Dec26

Fort Tigné - 1792, Part II

Anatomy of Fort Tigné - the main features

 

A full appreciation of the influence exerted on the lunette d’Arçon and Montalembert’s perpendicular fortifications on the design of Fort Tigné, and the manner in which Tousard went on to develop the idea further, can only be  arrived at through a detailed examination of the fort and its layout, and the details of the various elements that make up the work.  The following section examines each of these elements individually. For this purpose, Fort Tigné has been divided structurally into four major components; namely the circular keep, the diamond-shaped body with its batteries of guns, the ditch, and the outerworks (which comprise the counterscarp galleries, countermines, and glacis).

 

 

1.  The Keep

 

Undeniably, the tower-keep, or tour-reduit, of Fort Tigné is its most striking and unusual feature.  This is basically modelled on the reduit de surete of D’Arçon’s lunettes but it is a much more developed and sophisticated product. To begin with, it was designed with two tiers of musketry loopholes compared to the one of D’Arçon, allowing its defenders to lay down a dense 360-degree barrage of musketry fire. Secondly, came the terrace platform with four embrasures for cannon, a feature which is totally missing in the D’Arçon’s lunettes. This was only possible because of the greater height, or relief, of Fort Tigné’s tower over the adjoining fort. This increase in height enabled the tower to serve as a sort of cavalier, allowing its guns to cover the ground before the glacis. Such an improvement over D’Arçon’s tower was also proposed by Baron Maurice, the Swiss engineer mentioned earlier, in his proposed modification of D’Arçon’s ideas.  Tousard, therefore, envisaged a more active defensive role for his tour-reduit than that which D’Arçon assigned to his towers. Originally, Tousard’s tower-keep was ringed by a small parapet pierced with four embrasures.  Unfortunately this parapet was dismantled during the British period and replaced by a wider sloping parapet designed to convert the structure into a Martello-type tower mounting a single cannon on a centrally-pivoted mount.  Still, a close look at the original drawing presented by Tousard to the Congregation does not show any embrasures in the tower’s parapet. Furthermore, it also tends to suggest that the tower was initially designed with a conical rooftop! Unfortunately, the sectional elevation drawing which would have accompanied this plan has not survived to confirm this observation. If so, than Tousard’s tower-keep is more dependent on D’Arcon’s reduit de surete than meets the eye. That this feature was eventually dropped from his final plan and replaced by a roof-mounted platform may also suggest that the adaptation of Tousard’s initial idea may have been done to accommodate the advice, or criticism, of some other member of the Congregation.

Above, Detail of the terrace-level plan of Fort Tigné taken from the same original presentation drawing by the draughtsman Giovanni Borg, already shown above. Note that the parapet of the tower has no embrasures and that the terrace seems to be capped by a conical roof. (Image Source: Courtesy of the National Library of Malta).

Abov, Detail from a 19th century painting of Fort Tigné, showing the tower-keep as built with its original embrasured parapet still in place. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above, Detail from plan and sectional elevation of Fort Tigné accompanying col. Dickens 1811 report showing the original tower-keep with its parapet, sloped terrace platform, and intermediate floor resting on timber beams. (Image source: Author’s private collection – photographed from the original plan when in the National Museum of Archaeology).

Above, Fort Tigné’s tour-reduit prior to its restoration (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above, Two of the three tour-reduits which were built by the knights in the early 1700s for the infantry defence of Kalafrana and M’Xlokk. (Image source: Author’s private collection). The Kalafrana redoubt (top) has a semi-circular front pierced with musketry loopholes.

 

The use of a tour-reduit for musketry fire was not new to Malta. In fact, in the early decades of the eighteenth century, the knights had experimented with various designs of tower-like coastal redoubts. At least three were built in Marsaxlokk and although none of these were circular or had more than a single tier of musketry loopholes, that at Kalafrana did have a semi-circular front (see illustrations above).

 

The tower-keep at Fort Tigné was isolated from the body of the fort by its own circular ditch, which was largely rock-hewn. It was approached via a flight of steps rising from the seashore and across a place-of-arms, and then entered through a small main gate served with a drawbridge shielded by a wooden palisaded ratelier. A smaller gateway (more of a sally-port) linked the tower, via another drawbridge, to the central traverse-cum-barrack block running along the capital of the work.

Above, Top, Detail of the reduit de surete of D’Arçon’s proposed lunette for Toulon (Image source: Courtesy of P. Prost). Above, Sectional elevations and plans of the same tower. (image source: P. Prost).

Above, Top, View of the tower-keep of the Lunette d’Arçon at Mont Dauphin, and above, its vaulted interior with openings for musketry loopholes. (Image Source: Author’s private collection).

 

Internally, the tower was constructed as one large quardri-partite vault and the space divided vertically into two levels by means of an intermediate floor supported on wooden beams. Four small spiral staircases (Maltese garigori), set within the thickness of the abutments supporting the vaulted ceiling, connected the ground floor with the intermediate floor and the terrace platform above, as well as with the underground communication gallery running beneath the tower which was designed to link the fort to its counterscarp musketry galleries and countermines.  The circular terrace platform was raised slightly towards its centre to help counter the recoil of the guns. The sloping platform also helped drain the roof from rain water through four ‘mizieb’, or spouts, shaped in the form of cannon muzzles. British military engineers, unfortunately, altered the platform to enable it to take a singular gun mounted on a traversing carriage, an alteration which resulted also in the reshaping of the original parapet and the addition of a small storage shed.

