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Littlehampton’s Lobsters 1

Littlehampton’s Lobsters by Stephanie Bolt


00 What follows is a journal chronicling encounters between the narrator and a whole host of characters each of whom, in some way or other, has connections with the historic boatyards of the Sussex town of Littlehampton.

Littlehampton’s Lobsters by Stephanie Bolt Book designed by Andrew Slatter Henrik Bodilsen © Stephanie Bolt, 2010

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Littlehampton’s Lobsters by Stephanie Bolt


1 > In 1817 during a month long seaside holiday in the resort of Littlehampton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge composed ‘Fancy in the Clouds: A Marine Sonnet’. Before leaving the town Coleridge picked up a piece of seaweed from the beach and dried it at home before copying the sonnet—his first for more than a decade—on to it the following year.

After copying his poem on to the seaweed, Coleridge—famed for his ‘Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’—sent it to his friend, the essayist and poet Charles Lamb. The poem—composed on October 29, 1817—was first published in Farley’s Bristol Journal as ‘Fancy In Nubibus, A Sonnet Composed By The Seaside.’

01 It is mid winter 2006. Hoping to borrow items from Littlehampton Museum’s camera collection I had spent the best part of a morning talking with the Curator. An extraordinarily helpful chap, he brought ‘umpteen boxes’ up from the stores. Being an avid photographer I had poured enthusiastically over the contents. We had reached that point when the conversation begins to lull, and to avoid the possibility of this signalling an end to the mornings affairs, and impressed by the quality of lenses and other paraphernalia so far revealed I remember casually asking whether any practitioner of any note ever worked or resided in the town; apart from Coleridge1. The response was negative and that I thought that was very much that. Littlehampton Museum 2010

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2 > The Fletcher Collection donated to Littlehampton Museum by Geoffrey Fletcher in 1998 consists of 684 models, mainly 20th century ships most at 1:1200 scale. It includes a layout possibly based on the port of Southampton measuring some 42”x60”.

02 ‘What can we do now? What can we do now.’ It was a wet, grey flat Saturday a day or so later and neither the rain nor my son had any intention of letting up. I vaguely remembered seeing a text panel at the Museum mentioning ‘train films’. Arriving bedraggled I duly went through our ritual of standing in the foyer whilst he gazed in fascination at the display of model boats from the Fletcher Collection2. Without warning he had suddenly disappeared into the Museum. The layout instils a sense of adventure and I always managed, without fail and despite umpteen visits, to become lost inside. To a young boy it must have seemed magical—a maze, a fortress, a catacomb—the possible discoveries are endless. In the middle the ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ never failed to excite ‘woops’. He seemed on this occasion to have expertly navigated the space, bypassed the Cabinet and was already sitting on a chair in the video room when I found him. Without waiting for me to point out that the hoped for train films were not being screened, he lunged towards the on button. With feigned interest I settled down. Little did I know our fishy tale was about to begin.

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Above Harbour Scene from The Fletcher Collection in situ at the home of Geoffrey Fletcher circa 1998. Left Palm print of Neueland Lesdema.


3 > “Vessels registered to the port of Littlehampton have the prefix LI. There are currently 25 commercial fishing vessels operating out of Littlehampton Harbour with the prefix LI. A fishing vessel is defined as a vessel used for catching sea fish for profit even if this is only used ‘now and then’,

and must be listed in the Registry of Shipping and Seamen.” Littlehampton Harbour Board 2010. 4 > Hattula MoholyNagy, daughter of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Chairs the Moholy-Nagy Foundation, formed in response to the continued interest in the life and work of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.

03 I was, to put it mildly, excited. He had fidgeted, unimpressed. Was the film we watched really made here in Littlehampton? I insisted and we watched again. I later discovered it was the numbers painted on the side of the boats that had led to the film being screened in the Museum. They were quite simply local boats3. This much was a known fact. The question was, what else was known? Looking for clues, it was some days later whilst trawling through an entry in an old black folder with a hand written label ‘Museum film project 1.6.83-30.9.83 details of film’s found’, that I happened upon the following rather hastily written note. “The film shows Harry Burtenshaw and his brother Ron, and son. It was premired in London together with the main feature ‘Rembrandt’ on Friday Nov. 25th 1936. The Director Moholy Nagy became famouse in UK then USA. The producer lived at Burry Mannor—Bignor when in Sussex hence ‘Bury Productions’.” (sic)

Lawrence William Burtenshaw aboad a Littlehampton registered vessel.

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What seemed to have been overlooked (and the cause of my excitement) was the matter of the film, ‘Lobsters’, having been directed by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, one of the most significant pioneers of twentieth century art4. Indeed ‘Lobsters’ had been screened at a major retrospective at the Tate Modern, London, earlier in 2006, but nowhere had there been any mention of it being made by Moholy-Nagy here in Littlehampton. I had been to see the exhibition but had unfortunately missed the screening of Nagy’s films.


5 > “The Littlehampton Gazette sells circa 9,500 copies a week, and aims to stay close to the strong heartbeat of the thriving community it serves.” Roger Green, Editor 1996 to present day.

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04 The Launch5 of the project on the jetty next to the Arun View Public House just before the old swing bridge in Littlehampton.


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6 > Scrolling through the archives of the Littlehampton Gazette yielded no reference to any news pertaining to films being shot in the town 1935/1936.

05 West Sussex Gazette 26th November 1936 page 126. The next day the local Littlehampton Gazette report “Lobsters on the Films. Littlehampton fishermen and Lobsters are the ‘stars’ of a new film, but it is the lobsters which are the real ‘supers’. The film goes into their private lives and domestic habits, but it doesn’t bother about the fishermen’s.”

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7 > Who had sadly died in 1942 in a bombing raid that destroyed a large section of Pier Road in Littlehampton. 8 > The West Works are at the end of the river mouth opposite the East Works, also known locally as ‘the diamond.’

9 > The plaice were sold to the owner of the Riverside Restaurant which is still in Pier Road, earning Peter pocket money. 10 > In 1936 there were three cinemas in Littlehampton. The Odeon (High Street) capacity 970; The Regent (Terminus Road) formerly known as The Electric, capacity

650; The Palladium (Church Street) formerly The Olympic/The Empire capacity 890. 11 > The 1989 Italian film ‘Cinema Paradiso’ includes scenes depicting a nitrate film fire. Nitrate film requires approved projectors in approved booths. Such booths were of fire-proof construction

06 A Littlehampton man, Peter Burtenshaw, having read the article in the Littlehampton Gazette had telephoned the Museum, leaving a rather cryptic message along with his address. Intrigued, I arrived at Peter’s house unaware of the extraordinary dynasty of the Burtenshaw family. Peter told me that the film starred old Harry (his grandfather), young Harry and Ron, (two of Harry’s sons) and George Herbert (old Harry’s brother and Peter’s father). Peter had also appeared in the film, and it was with some trepidation that I sat down with him in his lounge to watch. Peter had not seen the film for 75 years but immediately recognised himself, pointing at a young boy crouched on his knees watching men repair pots. The boy with freckles crouching next to him had been a childhood friend7. Peter confessed he had little recollection of the film being made, because as a child he was often left anchored next to the end of the West Works8 in a small rowing boat to catch plaice9. (At the time his being unable to swim was not considered a problem; in fact as he recalled, most fishermen were unable to swim, reasoning that it would be pointless trying in heavy aprons and thigh boots.) Peter remembered where he had watched the film for the first time (and it later transpired the only time). It was at his local cinema, The Regent10. Whilst we were watching he had become a little agitated, and when the film finished he revealed the reason. Peter was absolutely sure that the film he had watched at The Regent was longer. What was missing eluded him and I had left, determined to investigate further.

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with self-closing fire doors, the ports were equipped with steel fire shutters that would drop automatically in the event of a booth fire, and a toilet and lavatory were provided to ensure that the projectionist could remain in the booth at all times when films were being run. The projectors were equipped with magazines for the upper

and lower reels, as well as fire roller mechanisms to prevent a fire starting at the projector gate from spreading to the film in the magazines. In addition, films were stored in metal cabinets, and even the motor-driven rewind was enclosed in a steel cabinet.

Fire struck The Electric on 14th August 1914 as film combusted in the projector causing an explosion. The cinema reopened on 10th September 191411.


12 > For a considerable time I was sea-sick and sometimes felt sick of the sea”. Joseph Robinson quoted in The Sussex County Magazine January 1938 in the article by A W Robinson A Famous Firm of Sussex Shipowners.

07 On the occasion of our second meeting Peter had introduced me to the boating dynasties of the town, and his potted history included reference to the Moore family (boating); the Phipps (pleasure boats); the Kemp brothers (fish and chips); the Pelhams (trips and rentals); Burtons and Goldsmiths (rowing boats for hire); the Richardsons (almost everything); the Robinsons (ditto) and his own family, the Burtenshaws. Many of these families were vast, and their ancestries intertwined. I frequently got confused and this was not helped by each family seeming to have proliferations of William’s, Harry’s and Thomases, making the distinctions ‘old’ and ‘young’ quickly superfluous. Exploring the archives held at the Museum, I began to appreciate the scale of each family’s achievements and the legacy they created for the town. Joseph Robinson, founder of the ‘Messrs G and J Robinson’ (ship owners) seemed to embody the spirit of the great days of sail. Living to the ripe old age of 96 his exploits to me are all the more remarkable for knowing he was prone to seasickness.12 Records show many ‘firsts’ and sadly ‘lasts’ - the Robinsons’ Robert and Mary was the last British brig to weather Cape Horn – and the brother’s deaths coincided with the end of sail. A family of adventurers and pioneers, another Robinson, Captain Louis Robinson, was shipwrecked off County Durham in 1901. Captain Louis was the last man to leave the

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ship before she sank and was rescued by the Volunteer Life Brigade. Captain Louis lived in the Robinson’s house in 12 River Road and when he died aged 86, ever a gentleman, he left money in his will to the same Life Brigade ‘for the welfare of those that go down to the sea in ships’. Richard Isemonger was a Littlehampton heroes’ hero and an avid explorer. The Isemongers were a family of shipbuilders, seafarers and explorers arriving in the town in 1690. Richard’s father built the Barque Michelgrove whose main anchor rests at the entrance to the Museum (my son, like many before him no doubt, cannot resist standing next to it and imagining the men heaving it from the fathoms below). Richard sailed around the world and in 1845 became something of a local legend for rescuing eleven British sailors from the ‘Moors’ along the coast of West Africa.


Far left Robinson House 12 River Road, Littlehampton with porthole detail. Left Captain Louis Robinson. Below left Lawrence William Burtenshaw gazing out at the Oyster Pond, South Terrace Littlehampton, donated by P Burtenshaw. Below right Lawrence William Burtenshaw aboard The Gwendoline, P Burtenshaw.

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James Richardson b.1779 m. Mary b.1779

John Burtenshaw b.1797 d.1864 m. Mary Pelham b.1801

Daniel Richardson m. Harriet Hopkins 1821

William Burtenshaw (c)1818 m. Ann Hawkins 1846

Susan Kate b.15.1.1871

Harriet Emma b.16.2.1873

Lawrence William b.1847 d.1934 m. Susan Richardson m.1868 1851

Charlotte Ann 1849

Harriet 1850

George 1853

Agnes Catherine Harry Lawrence 1877 25.12.1874

Eliza M.A. 1879

Ernest 1881

Edith. L Daisy A 1884 1887 m. Robinson

Harry No issue

Maud m. Silverlock

Ron No issue

Vera No issue

Betty Joan m. J Kingshott

Gwenda Maud b.1921 m. Wallis

Alfred GG (Jim)

Angela

Julian

Diana

Michael

Christopher

Peter b.1947

Family tree, P Burtenshaw, pre-exhibition.

Mary 1856

Gladys C M 1889 m. Claude Johnson

Frank 1891

Daphne

Frank

Roy Lawrence m. Mary

Aubrey

Roger

Rodney

Monika m. G Kingshott

Peter Alan b.1929 m. (1.) D. Kendall 1956

Susan

George Herbert b.1893 m. Emily Brant 1914

(2.) Margaret Mary Simpson 1969

Christopher

Hilary Ashley

Rebecca

Note Betty Burtenshaw Cousins + Monica Married Jack Kingshott + Geoff Kingshott

Brothers

James Richardson b.1779 m. Mary b.1779

John Burtenshaw b.1797 d.1864 m. Mary Pelham b.1801

Daniel Richardson m. Harriet Hopkins 1821

William Burtenshaw (c)1818 m. Ann Hawkins 1846

Susan Kate b.15.1.1871

Harriet Emma b.16.2.1873

Lawrence William b.1847 d.1935 m. Susan Richardson m.1868 b.1851

Charlotte Ann 1849

Harriet 1850

George 1853

Agnes Catherine Harry Lawrence 25.12.1874 1877

Eliza M.A. 1879

Ernest 1881

Edith. L Daisy A 1884 1887 m. Robinson

Harry No issue

Maud m. Silverlock

Ron No issue

Vera No issue

Betty Joan b.1916 m. Kingshott Jack

Gwenda Maud b.1921 m. Wallis

Alfred Gerald George b.1914 Julian Charles b.1949

Angela b.1945 m. King

Diana b.1941 m. Skinner

David Robin Michele

Robert b.1966 m. Kristin Doern

Jake b.1999

Sam b.2007

Jessica b.2004

Jack b.1997

Michael b.1946

Littlehampton’s Lobsters by Stephanie Bolt

Mary 1856

Gladys C M 1889 m. Claude Johnson

Frank 1891

Daphne

Frank

Roy Lawrence b.1924

Tracey b.1969

m. (1.) D. Kendall 1956

Peter b.1947

Susan

Ben

Gary

Carina b.1973

David

Matthew b.2001

Thomas

Finlay

Aubrey

Roger

Rodney

George Herbert b.1893 m. Emily Brant 1914

Monika m. G Kingshott

Peter Alan b.1929 (2.) Margaret Mary Simpson 1969

Christopher

Hilary b.1972 Ashley Clothier b.1998

Dakota b.2010

Ben

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Christopher b.1946

Extended family tree, P Burtenshaw, post-exhibition.

Alan

Aidan

Briony

Rebecca Clothier b.2002


13 > Dutton is the world’s only manufacturer of amphibious vehicles for non-military purposes. Early attempts to make amphibious cars in the 1960s failed when the cars corroded and fell apart. In 1995 the first Amphibian Dutton rolled off the production line. The factory is located in Littlehampton alongside the Arun, which is the test area for prototypes. Below top The King Eric and crew on the Arun off Ford 1969, donated by P Burtenshaw. Below bottom The King Eric and crew in Littlehampton Harbour circa 1970, P Burtenshaw.

08 Despite the family dynasty, Peter did not fish for a living (possibly deterred by his days anchored to the West Works) and he could recall no remaining members of his family who did. Like many of his generation he had however enjoyed dabbling in boat building, customising a series of craft. He had fond memories of one in particular, the King Eric. Not considering the craft fit for purposes intended he had taken it upon himself to perform some major modifications to the cuddy. The result appeared a little ungainly but it served its purpose and appeared to have been enjoyed heartily by both captain and crew. Looking at it reminded me of the first time I saw a Dutton13. I recalled it having looked totally out of context seeming more of a boat than a car and I remembered thinking what a monstrously ungainly thing it was. I was later startled to find out that it was an amphibious car and its owner Tim Dutton had been inspired to succeed where others had failed by virtue of the fact that he could not swim. Dutton HQ is in Littlehampton, and I am led to understand the vehicles’ biggest fans are Saudi Royalty.

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14 > Between 1960 and 1980, about 250 Tridents were produced as complete boats or part-built kits. The first few had wooden decks and coach rooves professionally fitted to a GRP hull. Thereafter the builders, Marcon Marine, produced a GRP deck moulding, though a few owners continued to buy hulls and fit them out in wood.

09 Peter had listed the craft he had owned: the King Eric, the Snoopy, the Compass Rose, the Springer, the Valoro and the Lei Ming. He would smile boyishly as he recalled the power cruiser Valoro with her top speed of 30 knots. It turned out that Peter did not just dabble in boats. He was a craftsman too. He gutted the Springer and his handiwork caught the attention of the ‘Trident News’14. Springer customised by P Burtenshaw Vol 18 Trident News.

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15 > Often abbreviated to ‘Fisherman’s Hard’, Fisherman’s Quay is the Public Launching Hard opposite the RNLI station in Littlehampton Harbour.

16 > The Model of the Gwendoline was made by Capt. A.J Brown in 1939, and the plaque bears the inscription: “This in one of the oldest fishing craft belonging to the port of Littlehampton, built at the Harvey Shipyard.”

10 Being a land lubber and over keen to uncover some more connections with the original ‘Lobsters’ film, I briefly mistook ‘The Three Brothers’ moored off Fisherman’s Quay15 for the boat on which Moholy-Nagy filmed old Harry. A boat I knew only by its registration, LI169. This turned out to be not entirely implausible. They were both of a similar design and made locally at Harvey’s famous boatyard (now Osborne’s). LI169 was, it transpired, the Gwendoline. Peter confirmed that the Gwendoline was great grandfather William’s boat. Both the Gwendoline and a second Burtenshaw boat, the Duchess of York, feature in the film. The ‘Three Brothers’ is in fact owned by three local brothers. Sadly the Gwendoline is no more. A couple of days later whilst in the Museum Peter surprised me by telling me he had found the Gwendoline. It was a jest. Smiling he led me to a glass cabinet in the Maritime display, and sitting there was a perfect model of the former LI169.16

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Model of ‘The Gwendoline’ currently on display in Littlehampton Museum.


Right and below The Blessing of the Waters, Littlehampton, 1937 donated by P Burtenshaw.

11 Peter did not agree with the official WSCC records. He recalled a ritual burning of the Gwendoline off Fisherman’s Quay. The records state the Gwendoline built in 1893 was ‘broken up’ January 24th 1972. I asked if there were any images of this, hoping to find some traces, but sadly there were none. Peter did however have images of the local ritual, the ‘Blessing of the Waters’, an occasion he recalled from 1937. He told me the boats that took part were owned by Phipps and there were for some reason two Brittania’s, one Lady Nancy and five other boats all called Nellie. The story goes that the fishing community had rebelled against the ‘high church’ of St James and a ‘low church’ known as the Fisherman’s Church, St John’s (a beautiful wooden building that could be found until recently in Pier Road, Littlehampton) was established. The blessing had been organised by St James, but on this occasion had been supported by the rebellious congregation of St John’s, being a traditional fisherman’s ritual.

Right and above Spectators enjoy The Blessing of the Waters ceremony.

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17 > See previous West Sussex Gazette article. 18 > The first official Littlehampton Regatta was held in 1851. The town had a population of just over 2400 but was a thriving seaport and the inauguration of the Regatta suggested growing public confidence about Littlehampton’s future.

It was sponsored by amongst others the Duke of Norfolk. With an absence from 1966 to 1995 the Regatta was revived in ’95. 19 > Mrs Kemp refused to push such an awful pram and young Ann was pushed by grandmother Kemp of Kemp’s fish and chips, Mussel Row.

12 The Duchess of York, in contrast to the Gwendoline, was known as a ‘party’ boat. I had no idea what a party boat was, and Peter had explained that the Duchess took celebrities and ‘well-to-do’s’ on fishing trips in the 1930s, when they were the very height of fashion. Knowing a little about the history behind the making of the film, Peter speculated that if John Mathias was a wealthy patron of the arts, he could have been enticed by the spectacle of catching conger eels, (the Duchess’s speciality) and taken part in what was a typical Sunday fishing party. If so, and if Moholy-Nagy had been staying with John Mathias at Bury Manor, then it would have been natural for him to join such a party. My version of events felt, in comparison, decidedly drab. I told Peter that I understood Moholy-Nagy to have been fascinated by the biological design of the lobster, and Mathias to have been interested in sustainability. Rather ahead of his time, Mathias was reported to have been intrigued to know about the uses made of ‘withies’ growing on his land by local fishermen who sailed up the Arun to collect them17. It was as a result of his investigations into this that he had happened upon the Burtenshaws mending their lobster pots on the River Arun. Peter was not convinced with this rationale, and I must admit to rather hoping that amongst the old photographs he recalled of men displaying their trophies of such trips—rows of conger eel with men posed alongside—there might be one of Moholy-Nagy.

