IFOR, Sarajevo, 1995] A watchtower is a type of fortificationused in many parts of the world. It differs from a regular towerin that its primary use is military, and from a turretin that it is usually a freestanding structure. Its main purpose is to provide a high, safe place from which a sentinel or guard may observe the surrounding area. In some cases, non-military towers, such as religious pagodas, may also be used as watchtowers. An example of nonmiltary watchtower in history is the one of Jerusalem. Though the Hebrewsused it to keep a watch for approaching armies, the religious authorities forbade the taking of weapons up into the tower as this would require bringing weapons through the temple. Rebuilt by King Herod, that watchtower was renamed after Mark Antony, his friend who battled against Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (later Augustus) and lost.
Early history of the watchtower
The Romans built numerous towers as part of a system of communications, one example being the towers along
Hadrian's Wallin Britain. Each tower was in sight of the next in the line, and a simple system of semaphoresignalling was used between them. They also built many lighthouses, such as the Tower of Herculesin northern Spain, which survives to this day as a working building, and the equally famous lighthouse at Dover Castle, which survives to about half its original height as a ruin. In medieval Europe, many castles and manor houses, or similar fortified buildings, were equipped with watchtowers. In some of the manor houses of western France, the watchtower equipped with arrow or gun loopholes was one of the principal means of defense. A feudal lord could keep watch over his domain from the top of his tower.
Some notable examples of military watchtowers include the towers that
Martin de Redin, Grand Master of the Knights of Maltahad constructed on the coasts of Malta, and the Martello Towersthat the British built in the UK and elsewhere in the British Empire. All of these types of towers were armed with cannon. One of the last Martello Towers to be built was Fort Denisonin Sydneyharbour. The most recent descendants of the Martello Towers are the flak towers that the various combattants erected in World War IIas mounts for anti-aircraftartillery.
modern warfarethe relevance of watchtowers has decreased due to the availability of alternative forms of military intelligence, such as reconnaissanceby spy satellitesand unmanned aerial vehicles.
Modern day uses of the watchtower
An example of a modern, non-military use of watchtowers is the
United States Forest Servicefire towers in national forests. During the fire season, the USFS staffs the towers with observers who keep a lookout for wildfires. Prisoncomplexes in many countries also feature watchtowers to keep an eye on the prison population, particularly when they are outside in the prison yard.
Observation towers are similar constructions being usually outside of fortifications. A similar use have also Control towers on airports or harbours.
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Watchtower — Watch tow er, n. A tower in which a sentinel is placed to watch for enemies, the approach of danger, or the like. [1913 Webster] … The Collaborative International Dictionary of English
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watchtower — 1540s, from WATCH (Cf. watch) (v.) + TOWER (Cf. tower) … Etymology dictionary
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watchtower — UK [ˈwɒtʃˌtaʊə(r)] / US [ˈwɑtʃˌtaʊr] noun [countable] Word forms watchtower : singular watchtower plural watchtowers a tower from where guards can see the whole area that they are guarding … English dictionary
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