Brighton fisherman’s beach grotto under threat of demolition

Posted On 05 Oct 2015 at 11:04 am

Brighton’s “last beach fisherman” is being told to take down the collection of flint statues he’s built on the beach over health and safety fears.

Fisherman's grotto 1

Picture from

Rory McCormack started creating the mystical figures out of flint and other bits and pieces he found on the beach about two years ago, in his fisherman’s store next to the Volk’s Railway

The statues are now clearly visible from the railway and the promenade as they look out to sea.

But their days may be numbered as council officials say they are a safety risk – and nearly all are so large they could not be moved and so would have to be demolished.

Mr McCormack said: “Two years ago, it was a particularly bad winter and I just started pottering about and it went from there. I was building it for two years, it’s out in the open, virtually in the middle of the beach.

“Members of the public come up and show an interest – at couple to two dozen people a day. I’m sure there’s people who think it looks terrible, but I haven’t had a single negative comment made in all that time.

“I worked out the beach patrol has driven past about 2,500 times and said nothing. But then I got a message passed on by a fairly friendly beach officer, who said I’m passing on a message from someone in the office. It was a two minute conversation and I haven’t heard anything since.

“The fence is 7ft high. Only one person has managed to climb over it. It’s all tucked away in an enclosure and the only time anyone come here is at my invitation while I’m here.”

The statues, which have been described as examples of outsider art, are inspired by bronze and iron age art. The most recent additions, still being finished, are a Venus of Willendorf and a Sumerian goddess cradling a child. Both these have been made smaller than the others so that, if necessary, they can be moved.

Picture by The Spa Directory

Picture from

Although the statues are only a couple of years old, the store has been there for much longer. Mr McCormack, who moved to Brighton 55 years ago when he was five, has been fishing on the beach since he was 16.

He put the fencing up about 15 years ago, after night time beach patrols stopped and fishing gear became vulnerable to repeated vandalism.

He said: “I had to fence if off to look after my fishing gear. I live in a first floor flat so I couldn’t store it there. It’s been like that for about 15 years, and the council hasn’t said anything about it.

“The fishermen’s stores have all been demolished. There’s a handful about 600 yards along but they’re not standing any more. The council’s made a point of demolishing everything as soon as it goes out of use for a few months.

“I’m the last beach fisherman standing in Brighton. The only reason I’ve managed to do that is because I put a fence up.”

However, the council said that it was intending to take action. A spokesman said: “We have real concerns over these structures because some are more than six foot high and have been built on council land without consent so we have to take action before somebody is seriously injured.”

  1. Rev. Richard Thornburgh Reply

    As a former resident of Brighton for 30 years, from birth until I left to pursue my current calling, I can remember the days when fishing boats were lined all along the beach from the pier to the Banjo Groyne. It was a wonderful mix of industry and leisure, all framed by the sea on one side and the Madeira Drive terraces on the other. The atmosphere is now one of decay and dereliction. Far better for the Council to spend its time and money on restoring that great walkway along the seafront than worrying about non-existant H&S concerns. The image of the “city” is now as corroded as the ironwork, and both need urgent attention and restoration.

  2. Freddo During Reply

    Yet again the council has to waste more public money on things that matter the least. The area is fenced off and the statues too large large to be moved. So how on earth is anyone going to be seriously injured ?? Leave it out, use common sense instead. There is absolutely no harm in this.

  3. nick Reply

    Rory for Mayor!

  4. raysto Reply

    I live on the seafront and have watched the development of Rory’s statues over time. I can’t see how anyone could get injured and it’s not like the fenced-off area is open to the public. Let him be. It’s harmless and creative

  5. beaky Reply

    Typical spoil sport council bores , leave the man be , if anything encourage him , help him , fishing is part of Brighton beach heritage , a few fenced off creations are not dangerous to public , worry about barbeques , beer bottles and Discusting used syringes and don’t forget dog waste , now they are dangerous to public safety

  6. rolivan Reply

    The Travellers have probably taken a liking to it and have asked their friends at the Council if they can use it.

    • bob Reply

      You can’t. That petition is closed!

  7. Yvonne Luna Reply

    Rory’s amazing creations are featured in The Grotto Directory at:
    The sculptures appear to be the only sculptures to have ever been made in flint, anywhere in the world! Totally unique – Rory is a genius to have managed to create something so magical and beautiful with an impossible material to work in this way.

  8. Helen Reply

    I am going to visit Brighton specifically to see these sculptures.

  9. Jesse Reply

    Is he still under threat to have his home taken?

    • Jo Wadsworth Reply

      Hi Jesse, that’s a good question – I know he wasn’t too keen on me pushing that when I first wrote the story as he’s successfully been under the radar there for years, but I’ll see if I can find out

  10. paul doe Reply

    is this still ongoing?

  11. Alan Terrill Reply

    I visited this week and the sculptures are still there and there are several new ones. Rory wasn’t there but all looks to be well.

  12. David Reply

    Although on a much grander scale, the Council should perhaps pay regard to the Watts Towers in Los Angeles, built by a man with a vision, which the local Authority at one time wanted demolished on similarly perceived safety grounds.
    These towers are now one of the must see sites in that city and attract visitors from all over the world. Perhaps BHCC are afraid that a free attraction would detract from the doughnut on a stick.

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