Mistra Battery

The first plans to construct a battery at Mistra Bay were made in 1714, in the report prepared by the Commissioners of Fortifications Fontet and D’Arginy. In fact, the Knight Mongontier donated 133 scudi for its construction. However, the Mistra Battery does not appear in the 1715-1716 list of coastal fortifications, but possibly a gun platform was built some years later.

In fact Maigret’s report written in 1716 does not mention this battery. Probably

the battery was built in 1761 on the insistence of the French military engineer Bourlamaque during the reign of Grand Master Manoel Pinto de Fonseca. During this time there was a small revival in the building of new coastal fortifications, including new coastal batteries. Bourlamaque insisted to build a coastal battery at Mistra.

Apart from proposing new coastal fortifications along the coastline of Mellieħa, the same military engineer proposed also how can be defended better. The proposed artillery necessary for the defence of the Coasts of the Islands of Malta and Gozo consisted of artillery of various calibres and types. The following is a table showing the necessary artillery for a better defence of the new battery at Mistra:

An aerial view of Mistra Battery. Notice the gun platform, the two blockhouses and part of the redan with the loopholes (Source: DOI)

A sea view of Mistra Battery. Notice the two blockhouses, the parapet with the embrasures (right), part of the redan with the loopholes and the passageway on top of the same redan for sentinels or for musketry fire.

Mistra Battery

2 3 6

Name of coastal fortification

24-pdr 18-pdr 12-pdr 8-pdr 6-pdr 4-pdr

Part of the right-side rear blockhouse, the dry ditch and one side of the redan with the door and just above it the coat-of-arms and the drawbridge.

The main entrance consisting of two doors. Above the entrance there is the coat-of-arms of Bailli de Montagnac and Grand Master Manoel Pinto de Fonseca. At least three musketry loopholes are seen.

Mistra Battery consists of a large semi-circular artillery platform surrounded by a three quarters of a low parapet and a quarter of a higher parapet with three embrasures, overlooking the mouth of St. Paul’s Bay. The battery is surrounded with a dry ditch. At the rear of the battery there are two blockhouses and on the landward side of the walls there are a number of musketry loopholes to cover the inland approaches. The blockhouses are linked with a redan. It is interesting to note that the redan is fitted with an upper walkway for the sentinels stationed in this battery. One can immediately recognise that the idea of this walkway is similar to that of the bastions. In the redan there is the door where was there was a small drawbridge over the ditch. Over the door there is the coat-of-arms of Bailli de Montagnac and Grand Master Manoel Pinto de Fonseca, thus bringing one to the conclusion that this battery was built during his

Part of the semi-circular gun platform and the three embrasures facing to the mouth of St. Paul’s Bay.

On 4 October 1769, the Congregation of War made a report about the actual situation in the coastal fortifications, in terms of artillery pieces. The report showed how the coastal fortifications, including those of Mellieħa had been depleted in regarding artillery pieces. The following is the report about the Mistra Battery:

Mistra Battery

Now remain only one 8-pdr and the utensils remain for the six cannons that was armed with.

A year later, there was still one 8-pdr to defend the battery. However, this cannon was to be replaced by five 24-pdrs. The following is the list of how Mistra Battery was equipped:

 

Mistra Battery

Iron Cannons of 8-pdr = 1
Cannons of 24-pdr to be added = 5
Iron cannon balls 24-pdr to be added = 70
Grape shot of 24-pdr to be added = 15

An artillery inventory was prepared by the Knight St. Felix on 3 October 1785, which showed the situation in the same coastal fortifications and how many pieces of artillery and other utensiles and necessary items they had. The following is the list of artillery pieces in Mistra Battery:

In early November 1792, a number of artillery pieces of different calibre were distributed in various coastal fortifications, some of them in the coastal fortifications of Mellieħa. The following list the coastal fortification, the calibre of the guns and their number:

Mistra Battery

On 5 November 1792, the Congregation of War ordered that four mortars to be send from Valletta, and one to be positioned at L-Aħrax Battery. It ordered also guards to be sent to the following coastal fortifications of Mellieħa:

More reinforcements were ordered for Mellieħa coastal fortifications and the Congregation of War ordered more guards to the following fortifications:

During the French blockade of 1798-1800, all cannons found in Mistra Battery were removed by the Maltese insurgents, and taken to Għargħar Battery.

 

In the 1990s the battery was used as a store by P2M Fisheries, and a number of alterations were made, in which some parts of the battery were destroyed. The fisheries company obtained new premises in 2012 and restored the battery before returning it to the government. Despite this, the battery and the surrounding area was vandalized repeatedly. More restoration works were undertaken by Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna.

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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.