Above, The tower-keep of  Fort Tigné around the early 1860s, with its remodelled parapet. Also visible in the foreground is the parapet  (with its cutting) which enclosed the wide caponier on its seaward side. (Image source: Courtesy of the National Museum of Archaeology).

Above, Detail from sectional elevation of Fort Tigné dating to the mid-19th century, showing the tower-keep with its remodelled parapet and terrace platform. Note the two ventilation shafts. (Image source: Author’s private collection – photographed from the original plan when in the National Museum of Archaeology).

Above, View of the tower-keep and its shallow ditch as seen from the counterscarp on the harbour side of the fort.  This photograph was taken whilst restoration works were in progress. (Image source: Author’s private collection)

Comparative views of the tower-keeps of the Lunette d’Arçon at Mont Dauphin (left) and Fort Tigné (right). (Image source: Author’s 3D reconstructions)

 

Main gate

 

The focal architectural and decorative feature of the tour-reduit of Fort Tigné was its main gate. This is an interesting feature in its own right. It introduced a novel form of architectural detailing into the gateway of fortifications, up until then largely dependent on the classical pilastered forms. Here, Tousard designed a relatively simple facade consisting of a blocked semi-circular arch with banded columns, often known as ‘Gibbs surround’, after the Baroque architect James Gibbs (1682-1754) who made the blocked architrave surrounds popular in Britain in the second half of the eighteenth century.  This type of architectural surround is not easily elsewhere encountered around Malta. The author was only able to trace one similar design in a building in Valletta (see photograph) and it may well be that the idea was introduced locally by Tousard, although this aspect needs to be investigated further by art historians.

 

The commemorative marble plaque, set within the arched surround, above the crest of the door, is a heavy piece of marble, semi-circular in shape. The lead lettering of its Latin inscription reads as follows:

 

EMANVELI DE ROHAN

MAGNO MAG S ORD IEROSOLYMARI

QVOD

SOLITA IN MELITA MVNIFICENTIA

AT ANIMI MODERATIONE

HOC PROPVGNACVLVM CVM OPERIBVS

EX AERARIO SVO ET SINE TITVLO NOMINIS SVI

ANNO PRINCIPATVS DECIMO SEPTIMO

AEDIFICAVERIT

OPTIMO ET PROVEDENTISSIMO PRINCIPI

IIII VIRI REI BELLICAE PONEND CVRARVNT

 

Roughly translated, it reads ‘To Emanuel De Rohan, Grand Master of the Order of Knights of Jerusalem, who, with his usual bounty towards Malta and prudence of spirit built this fortress with its works out of his own pocket and without giving his name to it in the seventeenth year of his reign. The four members of the Congregation erected this tablet to an excellent and most provident ruler.’   It is interesting to note that the inscription seeks to emphasize the fact that the Grand Master had paid for the fort even though it was not named in his honour. As if to compensate for this state of affairs, the Congregation than sought to name the refortification of St Lucian’s Tower and battery, and its enclosure within a light entrenchment  (a very hasty intervention undertaken by Tousard from 1792 onwards), as Fort Rohan.

Above, View of the main gate of Fort Tigné, after restoration with detail of commemorative marble plaque, below. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above, View of a surround in an eighteenth-century building in Valletta, employing elements similar to Fort Tigne’s portal (Image source: Author’s private collection).

There is some evidence to indicate that the main portal was originally crowned by a pair of escutcheons bearing the arms of Grand Master de Rohan and the Order. All the Order’s major works of fortification were given such a feature. These decorative heraldic elements had already disappeared from the keep of Fort Tigné  by the mid-nineteenth century, as can be seen in photograph of the tower from the period, but they were still extent in the early decades of the British occupation as evidenced by the detail from the watercolour painting reproduced  below, which, moreover, depicts the escutcheons held together in the claws of a doubled headed eagle.

Strange as it may appear today, this was not the product of the artist’s imagination, for the use of the Austrian double-headed eagle as a support to the coat of arms of the Order and the Grand Master had actually been introduced during De Rohan’s reign in 1778.  This was a direct result of Pope Pius VI’s decision to incorporate the Order of St Anthony into that of St John in 1775.  The Hospitaller Order of St Anthony was a non-military Monastic Order that had been founded in 1095 and had spread over the whole of Western Europe with hundreds of hospitals.  Its coat of arms consisted of a ‘Tau’ Cross supported by an Austrian double-headed eagle which had been granted to the Order in 1502 by Emperor Maximilian I.  When the Order was amalgamated with the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, this double-headed eagle was placed as a supporter behind the coat of arms of the Order of St John and also behind that of the Grand Master.  Its first recorded use was by Grand Master de Rohan in 1778, and it continued to be used under Ferdinand von Hompesch until 1798, whereafter, it was replaced by the Russian doubled headed eagle until 1803.

