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Kingston’s Martello Towers – Monuments to the early defences of British North America

August 2019

Martello Towers, are small, round defensive forts, usually costal forts, that were built in the early 19th century across the British Empire. The two story forts stood up to 40 feet high and usually had a garrison of 15 to 25 men and an officer.

Their round design with thick, solid masonry walls made them ideal for repelling cannon fire, as well as allowing the roof-mounted canon to fire in a complete 360° circle.

As effective as the Martello Towers were considered, they were rendered obsolete with the introduction of modern rifled artillery. Many of the towers remain standing today, often preserved as historic monuments.

Kingston, Ontario, boasts four Martello Towers, constructed 1845-1848 as a part of the city’s fortifications: Fort Frederick and Cathcart Towers, both located on the grounds of Royal Military College and open for tours, along with the Murney Tower, located just outside downtown Kingston, and Shoal Tower, right in downtown near Kingston City Hall.

None of the Martello Towers in Canada were subjected to attack and of the original 16 towers built, three remain in Quebec City, four in Kingston, three in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the only one built in Saint John, New Brunswick.

The Prince of Wales Tower in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, is the oldest surviving Martello Tower in North America.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martello_tower, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/martello-tower, https://incredible-kingston.com/martello-towers, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_of_Wales_Tower

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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