Martello Mystery

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There has been no small amount of speculation about the status of the Sandymount Martello Tower in recent months.

Work began earlier in the year without announcement and resulted in some very obvious cosmetic alterations, an addition one witness characterised as “a carbuncle”, the purpose of which remains obscure.

The recent alterations are part of a preservation effort which has been characterised as ‘urgent’. Mortar replacement is underway to undo damage caused by seepage on the west side of the Tower. Local reaction has been mixed, primarily due to the lack of certainty as to what the changes to the exterior signify.

The history of the Sandymount Martello Tower is chequered. It was a tea room briefly in the 1980s (which led to the addition of the white block-like extension) and, in the 1990s, was widely known to have been purchased by one David Doyle. Permission was granted to develop the site into a restaurant.

Less well-known is that the restaurant was also intended to house a brew pub, predating and anticipating companies like The Porterhouse, which have since seen growth across the country. The site has remained dormant since the restaurant enterprise was abandoned.

The failure of what could have been one of the pre-eminent attractions for Dublin South-East seems to have been rooted in simple misfortune and perhaps one naïve error. Dublin City Council had granted planning permission and alterations were made, adding windows to the façade facing seawards. However, An Bord Pleanála withdrew permission on grounds of inadequate parking provision for potential customers.

In 1995, a limited company by the name of Kilkenny Brewing Company Ltd. was incorporated to provide unique beverages to a gastropub in Kilkenny known as the Maltings. A similar enterprise was apparently planned by the proprietors of ‘Kilkenny Brewing Co.’ for the Martello in Sandymount, until this was halted by the planning permission disputes over parking.

A legal dispute then emerged between this company and the Guinness Group, who felt that the company’s trading name would lead to confusion with their own Kilkenny red ale. The High Court ruled in favour of Guinness in February 1999 and Kilkenny Brewing Company seemingly ceased trading, at least under that name.

There is currently no exact word on when the work on the Tower will be completed but the preservation of this famous Sandymount landmark is assured.

By Ruairi Conneely