Above, Detail from 19th century painting showing part of the tower-keep and glacis of Fort Tigné, revealing the escutcheons and double-headed eagle crowing the main gate (highlighted). The drawing also shows the wooden palisades lining the parapets of the caponier (a remnant from the time of the knights) and the flight of steps leading down to the shore. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above, Right, Medallion with the Austrian double-headed eagle of the Order of St Anthony used as a support for coat of arms of the Order of St John, taken from the elaborately engraved frontispiece of  the Order’s code of laws which was published in 1784 under the title Del Diritto Municipale di Malta, loosely referred to as the Codice de Rohan.  Left, Coin with coat of arms of Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch supported by the Austrian doubled-headed eagle of the Order of St Anthony. The eagles hold the ‘Tau’ Cross in their beaks (Image source: Author’s private collection). 

 

The gateway was served by a wooden drawbridge that worked on the chain-and-tackle system and was protected by a wooden palisaded gate held between two stout masonry pilasters. Neither the pilasters, nor the palisaded gate and the wooden tavolatura of the original drawbridge have survived, but the gateway facade still retains the two brass wheels that helped work the drawbridge chain, set in small slit openings just above the entrance.

Above, Detail showing Fort Tigné around the early 1860s. Note the guns in their embrasures, those en barbette on the left flank of the fort, as well as the caponier and flight of steps leading to it.  Note also the sally-port tucked away to the left of the flight of steps, opening just near the small sheltered cove (Image source: Courtesy of the National Museum of Archaeology).

 

Above, Detail of the ground-level plan of Fort Tigné, taken from the same original presentation drawing already shown above. Note that the casemates along the faces and right flank are open to the rear and that none of the casemates are linked internally to one another. This latter detail, however, does not correspond to the physical evidence. Note also the radically different concept for the caponier and its manner of communication to the shore down below. (Image Source: Courtesy of the National Library of Malta).


2. The body of the work

 

Unlike the Lunettes d’Arçon which basically consisted of a pentagonally-shaped ravelin, the body of the work at Fort Tigné comprised a casemated enclosure built to a diamond-shaped plan with a salient angle of 90 degrees.  The work consisted of two outer faces 60 m in length and two flanks 45 m long. Both faces and flanks were built on a system of vaulted casemates and their outer walls were pierced with a large number of musketry loopholes. One of the initial plans shows the lateral casemates open to the rear where they overlook the courtyard. The casemates provided important overhead shelter for the troops from air-bursting bombs as well as providing adequate bombproof storage areas for munitions and victuals. Those on the left flank housed the artillery store, and those on the right, the gunpowder magazine and the infirmary.

Above, View of one of the vaulted casemates along the left face of the fort with its row of musketry loopholes before restoration.  Note the partially-blocked up opening in the side walls.  (Image source: Author’s private collection). These have now been fully re-opened, providing a continuous internal link right through the casemates on the left face of the work.  (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above,  View of the gorge of the casemated left face of Fort Tigné as partially restored and reconstructed to British-period terrace level. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above, View of the interior of the scarp musketry gallery along the left flank (harbour-facing side) of the fort after restoration.  The wall with doorway at the farther end of the gallery led to a small powder store – a minor alteration that dates to the British period. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above, View of the scarp musketry gallery along the left flank harbour-facing side) of the fort during restoration. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

 

A casemated traverse divided the interior of the work along the capital into two moietes and served the same purposes of the abris designed by d’Arçon. Tousards ‘abris’ however, was more than just a mere shelter for the garrison – the loopholes cut into its walls meant that it was also intended to serve more actively as a defensible barrack block and redoubt, and was clearly designed to protect the interior of the fort in conjunction with the tour-reduit.  Today, this long vaulted block has its outer walls pierced with many modern doors and windows, but originally, and like D’Arçon’s abris, it only had two pairs of openings (again showing D’Arçon’s influence on Tousard’s design). Unfortunately, practically all of its musketry loopholes were hidden away under an external lining of modern cladding (although  most of these loophles can still be traced from the interior, despite the fact that they were sealed off with stone blocks) in order to convert the traverse into more comfortable, draught-free barrack accommodation during the British period.

Above, View of the left courtyard of the fort, showing the ‘abris’ or traverse that divided the work in two halves along the line of the capital. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above, View of the left wall of the casemated  traverse. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above, View of the casemated  traverse that divides the work in two halves along the line of the capital. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above, View of the right wall of the casemated traverse, showing three of the loopholes that were left uncovered by the British military. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above, Interior view of the three of the original loopholes that were left uncovered by the British military. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above, Interior view of the salient casemate with the original loopholes and large entrance opened by the British military to provide access to the ditch. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above, Exterior view of the large gateway opened by the British military near the salient on the right face of the fort in order to provide access to the ditch. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

 

The sole entrance to the body of the work was through a doorway set into the gorge of the traverse-cum-barrack block via the rear gateway in the tour-reduit and across a wooden drawbridge.  Unlike the large open gorge of D‘Arçon’s abris, which was meant to be covered by musketry fire from the tower, Tousard’s abris was closed off with a wooden gate.  A weakness in Tousard’s design meant that the courtyards on either side of the traverse could still be easily accessed via the relatively shallow ditch of the tour-reduit, which was no real physical barrier. In practice, with the defenders still manning the tower, there was little chance of this actually happening but perhaps a form of wooden palisade was used to seal off this opening, although no evidence for this has been traced to date.

