Bloody foreigners – why don’t you bugger off back across the Channel? Frank had spied them through the tiny window set deep into the thick wall on the landward side of his tower. Judging from their general appearance, the young couple were from the Continent. What a shame he didn’t have a working rifle, he thought. A couple of good shots would’ve solved the problem.
For years, tourists had visited the hamlet and gawked at his home on the shingle beachfront. In fairness, it wasn’t just foreigners, but they were the only ones who had the arrogance to trespass up his walkway, bang on the door and ask if they could view inside. “Clear off! This is a private residence, not some museum.”
Instead of approaching the raised entrance, the couple took the gravel path around the tower. Frank rushed over to the seaward side and kept vigil at another window, waiting until he’d caught sight of them again. Good riddance. They were treading their way up the beach along the shingle bank.
Nothing would ever breach this wall, Frank knew. Martello Tower No. 55 was one of the forts built along the south coast to protect the country against an invasion, which never came. Over the centuries, most had become ruins or had disappeared, but not his – no, his home was redoubtable, repelling everything nature had unleashed upon it, and would survive long after he was gone.
He’d first come across a Martello Tower – No. 28 – in the village of Rye Harbour whilst touring the region on holiday. Overlooking the river, the derelict fort — named the Enchantress, after a cruiser that had grounded in the harbour — stood abandoned in an empty moat, half-covered in ivy with some of its interior brickwork exposed. “So beautiful… haunting. Like something out of a Romantic painting,” his travelling companion had observed. All Frank had seen was the horror of slow, creeping decay.
His sister was shocked when she’d discovered Frank had spent all his money buying and renovating No. 55. “An obscene folly,” she’d called it. He’d disagreed – this was a grade two listed building of historic significance and he’d already given instructions in his will to gift it to English Heritage. This is my legacy. She should be glad – everyone should be glad – that he’d made this tower great again. If only the same could be done with the country.
Frank traversed the cavernous chamber, his main living space, and placed the palm of his hand against the central brick pillar. He felt strong, secure, thinking of the immense firepower that used to be stored on the lower floor beneath him, an arsenal of gunpowder and cannonballs for a garrison of twenty men.