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Top A young Peter Burtenshaw sitting on the Duchess of York off Mussel Row, Littlehampton during a Town Regatta18, P Burtenshaw. Above Mussel Row 1935 (detail of Bait Hut to rear left) with a young Ann Kemp19 during Regatta Week donated by Yvonne Northeast.


20 > “Steven Whitehead couldn’t believe it when he hauled up this monster of a snake. He was fishing on a mid-channel wreck out of Littlehampton on board Danny Watts’ boat October Morning when the big eel took a liking to his whole scad bait. The 31-year-old builder from Bognor Regis was only using a 30lb class rod and a Shimano TLD15 loaded with 50lb braid. He did, however, have a 150lb trace with a size

10/0 hook on the end. It took 25 minutes for him to bring it to the boat.” Boat Fishing Monthly News Archive 2010. 21 > I am glad to report this was well offshore and I can add that conger eels are shy creatures when in the water, and will avoid contact where they can. I would encourage all and sundry to enjoy the waters off East Beach without fear of such beasts.

13 Being one of several local people who regularly swim in the sea off East Beach, I was both terrified and fascinated by the idea of monster eels lurking in the shallows, and with this in mind I was determined to pursue the conger connection no matter where it led. (I must admit to really detesting films like ‘Jaws’ for inducing in me a fear of what could be there, and as a result I would much rather know what is.) Following up a lead from a conversation with the owner of the tackle shop in Pier Road, it appeared that I was not the only local with a thing for congers. In fact I was rather ‘pipped to the post’ by Mike Connell’ a big game angler who in 1961 had toyed with the idea of forming a specialist club for conger eel enthusiasts. On January 17th 1962 the British Conger Club was formed here in Littlehampton. The BCC’s inaugural AGM took place at the Arun View Public house on the riverside the following year. An extremely popular championship was introduced. Then abruptly in 1964 the HQ moved to Plymouth with Mike. There it remains, and its championships still attract hordes of fishermen from the UK and beyond. I wondered what was the fate of our local conger eels? The owner of the tackle shop gleefully told me that on October 5th 2009, Steven Whitehead (fishing off Danny Watt’s October Morning)20 caught a conger eel in excess of 110lbs21. Hearing this I rashly called in at the Angler’s Club on a Saturday afternoon and asked if anyone would be interested in talking about how to develop

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a local ‘sustainable’ championship. I thought it was a shame to not take advantage of the eel’s breeding grounds established in wrecks off the coast, and that disposable cameras and a ruler could be used to record the eels to avoid their being harmed. There was quite a jovial response, and having realised my venture rather naïve I had thought it better to gracefully withdraw.

Top The News of the World report a feisty conger caught off Littlehampton in the late 1950s. Above Steve Whitehead with conger eel off Littlehampton, donated by D Watts.


22 > Laszlo Moholy-Nagy often referred to himself using the abbreviated L.M.-N. and we will adopt this from here-on. 23 > In the ‘1983 film project’ file from the Museum a total of 8 films are credited to Cyril Defee made between 1966 and 1978, made on 8mm standard film with a documentary style. Titles include ‘History of Littlehampton’ 1975 (17 mins).

24 > The Littlehampton & District Camera Club was formed in 1945 in Arundel and members were treated to “The first lantern lecture by James Jarche, chief cameraman for the ‘Illustrated Magazine’, entitled ‘People I have Shot’”. But after a short time it moved to Littlehampton as more of the members lived there. Until the 1960’s it was all photographic prints, then colour slides became much more

popular with most of the club using this method, but now digital printing has almost ousted the traditional photographic print, and many more members contribute in this format. 25 > Over 150,000 photographs and pictures showing West Sussex are stored in the Record Office at Chichester. They include unique Victorian photographs, twentieth century postcards,

14 The River Arun has been known as ‘The Great Wanderer’ since Roman times, due to its gently meandering course. Our tale meanders too. I had been continuing to look for traces of Moholy-Nagy’s time in the town. I knew there was an active cine-club here in or around the 1930s. Was it possible that members were enthralled by the presence of L.M. -N22. and mimicked his style? The aforementioned ‘Museum film project’ was littered with references to one Cyril Defee, a prolific local filmmaker23 who I understood was also chair of the local film club. Directory enquiries had a listing, and wife Anne aged 94 picked up the phone. Anne told me that Cyril had passed away and none of his films remained at their home. It was with reluctance that I abandoned such speculations. The Littlehampton & District camera club24 could not shed any light and seem nonplussed at the mention of L.M.-N. I tried not to loose heart and pursued the possibility that L.M. -N. could have given away tokens (images) to locals. Hattula, (L.M-N’s daughter, and Chair of the L.M-N Foundation) confirmed such behaviour to be ‘not unlikely’. My imagination was further kindled by reports of L.M. -N. having bought drinks for locals at the old Britannia Public House, by one Derek ‘Scorcher’ Goldsmith. I even fancied that entry PP/WSL/PC005505 a ‘high view of pier from amusements’ 1935, (West Sussex Photo Archive)25 to be what I call ‘Nagy inspired in style’. The aerial view seen here is typical of his

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rare engravings and original works of art. Of particular importance are views illustrating the social history of the chalk downland, rural life, aviation, maritime, seaside topics and architecture. 26 > The Littlehampton Local History Society holds monthly talks at the Friends’ Meeting House in Church Street, Littlehampton.

style. This, however, still remains a fancy. Trying to delve further I met Littlehampton expert Tyndall Jones, who suggests local man Eric Benham. Both are wonderful and try to help, but despite their generosity nothing is yielded from examinations of their respective post card collections. Finally I attended a presentation by Harry Clark, Chairman of the Rustington Heritage Society at the Littlehampton Local History Society meeting26 about the seaside in the 1930s. Still no traces of L.M. -N.

Nagy-esque aerial shot (PP/WSL/PC005505)


27 > In ‘Lobsters’ the commentary by Alan Howard makes reference to ‘pugnacious’ creatures: quarrelsome by nature lobsters are sometimes cannibalistic. 28 > Peter Burtenshaw referred to the lobsters who often lost their claws when fighting rather than back down as ‘Joe Beckett’s’ after the so-called one armed

boxer whose fighting career spanned the 1920s and 30s. 29 > To go to sea fishermen must undergo statutory safety training in basic sea survival, fire fighting and first aid. 30 > ‘It reminded me of the times in England when he had shot his famous movie on the ‘Life of the Lobster’,

following the fishing fleet with alternate spurts of shooting and being sick’. Moholy-Nagy: The Chicago Years, Sibyl Moholy-Nagy (MoholyNagy, Kostelanetz 1970) 31 > ‘Dear Mo Taking off my hat to your remarkable 40 years of life. I v sincerely pray may be multiplied in scaling as well as in the v wide sound assistant

15 I first met local fisherman Dick Leggatt at the Arun View Public House on the River Arun. One of three remaining fishermen who catch lobster for a living off Littlehampton, Dick talked fondly of exploits that span twenty five years. Dick spoke about the pugnacious27 ‘Joe Becketts’28 that could not be sold and were simply returned to grow a replacement claw. Dick seemed very fond of his quarry and was adamant that it is still possible to make a good living catching between 10 and 20 lobsters a day. I told Dick I had seen queues that afternoon at the new kiosk selling local fresh fish at the end of ‘Mussel Row’, (along the seafront in Littlehampton) and was assured that on Fridays they were even longer. (Some months later whilst crabbing with my son and his friends we watched with fascination as a boat was moored at the steps to the rear of the kiosk; the fisherman jumped out and within minutes his extremely fresh catch was being sold.) Dick was saddened that apprentices29 were few and far between but admitted that the work was hard. I thought this an understatement. Dick’s comments made me think how much I admired the tenacity of L.M. -N. who, like Joseph Robinson, had a propensity towards seasickness30 but was not deterred from balancing a 16mm camera on deck. Indeed he was out ‘lobstering’ on the occasion of his fortieth birthday31.

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I congratulate myself having you so close here in London. You are a real brick which I shall never drop. Since you are lobstering even on your birthday I ask you and Sibyl to have lunch with us to your honour on Monday 1 30 at Lotus Norris Street off Haymarket. We give you our love Your’ (GN 7/128a, bibliog.. B, 70).

Above Lobster catch, D Leggatt 2010.


32 > “We discussed matters during the trip and there was one snag. The film to date had been about lobster pots woven from osiers. The Manx pots were made of fish netting stretched over an iron frame. In Douglas, Moholy and Mathias tore along to the G.P.O and sent off a telegram for the delivery of the right kind of lobster pot by return.” Dr R J Daniel.

33 > Recent erroneous listings include San Francisco Cinematheque referring to ‘the subaqueous documentary’ The life of the Lobster; Invisible Cinema cite Lobsters to be a ‘submerged scientific film’.

16 Peter Burtenshaw had agreed to accompany me on a walk along the Arun in preparation for the photo trails we were planning for the Easter Holidays. The idea was to plot a trail that would last between an hour and an hour and a half. After a screening of ‘Lobsters’ at the Museum the intention was to walk to the river and on towards the sea ending at Coastguard’s Tower following vantage points seen in the film. Each participant would be given a pocket sketch book with a 35mm viewer and they could use this to record the trail. Just before we left Peter drew my attention to the ‘lobster pot’ displayed at the Museum stating it was a ‘prawn pot’. Apparently the size of the neck and the weave were appropriate for prawns not lobsters. I had almost forgotten this incident but it came back to me a short while later when I was examining a thesis written in 1972 about L.M. -N. meeting a Dr R. J. Daniel’ the Director of the Marine Biological Station at Port Erin.32 I wondered what was L.M.-N. doing at a Marine Biological Station? I spoke to Trevor Norton, Professor of Marine Biology at the University of Liverpool and the last Director of the Port Erin Marine Laboratory on the Isle of Man. The Professor described the glass tanks that were used to observe marine life in what seemed to me to be a rather serious type of aquarium. This explained the lighting and the camera angles in ‘Lobsters’. It was actually the lobsters themselves who were in their natural

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habitat and the rather cumbersome 16mm camera would have been held in position looking into the tank as the action took place33. So it was filmed on dry land.


The Aquarium at Port Erin, University of Liverpool archive, circa 1930.

Great Fun on the Photo Trail, Littlehampton Gazette. April 16th 2009.

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34 > Harry Blacker reported L.M. -N. to have been uncharacteristically delighted at an announcement made in the Daily Express ‘Beachcomber’ column Saturday June 6th 1936 “Moholy-Nagy completes Lobsters Documentary”; a somewhat abstruse declaration. L.M.-N. would have enjoyed the ambience of the Cairo Club. He seemed tickled by, but did not court, celebrity.

17 Keen to avoid any red herrings emerging, I was determined to grill Peter as we continued along to the River Arun. Things appeared to have progressed in an orderly fashion and we had reached Fisherman’s Quay. Peter pointed at the spot where pots are shown being repaired in the film. He remembered seeing men holding huge silver and gold reflectors that were used to bounce sunlight onto the men being filmed. I told him that such simple tricks were still employed to heighten the natural contrast between light and shade allowing a creative filmmaker to literally paint his scene: drawing the eye to important matters of details and creating suggestion and drama through the use of shade. Admittedly L.M.-N. had a wonderful eye for composition and it was no real surprise when Peter showed me where artistic licence had indeed been liberally used. L.M.-N. had chosen to film the men in front of what was then an imposing white flint wall (the small section we stood in front of had been recently repainted yellow). The wall was to the rear of what had originally been a Seaman’s Mission, later becoming the Cairo Club in 1949. Arriving in Littlehampton well after its heyday, I too remembered the Cairo Club. Such was its notoriety, it was open for 54 years. A Littlehampton institution, Joy the owner had banned the press enabling all and sundry to enjoy a home from home. The roll call of celebrities reads: John Pertwee, Ringo Star, Lionel Blair, Annie Ross, Jack Kid Burg,

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Michael Barrymore, David Taylor, Willy Thorne, Anita Roddick, Marquis of Milford Haven, Lord Oakley, H.R.H. Prince Philip, ‘Trevor the Weather’, Rockin Robins, Blue Peter’s Noakes, Singleton & Purves. I thought L.M.-N. would have enjoyed its hospitality were it open during his stay.34

Above and next page Regulars at the Cairo Club, Joy Collier collection.


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35 > Escaping congestion was a strong often quoted selling point of the water craft: “Avoiding Road Traffic: An order has been received by one firm from the Ford Motor Company for a fast twin-screw diesel launch to take government personages and officials from Charing Cross to the Dagenham factory avoiding the congested east end traffic. A similar craft built for the Ford

works twenty years ago for the same purpose was requisitioned for war work. Over a period of ten years the same firm has built a number of fast launches for the metropolitan police for patrol work on the Thames. A recent important contract was for the supply of 25 40ft steel diesel launches for the Irrawaddy flotilla in Burma.” Littlehampton Gazette, 1951.

