The pilot and observer were located in tandem cockpits located high up in the front of the deep, narrow fuselage, creating a decidedly "curious" profile. They sat atop the Armstrong Siddeley Mamba turboprop in front and the weapons bay to the rear of them. The design had originally called for the tried and tested Rolls-Royce Merlin piston engine but the Royal Navy had made it policy to phase out piston engines, in order that supplies of highly flammable high octane aviation fuel need not be carried in large quantities on ships. The turboprop engine also caused less airframe vibration so that the pilot could be sat directly over it with the absence of a piston engine ignition system which would have interfered with the radar scanner mounted below the engine housing.
For simplicity, and so that a nosewheel would not obscure the forward field of the radar scanner, a fixed tailwheel undercarriage was used. The long stroke necessary on the main undercarriage to allow for heavy deck landings while giving the radar scanner and propeller adequate clearance from the ground resulted in an alarming attitude on the ground and the cockpits mounted at a seemingly perilous height. For landing the tailwheel extended so it could land at a more level attitude.
The pilot and observer sat very far forward in order for the pilot to have a reasonable field of downward vision for takeoff and landing and so that both he and the observer had a good field of view for spotting surface vessels even when in level flight.
The large, broad-chord wings featured power-folding and pylons for the carriage of rockets, depth charges, flares and small bombs. The large, slab-like tailplane was mounted high on the vertical stabiliser, requiring the rudder to be split into upper and lower sections. The fixed undercarriage legs could be jettisoned in the event of ditching.
The weapons bay was 14 ft long and 3 ft wide. By omitting the rotating radar scanner it could be extended to 17 ft in order to carry longer weapons.
The handling characteristics of the Seamew were poor. The prototypes were heavily modified with fixed leading-edge slats, slots added in the trailing-edge flaps, alterations to the ailerons and slats added to the tailplane roots. Although something of an improvement over the initial models, the handling was never wholly satisfactory. Arthur Pearcy wrote "only Short Brothers' test pilot Wally Runciman seemed able to outwit its vicious tendencies and exploit its latent manoeuvrability to the limit."
The stall speed of the Seamew was 50 knots and it required only 50% of engine power to maintain flight. Runciman said "take off and landing are simple and straightforward", "it is, in fact, impossible to bounce the Seamew", and that its performance in crosswinds was "outstanding".