21 February 2024






2 mins

One of the buildings anyone will spot once you approach the sister island of Malta – Gozo , from Mgarr Harbour side is no doubt the Ta ‘Kenuna Tower. It is a semaphore tower on the cliffs of Nadur and it was built by the British in 1848, as one of three semaphore towers in Malta. The tower was restored in 2005, and it now houses as a beacon to warn ships of their proximity to land, as well as a number of communication antennas.

The semaphore telegraph system was invented in 1792, and the British military authorities began to consider installing such a system in Malta in the early 1840s. Initially, it was planned that semaphore stations be established on the bell towers and domes of the island’s churches, but the religious authorities rejected the proposal. Due to this, in 1848 new semaphore towers were constructed at Nadur on Gozo, and Għargħur and Għaxaq on the main island of Malta. Further stations were established at the Governor’s Palace in Valletta, Selmun Palace near Mellieħa, and the Giordan Lighthouse near Għasri, Gozo. Each station was staffed by the Royal Engineers.

Ta’ Kenuna Tower was built on a hill 130 metres (430 ft) above sea level, so as to be able to pass on signals to ships and other posts via a telegraphy link between the two main Maltese islands, and to communicate with the towers at Għargħur and Għaxaq. The semaphore system became obsolete with the introduction of the electrical telegraph, and Ta’ Kenuna Tower closed in 1883.

During 2005, the Nadur Local Council with the help of Maltacom (now GO) sponsored restoration works of the tower. A beacon to warn ships of their proximity to land, as well as a number of communication antennas were installed on the roof.

The modern additions are mounted on the surface of the tower, and care was taken to preserve the historic fabric of the original structure

The semaphore towers consisted of three rooms built on top of each other with a spiral staircase linking them together and reaching onto the roof.

Each tower was provided with independent cooking and sanitary facilities for the use of its garrison. The signalling equipment stood high on the roof of the tower. This consisted of a wooden pole having three movable arms measuring 12 feet in length. Only two of these arms were used at a time to send a message. This was achieved by swinging the arms in a particular position to correspond with a letter of the alphabet or a number, as provided in the signalling code.

The small attractive botanical garden that surrounds the tower contains a number of plants native to the Maltese Islands.

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