 

 

Parapets

As in the majority of fortresses, the most vital and exposed part of the ramparts of Fort Tigné were the parapets. At Fort Tigné, however, the parapets had little in common with the normal pattern that had hitherto been built in the other fortifications erected by the Knights, other than the fact that their superior slopes were inclined outwards and covered with flagstones. Unfortunately, none of Fort Tigné’s original parapets have survived. As a matter of fact, both the faces and flanks of the work were cleared in a tabula rasa fashion of all structures above the level of the platform, and even the platform itself, where it still survives, reveals the adaptations from the British period.  At the time, what made the Fort Tigné parapets different was the form of the embrasures which they were designed to accommodate. And here again, we encounter another novel feature. For the embrasures at Fort Tigné were designed, and built, to mount more than just the simple wheeled (truck) gun carriages. In fact, they were specially designed to house traversing carriages, affuts à aiguilles, on the French pattern.  In this case, however, it does not appear that it was Tousard himself who had introduced the idea into the design of the Order’s fortifications, for earlier in 1788, we find the Congregation of Fortification and War examining the ‘modelli’ (sample models) and instructions for the construction of a Gribeauval carriage. On that occasion, the Commander of Artillery was ordered to see to the construction of a prototype coastal gun mounting for an 18-pounder cannon according to the designs presented to the Congregation and to draw up an account of the costs involved, while the work was entrusted to Lorenzo Turneo ‘Capo Maestro del Fa legname dell’Artiglieria’ (master carpenter) who was eventually rewarded for his ‘fedele eseguimento di un ceppo fatta giusta il disegno di M. Griboval.’ The new traversing carriage was finished in the space of a few months and tested on 4 May 1789 in the presence of the Congregation and once again, on 11 May, in the presence of Grand Master de Rohan.

Above, Detail of the terrace-level plan of Fort Tigné  taken from the same original presentation drawing by the draughtsman Giovanni Borg, already shown above. Note that the indented profile of the parapets. The embrasures are not shown except on the left flank, which contains seven smaller ones. These were not built, however, as they were replaced by a low wall to enable the guns to fire en barbette. (Image Source: Courtesy of the National Library of Malta).

Above, Detail of the terrace-level plan of Fort Tigné taken from the 1811 plan accompanying Col. Dickens’ report showing very clearly the dispositions of the embrasures and intervening banquettes. The left flank is en barbette. Note also the four embrasures on the parapet of the circular keep. (Image source: Author’s private collection – photographed from the original plan when in the National Museum of Archaeology).

 

Its advantages were quickly appreciated, particularly the wider field of fire provided by the rotating mount and the added protection that it gave its gun crew. But to be truly effective, these new carriage had to be accommodated in specially modified parapets that allowed for the traversing of the platform and at the same time screened both the gun and its crew. Basically this meant smaller opening, higher walls, thicker parapets with specially adapted inner sides to allow for the rotation of the carriage and a pivoting anchor point beneath the genouilliere to house the traversing arm of the carriage.

 

In 1788, however, the Order simply did not have the necessary resources to replace all the then-existing gun carriages with this new model, and even less available was the money to rebuild the parapets along the many miles of fortifications so as to accommodate the new mountings.  The minutes of the meeting of the Congregation of Fortification and War held on the 28 August 1789, reveal this dilemma and show that knights could only really just afford to replace those carriages that had been rendered unserviceable with the new pattern while an entry for 1795 shows that orders were given for the production of only one such carriage a year (‘secondo il nuovo modello’) and that the knights were to continue to make do with, and repair, the existing gun carriages.

 

Rather than Tousard, therefore, it is most likely that the new embrasure design intended to accommodate the affuts à aiguilles was actually introduced by the knight Henry des Mazis, who was an artillery engineer and who served the Order as a military engineer of sorts up until around 1791. It is not clear, however, whether or not any new embrasures of this sort designed to accommodate these new types of carriages had been built before the arrival of Tousard in late 1791.  The first work to be shown fitted with these types of embrasures is the small casemated counterguard in the ditch of Fort Ricasoli, which was begun by 1788 ( but still incomplete by 1798) and built under the supervision of the Maltese Capo Maestro delle Opere Antonio Cachia.  But the parapets on this work were still under construction in 1798.

Above and below, Details from Tousard’s plan of the parapets and embrasures for Fort Ricsoli in 1792. These embrasures were specifically designed to accommodate affuts à aiguilles.  These embrasures and their intermediate merlons with tapering stepped banquettes were practically identical to those that were built at Fort Tigné, except for the fact that those at Fort Tigné had a large lintel block laid over the inner narrow end (r neck of the embrasure) to effectively form a porthole. (Image source: Courtesy of the National Library of Malta).

Furthermore, apart from Fort Tigné, and Fort Ricasoli, the new embrasures also appear in the plans of a special battery that was erected at St Gregory Bastion on the Carafa enceinte at Valletta. Both these later works, if not actually conceived by Tousard himself, were definitely brought to completion under his supervision, as evidenced by the many plans and reports that bear his signature.

