Dear All

Good to see that we now have May and August covered, as well as one of the June rides and one of the July ones – which is most of the Spring and Summer. But we still need volunteers for the rides on June 12 and July 24. If you are new to leading rides do have a look at Roger’s excellent guide.

Julian’s mention of the Martello Tower at Seaford got me thinking about coastal defences in Sussex over the centuries. One characteristic all, or at least most, of them have in common is that they cost an awful lot but never really got to be tested. I suppose, if you leave aside a few pre-historic hill forts the earliest is the magnificent Roman fort – Anderida – at Pevensey, which centuries later saw a Norman castle tucked into a small segment of it. Arundel, Bramber and Lewes castles are a few miles from the coast of course but they guard key strategic points in the rivers most open to be used by invasion fleets. Then we have Henry VIII’s series of forts designed to house batteries of cannons all along the South Coast, the Sussex example being Camber.

The Martello towers – not as Fred would have it Portillo Towers – were built all over the, then, British empire in the nineteenth century. They took their name from Martella in Corsica where an originally Genoese fort designed by Giovan Fratino back in the 1560s impressed British naval officers when it successfully resisted an attack by two of their warships in 1794. Dumouriez, the former French revolutionary general and now military advisor to the British government had a hand in suggesting that a variant of the design was what was needed to guard against a Napoleonic invasion. Rather ironically by the time a number were built around the SE corner of England – Seaford’s being the most westerly one – the battle of Trafalgar had made such an invasion a pretty remote possibility.
It was another Napoleon – Napoleon III – who triggered the next round of building of coastal forts – what are known as Palmerston forts. Both Newhaven and Shoreham forts are examples of these. Louis Napoleon had been elected as President of the Second Republic at the end of 1848. With his term of office coming to an end and the National Assembly refusing to change the constitution to allow him a possible second term – if I remember rightly this needed a 2/3 majority – he made a coup in 1852 and proclaimed the re-establishment of the Empire with himself as Emperor. [Napoleon II was Napoleon I’s son by Marie- Louise who died at the age of 21 in Vienna never having reigned unless one counts two days in 1815 following Waterloo when he was briefly supposed to be emperor – which of course Napoleon III and the Bonapartists did ]

Napoleon III was at first very keen to insist that “the Empire means peace” but when in 1859 he went to war against Austria in northern Italy in what became the first of the conflicts that led to the unification of Italy – sometimes known as the War of Liberation – this set off fears of more general Napoleonic aggression in Britain, and the Palmerston forts – or Palmerston Follies –after the then Liberal PM were the result.

I’m also forwarding the minutes of the national AGM and other info from Ian Clarke. Don’t forget Tessa’s Open House during the Festival weekends.


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