The Wish Tower is one of 103 gun towers built on the south and east coasts of England to defend against a potential invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte in the early 1800s. It was built when Eastbourne was four or five small settlements and, along with the Redoubt Fortress about a mile to the east, is probably Eastbourne seafront’s oldest surviving resident.
There were 74 Martello Towers built on the south coast between Folkestone and Seaford – these towers were numbered. Originally the tower immediately to the east of the Eastbourne Redoubt Fortress was numbered 1. Later on, the Wish Tower and the Seaford Tower were built and instead of a number, were just named. Later still, the towers were renumbered from the Folkestone end and the Wish Tower became Tower 73.
In addition to the Kent and Sussex Towers, there were 29 added in Suffolk and Essex, but these were designated with letters, rather than numbers.
Of the 103 towers built, only 43 remain – and only two remain in public hands and largely unspoiled: one in Dymchurch owned, and recently restored by English Heritage and The Wish Tower. The Dymchurch tower is not set within a moat so all these factors together serve to make Eastbourne’s Wish Tower unique.
The Wish Tower Cafe and Sun Lounge were completed in the early 1960’s, half of the cost of construction being gifted by Gilbert Foyle (Foyle’s bookshop).
With its fabulous views out to sea from the Sun Lounge it was very popular with visitors but over the years it saw something of a decline and at the end of 2012 it was decided the current arrangement was untenable.
The cafe building was demolished and has been replaced replaced by a temporary structure called “The Western View” which has indoor and outdoor seating and is proving immensely popular.