In early 1917, a detachment of Royal Engineers suddenly arrived at the army camp on Southwick Green.
The workforce of 5,000 army personnel and 3,000 civilians started construction of what appeared to be towers in Shoreham Harbour.
Variously described as mystery ships, the ugly sisters and as wedding cakes because of their shape, grotesque, six-sided monsters emerged which could be seen for miles around.
Continued wartime secrecy ensured that rumours abounded as to their intended use.
It was evident that the structures had a wartime function, as they were clearly fortified and gun emplacements were visible.
To find out more about Shoreham’s ‘Mystery Towers’ and the top secret role played out in Shoreham Harbour at a vital turning point in the First World War, visit the new exhibition now on in the Gallery of the Marlipins Museum.
Learn where the surviving tower can be found today, operated by Trinity House bringing ships safely into port.
The exhibition includes a scale model of a Mystery Tower built by the late John Stafford, a local GP, who also undertook research to unveil the truth behind Shoreham’s wartime secret project.
A second tower was broken up and pieces sold off in slabs, some of which ended up being used in local gardens.
There is also a stretch of it reinforcing the west bank of the River Adur, alongside Shoreham Airport.
When the old power station was being demolished in 1990/91 workmen digging out the foundations came across the concrete base of one of the towers.
The exhibition – ‘The Mystery Towers: Shoreham Harbour 1917–1920 – is on until September 10.
The Marlipins Museum is located in Shoreham’s High Street and is open from Tuesday through to Saturday, 10.30am until 4.30pm.
For further information, and for plans about a talk and a possible walk, weather permitting, to view the whereabouts of some of the pieces, contact Liza McKinney on 01273 462994.
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