Friends of Shoreham Fort chairman Gary Baines has been researching its history for 25 years – and every year, he finds out something new.
His efforts to care for the Palmerston fort on Shoreham Beach and showcase its importance, with the help of a small team of volunteers, have ensured it will be protected for the future.
The story of the fort is told in a fabulous new exhibition at the Marlipins Museum, in Shoreham High Street, through information boards, a timeline, map and an interactive touch screen display.
Gary said: “This has been specially put together for the museum as we are trying to let people know that there is a lot more to our ‘ruin’, as people see it, than they realise.
“By putting a timeline, you can see at a quick glance that there has been a lot more happening there than meets the eye.
“People do just see it as a brick wall at the end of Shoreham Beach and don’t realise that when the barrack block was demolished in 1958, we lost the obvious purpose of the fort. We have got to give that purpose back to give it a future.”
Display boards tell of the 1st Sussex Artillery Volunteers, the fort during both world wars, the film studio established by Francis Lyndhurst, the Friends and plans for the future.
With the help of local historian Trevor Povey, a map has been put together to illustrate just how far the fort could reach with its cannons, offering protection over a wide area. It also gives an idea of what was happening in the town during the wars and how that links to what we see today.
Visitors can also see what is believed to be the only captain’s uniform from the 1st Sussex Artillery Volunteers still in existence, complete with a sword on loan from Robert Pooley of Pooley Sword.
Marlipins Museum is fully accessible and for those who find standing difficult, there is an easy-read copy of all the displays that people can sit and study at their leisure.
Gary said: “It is about making people realise how much history we have got at that fort and the difference it has made to the landscape of the area.
“For me personally, it is nice to have the tribute to my grandfather up, because that is why it all started.
“I have been doing looking into this for 25 years and every year, I find out something new.”
William Gerald Baines took Gary to Shoreham Fort in 1984, just before he passed away, and is the inspiration behind the Friends of Shoreham Fort.
Find out more in the book Shoreham Fort – A Hidden History, on sale in the museum shop.
Volunteers are always welcome and there are many ways people can help the fort. Visit www.shorehamfort.co.uk or telephone 07787 994815 for more information.
The Shoreham Fort exhibition will be on display for the rest of the season, until October 31. Marlipins Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10.30am to 4.30pm. Admission is 50p.