 

Actually, from the little available evidence, it appears that the embrasures at Fort Tigné bear a close resemble to the pattern that had been developed by the French military engineer Jean-Baptiste Meusnier in France, an example of which is illustrated in one of the plates in Montalambert’s publication La Fortification Perpndiculaire, 1776-1797, Paris (see image below). These were more similar, though simpler, to those that were built for St Gregory’s Bastion in that they were partly vaulted over and covered towards their inner part, unlike those of Fort Ricasoli which were open.  At Fort Tigné, however, this ‘covering’ seems to have consisted simply of a large lintel block of stone or a few voussoirs forming small arched opening. Col. Dicken’s 1811 plan of Fort Tigné, the second known British plan of the fort (the first accompanied McKerras’ report, but it has not yet been traced), already seems to show the embrasures as uncovered, suggesting that the lintels (or voussoirs) had been removed from the necks of the embrasures sometime between Pasley’s description and 1811.

Above, Detail from Tousard’s plan of the parapets and embrasures on St Gregory’s Bastion, Carafa enceinte, Valletta (Lower St Elmo) dated after 1792. These embrasures were also specifically designed to accommodated affuts à aiguilles but were fully vaulted over in the manner adopted by Meusnier  - see illustration below. (Image source: Courtesy of the National Library of Malta ).

 

There is also some suspicion that the fleur d’eau battery at Senglea Point may have been also adapted to house similar traversing carriages for a few photographs from the late 1800s do seem to imply that the inner ends of the embrasures were covered over.  On the other hand the large vaulted embrasures at Fort St Angelo’s Fleur d’eau battery (demolished in a storm during the nineteenth century), and those of San Petronio Battery (also demolished) were much older and do not seem to have been part of this adaptation.

 

A characteristic feature of the embrasure designed to accommodate an affut à aiguilles was the cavity cut beneath the genouillére (genouilliere) in order to house the pivoting arm of gun carriage, which was itself held in place by an iron pin (aiguille = needle) inserted through a cylindrical opening in the upper face of the genouillére. This detail is clearly depicted in Tousard’s embrasures for Fort Ricasoli (see below).  Another feature, was the manner in which the parapet was projected inwards on both sides of the gun emplacement to serve as a sort of traverse intended to protect the gun crew from ricochet fire. The thick intervening merlons, as a result, acquired a considerable height (at times around 3 metres) and had to be served by relatively high multi-stepped banquettes if the soldiers were to be able to discharge their firearms effectively. Unfortunately no single example of these forms of parapets and embrasures that can be safely dated to the period have survived at Fort Ricasoli or at any other Hospitaller period fortress (although there are various British variations on the design).

Above, Detail from another of Tousard’s plan of the parapets and embrasures designed for the casemates on St Dominic’s Demi-Bastion at Fort Ricasoli, dated after 1792. These too were specifically designed to accommodate affuts à aiguilles but were fully vaulted over in the manner adopted by Meusnier (see illustration below). (Image source: Courtesy of the National Library of Malta ).

Above, Jean-Baptiste Meusnier’s affut à aiguille and  embrasure  as illustrated in La Fortification Perpendiculaire, 1776-1797, Paris  (Image source: reproduced from J. Langins).

Above, Possibly the only surviving embrasure built to Tousard’s pattern at Fort Ricasoli, designed specifically to accommodated an affut à aiguille.  Although the embrasure has all the dimensions of Tousard’s design, it could not be ascertained if this is still an authentic emplacement dating to the Hospitaller period. It could not be confirmed, owing to the very dense and heavy vegetation,  if the genouilliere contained the recess designed to take the pivoting-arm of the carriage.  A couple of similar-looking  embrasures on the same parapet lack this feature and seem to have been rebuilt during the  British period. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above images, Author’s graphic reconstruction of the type of the type of embrasure employed at Fort Tigné , designed to accommodate an affut à aiguille. (Image source: Author’s design)

 

The left flank of Fort Tigné, facing Marsamxett Harbour, was not fitted with any embrasures at all but was left en barbette. In Tousard’s original presentation drawing, however, it is shown as having a narrower parapet pierced with seven smaller and tightly packed embrasures. Internally the flank was occupied by one long vaulted gallery pierced by a long row of musketry loopholes. This platform only acquired embrasures for a while during the British period but these were eventually dismantled by the end of the nineteenth century. All the parapets and embrasures at Fort Tigné, as a matter of fact, were unceremoniously swept away by the British military to make way for new gun emplacements during the 1860s.

 

Gen. Pasley stated that the gun embrasures at Fort Tigné were placed at more than the normal distance apart. However, the dimensions shown on all existing plans indicate that these were placed between 18 and 19.9 ft apart, which was roughly consistent with the normal distance of 18 ft that was prescribed in military text books of the time and also normally found in most of the Order’s fortifications.  In a way, the manner of the deployment of the fort’s cannon shows that Tousard was not seeking to emulate Montalembert’s concentration of artillery that had been employed in his wooden coastal fortress on the Isle d’ Aix (In 1778-1781, Montalembert had built a large three-tiered coastal gun fort on the island of Aix. This was to prove to be Montalembert’s only work to have ever been built).  A study of Tousard’s other major work along the land front of Fort Ricasoli, on the other hand, clearly shows that he had actually sought to create a heavy concentration of artillery in the faces of the demi-bastion, faussebraye and demi-counterguard, creating four tiers of gun embrasures, two of which were protected inside casemates. It is not clear if this scheme was actually fully implemented for unfortunately, this very part of Fort Ricasoli was demolished during the course of the infamous Froberg Mutiny, when a desperate gang of mutineers blew up a large powder magazine situated within one of the casemates. This elevation provided an unprecedented exercise in the concentration of cannon, and is not to be found anywhere else along the bastioned fronts of the Order’s fortifications. As such, it definitely shows the  influence of Montalembert’s doctrine for overwhelming defensive fire on Tousard’s thinking.

