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Visiting Eastbourne, England and its Martello Wish Tower: remembering the Napoleonic Wars

Updated on March 14, 2016
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
The Wish Tower, Eastbourne
The Wish Tower, Eastbourne | Source
Napoleon, by Nicholas-Toussaint Charlet (1792–1845)
Napoleon, by Nicholas-Toussaint Charlet (1792–1845) | Source
Map location of Eastbourne, East Sussex
Map location of Eastbourne, East Sussex | Source

Periods of military use over more than a century

The smooth lines of this tower, known as the Wish Tower, have been familiar to generations of visitors to Eastbourne, East Sussex, on the south coast of England. It is one of the series towers, known as Martello Towers, erected for defensive purposes along the coast of the British Isles, when a French invasion was regarded as a real possibility during the Napoleonic Wars, in the early years of the 19th century. The Wish Tower at Eastbourne was built in 1804, a reminder of the period of history when Napoleon I was a feared figure. A fortress, the Redoubt, now a museum, was also built in Eastbourne in this period.

After the Napoleonic Wars, the Wish Tower underwent a variety of uses. For a number of years in the 19th century, it served as a Coastguard station; it was also leased privately.

Interestingly, the Tower was used for military purposes again in World War Two, as part of gun defences dug into the sea front at the vicinity.

In 1970, a Coastal Defence Museum was opened at the Wish Tower.

The Wish Tower is at a prominent location in the town, a few hundred metres west of the Pier, overlooking the English Channel, close to a Lifeboat Museum. The Wish Tower Slopes are the regular location for various public meetings, by arrangement with the Borough Council. An airshow in the summer brings large numbers of aviation enthusiasts to the vicinity.

The picture given shows a palm tree growing near the Wish Tower. The coast near Eastbourne is known as the Sunshine Coast and palm trees, which are able to flourish locally, are not an unusual site along Eastbourne's sea front

Also worth seeing

In Eastbourne itself, the Pier on the sea front is a popular visitor attraction. Beachy Head's cliff formations and lighthouse make for spectacular views. St. Mary's. Old Town, dates from the 12th century. The Town Hall is a pleasing, 19th century structure. The Redoubt Fortress and Military Museum is located several hundred metres east of the Pier. Sovereign Harbour is a huge marina and housing development.

Pevensey (distance: 7.5 kilometres) has an ancient castle, parts of which are Roman.


How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. (Distance from London Heathrow to Eastbourne : 146 kilometres.) For access by road, take M25/M23/A23/A27. There are rail links to Eastbourne from London Victoria railroad station. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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    • MJFenn profile image

      MJFenn 6 years ago

      Julester: From the standpoints of scenery and historicity, the town and its surrounding area are certainly worth a visit, and people who go once often return many times. Thank-you for your comment.

    • Julester profile image

      Julester 6 years ago from England

      We've never made it to Eastbourne; maybe I'll change that soon!