Military Museums of Menorca

The Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera) lie in the Mediterranean about 250 km east of Valencia.  They belong to Spain, but have historic commercial ties with Italy, and for three spells, 1708-56, 1763-82 and 1798-1802 Menorca was occupied by the British. During the 19th century the Spanish government fortified Menorca against the French and the British, who regarded it as a threat to the imperial trade routes between Gibraltar and Malta and Toulon and Algiers.

The Consortium of the Military Museums of Menorca, formed in 1998, co-ordinates initiatives to conserve military sites, and includes representatives of the island government, the local authorities of the towns of Es Castell and Mahón, and the Spanish ministry of defence. The Museo Militar de Menorca (Military Museum of Menorca), where the consortium is based,  was established in 1981, initially in an 18th century gunpowder store in the fort of San Felipe, but now in the Cala Corb barracks in the town of Es Castell, which was established – as Georgetown – by the British in the 1770s. Its displays describe various conquests of Menorca, and the role of the Balearic Islands in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. Apart from the military museum the consortium is responsible for the conservation and interpretation of four major sites. The most imposing monument of the Spanish military is the Fortress of Isabella II on La Mola, a peninsula at the entrance to Mahón harbour. It includes some British work of the 18th century, including the Erskine Tower of 1799, but the principal buildings and gun emplacements are Spanish of the mid-19th century.

The Queen’s Gate of 1852 marked the completion of one phase of work, but the fortifications were improved after that date. The fortress commands the entrance to the harbour, and is defensible both from the seaward and landward sides. There are substantial barrack buildings and extensive stone-vaulted tunnels linking gun emplacements. The artillery was continually renewed with guns from Krupp of Essen, from Spanish manufacturers and from Vickers at Elswick, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Two Vickers guns of 1932 and 1936 remain in place.

The ruins of Fort San Felipe occupy the site of a Spanish castle of the 16th century, which was enlarged by the British after 1708 until by the 1750s it was one of the largest fortified sites in Europe. Most of the buildings were demolished after 1805, but there are remains of the vaulted tunnels that connected gun emplacements, and some guns were placed there after the completion of the Fortress of Isabella II. During the Napeolonic Wars the British reinforced the fortifications around Mahón harbour with structures similar to the Martello Towers that were built along the south and east coasts of England, two of which are conserved by the consortium.  They were constructed by the Royal Engineers in 1798, and consist of three storeys, the ground floor for storage, the first floor for accommodating soldiers and the upper floor for combat. The small fort of San Felipe on Larareto island is a structure of this kind, and was built alongside a 6-gun battery. The tower of Penjat or the Hangman’s Tower, is similar, and occupies a site that protected the approaches the fort of San Felipe.

Military Museums of Menorca
Consorcio del Museo Militar de Menorca
Explanada 19
07720 Es Castell
Balearic Islands
+34 (0) 971 - 362100