Shoreham – Introduction

Old Shoreham church goes back to the C10, so there was already a port inside the mouth of the Adur, also shown by the dedication to St Nicolas, patron of sailors.  The church was granted to the abbey of Saumur on the Loire before 1080 (VCH 6(1) p167).  The port was of great importance to the new Norman rulers as Shoreham was one of the main ports for Normandy.  As a consequence, the Adur valley is aid to have been one of the three most densely populated parts of England (G Standing p93).  About then, the river silted up and a new port was built on the coast, protected by the de Braoses of Bramber.  Its rectangular plan, with lesser streets leading off the High Street on both sides, is not immediately obvious, as those to the south are only stumps because of changes to the coastline.  Its church, St Mary de Haura (=Havre i e Harbour), was granted to Saumur in 1096 (VCH 6(1) p168) to which the de Braoses had links through their foundation of Sele priory at Upper Beeding.  However, though Sele had property in Shoreham, the church, the largest of its date in Sussex, was never monastic.   Built as a chapelry of Old Shoreham, it was a parish by the early C13.  After Sele was dissolved in the early C15, the advowson of both churches passed to the newly founded Magdalen College, Oxford.  The livings were united in 1897.

Apart from the port, the main industry before the C19 was shipbuilding.  In the C15 the river mouth was blocked by a spit of shingle, leading to a lean period for the town.  By 1600 the harbour had established itself permanently to the east and it reverted to a modest prosperity and achieved fame in 1651, when Charles II returned to exile from there after the Battle of Worcester.  It was a Parliamentary borough and until 1826 the elections took place in the north transept of St Mary.  Little changed until the C20, when the town expanded to the north, near the toll-bridge over the river at Old Shoreham, to provide housing for commuters to London and the coastal towns, mainly Brighton and Worthing.  By the late C18, the spit at the mouth of the Adur was farmed and in the late C19 was built up.  First known as ‘Bungalow Town’ as most houses were of that type or based on disused railway carriages, the area is now called Shoreham Beach, though it was formerly in the parish of Lancing.