Seaham sound mirror memories

Checking some old links, I found the Seaham Scenes website is no more; it seems the webmaster Peter Dent died in a motorcycle accident in 2009.

Using the Internet Archive I have retrieved the text about the Seaham sound mirror, and put a copy here. It would be shame for the memories of the mirror to be lost, so I hope no-one minds.

Hello, I found your website while seeking further information about a "sound mirror" which is reported to have existed at Seaham. Do you know anything about, or know someone who does? I’m afraid I’ve never been to the area.

The sound mirror was one of a number built as a form of pre-Radar early warning system. It would have been built circa 1916, it still existed in 1947, and would have looked something like this: Sound Mirror -> that is, a big concrete thing, with a "dish" shape in a wall facing towards the coast. It would almost certainly have had a clear view towards the sea when it was built, but could have been up to a couple of miles or so in land.

The person who told me about it writes:

I left home (Seaham) in 1947 and have rarely been back. I do remember as a child, however, playing around an acoustic mirror (complete with metal rod for supporting the microphone) situated on the high ground (Kinley or Kilney Hill) to the south west of Dawdon, Seaham Harbour. Having looked at the photographs, I can report that it was similar to the Sunderland example in terms of shape and size. I have no idea what state it might be in now, or even if it still exists.

I’d love to know more – does anyone else remember it, can they pin-point where was it, and does it still exist? There are a number of these things, at Sunderland, Redcar, Boulby and quite possibly elsewhere. One at Hartlepool has been demolished . There are some pictures of others at /mirrors/

Thanks for any help you can give!

Andrew Grantham

Andrew, thanks for the interesting email. I know quite well the area you are talking about, Kinley Hill. There still exists an underground structure at the top of Kinley Hill, which was an early warning / lookout post. I believe it was manned by the Civil Defence. This was during the 2nd world war and after that during the cold war. This is the period when it was thought that nuclear war was a genuine possibility.

There is also another hill, maybe a mile from Kinley Hill, which is known as "False Hill". It was named such because I believe its exactly that, a false hill. That is a huge mound which is man made and houses more underground passages and rooms. It used to have small structures on it meant to look like dwellings but which house machinery and there was always a radio / radar mast there. Now its home to mobile phone masts etc.

However, I can’t remember ever seeing a sound mirror on either hill? I’ve been visiting both locations from when I was a kid, 30 + years ago now…. They were fascinating places for kids to explore, even if they were dangerous.

Maybe somebody else can shed some light on this ….. Email Me Please

[picture unfortunately not archived]

Just thought that you might be interested in a water-colour sketch that I did from memory of the ‘sound mirror’ that stood above Dalton-le-Dale. I also played around this structure as a kid and I understand my great uncle Wilf manned this Zeppelin Sounding device at some point in WW1.

I think that it was removed to make way for the B1287
Graham Way road.

The view is from the east looking towards George Weightman’s ‘West Farm,’ Waring Terrace, the garage on Stockton Road.

Kind regards



It was located above and to the north of Dalton le dale a little north east of the Overdene Estate but demolished. Put Sunderland Sound Mirror into Google for more.

Cheers for now


Dear Webmaster,

Unless I am mistaken the sound mirror was situated behind the garage at the top of Deneside where the housing estate at the top of The Graham Way now stands. The area used to be used as pick nick area accessed from a path near the side of the garage. We used to play there and throw balls into the mirror, it was not until a TV program in the last year or so about coastal early warning systems that I found out what it was.

Hope this is of some help

Tom Westwick.

I’ve lived in Seaham all my life and can remember the mirror very well though didn’t know what it was at the time myself family and friends played on and around it for years through the 60’s and early 70’s it was about 200 yards behind Padgets garage at the top of the Deneside the site was accessed through the so called farm cut on the avenue opposite the top of Ryton cut about…..about 20 yards in front of the mirror was a large 10 ft deep hole lined with thick concrete about 20 yards by 30 yards must have been an operations room for the mirror the field was called the bully because us kids thought the hole was a bull ring the exact location is where the top of Weymouth drive is now every year the hole was used as the biggest hay jump in Seaham …….hope this helps to jog some memories ……..

Tony Snaith

3 thoughts on “Seaham sound mirror memories

  1. The false hill up by where the drag line wagon station , I would love to hear from anyone who knows more about it. In the late 1960,s me and my friends used to go there a lot. We lived in Parkside and we would go up there because right next to the winding station for th”the line” was a large pond, know optimistically as the lakes. The hill was honeycombed with tunnels and at the base was a derelict house, which had obviously been something to do with the military. It looked like an ordinary house from a distance but inside it had metal shutters on the windows and the oversized garage had special doors with military type instructions on it. My mother was from the south of England my dad met and married her during the war. Before he went overseas he had spent time in Leighton Buzzard guarding a man made hill which was some kind of radio or radar installation

  2. The structure was just off the right of way to dalton-le-dale from the left hand side of the petrol station, tried for years as kids to get the pivot pin out of the concrete block. The structure was solid concrete with a concave built in to allow the dish to swivel. It was situated in what was called the Hollow. Was worth putting in beamish! But ? D.F.X.

  3. The False Hill…during the late 1960s, you could actually go down into by at least 2 shafts In those pill-box type buildings. They were filled with large pieces of building rubble and straw bales..but this left large voids which you could wriggle past and work your way to the bottom. The air was very musty and there was a lot of damp.
    I would not say they were honey-combed but more like rooms off a large hall type room. This also housed a large concrete pit, which had once some sort of machinery in it. There were also several posters on the walls, from WW2 …about the importance of hygiene and fly’s. Apart from the big main hall, I think there were about 4 or five smaller rooms leading off it, but there was another tunnel which sloped downwards to the direction of the coast, which may have linked up to the remains of those military buildings near Kinley Hill. This tunnel was filled with water which gradually got deeper as you went into it which made it unpassable.
    The house that was built on the east facing side, was demolished shortly afterwards.
    The steel doors on the garage had gone and the floor looked as though fresh concrete had just been laid, as though a shaft had been filled in.
    A few years later new doors were fitted to the pill-boxes and those masts appeared on top of them

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