Ta’ Qassisu Battery was built between 1714 and 1716 as part of the Order of Saint John’s first building program of coastal fortifications. It was part of a chain of fortifications that defended Mellieħa Bay, which also included Westreme Battery and Mellieħa Redoubt. The Knight Mongontier contributed 423 scudi for the construction of the battery, while the remaining 899.4.17.5 scudi were paid by the Order.

The battery had a standard plan with a semi-circular plan with a semi-circular artillery platform, and two blockhouses and a V-shaped redan at the gorge. The coastal battery was constructed overlooking Għar Baqrat and the shallow rocky shores on the outer extremity of Mellieħa Bay Hotel. It had a plan very similar to Mistra battery, with a semi-circular gun platform and a parapet with eight embrasures joining a blockhouse on either side. In between, these two separate blockhouses had a redan or two arrow-head-like walls facing inland with small arms loopholes in them for more protective fire. This coastal battery was armed with eight cannons.

Part of the expenses went on works on the muro a due facciate which costed 63.5.18, the muro a barbetta 33.4.12, the two muri a due faccie costed 341.0.7.3 and 27.8.18 respectively, the muro di contrascarpa costed 134.17.3, the scavazione costed 118.3.12.3

In 1748, Grand Master Manuel Pinto da Fonseca converted the battery into an office for the Tonnara enterprise. One of the blockhouses was to be enlarged sideways to create enough space for 16 fisherman/sailors of the Tonnara and seawards where the fish could be hung tuna processing plant. On top of the latter there was to be another room for the fishermen/sailors. The remaining front quadrant was left empty to hold 300 barrels, most probably for the tuna meat.1

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. They were probably taken to be used elsewhere, especially on the Hospitallers warships in the previous years. The following is the report about the Tonnara Battery:

 


1  J. Muscat & J. Muscat, Fortifications of the Knights Hospitallers in Mellieha, (A & M Printing, 2012), p 62.

A 1748 plan of the Qassisu Battery which was to the transformed into an office for the Tonnara enterprise. According to this plan the gun platform was now limited to three cannons, but 1792 we will see that battery was reinforced by more than three cannons.

 

Tonnara Battery

There were 8-pdr cannons, but now is disarmed, and the utensils remain for the cannons that was armed with.

A year later, in 1770, at least one cannon was added to the battery and the following shows how it was armed and equipped:

Tonnara Battery

Iron Cannons of 8-pdr = 1
Iron cannon balls 8-pdr = 280
Grape shot of 8-pdr = 60

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 Tonnara Battery:

Tonnara 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 shows how Tonnara Battery was armed, the calibre of the cannons and their number:

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 shows how Tonnara Battery was armed, the calibre of the cannons and their number:

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 Tonnara Battery:

The battery was demolished in the second half of the 20th century and its place was taken by the Mellieħa Bay Hotel.

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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.