diamond geezer

 Monday, September 15, 2008

Seaside postcard: Shivering Sands
There are some mighty strange places around the UK coast. One of the weirdest lies nine miles out into the North Sea, between the coasts of Kent and Essex. It's a 7-part wartime defensive structure, dating back to 1943, and it looks completely out of this world. Hop on a speedboat from Herne Bay and you too could join the surprisingly small number of us who've actually seen it.

Shivering Sands

These are the Maunsell Forts at Shivering Sands, strategically positioned alongside the shipping lanes at the mouth of the Thames Estuary. They were designed to house a variety of gun installations, both to shoot down approaching aircraft and to destroy enemy ships. Seven towers were built and towed out to sea, then dropped so that their concrete foundations sank firmly into the sand. The central tower was then linked to each of the others via an aerial cat walk, enabling military personnel to move freely around the defensive complex. Needless to say this isolated existence was not a popular posting, so the forts were evacuated after the war and finally decommissioned in the 1950s.

Shivering Sands (Tower 2)But that's not the end of the Shivering Sands story. In 1963 a Swedish ship careered into the searchlight tower in thick fog, breaking its legs and carrying it several hundred miles across the North Sea before anybody noticed. The northern control tower, now severed from the remaining five, was put to use by the Port of London Authority as a tidal monitoring station. And because Shivering Sands lies outside the official limit of UK coastal waters, the southern tower became home to one of Britain's first pirate radio stations. Screaming Lord Sutch moved in during the summer of 1964, but couldn't endure the inhospitable conditions and soon sold out to his manager Reg Calvert. Radio City ("The happiest swinging station in the world") was rather more successful, at least until a proposed merger with Radio London went tragically wrong and Reg was "accidentally" shot dead. Only in Essex, eh? The incident spurred the passing of the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act, and pirate radio's days were firmly numbered.

Today the six remaining towers rust in silent solitude, their windows smashed out by the army to ensure that no unwanted squatters can move in [photo]. Apart from one lonely writer who spent a recent summer here getting lonely (and blogging about it), now only seagulls claim Shivering Sands as their own. With decent visibility it's just about possible to see the towers from the Kentish coast, small stilted blobs on the northern horizon. But for a proper view I had to take the boat trip, out into the maritime mist, for the opportunity to get up close. And yes, they really are an impressive and unusual sight [photo]. Ropes hang limp where walkways once stretched [photo], and gaping doorways allow the unforgiving North Sea weather to penetrate inside [photo]. The stump of the smashed tower is clearly visible above the waves in calm weather (you can probably spot it in my top photo). Every slight change in boat position generates a fascinatingly new vista of boxes and legs [photo], so no photo of the fort complex is ever the same. I found this a very peaceful spot, at least until a large cargo ship departing Tilbury chugged close by [photo].

Shivering SandsAnd what of the future? Our pilot suggested that Shivering Sands' proximity to the shipping lanes might prove its downfall, and that demolition may be on the cards within the next couple of years. It'd be a damned shame to lose such an iconic offshore structure, but all too often it seems risk analysis wins out over heritage preservation. All may not be lost, however, because there's another similar cluster of Maunsell Forts at Red Sands a few miles further to the west. Our boat trip didn't go there (even though it said we would in the tour description, not impressed, guys). These forts are in a slightly better condition and are therefore more likely to be saved. Apparently there are plans afoot by a private consortium to restore the towers to create a sustainable "self-funding facility", incorporating recording studios, a wartime and broadcasting museum, and of course a gift shop. If Project Redsand is successful, the platforms might even be able to host corporate events and weddings. Part of me absolutely hates the idea, but at least some element of these amazing wartime defences will be saved for the future. In the meantime, especially if you want to experience the awe-inspiring Shivering Sands, you'd better hurry and try to pick a sunny day to get out here for yourself.

The Shivering Sands wartime story
A fantastic set of Sea Forts photos (and associated book)
The full story of a Maunsell Forts trip (in gorgeous weather)
More Shivering Sands (and pirate radio) stuff
My six Flickr pics (especially this one)
Ian's visited


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
National Paralympic Day
Saturday 30th August (12-6pm)
Celebrating ability & activity
in the southern half of QEOP.

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
scaryduck
blue witch
the great wen
onionbagblog
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
tired of london
in the aquarium
round the island
christopher fowler
thamesfacingeast
one bus at a time
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
uk general election 2015

read the archive
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
cube routes
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
penelope
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv