L-AĦRAX TOWER COASTAL BATTERY

L-Ahrax battery was initiated in 1714 with the financial assistance of Knight Commander Mongontier who donated 1323 scudi for the construction of five coastal batteries along the Fliegu coastline. By 1716 another 544.11.10.3 scudi were paid out to cover the construction costs. It was a gun battery built around L-Aħrax tower. The battery consisted of a semi-circular gun platform with an en barbette parapet, a blockhouse that was built on the western wall of the tower, and two walls linking the tower to the gun platform. It was surrounded by a rock hewn ditch.

The Hospitallers’ list of expenses for the building of such coastal batteries and redoubts in 1715 and 1716, in the L-Aħrax Battery is stated that there were musketry loopholes. However, the blockhouse lacks any visible evidence of musketry loopholes, this might imply that some sort of enclosing walls were built, which in turn where pierced with such loopholes.

L-Aħrax Tower was constructed in 1658. It was the sixth such edifice built by Grand Master Martin De Redin.

Part of the left part of the parapet of the gun platform.

According to the 1761 plan the arrangement of the tower, the blockhouse, the enclosing wall and the semi-circular gun platform do not quite correspond. The tower was not arranged in a diagonal way with respect to the semi-circular gun platform, the enclosing wall is in the wrong position, and the 1761 plan fails to show the appearance of the blockhouse clearly. The 1761 plans almost invariably provided exact and correct details about the various coastal batteries and redoubts. It seems that L-Ahrax Battery, may be an exception.

During the construction of these batteries, the military engineers experimented with various forms of blockhouses and redans. Most of the batteries, had a free-standing musketry wall with a projecting redan, often fitted with blockhouses, but the L-Aħrax Battery lacked such a feature, due to the fact that the gorge walls appear to have connected with the tower in such a way to leave one of its sides completely exposed to the enemy. This is why most batteries employed the V-shaped redan trace in order to eliminate such a threat. It would seem then, that the gorge walls of the L-Aħrax Battery were mainly added simply to enclose the gorge and protect the gun-crew from incoming shots, and were designed to work more in the form of flanking traverses rather than defensible perimeter walls.

Due to the inspection visits performed during the 18th century, we know how the L-Ahrax Tower was armed and equipped. In fact, a visit in the coastal towers by the by the Giurati of Valletta and Mdina on 18, 19 and 20 June 1743, indicate that there were the following:

5-pdr bronze cannons
Cannon carriages with two wheels (Unserviceable)

2

Spingards

2

Spingards

2

Light artillery carriages

4

Thirty years later, in 1770, an artillery inventory was prepared. The following is a list of what was found in the tower and battery:

L-Aħrax Battery

Iron cannons 12-pdr = 10
Naval carriages = 8
Iron cannon balls 12-pdr = 700
Grape shot 12-pdr = 150
Blackpowder conserved in St. Agatha Tower.

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 L-Ahrax Battery:

 

L-Aħrax Battery or Lespinas Battery

Iron cannons 12-pdr = 7
Naval carriages = 8
Iron cannon balls 12-pdr = 190
Canister shots 12-pdr = 105

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 is a list artillery at L-Aħrax Battery, the calibre of the guns and their number:

L-Aħrax Battery
Shopping Basket
Mellieha Local Council

21 521333

The Parish Priest

21 523449

Mellieha Clinic

21 522316

Police - Mellieha

21 523457

Police - Qawra

21 571174 - 21 576737

Waterworks - Qawra

21 573507 - 21 583859

Maria Bambina Primary School

21 523527

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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.