 

Montalembert’s influence on Tousard, or at least on the Hospitaller military establishment at the time, can be seen in another unsigned and undated plan (c. pre-1793) put forward for the defence of Dragut Point and the Sliema promontory (first reproduced by the late Prof Quentin Hughes) which shows a large fort with casemated redoubts and sea-level batteries (see supra). This intriguing scheme has not attracted much attention or academic comment to-date and deserves further study.

Above,  Detail from another of Tousard’s plans showing the parapets and embrasures on the face of St Dominic Demi-Bastion and faussebraye on the seaward side of the land front of Fort Ricasoli, dated after 1792.  This proposal for a rebuilding of the elevation was then an unprecedented exercise in the concentration of cannon, and was not  to be found anywhere along the bastioned fronts of the Order’s other fortifications. It clearly reveals the influence of Montalembert’s doctrine for overwhelming defensive fire on Tousard’s thinking. (Image source: Courtesy of the National Library of Malta).

Above, Two other details from the same plan of Fort Ricasoli’s land front, showing a sectional elevation through St Dominic Demi-Bastion and its faussebraye, the layout of these ramparts and their immediate outerworks, dated after 1792. (Image source: Courtesy of the National Library of Malta).

  

Early photographs of Fort Tigné do not shed much light on the configuration of the embrasures. What they do reveal, on the other hand, was that the parapets stood relatively high above the crest of the enveloping glacis. This meant that the scarp walls were unnecessarily exposed to plunging and even direct fire. Major McKerras, writing in December I800, was critical of the fact that fort was not well covered by its glacis and the same sentiment was echoed by Col. Dickens in 1811 who likewise considered the ‘Escarpe wall on two sides … not sufficiently covered by the Glacis’. Furthermore, the gradient of the glacis beyond the crest of the parapet of the detached place-of-arms was somewhat steep, and this appears to have left small areas of ground near the salient angles unseen from within the fort – a defect which can be easily noted in the early existing photographs of the fort taken prior to the devastating mutilation ensuing from the British interventions of the second half of the nineteenth century.  It is difficult to comprehend how two such serious shortcomings compromising the safety of the fort were never rectified, even in the later British period. Possibly, this defect was a result of Tousard’s absence from Malta at the closing stages of the works and may, therefore, have resulted from a lack of adequate supervision. An obscure source mentions Tousard’s promotion to Chef de Bataillon on 1 germinal year III (21 March 1795), which, unless mistaken, implies that he must have returned to France temporarily during the closing period of fort’s construction. Frederick Ryan, on the other hand, states that Tousard accompanied the Bailli de Virieu to France in 1796, on a highly sensitive diplomatic mission to France at Grand Master de Rohan’s bequest.  

 

3. The Outerworks

The most crucial element in the defence of the fort, and the one aspect contributing to the whole revolutionary aspect of the design, were the three counterscarp musketry galleries designed to provide reverse flanking fire along the four faces of the fort inside the ditch.  These musketry galleries, however, were more than simply counterscarp positions as they  projected outwards from the counterscarp into the ditch, forming short flanks.  Each had two re-entrant faces, pierced with 21 musketry loopholes and a further 4 on the two short flanks (a total of 50 loopholes per lunette).  The casemated interiors of the musketry galleries were ventilated with air-holes (11 per face - i.e., one for every two loopholes) which opened externally at certain intervals on the faces of the galleries directly above the loopholes. These were designed to carry off the toxic smoke from the musketry fire. The flanks, apparently, may have had a small sally-port that allowed access into the ditch. As in Montalambert’s casemated batteries, the loopholed musketry faces of the counterscarp galleries were placed perpendicular to each other.

Above, An early 19th century painting of Fort Tigné , with Valletta in the background, showing the left salient place-of-arms with its parapet and two-stepped banquette. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above, Detail from the ground-level plan of Fort Tigné  taken from the same original presentation drawing by the draughtsman Giovanni Borg, showing one of the three counterscarp musketry galleries and the countermines radiating from it into the glacis. Note that the casemated gallery is shown as divided into three rooms on each wing. In actual fact these were built as one continuous vaulted gallery. (Image Source: Courtesy of the National Library of Malta).

Above, Author’s drawing showing a general layout of one of Fort Tigné ’s counterscarp musketry galleries with its combined network of countermine tunnels and firing chambers, as well as the underground tunnel which links the outerwork to the fort.  (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above, View from within the fort of the left counterscarp musketry gallery, in the process of restoration. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above, Detail from Col. Dicken’s 1811 plan, showing a sectional elevation through the salient counterscarp gallery, one of its a countermines, and the underground communication tunnel providing access from inside the fort. (Image source: Author’s private collection – photographed from the original plan when in the National Museum of Archaeology).

