ingress.
  • Is there a garden or outside space?

    There is a roof terrace. Please note the close proximity to the sea (unfenced) and the moat which can hold water during high tide.

    Booking and Payment

  • How can I pay?

    We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • How do I create an account?

    If you have not used the Landmark online booking facility before and you wish to register in advance, you can set up an on-line account by following the instructions below:

    Go to the Landmark home page and click on Gift shop (located at the top of the home page in red).

    Select a gift (e.g. Landmark Handbook or Anniversary Mug) and complete the ‘Amount required’ box. There is no need to complete the purchase but this step is necessary in order to bring up the registration page.

    Click ‘Next Step’ at the bottom of the page.

    This will bring you to the ‘Your details’ page.

    Please complete all the fields (name, address, contact details and create an account). Click on the green ‘Create Account’ button once you have finished.

    At the top of the page headed ‘Your details’ there will be a grey box saying ‘Signed in’ and underneath this it will say ‘you are currently signed in as ….

    Here you will also have the option to ‘Sign out’. Please do so and that is your registration completed.

    Please return to the Landmark home page.

    To check your registration or update your account details at any time please ‘Sign in’ using the icon in the top right-hand corner of the home page.

    If you experience any problems in registering or setting up your on-line account please contact [email protected]
  • How do I pick up the key?

    There are various arrangements for picking up keys. To arrange to get into the Landmark, please contact the housekeeper at least two days before your stay
  • Can I pay a deposit?

    If your stay starts more than three months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • How can I cancel or change my booking?

    If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • What if I arrive late?

    Please let the housekeeper know if you are going to arrive late and s/he will leave a key for you in a suitable place.
  • Do you accept payment in other currencies?

    At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • How far in advance do I need to book?

    It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • Do you have to be a member to book a Landmark?

    No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • Do I need a Handbook to be able to book?

    No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!
  • What happens if I can’t get to the Landmark due to bad weather?

    If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.

    Staying at a Landmark

  • Are Landmarks accessible for people with disabilities or limited mobility?

    Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.
  • Are Landmarks only available as self-catering accommodation?

    Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Do you provide catering?

    Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • Do you allow dogs?

    You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control.
  • Can I bring a pet?

    Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Am I insured if I break something?

    We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Are Landmarks suitable for children?

    Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Can I get married in a Landmark?

    Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • Can I hold a big party in a Landmark?

    All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • Are there televisions in the buildings?

    We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • Why are your access tracks sometimes difficult?

    One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Will there be sockets for my electrical appliances?

    Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s).

    Facilities

  • Are the kitchens and bathrooms restored to a modern standard?

    Sometimes our kitchens and bathrooms have to be imaginatively fitted into the available space in buildings where before there were none, but they are all planned and equipped to a high and modern standard.
  • Is linen provided?

    Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival.
  • Are the kitchens fully equipped?

    Yes, our kitchens are well equipped with cookers and fridges. There are freezers and dishwashers (in larger buildings) and, where space allows, microwaves as well as a wide and standard range of utensils. A full equipment list is available at time of booking.
  • Do you provide logs for the open fire/stove?

    Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • Will there be a mobile signal in the Landmark I book?

    Mobile coverage varies. Some Landmarks have an excellent signal, but others have none at all. If you are concerned, you can check with the housekeeper before your arrival.
  • Is there Wi-Fi in your buildings?

    No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
  • What should I bring with me? Are there lavatory rolls, soap, shampoo, milk, teabags, coffee, hairdryer?

    A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide lavatory rolls and a bar of soap, per basin but no other toiletries. We do not provide hairdryers.

The most northerly tower

The Martello Tower was built between 1808 and 1812. It is the most northerly of a chain of defensive towers built along the South and East coasts of England at that time, in response to the very real threat of invasion by the French, led by the Emperor Napoleon. When they were built, the towers were called heavy gun batteries. They soon came to be known by the name Martello, however, from the tower that provided the idea for their design. This stood on Mortella Point in Corsica.

It was circular, of solid construction, about forty feet in diameter and the same in height. In 1796, with a garrison of 38 men and three not very large guns, it had withstood attack from two warships of the British Navy, one with 74 guns, and one with 32. The Board of Ordnance were so impressed by the tower's resistance to fire-power, that they adopted the design for their own towers. These too were round, or oval, and in their construction used up to a million bricks, most of which came from near London. The Aldeburgh Martello Tower is the exception, because instead of being round, it is quatrefoil in shape: in effect four towers fused into one. The reason for this is not recorded. It might have been a piece of lateral thinking resulting from the quatrefoil arrangement of a platform for four guns; or, as has been suggested by Sheila Sutcliffe in her book Martello Towers (1972), it might have been an earlier design proposed for the Dymchurch Wall in Kent in 1804 but never built.