18 Standing with Peter, looking over at the skeletons of ancient houseboats and what remained of the yards on the west bank of the river, I had felt very much a spectator. A brisk ten minute walk from Fisherman’s Quay due north across the Arun via the old swing bridge ends at the entrance of the yards. Having crossed to the other side I found myself drawn to the tale of William Osborne, a self made man, a keen sailor and an entrepreneur. A former car salesman, William Osborne marketed hydroplanes and extremely popular they proved too. The original boat racer was born: ‘Get away from the crawling lines35, screeching brakes, hot and dusty roads. Sport loving motorists are turning to the freedom and freshness of the water. Congested highways and traffic regulations greatly minimise motoring pleasure. The water has no restrictions and in the Osborne Speedcraft, developed especially for this field, is found a greater thrill of motoring. Get behind the wheel of an Osborne Speedcraft and feel it throb like a living thing. Easily controlled, it responds quickly to your every wish. A thrilling dash of speed, a quick turn or a quiet restful spin...’ William Osborne 1920s advertising copy. I was given a family album by Robert M Boyce of Osborne of Arun. The fading black and white images hinted at the romance of the grand days of the yards. Oozing with fast pleasure boats, race winning designs and

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champagne launches. In 1983 Osborne’s promotional literature boasted “We have within the organisation 21 men who between them have nearly 600 years experience with William Osborne Ltd.” Those men I could trace were artisans who had a work ethic now too rare, and skills that were passed down through generations. One photograph I found particularly compelling. I had been smiling at a group portrait and asked why the men wore wellingtons? Was this normal attire? Being sited next to the river the original workshops were prone to flood at high tide and the men were accustomed to standing in water or perching on the work benches. I smiled at the health and safety implications of such a precarious arrangement. And then they had told me about the rats! But of course with the yards then flourishing all of this was about to change.


Left top The Boat Show, London Olympia, donated by Robert Boyce.

Top Staff Photograph, donated by Robert Boyce.

Left middle Launch, donated by Robert Boyce.

Above Aerial image of the river and shipyards, Littlehampton Museum.

Left below Interior of William Osborne Ltd circa heyday, donated by Robert Boyce.

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36 > ‘The New Vision’ was written by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy to inform laymen and artists about the basic element of Bauhaus education: the merging of theory and practice in design. One of the main problems was perceived to be keeping alive in grown ups the child’s sincerity of emotion, his truth of observation, his fantasy and his creativeness.

Right Testing RIB prototypes on the Arun, donated by G Chatfield. Middle Hamish and the P24, G Chatfield. Below LRIC Trials, G Chatfield.

19 At Osborne’s I was introduced to Graham Chatfield whose father Reg had been a naval architect at the yard before Graham. Father, assisted by son, often conducted tests at home in the garden pond or in the Arun using models ‘to see what happened’36. The models looked rather Blue Peter like and reminded me of my youthful enterprises with empty washing up bottles and sticky tape. I was to later realise Reg was something of a celebrity with a reputation far beyond these shores for his innovative designs. Osborne’s built over 130 lifeboats of varying sizes and types for the RNLI, including the famous ‘Blue Peter 1’, which was paid for with public donations. A fact which might explain the Cairo Club roll call, including the presenters from my childhood. Building boats for the RNLI seemed something of a commendation. Their standards, not surprisingly, were exacting. Timber expands and contracts and whatever the conditions, the final finish of the prototypes had to be within the limits of one quarter of an inch. And of course everything was made by hand.

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37 > A. was a boat builder at William Osborne Ltd and has requested to remain known only as A. 38 > An artist’s studio was established for the project inside the boatyards funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

40 > In the mid 1970s an attempt was made to develop an apprenticeship in traditional boatbuilding at the former West Sussex College of Art & Design in Worthing.

39 > Now ‘the Shipyard’ and under new management offering boatbuilding, repairs and moorings.

20 A. had worked at the yards. On meeting A.37 for the first time I was intrigued and saddened by his evident stress caused by events that had led to the demise of boat building at A.’s former yard. Walking towards the temporary artist’s studio38 sited at the newly thriving and attractive former Hillyards39 A. carefully carried his working model replica of an Arun class lifeboat (a boat A. had built) refusing to look to the right, stating he was too upset and could not. This was not affected and certainly not for my benefit and I felt quite overwhelmed. Once inside the windowless bunker and being surrounded by ephemera, A. slowly relaxed and revealed something of his past occupation. A. had worked on Osborne’s revolutionary self-righting lifeboats. An old cutting from 1973 (neatly clipped from the Promoter Newspaper) threw further light on the extraordinary skill of men like A. “The boat builders who have to serve a four-year apprenticeship, frequently consult their drawings. There is nothing repetitive in their work because improvements are going on all the time40.”

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Top Boatbuilding at West Sussex College of Art & Design (Northbrook College), donated by Bob Peace. Above Studio at West Sussex College of Art & Design (Northbrook College), Bob Peace.


21 A. recounted the story of the then 75 year old Lord Saltoun who climbed into a lifeboat being tested in Littlehampton harbour. He was strapped to a mattress in the waterproof engine room. The boat rolled over and as the seconds ticked away it stayed capsized. Everyone held their breath. Then the boat had slowly rolled the right way up again. The Lord looked shaken and had oil on his face and hands. ‘Quite an experience’ he was heard to say. It was only later I realised the Lord was not alone and that a diver, one Ray Lee, had been observing the ballast from inside.

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Testing an RNLI prototype, River Arun (anon).


41 > The Nancy Blackett appears lightly disguised by Ransome as the ‘Goblin’. The Nancy Blackett has been restored. There is a trust and a dedicated fan club who keep her spirit alive. 42 > David Hillyard set up his yard in Littlehampton, Sussex, around 1904 and established his reputation as a builder of pinnaces and other small wooden vessels for the Admiralty in the First World War. In the very early 1920’s he commenced building sailing yachts for private ownership. One of the

earliest, ‘Twinkler’, a 4 tonner built in 1922, is still being sailed by owners Ted and Diana Evans out of Woodbridge on the River Deben, Suffolk. 43 > A naval architectural term: property of a vessel which is well adapted to being handled safely at sea in heavy weather. 44 > For yachting enthusiasts the biography ‘The David Hillyard Story’ by John Balchin (copies held at Littlehampton Library and the Museum) is a fascinating read.

