Shoreham museum joins celebration of 120 years of film

Filming The Showman's Dream, starring Will Evans, at the fort in 1914
Filming The Showman's Dream, starring Will Evans, at the fort in 1914

Marlipins Museum in Shoreham is helping Worthing WOW Festival to celebrate 120 years of film in Sussex.

Shoreham Beach played a key role in early filmmaking, with studios based at the fort.

Rhodesia, the castle-like bungalow owned by the Rev C.T. Gillett, was one of the most flamboyant buildings on the beach

Rhodesia, the castle-like bungalow owned by the Rev C.T. Gillett, was one of the most flamboyant buildings on the beach

Francis Lyndhurst set up the Sunny South Film Company there in 1914 but it wasn’t until Progress Film Company took over the old fort five years later that the really successful period of filmmaking on Shoreham Beach began.

The Showman’s Dream was the most ambitious film project, using the deserted parade ground at the fort as an open-air film studio in 1914.

It starred Will Evans, whose father was a member of the famous Grimaldi clown family. He went on to become a well-known music hall and pantomime entertainer.

The story of Shoreham Beach from 1896 to 1940 is told in the museum’s current exhibition, Movies and Bungalows, developed in partnership with Worthing WOW.

Railway carriaged were carried across the River Adur and turned into bungalows

Railway carriaged were carried across the River Adur and turned into bungalows

Liza McKinney, from Friends of Marlipins Museum, said: “Converted railway carriages ferried across the River Adur became summer homes around the start of the 20th century and Bungalow Town, as it was then known, became home to the early British film industry.

“The Marlipins Museum’s truly fantastic exhibition of photographs and films documents the unique history of Shoreham Beach from 1896 to 1940, when abandonment of the area was ordered for defence reasons during World War Two. It is the best ever and is definitely worth a visit.

“On Saturday, visitors will be able to meet Peggy McCullogh, aged 90, who was born on Shoreham Beach and who, as a child, had to leave home with her family and what belongings they could pack in 1940. They returned later and she is still living on Shoreham Beach.”

The early 20th century saw a vibrant influx of new residents and industry to Shoreham and the story of some of the characters is told in the exhibition.

Learn about the development of Bungalow Town, life on the beach, the films made there and the stars of those early Shoreham films.

Rhodesia, the bungalow owned by the Rev C.T. Gillett, was one of the most flamboyant buildings on the beach. It became an hotel but burned down in 1923 and was replaced by smaller bungalow named Castledene, a reference to the castle-like appearance of Rhodesia.

The beach community thrived until the sudden evacuation and clearance at the outbreak of war.

The exhibition will be on until July 9, 10.30am to 4.30pm, Tuesday to Saturday. Museum admission is £3 adults, £1.50 children.

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