The tower was designed for four guns, although in 1815 it was noted that there were only two 24-pounders there. These were fired over the parapet, off timber gun carriages shackled to ring mounts which still hang from their stone blocks. In the late nineteenth century, new guns were provided, with rifled barrels for more effective fire. The old guns, of which there were by then four, were sunk into the roof to act as pivots. The tower would have been garrisoned by the local Volunteer Artillery. On the main barrack room floor, there were double berths for eight soldiers, and single berths for five NCOs. The northern bay was partitioned off with a canvas screen, to provide a private room for the officer in charge. There were two fireplaces for cooking. The lower floor was used for storage - coal, water, food and ordnance. The powder magazine was reached by a separate stair, but lit by a window from the main store. It was placed on the landward side, for safety.

The tower did not originally stand on its own as it does today. It was once part of the village of Slaughden, of which the last houses survived into this century, but finally vanished due to erosion before the last War. The sea has also swept away part of the moat surrounding the tower itself, until stopped by the building of coastal defences of a different kind in the 1950s. In 1931 the tower, by then abandoned and derelict, was sold by the Ministry of Defence to a Mr Walter Wenham. Over the next few years it was occasionally used by the Mitford family for camping holidays. Then in 1936, it was sold to Miss Debenham, who commissioned the architect Justin Vulliamy to convert it into a studio. This was done very carefully by adding to its top an elegant penthouse, hardly affecting the interior or original structure of the tower at all.

By 1971, the Thirties penthouse had in turn become derelict, and the tower itself was badly in decay. This time it was acquired by the Landmark Trust. Extensive repairs were carried out, and the tower itself converted to provide holiday accommodation.

In a very dangerous state

When the Landmark Trust acquired the Martello Tower in 1971, it was in a very dangerous state. Vandals and the elements had between them done their best to destroy it. A whole section of the moat had been washed away, allowing the sea to reach the base of the tower. Large coping stones had been dislodged from the parapet, allowing water to penetrate the wall, and loosen the outer brick skin which had fallen off in a large area. The main floor inside the building had been ripped out, and the concrete penthouse was cracked and derelict.

The most urgent task was to put the tower back in a stable condition, and compared with this the decision whether or not to reinstate the superstructure seemed less important. In the end we decided that, clever and amusing though it was, the tower was better off without it. One additional benefit we were given by the tower's original designers. Orthodox Martello towers have a brick pier in their centre, to give greater stability. The Aldeburgh tower dispensed with this, allowing a central vaulted chamber, which we provided with a top light in a ventilation shaft, through which ammunition could be winched up to the gun terrace. Additional borrowed light comes from the windows and over the top of the partitions. The missing main floor was replaced with that from the basement, raised up by block and tackle onto a new system of supports.

The Martello tower is built of brick - more than a million were used in the original construction, and many thousands more in its repair. For extra strength the towers were built with "hot lime", a mixture of lime, sand and hot tallow. However for the renewal and securing of the brick skin an ordinary lime and cement mortar was used, mixed with a waterproof sealant. In general, too, the towers were given a protective coat of lime render. There is no evidence that the Aldeburgh tower ever had such a coat, and it has been suggested that it was therefore left unfinished.

On the roof, the missing coping stones were replaced in concrete mixed with a granite aggregate and have done their job very well. The barrels we see upended today would have been used as pintle supports for the gun carriages (one such pintle remains today). The runnels made by the pivoting gun carriages can be made out in the flagstones and careful inspection reveals two such circular tracks, perhaps reflecting a change in firepower. The recesses which served so successfully as fireplaces in the 1930s were used for storing powder and shot, and one still bears the pintle holes for a pair of crude shutters.

Layers of concrete and asphalt had been laid on top of the original York paving stones on the roof in the 1930s. These were all removed, and in the initial restoration in the 1970s, the stones were pointed with a special sealant intended to keep out water. This did not prove successful, however, and by 2001 water penetration had gradually worsened to the point where we decided that a comprehensive overhaul was needed to address the problem. The sealant was scraped out and the roof flags repointed with a breathable lime mortar. Drainage, ventilation and heating were improved inside the tower and the internal walls were stripped of their plastic paint and repainted with limewash, which allows water to evaporate.

We are fairly confident these measures allowing the building to breathe will solve the problem in the longer term. Meanwhile, we are left with a huge mass of saturated masonry that will take a long time to dry out and it seems that some drips will continue at least for a while. So the current canopy was specially designed and made by Dave Tomlinson Structures Ltd from Bristol to catch the drips until the masonry dries out. The drips flow down the canvas dome into a skirt at its edge that channels the water safely away. The canopy has the added advantage of reflecting light back into the main space; it also has an agreeable maritime resonance of sails and campaign tents fitting for this fine remnant of the days when Napoleon stalked the Channel.

Select a changeover day to start your booking...


What's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?
Explain MoreQuestion

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.