Art gallery for Martello Tower

A MARTELLO tower could be repaired and converted into an art gallery at a cost of more than £750,000.Consultants studying the future of the martello tower owned by Suffolk Coastal District Council on a site in the Felixstowe south seafront have recommended a £755,000 scheme to showcase the work of budding and professional artists.

A MARTELLO tower could be repaired and converted into an art gallery at a cost of more than £750,000.

Consultants studying the future of the martello tower owned by Suffolk Coastal District Council on a site in the Felixstowe south seafront have recommended a £755,000 scheme to showcase the work of budding and professional artists.

The tower, purchased by the council in 1997, is one of 29 constructed on the east coast from 1808-11. It is one of five built at Felixstowe and its specific function was to guard the low-lying beach to the north of Landguard Fort from enemy invasion during the long war with Napoleon's France.

The two-storey building is 11m high with a diametre of 14m and it is believed the interior has not been used since it was vacated by coastguards in 1994. On the top of the tower volunteers operate the Coastwatch scheme - they can see more than seven miles - and the council is keen for the organisation to remain.


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An observation bunker used by the Royal Observer Corps is to be retained. This provided basic accommodation for four people for up to two weeks in the event of a threat of nuclear war. It was installed in 1962 and decommissioned in 1968 and is underneath a grassy mound close to the tower.

The martello tower is to be the focus of a huge new development with more than 200 homes and leisure facilities. A planning application for the multi-million pound scheme is going through a consultation process.

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The historic defences around the tower could be recreated to establish a ''military and austere'' setting and the council believes a crescent of terraced housing will create a dramatic and elegant backdrop for the tower.

One aim is to set up a gallery staffed by exhibiting artists and to provide areas for promising artists to put business theory into practice.

Bruce Laws, the council's assistant chief executive, said: ''As well as exhibitions by professional artists, the gallery could provide a high-profile venue for shows by the district's many amateur groups and for school art shows. Since hardly any of Suffolk Coastal's museums have temporary exhibition space, the gallery could also be for occasional local history displays.

''The space would also make an interesting venue for a range of classes, talks, workshops and small-scale arts events such as readings and recitals.''

The Heritage Lottery Fund recently awarded £270,000 to Essex county council to restore Jaywick's martello tower for use as an arts centre. Funding for the Felixstowe tower could come from the Heritage Lottery, Haven Gateway Partnership, district council and Grants for the Arts lottery scheme.

richard.smith@eadt.co.uk

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