Fulwell Sound Mirror - Restoration Complete! - June 2015

16th June 2015

The Fulwell Sound Mirror restoration is complete.

It’s a long lost reminder of the WWI home front in the North East. Its purpose shrouded in mystery and almost lost to memory. The war was being brought home by aerial attack from Zeppelins and a method of detecting their approach was needed. Using sound detection methods learnt in the Flanders trenches, the Sound Mirror was developed.

It is a unique structure; a concrete wall, containing a rendered concave dish. This is tilted above the horizon to ‘watch’ the sky. 

In 2012 for Sunderland City Council, we undertook a Heritage Statement and surveyed the structure and reported its defects. The concrete was eroded, the dish cracked and dumped rubbish was burying the structure.

This provided the information to understand the threats and repair strategies, and was used to secure a grant from English Heritage in 2013, allowing the rescue project to begin. 

A subsequent Archaeological Assessment showed that the Mirror is the most northerly survivor of a chain of Coastal Watchers.

Asbestos needed clearing from the site on two occasions as the ground was lowered. Five feet of landfill was dug out around the Mirror. Ground radar was used to identify any underground structures though none were found.

We broadcast our project by TV and radio interviews and by giving a talk at the BBC War at Home, in 2014. The rescue started in earnest in January 2015. Our first task was to establish the dish and wall repair techniques- the dish repair was much discussed and we trialled several mixes and finishing techniques for the wall repairs. Our most successful intervention was applying diluted sheep droppings to tone in the work.  The repair philosophy was to shelter the areas of major erosion- not to repair it like new- the structure’s charm is it’s slightly beaten up appearance.

Our final act was to plant a wild flower meadow around the structure for families to picnic, including poppies to link with the Flanders Fields: where the technology and skills were developed; to come home, to help defend our land. A bespoke interpretation panel was also erected.

The project has conserved the Mirror for future generations and made it accessible as a heritage attraction, so it can be rediscovered by the local community and visitors, nearly 100 years after it was built, to defend our shores.

The building is now being removed from the English Heritage At Risk Register and has been the attention of much interest.


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