The defense towers on the coast of Menorca

In Menorca at the end of the 18th century, some coastal defense towers were built, by Spain first, and by Great Britain shortly thereafter. The towers of Spain were two, and eleven were built by Great Britain, during their respective dominations of Menorca.

The construction of the two Spanish towers was carried out quickly to defend the coast of the island against the threat of an attack by the Regency of Algiers, in 1787. The fortress of San Felipe at the entrance to the port of Mahón had been demolished in 1782, as King Carlos III considered that the fortress was not necessary for the defense of Menorca, because the proximity of our coasts ensured the immediate presence of a strong Spanish garrison, in the face of the threat of an enemy with bases far from the island.

The English overthrew this justification by conquering Menorca effortlessly, in 1798, by defeating the Spanish garrison, which was not helped as quickly as expected. The eleven English towers were raised when England conquered the island for the last time, to blockade the French naval base of Toulon from the port of Mahon, and dominate the Mediterranean, at the time when Napoleon was imposed on the European continent. Britain needed to quickly equip the island with defenses because the demolition of the castle of San Felipe had left it defenseless. The fastest way was to build towers in the chosen places on the coast, while the fortress was being rebuilt, a reconstruction that proved very difficult due to the blasting carried out by Lieutenant Colonel Guillelmi.

Spain, as we have said, had built two towers, on the southeastern coast of Menorca: Alcaufar and Punta Prima in 1787, to defend the island against the Algerian threat; England built eleven: Stuart, Felipet, Saint Claire, Erskine, Cala Mezquita, Rambla, Cala Molins, Fornells, Sargantana, Sa Nitja and Santandría, to protect the island from the Napoleonic threat while rebuilding the fortress of San Felipe in the port of Mahón.

The Stuart (Penjat) and Felipet towers bordered the entrance to the port of Mahón, replacing the action of the demolished fortress of San Felipe. They were the first English towers, underlining the importance that Great Britain attached to the port of Mahón. The other two on the Mola peninsula: Saint Claire (Cala Taulera) and Erskine (Freus), were built later to defend the port (to avoid a land landing on the Isthmus of the Freus). This smaller, but faster and cheaper, fortification system gave the British time to rebuild the demolished fortress of San Felipe.

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