Dwejra Tower is situated just off the road leading to the small enclosed bay at Dwejra in Gozo, known as the ‘inland sea’. It was completed in 1652 and periodically used by British forces up to the second World War when it was used as an observation post.
It was completed in 1652 during the time of Grand Master Jean Paul Lascaris Castellar and funded by the Universita’ of Gozo. A Capo Mastro or Castellano was in charge of the Tower and raised money to cover expenses by producing salt from the salt pans in front of the Tower. In 1744 Grand Master Pinto had the sides of nearby Fungus Rock, home of the fabled fungus that had special medicinal powers, smoothed over to make access more difficult.
The Tower was still in use during the eighteenth century when it was equipped with three 6-pounder guns. It was manned by the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery between 1839 and 1873 but then abandoned. During the summer of 1914 Maltese troops from the King’s Own Malta Regiment and the Royal Malta Artillery were dispatched to the coastal watch towers and Dwejra Tower was manned by No 3 Company with two, later four, 12-pounder guns. During the Second World War the Tower was used as an Observation Post. One recorded incident was the rescue of a Royal Air Force pilot, whose Spitfire had crashed in Dwejra Bay in 1942, by Captain Frank Debono and Carmelo Zahra of Victoria.
In 1956 the Tower was leased to Gerald de Trafford for a period of fifty years. It was passed on loan to Din l-Art Helwa who commenced restoration work in 1997, which was completed two years later. A considerable amount of stonework had to be replaced on the outside and flagstones laid inside.
San Blas Tower, also known as ‘it-Torri ta’ Isopu’, is situated on the cliff between San Blas and Dahlet Qorrot. It was built in 1667 during the reign of Grandmaster Nicholas Cottoner at the expense of the Universita of Gozo. The guns of this Tower opened fire on the French fleet in June 1798, a distinction which no other Tower can claim!
It is square in shape, with thick battered inwardly-sloping walls. Internally, the Tower consists of a high barrel vault with an intermediate floor resting on rib arches. A spiral staircase provides access to the various floors. Due to the remote location and inaccessibility of the Tower, the restoration work was carried out entirely by hand by Leli Saliba, known as ‘il-Bufajra’, and his son. The spiral staircase was non-existent and had to be built from scratch. The interior of the Tower had collapsed, and the roof was completely rebuilt, modelled on the sole surviving original arch, which is still visible today.
Over a period of 3 years, the Tower was restored as a collaborative project between Din l-Art Helwa and the Local Council of Nadur. Din l-Art Helwa is very proud to have saved this Tower for the nation, and has signed a management partnership agreement with the Nadur Local Council to ensure that the use of the Tower for cultural heritage purposes will be encouraged and carefully managed.
The expenses of the restoration project were shared equally by Din l-Art Helwa and the Nadur Local Council. The funds contributed by Din l-Art Helwa were donated by the late Marjorie Woolf.
The Tower is now open for visitors on the first and third Sundays each month from 9.30 am to 1.00 pm. Plans are also underway to use it as visitor centre, acting as the first stop along a planned ‘nature trail’ for both tourists and locals, thus encouraging walking tours across the magnificent scenic countryside that this location has to offer.
The areas around the tower, known as il-Qortin ta’ Isopu and il-Qortin ta’ Mangun have been designated as a special conservation area (SAC) due to their high scenic and ecological value. This area has been included in the list of sites for the Natura 2000 scheme.