“Obscure functionalism melting into majestic land art”

The mirrors’ fruitlessness may be forgiven if only because of the uncanny impression one gets that they were built for a future not yet seen or understood. Indeed, its second life as a monument and relic has been more enduring than its first.

Christo Hall visits the sound mirrors on the Kent coast with photographer Stuart Leech and “finds an obscure functionalism melting into majestic land art”, in The Second Life Of Concrete: Brutalism’s Renaissance, published by The Quietus on 10 July 2016.

Hythe sound mirror walk

As well as the walks to the Denge mirrors, there is one to the Hythe sound mirror this year.

Sunday 4th July 2.00pm

A chance to walk up the steep grassy escarpment to the 30ft Concrete Mirror or Sound Dish on The Roughs at Hythe. One of the Mirrors has fallen down and the other is surrounded by fencing, but the views are wonderful. Donation appreciated.

Full details at the Romney Marsh Countryside Project website.

Kent History Forum photos

Sound mirrors on the Kent History Forum. There is lots of other good stuff on the site, too.

  • Abbot’s Cliff. Including an aerial photo.
  • Denge. on the last official walk … there was round 300 hundred of us.
  • Fan Hole, near Dover.
  • Hythe.
  • Joss Gap (Kingsgate). Joss bay had two sound mirrors one being a slab, this was cut into the cliff near by the castle keep hotel , now replaced by flats.a slight indentation can still be seen near the top of the cliff. Checking the site where the round mirror was, which was a timber frame rendered. a few years ago the telephone cable blocks were still in place.
  • Warden Point. With a good 1978 photo of it about to go over the cliff.

‘Hidden things to see and do’ from the Observer

The sound mirrors – and this website – got a mention in the Observer’s travel section on 5 April 2009. The piece formed part of the Military sites” category in a series about Secret Britain – “All around us lie overgrown and forgotten sites with fascinating stories to tell, says Iain Sinclair”.

Acoustic mirrors, various locations

In the middle of a field in Kilnsea, Yorkshire there is a 15-foot-high concave concrete structure resembling a satellite dish. It’s actually an acoustic (or sound) mirror, used during the first world war to detect enemy engine sounds. They are a common fixture along the British coast, including at Kilnsea (OS map ref: TA 411167), Hythe in Kent (OS map ref: TR138344) and Denge on the Dungeness peninsula (OS map ref: TR070215), which recently featured in the new Prodigy music video, Invaders Must Die.
Source Observer

Hythe sound mirror pictures

Paul Sheersmith went to Hythe in Kent on May 7, and took these photos of the sound mirror there.

Hythe Sound mirror (Paul Shearsmith)

Hythe sound mirror

Another correspondent writes with news of about a recent trip to the Hythe sound mirror:

I intended to go for a walk by the military canal near Hythe today, but was diverted by the sight of the mirror still standing above the Pennypot estate – so decided to clamber up there.

Very overgrown near the top – could not walk around the back as the stinging nettles were too high. However fascinating to see – so have been hunting for some more information about them this evening. Remember seeing something on ‘Coast‘ sometime ago.

Thanks for the info and the photos – unfortunately we did not have the camera with us today which is most unusual.

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Mirrors from the railway

Last weekend I went down to the 80th anniversary celebrations at the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway, and in passing confirmed that it is possible to get a distant glimpse of the 200′ listening ear at Denge from a train, if you know where to look.

The Hythe mirror is rather more clearly visible, and is shown in the background of a painting of the RH&DR’s armoured train which is being sold as a postcard.