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image credit: Oyster House, Pevensey Bay: MasonBryant/Zoopla

As the owner of an Oyster Bungalow I wondered if the architect worked for Martin and Saunders as I understood they were the architects for the bungalows. I am very interested in your idea of a book

Gaynor Lamb.

History of Oyster Houses
Martin and Saunders
Famous Myths

This response was offered to Gaynor Lamb in celebration of the history of her beautiful Oyster House in Pevensey Bay.

History of Oyster Houses
The Oyster Houses in Pevensey Bay were the work of Boulton and Paul based in Norwich.

The ‘sun houses’ were bought as kits, transported by railway and constructed on site.

Nothing to do with the father architect of Beachlands (T. Ceci Howitt) although promoted by Martin and Saunders . They were bought ‘off the shelf’ by catalogue

The story of the Oyster Houses in Pevensey Bay is a chapter in  the book, T.C. Howitt, the Beachlands Estate in Pevensey Bay and his unfinished symphony to the Sea.

There are ten chapters, currently the book is written in draft form to chapter three.

Work on the history of the Oyster Houses is  researched to a certain extent already.

Boulton and Paul began as ironmongers in 1797, specialising over the years in things like the supply of fencing, in the nineteenth century they got into making things like Shepherds Huts.

In the 1880s Boulton & Paul were leading manufacturers of kits for corrugated iron buildings, which arrived in packing crated ready to be erected. Woodhall Spa Cottage Museum is a well-preserved example of a Boulton & Paul corrugated building. They always had a link with the military, supplying for example huts and wire fencing during the Boer War. In the first part of the twentieth century they got invloved in aircraft manufacture.

During the First World War they built more Sopwith Camels than any other manufacturer. After the Great War, they made machine gun turrets for bombers.

Boulton & Paul developed steel-framed aircraft. The first was the Boulton & Paul P.10 which used steel tubes rolled from sheet metal. It was exhibited – but not flown – at the Paris Air Show in 1919.

They provided most of the structure for the R101 airship; the completed sections being transported to Cardington for assembly. The R101 subsequently flew over Norwich in return.

After World War I, Boulton & Paul made enclosed defensive machine gun turrets for bombers.

They provided most of the structure for the R101 airship; the completed sections being transported to Cardington for assembly there. The R101 subsequently flew over Norwich in return.

The the R101 crash happened and they hard to get out of the industry because orders for airships stopped and they had to diversify to survive.

One of the areas they got into was ‘sun house’ construction.

With the changes in leisure patterns and the notion of ‘second home ownership’ coming into the country for sectioos of the community in the early thirties, and the notion of health resorts and lidos coming into fashion, they saw an opportunity to be part of the boom.

Martin and Saunders
Martin and Saunders simply got on the bandwagon with these changes in fashion and came up with the idea of dotting what we now call the Oyster Houses as part of the access to the Beachlands estate. in Pevensey Bay. They are strung like a string of pearls pointing to the Beachlands Estate.

Beachlands was to have been a town, not an estate, but never got built beyond what we see now.

If you look at Marine Avenue and the dual carriageway entrance, you are seeing something too big for an estate.

This is became Marine Avenue was to have been the gateway to a new town.. The names of the roads fit this plan for a grand new futuristic town. The Boulevard is a grand name for a road on an estate, so to is the Square. There are hints of a modern European dimension to the nomenclature, with what was to have been a town.

Stand outside and look at your lovely Oyster House. What do you see?

The semi-circular curve is beautiful engineering by Boulton and Paul. They transferred their engineering skills with aircraft manufacture and steel structures to these ‘sun houses’. In their catalogue item at the time, type Q is the flat roofed sun houses that came to be called the Oyster Houses

Now look again from outside and think carefully, now what do you see?

There is no coincidence if you see something that looks a little like the structure of a wide aircraft cockpit, because that is exactly the same skill set that wsa applied by Boulton and Paul  to get the type Q sun house manufactured.

Like the Sopwith Camel kits, type Q sun houses were delivered all over the country. Like the R101 airship those beautiful curved lines were the result of years of years of manufacturing technique from the aircraft industry.

Now you know untold story of the Oyster Houses, you will see a wide aircraft cockpit from the front every time you walk up to your lovely home.

Famous Myths
Famous myth: Spike Milligan owned an Oyster House in Pevensey Bay. We can find no evidence that this was the case.

Famous myth that turns out to be true: Ethel Wood was cleaning lady to comedian Peter Sellers.

This story is indeed true. When Peter Selllers was renting a beach home in Coast Road in the early to mid-fifties.one of the people he invited to the home was his first wife. Anne Howe, was an Australian actress who lived in London. He proposed to her in April 1950 and the couple were married in London on 15 September 1951.

They came to Pevensey Bay to holiday here in the early fifties.

When Ethel Wood was cleaning the holiday home, she said to Ann Howe, on hearing Peter Sellers talking in silly voices.’why is he talking in those silly voices? Ann Howe replied ‘just ignore him, he is always talking in that way.

We know of course now that those silly voices at the time were becoming part of the famous Goon Show (begun in 1951) and what he was doing was practising some of the parts of the characters that then led to their inclusion in the Goon Show.

Enjoy your lovely Oyster House.


TEXT: T. Cecil Howitt: The story of the Birth of the Beachlands Estate in Pevensey Bay and his unfinished symphony to the Sea
Simon Montgomery and others
With thanks to Josephine and Ken Lacey, for their research into Boulton and Paul,  the ironmongers from Norwich