Plate 898. Valentino, Anton: Ground Floor Plan of Building 2021
9. Valentino, Anton: First Floor Plan of Building 2021

It-Torri ta’ Lanzun consists of four main rooms at ground floor level, which are presently in use as the Entrance Hall (6.6 sm), a Chapel (32.0 sm), a Kitchen (20.5 sm) and a long function room (known as the Knights’ Hall) (38.8 sm), plus a toilet accessed via a corridor of relatively new construction (8.0 sm total), two small stores (2.8 sm total) and an external staircase leading to the first floor. These rooms form a U-shape around a courtyard (8). The first floor consists of a small terrace, a meeting room (known as the Council Chamber) (25.0 sm) leading onto a stone balcony which wraps around the north western corner of the building, an Office containing the Order’s archives (14.7 sm), a toilet (2.1 sm), and a stairwell containing a stone spiral staircase leading to the roof (1.6 sm), off which is situated a small store (9). The areas in brackets are the useable floor areas of the spaces, that is the areas excluding wall thicknesses.

It-Torri ta’ Lanzun contains architectural aspects which are common to vernacular farmhouses on Malta.

The description of a typical farmhouse of this era in a paper written by Edwin P. Borg 1 and a thesis written by David G. Hahs 2 contain similarities with Torri Lanzon which are striking.

Borg and Hahs give information about a front cart-room (“remissa”) accessible through the main front door (which is today’s entrance hall), which led to the courtyard (“bitha”). The door-way was wide enough to allow a horse and cart to pass through it, with a double-leaf door made of thick wood.

Plate 10Main Entrance Door

The courtyard was the central and most important part of a farmhouse. Many farmhouses had two separate entrances from the exterior, one for use by people (the existing main entrance in the west wall) (10) and a second for livestock to be brought in and out of the fields (the narrower blocked-in opening in the eastern courtyard wall of the existing building (11), which presently contains a number of memorial plaques, but which will eventually be re-opened to give access to the garden “”giardinetta” to the east of the building. It is known that this second door leading to the fields outside it-Torri was still open up to circa 1970 3. The courtyard was relatively spacious and contained a well (as in Torri ta’Lanzun) and a stone water-trough. This is unfortunately missing from the existing building, but a number did exist in the Courtyard up to 1970 3. An external staircase leading to the top floor was embedded into one wall.

Plate 11Secondary Entrance Door

Around the courtyard a stable (“stalla”), for a horse or donkey, and cow-shed (“maqjel”), for cattle, would be constructed, containing one or more mangers (“maxturi”). These rooms would contain holes carved through some of the stone building blocks, forming a stone “ring” (“marbat”) through which cords were passed to enable animals to be tied. The numerous stone rings in the Knights’ Hall indicate that farm animals were tethered here, and it is known that this room housed sheep up to circa 1960 3. In the present Kitchen only two rings are visible, and it is known that a horse was kept here up to circa 1960 3.

Rooms at ground floor level had no windows, and only doors leading from the courtyard, for security reasons.

The external stairs led to a terrace (“is-setah”), with a parapet wall around it, which was the roof of part of the ground floor buildings, and this led to the upper room (“lghorfa”), (the present office or archives), which was used as a family room and also as a bedroom. If necessary, some family members would sleep in a ground floor room. It is possible that the present chapel, which has no evidence of stone rings or mangers, may have been used for this purpose at some stage.

It is known that the second room at first floor level, the Council Chamber, and the spiral staircase leading to its roof, was added at a later date, and this will be discussed at a subsequent stage.

Plate 1213

12. Valentino, Anton: photograph of model of San Gwann farmhouse 1969
13. Valentino, Anton: Sketch of exterior of San Gwann farmhouse 1969

The layout and form of the building is indeed similar, although naturally not identical, to that of other Maltese farmhouses; a model, and two sketches, of now demolished farmhouses in San Gwann, not far from the Torri site, which were produced in 1969, illustrate this point (12), (13), (14). The building’s maximum height above street level is circa 9.6 metres, which height is similar to that of the adjacent contemporary villas.

Plate 14Valentino, Anton: Sketch of interior of San Gwann farmhouse 1969

It therefore is clear that the property was built as a typical isolated Maltese farmhouse, with features which are similar to those found in other farmhouses in Malta. The only aspect which enriches the architectural, rather than vernacular,quality of the property is the Baroque balcony at first floor (15). There is no evidence that the building ever served any military purpose, there is no evidence of any “tower”, although the massing of the north western corner of the building does result in an architecturally imposing composition. The high walls surrounding the courtyard were probably built to protect the inhabitants and their livestock from intrusion, mainly by local brigands and possibly by Muslim invaders, leading to the property being designated as a “fortified farmhouse”.

Plate 15Balcony