Coastal entrenchments were the third category of fortifications built in the 18th century. They formed integral part in the strategy of the other coastal defences, i.e the coastal batteries and coastal redoubts. Coastal entrenchments can be said that they are miniature bastions in order for the infantry to have cover while in case of invasion they are firing on enemy soldiers.

During their visit in Malta in 1714, the military engineers Fontet and Arginy proposed the construction of a number of coastal entrenchments. This idea was well under way before the arrival of Philip de Vendome in 1715. In fact entrenchments began to be built at Marsaxlokk, Marsascala, St. Paul’s Bay and in tow area in Mellieha, i.e those of Qassisu and Armier, the former defending Mellieha Bay while the latter facing Comino. Vendome who had pushed forward the idea of building coastal batteries and coastal redoubts, was also in favour of building coastal entrenchments. He initiated a scheme of building further coastal entrenchments such as those at Salina, Qalet Marku, Madliena and Birzebbuga.1

But, by 1722 the Hospitallers soon realised that they had not enough troops to man all these fortifications. Therefore, they decided that in case of an invasion they would retreat to the Great Fault, i.e where the latter Victoria Lines exists. They built inland entrenchments at Falca, Naxxar Bingemma and another one near Madliena Tower.
There were many Knights who were against the idea of building all these fortifications, but by 1723 the Hospitaller Congregation of War accepted the expert’s report and began constructing all these entrenchments. 2

However, by 1761, the chains of entrenchments were not all built as proposed by Vendome in 1716. In 1761 the French military engineer Bourlamaque proposed an ambitious plan that is to surround all the Maltese islands with entrenchment. It seems that the plan was began and in fact coastal entrenchments were built at Qawra, Spinola, St. Julians, Birżebbuġa, Marsascala, between Fort Ricasoli and Zonqor Tower and Armier and Qassisu at Mellieħa in. But soon the Hospitallers encountered the problem of lack of money to build all these coastal entrenchments. 3

Two Hospitaller military experts had different ideas about the building of these coastal entrenchments. Bailli Fra Domenico Antonio Chisurilia warned the grand master about the difficulties of building all these entrenchments and that the Hospitallers had not enough men to man all these fortifications as proposed by Bourlamaque. He calculated that 50 bastions connected by curtains 200 paces long needed 5000 men to man them all. He knew that the order had not all these sufficient troops. On the other hand, Bailli de Tigne wanted to build 200 bastions connected by very short curtain walls and armed with heavy guns of at least 24-pdr calibre. This meant that the Hospitallers needed 1600 soldiers and a total of 9600 men to arm the artillery. 4

After 1761, the construction of coastal entrenchments did not go well and in fact with the death of grand master pinto the project was stopped. This Grand Master was in favour of building these coastal entrenchments and in fact he financed the building of St. Julian’s and Spinola entrenchments. 5

According to the plan made by Bourlamaque Mellieha coasts would be surrounded by coastal entrenchments. This meant in theory that no enemy invasion forces would disembark their troop ashore because they would not have enough space to do it or because they would be under direct fire from the defenders. He had a brilliant idea but was when you consider the size of the Hospitaller’s forces; you immediately recognize the difficulty of manning all these coastal entrenchments. If his plan was implemented Mellieha coasts were to found themselves surrounded by these coastal entrenchments. His plan was only implemented at Qassisu and Armier. Plans exist that show the coasts of Mellieha surrounded by entrenchments.

Although they are a miniature of the majestic bastions and lines built in the fortresses they have to be conserved. Fortunately, those at Mellieha village still survived but have to be restored in order to be enjoyed by future generations.

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    About the village of Mellieha

    Mellieha is a rural village and tourist resort in the Northwestern part of Malta and derives its name from the Semitic root 'm-l-h' which in Arabic means salt. The name was probably derived from the ancient Punic and Roman salt-terns; historians indicated as lying adjacent to the large sandy bay at the foot of the village.
    Mellieha has been inhabited since early Neolithic times (3000 B.C). Several megalithic remains and tombs of this era and other primitive tools and fragments of pottery were found in various localities around this area, primarily at "il-Latnija" - a natural cavity used by several stone-age peoples - and at l-Gholja tax-Xemxija.
    During the Roman and Byzantine occupations (213B.C- 870A.D.), Mellieha's valleys were inhabited by troglodytes, who irrigated the land, adopted natural caves as their dwelling places and buried their beloved ones in Punic style burial chambers. Following the Arab conquest and during the medieval period (870-1530A.D.), the area was deserted, primarily due to the continuous raids of the Muslim corsairs.
    Notwithstanding the hardship experienced by the Maltese during the Reign of the Order of St. John (1530-1798A.D.), Mellieha's medieval chapel, dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary, was one of the most venerated places on the island. Several distinguished persons, such as grandmaster's, kings and bishops visited the shrine and pilgrimages to the sanctuary from all over the island were held frequently.
    In the late 17th century, the Knights built several fortifications along the coast, so as to protect the inhabitants. This venture brought about the gradual repopulating of the area, mainly by those who wanted to exploit the fertile valleys and the new enterprise of tunny net fishing. Under the British, in 1844, Mellieha was established again as a parish and since then it grew up into a modern town, of circa 6,500 people.
    Today, Mellieha is one of Malta's most picturesque tourist destinations. The town centre boasts of its splendid hotels, fine restaurants and traditional cute shops. It has a unique primary school, a majestic baroque church (built in late 19th century) and various cultural organizations, including band clubs, sports clubs, an orchestra, various religious societies, a parish community centre and an environmental pressure group. Since 1993, local affairs are being run by the Mellieha Local Council, an institution made up of seven councilors, elected every three years by the people.
    Mellieha's main festive season occurs in the first two weeks of September and reaches its climax on the 8th September. During these days various cultural manifestations are held, such as musical concerts, fireworks, folk singing, art exhibitions and the traditional religious procession. The town's people, ''Il-Mellehin'', are renowned for their laborious nature, their ironic sense of humour, and their friendliness and hospitality. Those who visit us, no matter where they hail from, do not merely enjoy themselves but feel at home.

    As long as Mellieha preserves its great archaeological and historic heritage, its unique natural environment, and its traditions and costumes, its people, "Il-Mellehin", can look forward to a bright future.