THE Friends of Shoreham Fort have unveiled a range of new projects, partly paid for from Adur’s Pot of Gold money.
Despite torrential rain on launch day, Easter Sunday, the Friends braved the elements to put on a family fun day.
Secretary Sharon Penfold said: “Letting our supporters down is really not an option, even if it means we get cold and wet in the process as they are getting cold and wet with us, too.
“The commitment of all our volunteers is exceptional and we cannot thank them enough. Shoreham Fort is such a unique part of Adur’s heritage and people really do need to be made aware of that importance and the need to maintain it.
“Our volunteers selflessly help us do that by giving an awful lot of their time for free with no personal gain, other than the satisfaction of seeing history being saved from disrepair.”
The charity was awarded £25,000 in 2012 from the Pot of Gold and the Big Harbour Community Pot, which has been used to increase visitor’s living history experience.
There are now picnic benches next to refreshments hut Food for Fort and information panels designed by Andy Gammon, who designed Lewes Priory’s boards.
A new 32in touchscreen PC allows disabled visitors to access all the panels and there are two new scale models - one of the original 1857 fort, showing how the fort will look when it has been fully restored.
A new artillery train has been built by the 1st Sussex Artillery Volunteers with the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, using a cannon from the fort. This experiment proved it was possible to fire a full 360 degrees, without de-railing.
Behind the scenes, other new aspects include increased security, to combat thieves who have stolen thousands of pounds worth of tools and equipment over the last four years.
Mrs Penfold said there was a steady stream of visitors to the fun day, which included the Royal Sussex Living History Group’ in historic uniforms, Sergeant Baines’ Mad Minute firing displays and an extensive gun rack collection.
Children ignored the rain and took part in egg decorating, colouring, crosswords, an egg hunt, egg and spoon races, and parade drill.
Cllr Debbie Kennard, who was chairman of Adur Council when the Pot of Gold funding was awarded, and East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton officially opened the new Nissen hut. Another special guest was Fred Aldsworth, who started the first restoration project in 1977, which was funded by the council.
There were Nissen huts at the fort in world war two and the original concrete bases were all that remained, making the perfect spot for the new addition.
Mrs Penfold said: “Not only are the Friends trying to restore the fort’s heritage, they are preserving the history of the anti-aircraft camp’s history in Chidham, where the hut was home to two ladies since the war.
“The hut has been a true labour of love for the volunteers. Having carefully dismantled it, they were left with a jigsaw of pieces of metal. That and the added cost of replacing all the woodwork and sourcing authentic Nissen hut parts was a real challenge.”
The Friends are now applying for the relevant planning permission, having been in constant communication with council officers during the process.
Mrs Penfold said: “Doing this beforehand really wasn’t an option for the Friends, as they are spending publically-donated funds that would have been used elsewhere if this project wasn’t successful.”
Friends chairman Gary Baines said the project had generated an amazing amount of interest.
“We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people with regards to this project,” he added. “The Nissen hut has already proved such a valuable asset to the fort, as without it there was no internal space for visiting schools if the weather was bad.
“Community groups such as the National Coastwatch and Steve Savage, marine biologist, and Friends of Shoreham Beach have also been in contact about using the hut, too.”
The Shoreham National Coastwatch Institution lookout station is next to the fort.
Station manager Barry Turner said he was delighted to see another piece of history back on site.
“World war two is a very important part of Shoreham Fort’s and Shoreham National Coastwatch’s history, as we are in fact proud to have been able to restore the original world war two aiming light station on site, which is now our home.”
Visitors are welcome at the fort at any time. The Friends of Shoreham Fort offer free guided tours every other Sunday, at 1pm and 3pm. The next volunteer day is on Sunday, 11am to 5pm. Visit www.shorehamfort.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.