Above, View of the musketry loopholes and the smoke ventilation openings as can still be found on the left counterscarp musketry gallery, after restoration. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

View of the interior of the left counterscarp musketry gallery, prior to restoration. (Image source: Author’s private collection). Note the smoke-escape shafts opening just above the spring of the vault. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

Above, detail of one of the smoke- escape shafts opening just above the spring of the vault. There was one such opening for every two embrasures.  (Image source: Author’s private collection).

  

The counterscarp galleries, which were vaulted internally, could only be reached from inside the fort by means of underground tunnels that emanated from the tower keep. The three galleries were also linked to one another by means of short communication tunnels – a detail which is not present in Tousard’s original design. A series of countermine galleries radiated outwards from the interior walls of the vaulted galleries and spread out beneath the adjoining glacis (see illustrations below). Each set of countermines was fitted with 11 firing chambers (forni) – providing a total of 33 countermines.

 

The same underground tunnel that linked the fort to the counterscarp galleries, however, became a liability in the event of a siege, for the moment any one of the three galleries was overrun by enemy troops there was no way of stopping the besieging soldiers for undermining the fort and its tower, or even erupting into the tower-keep itself. Tousard must surely have been aware of the danger posed by this communication tunnel and the need to interrupt the passageway by means of armoured metal gates (pierced with loopholes) and other barriers - devices which were never implemented either before 1798 or after. In the Lunette d’Arçon, Le Michaud had sought to tackle the problem by fitting a retractable staircase (‘pont à bascule’) into the abris so as to isolate the entrance into the lunette from the underground tunnel.

 

The terraces of the three counterscarp galleries present a very curious feature. At first glance they give the impression that these were designed as places-of-arms, fitted with banquettes, prepared platforms for artillery, and side traverses. However, they were not connected to any sort of covertway or pas de souris whatsoever and were totally inaccessible from the rest of the fort. A study of the vaulted ceiling of the surviving counterscarp gallery shows that there was no vertical link from the interior either. In other words, these positions were totally isolated from the rest of the fort and there was no possible way that they could be reached from inside the work, or from any another part of the perimeter, except, externally, from across the glacis – definitely not a healthy solution as far as the defenders were concerned! One reason that could explain why Fort Tigné was not given a chemin couverte may lie in the fact that that such a feature would have served to lower the height of the counterscarp and expose the scarp even further. Actually, this was usually cited as one of the standard reasons why advanced lunettes were not generally fitted with covertways (see Lendy). Still, none of the British engineers’ reports  ever sought to explain how these isolated places-of-arms at Fort Tigné  were truly meant to function!  It would tend to suggest that Tousard may not have really thought this particular concept through!

 

Of the three counterscarp galleries, only one has survived in a relatively unadulterated state – the left gallery on the Marsamxett Harbour side of the fort. Sadly, the salient and right galleries were heavily altered and mutilated by the British military when they sought to adapt them to serve as accommodation for the guncrews of the battery of BL guns built on the seaward side of the glacis in the 1890s.  Most of their countermines, however, are still accessible.

Above, View of the mutilated form of the salient counterscarp musketry gallery, reshaped by the British military to serve as guncrew accommodation, during restoration works. The terrace was cut down and sloped but the left arm still appears to have retained its parapet and two-stepped masonry banquette. (Image source: Author’s private collection)

Above, View of the right counterscarp musketry gallery, reshaped by the British military to serve as guncrew accommodation, after restoration works. (Image source: Author’s private collection)

Above, Two views of the countermine galleries emanating from the salient counterscarp musketry gallery. The photograph on the left shows the small ‘forno’ or firing chamber, where the gunpowder charge would have been placed. (Image source: Author’s private collection)

 

Together, the three counterscarp galleries could lay down a murderous reverse enfilading within the ditch. At Fort Tigné, the ditch was practically all rock-hewn except for a few areas of the counterscarp.  At its widest, it spanned some 26 metres, and stood around 6m (30 ft) high at the counterscarp, making it relatively very wide and low in relation to the scarp, especially when compared to the ditches of Fort Manoel and those of the other bastioned harbour fortifications.  Such a wide and low ditch would not have been very successful in protecting the outer walls of the fort from plunging fire, even for relatively very low trajectories.

 

The early plans of the fort show that the tower-keep was surrounded by its own ditch which served as a sort of drop-ditch within the overall ditch. The two sides of this small circular ditch, where they overlooked the flanks of the fort, were fitted with banquettes and made to serve as traverses. It would appear that the level of the ditch along the flanks sloped downwards from the direction of the keep, creating a sort of glacis for the two ‘traverses’ provided by the low counterscarp of the drop-ditch of the keep.

Above, Diagram showing the basic lines of musketry fire flanking the Lunette d’Arçon.  Compare this with the extensive fields of fire which Tousard introduced into the design of Fort Tigné, below. The yellow arrows show that central abris in both the Lunette d’Arçon and Fort Tigné had two exits on each side. (Image source: Author’s 3D reconstruction).

