Fulwell Acoustic Mirror
22 Aug 2023
This is a
Current status is
Designer (if known):
Listed Grade II
This concrete installation on the edge of Fulwell Allotments is one of only a few left in the whole country.
This is an acoustic mirror, built in 1917 to detect sound from German zeppelins sent to the region to bomb ports and shipyards. It is 4m here, and acts as an early warning system a decade and a half before radar was fully implemented. Action was needed after a zeppelin raid over the Wheatsheaf area of Sunderland in April 1916 left 22 people dead and 100 injured.
Though many survived, it left unrelenting trauma. A lady named Mary Boster of 6 Milburn Terrace lived with epileptic fits since the age of nine, and increased in frequency since the raids. The shock of the raid at such a young age impacted her for the rest of her life. It was her and others experiences which required this installation.
There’d be a fella stationed in a bunker listening in with a microphone stuck on the plinth in front. He’d be able to give a 15 minute warning to the city to evacuate and prepare for an oncoming attack. Those manning it would be highly experienced after using detection methods taught in the trenches. The method would include using a stethoscope headset connected to a microphone above his head which would retrieve the optimum sound. Combined with the doppler effect, it would track the course and direction of the enemy.
He would signal the alarm to his superiors to enable to whole population to seek shelter and sanctuary.
The mirror was in a ruinous state for decades up to 2015, but was restored by Historic England, Sunderland City Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund in partnership with Limestone Landscapes in 2015. This has meant this incredible wartime relic can continue to inspire.
Listing Description (if available)
Both maps above illustrate the Namey Hill area after the First World War. Of course though, the wartime installation is never illustrated on the maps.
It was situated next to the old Namey Hill cricket ground, wedged between that and the extensive Fulwell Quarries which excavated limestone to produce quicklime. The lime works and limekilns were nearby. It was the central site for Sunderland's utility system too. Fulwell Reservoir was located just sotuh, owned by the Sunderland & South Shields Water Co. to distribute to the masses, as well as Carley Hill Pumping Station nearby.
As noted, the installation continue to be omitted even in to the 60s. It was likely derelict and abandoned next to the sports ground by this time.
The lawn in front of the installation is still maintained in this lovely little area just west of Seaburn Metro Station.
The installation is seen in the corner of the cricket ground in this shot from 1926.
Source: Historic England. Aerofilms Collection Historic England Photograph: EPW016397 flown 29/07/1926
The mirror can be seen in the centre right of this shot looking towards Fulwell in 2023.