The year is 1610. The day is the 10th February. On this day, the first foundation stone of Wignacourt Tower was laid. Cut to 410 years later, in 2020. Last 10th February, the firing cannon on top of the tower, which was, was fired, breaking centuries of silence, to commemorate this impressive milestone.
Martin Vella, Curator of the tower, explained to Bay that the cannon itself, which dates back to 1782, is the oldest firing cannon in Malta. Mr Vella also told us that apart from being the first tower erected by the Knights, is now the only coastal tower having a cannon restored to firing condition on it’s roof.
This adds up to other historical and unique features one may find when visiting this tower. It was the first coastal tower built in Malta in 1610. The first floor used to serve as the living quarters of the soldiers and here one can still find the access to the well, a cooking area, and a toilet, all considered as luxury facilities, which in those days were only found in houses and palaces of the nobility.
Mr Vella continues to give us some insightful historical background. He explained that at the beginning of the 19th century when Malta became a British colony, many hundreds of cannons were still located on bastions around the Island. These were, however, muzzle-loading cannons which were eventually superseded by the breech-loading type.
“The muzzle-loading cannons were sadly removed from the bastions. Most of them were placed half-buried in the ground around Malta’s harbours to serve as mooring points for the British Navy and merchant ships.
A close look at the cannon located on the roof at Wignacourt Tower in St Paul’s Bay reveals that most probably this cannon passed through this same inglorious fate. The back section of the cannon’s barrel shows evident signs of corrosion, this being the part not inserted in the ground while the rest has much less corrosion because it was not exposed to the elements, being inserted in the ground.
The year 1782 is marked on the cannon’s left-hand trunnion, while on the right one there is a foundry marking, AB, tracing it to Swedish foundry Akers Bruk. This is a four-pound cannon. Originally two six-pounders were deployed on the roof and three eighteen pounders on the ground floor battery.”
Another singular feature is the presence of the original wooden entrance door at first-floor level, complete with the original lock and key. This tower is the only defence post dating back to the early 17th century which still retains these original features.
A visit to this site is surely most interesting, also considering that the entrance fee is really minimal.
You can also read about our group’s clean-up activity at the tower some years ago when the Tower was restored.