Who would expect to see a Martello Tower alongside our tropical beach?
The mighty fortress stands guard at La Preneuse on the South West coast of Mauritius. One of the best example in the world! Her cannon overlooks our gentle turquoise lagoon. An unusual sight not to be missed.
La Preneuse battery overlooking Black River and Le Morne
The British came across one of these fortresses during a fierce battle at Mortella Bay in Corsica. The year was 1794. The tower was manned by the French who had mounted cannons on the roof top. The British were so impressed they decided there and then to build similar towers to protect their empire.
You can still see remnants of these towers in some ex-colonies and alongside the shores of England. They have a conical shape with thick walls and some variations in between.
The Mauritius Martello Tower has been lovingly restored and transformed into a Heritage Museum. Here she is, tucked away among casuarina trees.
The Martello Tower in Mauritius
By the way ‘Mortella’ has nothing to do with ‘Martello’. In case you think it's a spelling mistake ...
These towers are an important part of our history and culture. Let’s go back to the beginning of the 19th century after Mauritius was captured by the British. Slavery was being abolished. Free labour was coming to an end. What would happen to the economy based on sugar cane?
The British were worried about a French insurrection.
The British decided to build 5 of these fortresses alongside the West coast to protect the island. The coastal batteries were erected at strategic locations near river mouths.
View over the South West lagoon from the roof top
Mostly with basalt rock. Royal engineers were commissioned together with skilled stone cutters from India and carpenters. As usual slaves were used for heavy labour. Their task was to erect sand dunes called batteries in front of the towers.
Two cannons were installed on the flat roof top.These could be rotated through 360 degrees.
The construction of the 5 towers took three years .
Roof top cannon
It turned out the towers never saw any action. They were abandoned and over the years some stone walls have crumbled. Gone were the teak beams and lead piping. Fortunately some cannons and cannon parts were recovered and displayed near the Tower.
Recovered cannons on display
In 1992, ‘Friends of the Environment’ started restoring the tower in La Preneuse with funds from the Government and other institutions. It was beautifully restored into a museum which was opened in 2000.
An important part of Mauritius National Heritage Site.
These fortresses don’t have doors on the ground floor. One had to climb a ladder to an opening on the first floor. Once there a ladder was used to reach the ground floor.
Don’t panic you won’t have to climb any ladder to visit our national monument. A door and a staircase were constructed on the ground floor for convenient access. Look at the thickness of the wall in the image below.
Entrance door to the Martello Tower Museum
The tower has several floors:
Have a look at the interesting memorabilia on display. Muskets, the officer’s deck and uniform, a fire place with various utensils and much more.
Photos of the inside are only allowed for private use. You’ll have to see this gem for yourself when you are on holiday in Mauritius.
Guess the weight of the cannon ball - answer at the bottom
Easy to find. She is located in Black River off our South West coastal road.
1. From the North, drive past Tamarin and before you arrive at Black River or Riviere Noire you’ll see a ‘La Preneuse’ sign. Turn right and the Tower is about 1 ½ km down the road.
2. From the South, drive past Black River, turn left into La Preneuse road shortly after a football field. The Tower is about 1 km down the road.
I have included a stop at the Martello Tower in my West coast beach itinerary map.
Tuesday to Saturday: 09h30 to 17h00
Sunday: 09h30 to 13h00
Public Holidays: open except on 1 May, 25 December, 1 and 2 January, 1 February, 12 March Mondays: closed
Guided tours take place every half hour. You don’t need to book in advance. Simply walk in and pay the entrance fee. You’ll be welcome by a guide who will soon take you on a tour.
Guide on roof top
The price includes the guided tour of the fortress.
Adult (weekdays): Rupees 80
Adult (weekends): Rupees 60
Students and seniors: Rupees 30
Open day on the last Saturday of every month: Free entry.
Did you guess the weight of the cannon ball? It's 24 pounds.
After exploring the museum why not swim at the lovely La Preneuse beach?
The Martello Tower in Mauritius is a must see attraction. Enjoy!