The so-called Mystery Towers
They were intended to form part of a line of 12 towers
that would have been sunk onto the Varne Shoal in the Straits of Dover between
Dungeness and Cap Gris Nez. Linking
them were to be steel boom nets to block the path for German U boats on the
towers would be equipment for detecting U boats trying to run the gauntlet. Guns on
the towers and surrounding minefields were intended to protect them.
They became known as 'The Mystery Towers' as a result of the usual secrecy surrounding such a project in war time. It is reported that over 3,000 civilians and/or 5,000 army personnel were working on them at times. Two of the planned towers were almost complete with three more half constructed when the November 1918 Armistice came. After the war was over, two were finally completed to allow for research.
Rising 180 feet from an approx. 190ft base, 9,000 tons of concrete formed a honeycomb in a hexagonal shape rising in narrowing stages. On top of this was a 1,000 ton, 100ft steel cylinder for 90+ men, supplies and submarine detection equipment, for which there was a special electricity generating facility.
A railway link was laid from the dock line under the road to
the western arm of Shoreham Harbour, this then ran along the bottom of the
embankment, across Kingston Lane, swinging across the coast road and along the
edge of the wharf, it crossed the single lock that was there then, on a movable
contraption, then jointed several miles of sidings serving the works. This line
is just visible in the picture below.
After the war ended, there was much fuss over what was to become of the redundant structures and eventually on 12th September 1920 one of the towers was floated off to form what is now the Nab Tower on the Nab Sandbank off the Isle of Wight, replacing the former lightship. It serves as a navigation station for the busy shipping lanes. Since 1983 it has been fully automatic, conversion is said to have cost some £200,000, in comparison to the original reputed cost of some £1,000,000 each.
The other completed tower was demolished, no use being found for it in peacetime, It is reported that it was a good thing it was not actually needed as it was 6 feet too wide to leave the harbour mouth. The broken up concrete was used as foundations in many local buildings, including greenhouses in Worthing.
Images courtesy of Marlipins collection