See Inside This Converted Martello Tower

The conversion of this STRIKING and UNUSUAL home took EIGHT YEARS to complete …

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Duncan Jackson first came across his future home nearly 20 years ago, while out walking with friends. One of three Martello towers on a shingle beach in Suffolk, it was in poor condition with grass growing on the roof. Duncan later discovered that two of the towers
belonged to a local farmer, who invited him for lunch – the start of a long friendship – and agreed to sell him one. Built during the Napoleonic wars as part of the country’s coastal defences, Tower Y’s thick walls were designed to withstand cannon fire. Around 140 Martello towers were erected in all, mostly along the southeast coast. These imposing buildings, up to 12m (40 ft) high, would have been accessed via a ladder through a door hovering over 3m (10 ft) off the ground.

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“Peeling back the building and working out how to do it took time,” says Duncan. Although work began in 2002, the complications of renovating a waterlogged listed building meant that work wasn’t finished until eight years later. As an industrial designer, Duncan was keen to be involved as every step, and worked with architects Piercy Conner (now Piercy & Company) to decide how to best convert the building. “We explored it without any preconceived ideas of what a home means,” he says. “The nature of the building seemed to offer a blank canvas.”

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Now complete, the building is a striking, and unusual, home. At the very top is a kitchen, with a glass roof enclosing the raised platform and a central pivot (still in place) for a cannon. Below the kitchen, the living space is illuminated by narrow slits in the wall, originally for defensive musket fire. This huge area would have accommodated 24 soldiers and one officer, with fireplaces for cooking and heating. Bedrooms were relocated to the ground floor, with the main bedroom converted from the magazine; the other storerooms would have been used for ammunition, water and provisions.

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“As soon as children come inside, they start running around,” Duncan explains. The grown-ups, however, tend to gravitate to the second floor of the tower for the hypnotic views of the sea and the Suffolk countryside. 

From Creative Living Country by Chloe Grimshaw, with photography by Luke White (Thames & Hudson) £19.95stg out now.

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