Shoreham Beach mystery sheds identified as First World War seaplane hangars

Postcard showing the hangars behind the Norfolk Suspension Bridge in Shoreham in 1921. Photo by permission of Neil De Ville and Alan Humphries
Postcard showing the hangars behind the Norfolk Suspension Bridge in Shoreham in 1921. Photo by permission of Neil De Ville and Alan Humphries

A chance swap of postcards between collectors Neil De Ville and Alan Humphries revealed previously unnoticed buildings on Shoreham Beach.

The image above is of the old Norfolk Suspension Bridge and across the river below the bridge span two large shed-like structures can be made out.

The image has been positively dated as 1921, when the bridge was being prepared for demolition – so what were the mysterious buildings for and why haven’t we known of them until now?

It turns out that these were seaplane hangars and perhaps intended as another base for waterborne aircraft similar to the one at nearby Newhaven that protected shipping convoys in the Channel during the First World War.

The hangars were only there for a short period and were removed by April 1922.

Consequently, they appeared in very few photographs and when they did they could only be seen in the distant background so went largely unnoticed.

At the time, the construction of the Mystery Towers at the harbour, the removal of one of them to The Nab and the subsequent demolishing of the remaining tower held everyone’s interest, besides which locals had for some years been used to the idea of hangars from seeing those at the nearby airport.

The full story of the discovery and the evidence that was unearthed can be seen in Shoreham’s Seaplane Base on the community website Shorehambysea.com

• Article supplied by Roger Bateman

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