22 As a child I fancied the small island on the boating lake in Mewsbrook Park in Littlehampton to be a tantalising hideaway out of bounds to grown ups and figures of authority (landing being prohibited of course only added to its lure). Such ideas were set adrift by exotic texts that naturally included the classic ‘Swallows and Amazons’ by Arthur Ransome. I was very excited to be told that the ‘Nancy Blackett’ 41, the boat owned by Arthur Ransome, and the inspiration for his children’s novel ‘We didn’t mean to go to sea’, to have been one of over 800 yachts built at Hillyard’s42.

David Hillyard had set out to build boats for the people creating the first ‘model T yacht’, one which was affordable. It was claimed he was incapable of building a bad boat because he understood what the ordinary, impecunious cruising yachtsman wanted, and put that before profit44. The boats are simply described as ‘solid, reliable, well built, safe’. They were crafted from elm (keel), oak (stem, stern post, deadwood, timbers), scantlings (bilge stringers), pine/larch/mahogany (planking). Looking at a Hillyard boat made me want to sail.

The Hillyard Owners Association claim the yachts’ quality of sea kindliness43 to be legendary. They are said to make wonderful family boats with David Hillyard concerned to produce vessels that would be comfortable long term liveaboards, easy to handle and safe for family crews in the widest possible range of conditions. Boats fit for adventures. To me, standing on the hard standing gazing at their hulls, they were quite simply beautiful.

Hillyard Shipyard, donated by Hillyard Owners Association.

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Hillyard ephemera, Hillyard Promotional Material.

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45 > The Jumna was a paddle steamer (tug) boat built by Hepple of North Shields. Weighing 51 tonnes she arrived in Littlehampton in 1884. In 1923 she left

Littlehampton and is reported to have served on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. In the tradition of many tugs of her era she doubled as an excursion steamer.

Above The Jumna in Littlehampton Harbour, Littlehampton Museum.

23 Bob Horner (like A.) was a boat builder at William Osborne Ltd. Bob had invited me to see his model of the Jumna45 and delicately lifted off a white sheet to show a work in progress that had started in the 1970s. Work had stopped no sooner than it had begun due to a lack of evidence of the condition of the foredeck. Having seen umpteen Jumna’s at the Museum and one protruding from the Harbour Office wall I was perplexed as to how this state of affairs had arisen. Bob gently explained that the Jumna herself had been modified according to conditions and location and throughout her history she had been converted. Hence many ‘Jumna’ could be traced. I was struck by the pathos of this endeavour and determined to help Bob complete his model. I soon came across a Canadian group of paddle steam enthusiasts. Their reply led to Australia. Transcript from Australian contact: “My wife Carole and I will be visiting Littlehampton in July…I have a long association with the paddle steamer Jumna – modelled on 81.5’ PT Jumna which in its heyday, and for about half her total life, operated out of Littlehampton (her full life was from 1884 to 1925 in a variety of places)   The paddle steamer 12’6’ model carried three people. Always her owner in the stern tending his steam engine and machinery. It was designed and completely build and operated by a man who

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Next page The restored paddle steamer model of the Jumna, Busselton Mail (au) February 3rd 2010.

was a Church of England Minister (he ended up being a Canon). I lived alongside the Rectory plus my family was very involved in our church. His Jumna first floated late 1939 and made her last trip 1963 – all along the Vasse River in the town of Busselton, southwest Western Australia. He chose Carole and me to make what turned out to be Jumnas last long trip (photo attached) before she was retired.   He designed his Jumna from a photo which his mother obtained from the Littlehampton Gazette.   Jumna has been restored (not for active duty) and is displayed in the Busselton Old Butter Factory Historical Museum on the banks of the Vasse River – the river she travelled up and down over 1000 miles during her life. Because of my involvement with Jumna over her working life I was honoured to unveil the Museum display before a notable crowd!”


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46 > As angling parties reduced so diving parties have increased off Littlehampton. To try to ensure favourable conditions bookings are made 12 months or more in advance. There are an enormous number of wrecks in the area, with something to suit all tastes.

48 > Other possibles: latitudinals and  longitudinals for magnetometer anomalies (suggesting something is ‘there’) 50-40-10N 000-37-70W; 50-40-40N 000-37-50W; 50-41-90N 000-38-85W; 50-44-70N 000-33-50; 50-38-50N 000-26-35W; 50-36-85N 000-26-35W

47 > If liquid nitrogen has an expansion value of 297 x its volume, hence 1cu ft of gas will lift 64lbs sea water.

Fishermans fastners where a trawl has been caught up on the seabed catching an obstruction: 50-40-15N 000-27-45W; 50-40-41N 000-27-15W; 50-40-50N 000-25-30W;

50-38-80N 000-21-50W; 50-35-30N 000-26 45W; 50-35-39N 000-30-30W; 50-34-75N 000-30-10W Wrecks that need a closer look located by echo sounder: Wooden wreck approx 1860’s  large, sand covered mainly, located by fish above wreck 50-3995N 000-40-40W; Small wreck 400metres from the Huntsholm soundings like a row of telegraph poles could be ribs, not dived. 50-35-55N 000-30-65W (R Lee).

24 I had remembered what A. had said about Lord Saltoun inside the upturned lifeboat and it was more by chance than design that I then stumbled upon Ray Lee. Ray had spent a life time on and under the water. A diver and sometime ‘treasure hunter’46 by occupation Ray spoke cryptically and said the question to ask a diver is ‘how far do you want to see’? Too far? Well then you do not look at what you are doing. If visibility is poor a diver is far more likely to find treasures because then they have to look.

water and sunk. It had a full deck and cabin. The day came when a vacuum flask some 2 feet in diameter and 5 feet tall was loaded by the Harbour Board crane onto the dive boat Jon Seagull. Tubes were inserted into the Hillyard from the flask and pumping began. In a short space of time the wreck appeared on the surface. We did this three times each time a success. It was filmed. The Welshman was excited so much so that we brought the wreck back and it was transported to Wales. This was about 1979/80.”

Ray was a pioneer and a maverick. He described an experiment on the Arun lifting wrecks using liquid nitrogen and some creative and lateral thought. “A Welshman asked me if I knew of a local wreck that he could practice lifting to the surface by using liquid nitrogen. His theory was that it would work two fold. The frozen nitrogen would freeze the sea as it escaped through the decks until it formed an ice cap. This ice cap would then support the expansion of gas so as to give it lift 47. There were no wrecks that were suitable so I suggested that we start with something smaller and sink one of the wrecks that were in the harbour. A 15 ton Hillyard was chosen, it was towed out to sea, tied to a small wreck in 30 feet of

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Treasures from expeditions off the shores48 of Littlehampton, R Lee collection.


