In a presentation to the press together with Din l-Art Helwa, three prominent companies, Playmobil Malta Ltd, the Demajo Group of Companies and Toly Products Ltd have announced that they are again to sponsor a new phase of work at St. Agatha’s Tower, also known as the Red Tower, in Mellieha. The Tower is held under deed of guardianship by Din l-Art Helwa, which has been looking after the site since 1995 when it was in serious danger of collapse.
The sponsorship of these three companies was instrumental in the completion of the first phase of restoration of the Red Tower, and had then made it possible for Din l-Art Helwa to carry out this difficult and ambitious task.
The Tower was in an appalling state when the organisation took it over in 1995. At that time, two of the four turrets had collapsed, and there were gaping holes in the walls caused by structural faults as well as the ravages of time and inappropriate use.
The first phase of restoration consisted of repairing all the stonework including the turrets and the exterior masonry, the plastering of the interior walls, the installation of electricity, water and sanitary facilities, a new timber staircase for access to the roof, and a kitchenette.
The work was completed over a number of years. Din l-Art Helwa, together with BirdLife and the PARC department at the Ministry of Rural Affairs and the Environment, is involved in another initiative close by. The area underneath the Tower stretching from Mellieha to the end of the promontory Ras il-Qammieh, is being rehabilitated into a Mediterranean woodland.
Since 2001, about 2,500 trees and shrubs have been planted every year, and about 5 kilometres of rubble walls have been rebuilt. The Red Tower stands out above the forest in much the same way as Verdala Castle in Buskett. As the trees grow, the afforestated site should attract even more visitors.
Martin Galea, Executive President of Din l-Art Helwa said how grateful the organisation was that the three sponsors had been steadfast over the years in understanding the importance of maintaining the stability of the tower and that by enhancing the visitor experience he was certain it would attract a larger number of visitors. Their commitment was evident in that they readily accepted to come forward for this second phase of the restoration and refurbishment.
Din l-Art Helwa has engaged the designer Peter Howitt, with the brief to redesign the interior of the Tower without detracting from its architecture or its austere military ambience. Mr Howitt has a long history of designing stage and film sets, with empathy for historical monuments.
The works have already started. The exterior plastering must be done every 5 years, as the hydraulic lime does not have good binding properties and is the only affordable solution permitted. Three-phase electricity is currently being installed. In this second phase, it is intended to refurbish the interior and the roof area emphasising various points of interest.
Helga Ellul representing Playmobil Malta, Pier Luca Demajo from the Demajo Group of Companies, and Andy Gatesy representing Toly Products, said they have been proudly associated with Din l-Art Helwa‘s Red Tower project over these years and are committed to seeing the second phase of the work completed in order to improve the visitor experience to this historic property and also that the continuity of the good work started over ten years ago will secure the property for a good number of years to come.
Through a system of volunteer wardens the Red Tower is open daily, including Sundays. Approximately 10,000 people visit the Tower annually. Events such as dinners and small receptions are also occasionally held at the Tower. There are marvellous view points from its roof which has a command over the straits between Malta, Comino and Gozo.