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British era battery unearthed in Tigné

The background and foreground show the artillery emplacements for the disappearing six-inch breech-loading guns, one on each side. In the centre is an emplacement for a disappearing 9.2-inch BL gun.

The background and foreground show the artillery emplacements for the disappearing six-inch breech-loading guns, one on each side. In the centre is an emplacement for a disappearing 9.2-inch BL gun.

A battery built by the British following the discovery of slow-burning powder in 1886 has been unearthed at Tigné during works carried out by the Midi consortium.

The battery is to be restored by Midi under their planning permit and the buildings around it constructed in such a way as to allow easy access to it by the public.

Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna chairman Mario Farrugia had alerted the developers to the battery at the start of excavation works. FWA were appointed by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority to monitor the works.

Mr Farrugia said the discovery of slow-burning powder had sparked a revolution in artillery design, leading to breech-loading guns.

Before this discovery guns used to be muzzle-loaded. The new powder provided a greater build-up of pressure, enabling longer ranges to be reached and more power resulting in better perforation of ship armour.

"In one short burst, the old artillery became redundant, although it took the British another 20 years to get rid of the obsolete guns here. Between 1870 and 1880 a programme was taken in hand to change all the cannon or build new batteries," Mr Farrugia explained.

Known as the Garden Battery, the fortification at Tigné formed part of the eastern coastal defence of the Grand Harbour. In contrast with the earlier Fort St Elmo, such fortifications, including the one at Rinella, were built flat so that the guns were kept out of sight for better protection against enemy fire.

The battery was equipped with two six-inch disappearing guns (meaning the gun is cranked up before being fired and then lowered from enemy sight) which were used for close engagement with cruisers and other light vessels and one 9.2-inch disappearing gun for counter-bombardment against battle ships.

This artillery was never put to use as the need never arose. "The importance of this battery lies in the fact that it is a link in the development of artillery fortifications in Malta," said Mr Farrugia.

"The battery was saved thanks to the concerted effort of Mepa, AOM Consultants, the architectural advisers to Midi plc and the personal input of Professor Alex Torpiano."

"It will form part of the heritage route that will be laid out in the area. FWA is prepared to give the developers a helping hand in interpreting the fortifications and to take over the management of the site.

"This instance is a clear example of how important it is to have an organisation like Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna monitoring such sites while development works are going on," Mr Farrugia said.

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