Thursday, 4 October 2012

I have been to ... the Carleton Martello Tower, Saint John, New Brunswick

The Carleton Martello Tower in Saint John, New Brunswick was built as a response to a possible American attack during the War of 1812.

The Tower is situated on top of rocky outcrop that dominates one of the approaches to Saint John. Construction began in 1813 but it was not completed until 1815, by which time the war had ended.

The Tower was constructed of stone and brick, has a diameter of 50 feet and is 30 feet high. The roof of the Tower was intended to be a gun platform for two 24-pounder guns (which were never fitted) and it is supported by a central pillar and a vaulted ceiling.

The walls are loop-holed to provide both light inside the Tower and to act as positions from which the defenders could fire their small arms at attackers.

From 1859 to 1866 the Tower served as a powder magazine, but in 1866 it was finally armed with two 32-pounder guns as part of the city's defences against possible Fenian raids. I was told by one of the guides that two carronades (or 'smashers') were also intended to form part of the Tower's close-range defensive armament.

The internal floors of the Tower have been restored to the way that they would have looked during this period of the Tower's history, and one can gauge some idea of conditions in which the garrison would have lived.

During the Second World War the Tower was again brought back into military use. It was initially used as a base for some of the machine guns operated by the 8th Anti-Aircraft Battery. In August 1941 a new two-storey Fire Command Post for the 3rd New Brunswick Coast Brigade was constructed on top of the tower, and it remained in use until August 1944.

Carleton Martello Tower is one of nine surviving Martello Towers in Canada and was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1930. It was first opened to the public in 1963. Since then the internal structure of the Tower has been restored and a small visitors centre built.

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