SMHS Meeting - Shoreham Fort

20 Mar 2013

In March, SMHS was delighted to welcome Gary Baines and his ‘Friends of Shoreham Fort' for a presentation on the Fort's past, present and future. In fact, Gary introduced us to a set of three forts, Littlehampton, Shoreham and Port Nelson, each a prototype for its later neighbour, constructed to counter the threat of attack by the French.

Gary described how Shoreham Fort was built to look like a gun battery from the sea. The French would have thought this a soft target, when in reality the Fort was cunningly designed. The attackers would approach from the beach up a grassy bank, only to find themselves halted at a precipice by a 15 foot ditch. If not picked off by the Riflemen aiming through ingeniously designed loopholes in the Carnot wall opposite, they would plunge into the ditch. Assuming they survived without injury, advance was now blocked by the harsh face of the Carnot wall, its specially designed curved top” causing the climber to lose grip and slip back into the ditch, and all this while under fire from defenders in the caponiers, shooting along the length of the ditch - effectively a lethal ‘It's a Knockout'!

The Fort was manned by the 1st Sussex Artillery Volunteers - these volunteers even had to pay the equivalent of eight weeks wages for their uniform!

Gary described that in the early 1900s, when the threat of invasion had passed; the Fort was used by Francis Lyndhurst (Grandfather of Nicholas Lyndhurst) as a film studio. Throughout WW1 it was used for training and storage, then as a private dwelling. WW2 brought refortification; two six inch guns, capable of firing 14 miles out to sea, an observation tower was installed and searchlight position created.

Post war the Fort fell into disrepair and sadly the barrack block was destroyed in 1959, leaving the Fort abandoned to the elements and mindless vandals. In the late 1970s the initial restoration phase saw the Fort draw its first breath for years. Meantime a Grandfather took his four year old Grandson to the Fort for adventure. That little lad, adopting his Grandfather's walking-stick for a rifle, was to develop a passion that year's later started to breathe life back into the Fort again.

Gary, with the help of family and friends, heaped with infectious enthusiasm and dedicated to his task has risen up not only the Fort itself, but more importantly the Friends of Shoreham Fort, now approaching nearly 100.

These volunteers, co-workers, companions are people with a sense of purpose sharing a passion, ensuring the Fort not only has a future, but one that is firmly rooted in service of its community

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7.30pm for 8.00pm start
Function Room of the
Royal Oak Public House,
Station Street, Lewes,
East Sussex.

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