Treasures from expeditions off the shores48 of Littlehampton, R Lee collection

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49 > “How I wish I had the information to be able to give you answers. Buying drinks for the local fishermen, staying at the Dolphin Hotel (did their guest register survive?), going fishing for eels, or giving gifts to those he worked with all

sound quite plausible, but I have no documentation of any sort to show this.” Hattula Moholy-Nagy August 14th 2009. Sadly the register is no more. 50 > By 1934, Sir Alan Cobham had already established his reputation

as an aviation pioneer, passionate about making the aircraft a mainstream means of transport. He came to prominence flying possible commercial airline routes between the UK and India, Africa, and Australia during the

25 Derek ‘Scorcher’ Goldsmith of the Littlehampton rowing boat dynasty was known to all and sundry and it was not long before I made his acquaintance. Peter had suggested Scorcher might have a memento from L.M.-N. Scorcher would have been eight at the time and from what Peter could recall he had been around and about throughout most of the filming. At our first meeting Scorcher had given a detailed and highly accurate account of L.M.-N, speaking of his appearance and his mannerisms. He seemed to recall L.M.-N. making a number of trips to the ‘Brittania’ Public House to buy drinks for the locals, a fact I was unable to corroborate49. When we sat together to watch ‘Lobsters’ Scorcher immediately questioned its authenticity claiming, as Peter had, that this was not the film. It was a customised, edited version of the film.

1920s. During the 1930s, he introduced more than a million people to the experience of flight with his famous “Cobham’s Flying Circus” travelling air exhibitions. 51 > Telehor was a Czech art journal.

Scorcher was adamant that the film he saw screened at the Regent was nearer half an hour; Lobsters being a little over eighteen minutes. He seemed to recall something involving a fire. I started to unpick what could have occurred. The implication being two boys (now men) had watched and held in their respective memories, scenes unseen from a masterpiece of cinema the world now knew as Lobsters, but which began as ‘An Ocean Tale’. Hattula had recalled Terence Senter having written a thesis about her father’s stay in England. It was suggested that Senter being an authority, would be the place to look.

We can confirm ‘An Ocean Tale’ was indeed the working title of what seemed to start out as an adventure film (Scorcher was right). Scrolling through an extensive bibliography coupled Scorcher made specific reference to scenes that with a visit to the British Library, the BFI and were missing, describing an alternative opening Colindale Newspaper Library, details started to surface. Telehor51 report ‘An Ocean Tale’ scene with small flags that floated around a foot was made in 1935. ‘Beachcomber’ in the Daily out of the water on sticks. On top of the sticks were four inch square black canvas pieces with Express announced ‘Moholy Nagy completes Lobster documentary on Saturday June 6th white lettering, with a single letter on each. The 1936’. ‘World Film Bulletin’ state ‘The first whole structure was tied together with string to prevent drift and read ‘An Ocean Tale’. A second version of the film (Lobsters) was 2,400 feet long scene involved a fly past the Gwendoline by one but subsequently 1,000ft were cut’; June edition of 1936. ‘Today’s Cinema’ refer to ‘Lobsters a of Cobham’s50’ airplanes whilst a lobster was held aloft by old Harry who waved, with the pilot 1,000 ft film November 16th 1936’. ‘Monthly tipping his wings in salute. To add to the drama, Film Bulletin’ claim Lobsters at 1,488ft as do ‘Sight & Sound’. the scene was filmed from a second plane.

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I was bemused to discover critics questioning the universal certificate granted for the film’s London premiere. One ‘A.V.’ writing in ‘Monthly Film Bulletin’ was concerned: ‘The nature of its subject matter makes this film unsuitable for small children, particularly if they are easily frightened’. Likewise ‘Sight & Sound’ insist ‘it is surprising to find such a subject, creeping with figures of nightmare, freely granted a Universal certificate by the censor. Surely…!’ So much flotsam and jetsam. Then something else bobbed up. Old Harry surfaced in the special collection of the Museum of Modern Art (New York).

Moholy Nagy Laszlo (1895-1946): In the Cradle of the Deep, 1936. New York, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Letterpress Folded: 6 3/16 x 8 1/2’ (15.7 x 21.6 cm); unfolded: 6 3/16 x 20

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7/16’ (15.7 x 51.9 cm). Jan Tschichold Collection, Gift of Philip Johnson 750.1999© 2010. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/ Scala, Firenze


26 I have always had a fascination for the philosophy of L.M.–N. Drawn to his seemingly never ending desire to explore new ways of handling materials, tools and machines I have long considered L.M.–N. a true pioneer. He appeared genuinely concerned to promote functional organic design (what one might call ‘proper design’) as opposed to superficial (more self indulgent) design. When teaching he would encourage students to see themselves as designers or craftsmen who would make a living by furnishing the community with new ideas and products. I recalled reading about Kingswift 26 built by William Osborne Ltd. “It is odd that some builders strive to make the cabin as warm and comfortable as a hotel lounge when among its many functions it has to serve as a workshop, mess room, storage space and occasional sick bay for sea sufferers”. Kingswift was spartan by intention. On first viewing ‘Lobsters’ appears to be of little note: an ostensibly simple and charming document that celebrates a once heroic occupation. An artefact. But give it time, scratch its surface as we did and things started to emerge. As I began my quest we made significant discoveries about both film and town. There are many who live here in Littlehampton and come here on holiday who have never been and would never want to go to ‘the other side’, to the west bank. For those who are ready to explore they will find a pioneering spirit alive and well within the fabric of the town. A spirit that is often quietly understated but one infused with a sense of adventure and possibilities and endeavour.

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Serving lobster at the opening of the exhibition ‘Littlehampton Lobsters’ at Littlehampton Museum Saturday 6th March 2010.


Acknowledgements I am indebted to a host of extraordinarily generous individuals who have contributed in so many ways to this project: Peter and Margaret Burtenshaw; Joy Collier; Graham Chatfield; Mike Millman; Brian and Bob Peace; Ray Lee; Robert Boyce; Bob Horner; Eric Benham; Tyndall Jones; Naomi Lampshire; Nick Collins; Dick Leggatt; Roger Green; Hattula Moholy-Nagy; Liam Fogerty; Michael Walden; Dr Gerald Legg; Paul Jordan; Sid Breeden; Yvonne Northeast; Daniel Watts; Guy Smith; Derek Goldsmith; Mr Moore; Alastair Torley and Staff, Northbrook College Library; University of Liverpool, Sidney Jones Library; University of Nottingham Library; Tony Wright and the Coastguards at Littlehampton; John Spurgin and Volunteers at the Print Workshop, Amberley Working Museum; West Sussex Records Office; Littlehampton Local History Society; Littlehampton Museum Staff and Volunteers; Littlehampton Town Council; and of course Neueland Lesdema.

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Littlehampton's Lobsters