The Lippija watch tower overlooking Gnejna Bay, which was in danger of collapsing, is being repaired by the restoration unit in the Ministry of Resources and Infrastructure.

About a year ago, Mgarr deputy mayor Giovanni Gatt had appealed in The Times for the tower to be repaired before it was too late.

The tower was in a complete state of abandon. A metal door had been spirited away, providing easy access to whoever had vandal intentions in mind.

Several of the stone slabs forming the roof had caved in while others were broken with the result that rain water has filtered its way through the double walls of the tower, leading several courses at the base of the tower to move dangerously out of alignment.

The turret on the roof has eroded extensively and part of it has fallen apart. A metal shutter of the window on the ground floor is riddled with bullet holes while the four walls of the tower are marked by wide fissures. Part of a room adjoining the tower is in a bad state of repair.

On the wall several metres above the entrance lies an eroded stone coat of arms of Grand Master Jean Baptist Lascaris (1636-1657) who built the tower together with five others to strengthen coastal defences.

In the book Fortresses of the Knights, author Stephen C. Spiteri notes that from the mid-17th century onwards, the preference for large garrisoned outposts was discarded in favour of smaller structures designed solely as watch towers.

"The designs of these watch towers reflected a marked departure from the massive structures built earlier. These were intended specifically as watch-out posts to keep the coastline under surveillance and warn of approaching vessels," Mr Spiteri wrote.

Watch towers were about 11 metres high. They consisted of two single-roomed floors with external access provided solely to the upper floor generally reached either by a wood or rope ladder.

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