Above, View from Valletta showing Fort Tigné around the early 1860s. Note the vast stretch of glacis on what was then still an open promontory devoid of any buildings. (Image source: Courtesy of the National Museum of Archaeology).


4.  Glacis and caponier

Enveloping the fort on all sides, was a shallow earthen glacis, beneath which, as already mentioned above, were cut a number of countermine galleries and tunnels. Along most of the inner harbour side of the fort, which practically formed the gorge of the work, the glacis was cut off by the cliff-face of the promontory, at the foot of which stood a shallow rocky shelf.  This short stretch of foreshore was manipulated to accommodate the seaward approaches to the fort from Valletta. This route provided the principal link and access point to the fort. Indeed, as in all of the Order’s harbour fortifications, the main entrance was designed to be accessed directly from the harbour side, this being always the shortest and quickest route from city to its surrounding fortified outposts and outerworks.

Above, Detail from Col. Dicken’s 1811 plan, showing circular tower with its terrace platform and embrasures as well as the wide caponier serving the seaward side of the structure. Note the T-shaped cuttings in the glacis opening from within the parapets of the caponier. Their purpose is unclear. (Image source: Author’s private collection – photographed from the original plan when in the National Museum of Archaeology).

Above, Detail from a plan of Marsamxett Harbour and its surrounding areas, showing Fort Tigné in its initial configuration without the flight of steps linking the caponier to the shore below. This plan too, may have accompanied Tousard’s original presentation to the Congrgation of Fortification and War in 1792. (Image Source: Courtesy of the National Library of Malta).

Detail from Giovanni Shranz’s painting of rough seas at Tigné Point, showing the position of the commemorative foundation plaque fitted along the escarpment just to the right of the flight of steps leading up to the fort. (Image source: Courtesy of  Nicholas De Piro, Dictionay of Artists who Painted Malta).

 

 A large and solidly-built flight of steps linked the foreshore to the upper level of the fort via a rather wide caponier which was fitted with its banquettes and wooden palisades. This caponier, which was wide enough to double-up as a place-of-arms, served to link the gateway to the stairway.  The parapets of the caponier on both sides were interrupted, roughly half way along their length, by an opening leading to what seems to have been T-shaped cuttings in the glacis – reminiscent of later-period riffle-pits. The scope of this feature is not clear even though it is almost invariably shown on all plans, including the early British period plans. The left feature was eventually cut open to provide access to the main entrance via a country track arriving from the across glacis. The original stairway, on the other hand, was demolished during the course of the Second World War but has recently been rebuilt. Strangely, Tousard’s initial plans of the fort do not show this flight of steps but, instead, proposed what appears to have been meant to be, albeit unclearly, a sloping caponier designed to descend steeply down to the shore. It is not possible from the available evidence to ascertain if this original solution was actually adopted, and then replaced by the flight of steps.  Perhaps, the design was altered during the course of the fort’s construction, or shortly after, for the flight of steps is already in place by 1798.  Most probably, the initial design simply did not envisage a formal physical link to the foreshore and must have relied on the sally-port that led to the underground tunnel – again emilating another feature dependent on D’Arcon’s lunette.  As works progressed, however, Tousard must have been obliged to add the stairs to facilitate access to the fort.  Next to the flight of steps, to the right, stands a large water cistern.  Originally it was vaulted over but today it only survives as an open rectangular cutting in the foreshore bearing traces of the bittumatura that was used to render it waterproof.  This was one of two cisterns which supplied the fort with its water supply.

Above, View of the reconstructed flight of steps linking the foreshore to the fort. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

View from above of the cutting in the rocky foreshore to the right of the flight of steps which was excavated by Tousard to serve as a cistern. This was vaulted over. (Image source: Author’s private collection).

 

By the end of the century, the Order seems to have began toying round with the idea of enclosing of the whole Sliema promontory within an extensive fortified enceinte designed to accommodate a new city, and using Fort Tigné as the inner keep. An undated anonymous concept plan proposal (see below) shows a medium sized-fortress designed with a tenaille-trace type of land front enceinte that was surely not inspired by Vauban’s bastioned trace.  Indeed, the use of a central redan along the land front seems to be influenced by Montalembert’s concept of perpendicular fortification.  Furthermore the land front also features a mezalectre, a variant of the bastion that also adhered to the principle of perpendicular fortification. The glacis separating the fort from the built up areas was to be turned into a large esplanade or garden. There is no indication as to who the author of this scheme could have been.Whether this was Tousard himself or some other architect intent on demonstrating a new concept for a fortified city with a radial urban plan has yet to be determined.  The drawing itself is roughly executed and may have been prepared primarily to convey an initial idea for a new city, possibly to be presented to the newly elected German Grand Master, Ferdinand von Hompesch after his election in 1797, with the intention of soliciting his approval for the scheme. Whatever the original intention, the idea was quickly set aside as the Order of St John, indeed, the whole island, was soon overcome by the tragic events of 1798.

Above, Plan showing a proposal for a new fortified city with Fort Tigné as its keep. (Image Source: Courtesy of the National Library of Malta).

Continue to Part III

 

Dr. Stephen C Spiteri PhD - MilitaryArchitecture.com (C)

 

Author:
Dr. Stephen C Spiteri
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