So, once our easels and boards had been set up, and the floorplan neatly taped to the floor, were we ready for visitors?

Goodness me, no.

There was furniture to arrange so that we could have space to create reference sections for books and maps, signs had to be added to the walls and floors and a whole host of other little jobs needed doing to ensure the exhibition hall felt welcoming and worth visiting.

Here we see another two of our volunteers – Peter and Pat, sorting out some labels for maps, and getting blu tak ready for use on signage.


Peter and Pat are neighbours to the Tower, having a home overlooking the slopes. Being retired, they’re often available at the tower to greet people on tours and to do those practical things like emptying the bucket that fill with water inside the Tower because of the leaking roof. They got involved in volunteering because they love the iconic landmarks on the seafront including the bandstand and the pier and they thought the tower should also be open to the pubic. At the exhibition they could be found doing allsorts – from explaining the floorplan to visitors, to making sure people got the most out of the old maps we had.

We were keen to let visitors think about different aspects of the Tower and its story in different ways – the timeline exhibition was one – but we also wanted to consider the other towers and their fate. We were helped in this by the artists: Elise & Mary who have been working on coastal-related projects for some time now. They created some new work for us: an historic map of the coastline between Eastbourne and Hastings showing the position of the Martello towers as they were built, and what had happened to them. We ended up with a fascinating way of looking at the buildings that defended the coast of Sussex.


To make this experience more interactive, there were paper models of Martello Towers to make – both on the map, and for visitors to take home with them. Here we see our volunteers Maria and Will getting stuck into model making.


Maria is from Russia and works at a local language school, Will is an import from the Midlands and works with computer systems’ design. They’ve both been volunteering for a while now – Maria is often on hand to greet visitors on tour days as well as making paper Martello towers for art installations. Will was instrumental in getting permission for the Friends to take on a lease on the tower and says he got involved because he couldn’t believe that this piece of history wasn’t open to explore. With so few towers left to see, he felt he had to do something about it.

I think it’s fantastic that so many people volunteer with us – often just a couple of hours here and there because they have busy lives and family commitments. But whether our volunteers do loads, or just a bit from time to time we’re really delighted to have not only their help, but their enthusiasm too.

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