MAMO TOWER IN MARSASCALA
Contrary to popular belief, this tower was not built by the Order of St John but, as its name suggests, by the Mamo family to use as a fortified family stronghold. Gregorio and Giorgio Mamo were father and son, both master builders of the Knights. A few metres away, is a chapel dedicated to St Gaetan which was built by the same family.
Before the French invasion the tower was occupied by the Militia Regiment of Żejtun and Żabbar, one of the six Regiments of Malta formed by the Knights to defend the island. This Regiment was responsible for managing the Mansel and Xrobb l-Għaġin batteries, the Marsascala Batteries and St Thomas tower and battery together with the entrenchments from Marsascala to Fort Ricasoli. Later on it passed to the Sciberras Bologna family and at the beginning of the 20th century the tower became the property of the Strickland family. The tower was later leased to the Galea (Tal-Matru) family from Żejtun. In 1940 it was taken over by the British Armed Forces who also built a pill-box on the roof. After the war it was handed over to a private citizen, Mr Desira from Zejtun, who used it as a summer residence. The tower was eventually handed over to the government by the tenant who had let it fall into a very dilapidated state. Din l-Art Ħelwa had maintained an interest in the fate of the historic and unique tower on the Żejtun-Marsascala road. In 1988 the building was handed over to Din l-Art Ħelwa by the Ministry responsible for Government lands.
Mamo Tower has a unique shape with no less that sixteen faces. It resembles the cross of St Andrew in shape. It was built in the middle of the seventeenth century to act as a defensive tower against Ottoman incursions. These threats were very real and particularly so from the direction of St Thomas’ Bay just below the site of the tower.
On entering the main door, one finds a beautiful round dome-roofed room which was built with great skill. This room was bomb proof. This central room leads to four smaller ones which form the four arms of the cross. On the left hand side is a staircase leading to the roof from where one can enjoy beautiful scenery. On the right hand side there is a well and a shaft leading to the roof to enable people there to retrieve water from it. On the right hand side is another staircase leading to a low- roofed room above one of the four rooms mentioned. The tower is not close to the sea but from the roof one can still see St Thomas Bay and in this sense it is still considered to be a coastal tower. Contrary to other watch towers it has only one floor and this makes it look more like a redoubt, although without musketry holes. From the roof of this tower the inhabitants could communicate with other privately owned towers. Indeed on the road from Żejtun to St Thomas Bay, there are a number of small towers, erected by private families, which served as lookout posts and a refuge for their relations and dependents. Not far from the medieval chapel of St Gregory, is a tower known as it-Torri ta’ Ġomu tal- Gardiel (Girolamo Bonnici). Close by, near the chapel of Santa Maria ta’ Ħal-Tmiem, one can see another tower, the property of Marquis Scicluna, which has acquired the nick-name of its former tenant Ta’ Qies. Further down, overlooking Marsaskala, quite near St. Anthony’s Chapel, there is yet another tower, known as Tal-Mozz, which has been modified to suit the residential needs of its occupants, but can be quite distinctly identified by the Chapel of St Gaetan.
Around Mamo tower is a two-metre empty ditch. In the ditch lies a fourth century Roman tomb, which may derive originally from a Phoenician one. This was probably discovered while the ditch was being excavated. The depression in the tomb has a place for the head of the dead body. Opposite the entry is a niche with a hole on each side, probably used to place light lamps. Another hole close-by is the entrance of a shelter.
In 1988 Din l-Art Ħelwa conducted a study of repairs required to the external walls. After this was completed, the stone masonry which was in a state of deterioration was replaced. Pilasters were erected to be able to fix a gate at the main entrance. The rubble wall around the ditch also needed considerable repair. Restoration of the external walls was carried out during 1994 and 1995 and the installation of electricity and a bathroom rendered the tower a suitable venue for small functions. A small room, on the left as one climbs up the steps to the roof was converted into a kitchen. The rooms were also given new illumination as were the facades of the external walls and ditch. The floor was covered with stone flags. In 1995 Round Table Malta One offered their financial sponsorship to complete the restoration of the tower.
By virtue of article 48 of the Cultural Heritage Act of 2002, the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage was empowered to enter by public deed into a guardianship contract with non-governmental organisations, after having been duly authorised for these purposes by the Minister responsible for cultural heritage and with the concurrence of the minister responsible for lands.
By virtue of a deed in the records of Notary Doctor Franco Pellegrini dated 21 February 2003, Din l-Art Ħelwa was handed over the guardianship of the place for a period of 10 years and this was renewed in 2013.
In 2012 Din l-Art Ħelwa started an extensive restoration programme on the external facades and work was completed the year after. The tower was again restored in 2022 and this was made possible by a LEADER programme grant for restoration of cultural assets in rural areas, through the Xlokk Local Action Group Foundationand the Co-Financing Fund for NGOs of the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector. The Mamo Tower is today a popular destination for private parties and heritage tours.
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