The River Adur and Shoreham Harbour  1400-1799
by Andy Horton

1400 Shoreham is required by Henry IV to build one balinger (a ship) to protect against privateers and piracy (from the French).
1404 Shoreham suffered encroachment by the sea. The shipbuilding centre of La Pende (south west of Shoreham) probably disappeared during this century.
(Pende is mentioned as a harbour from 1359 to 1420 only, and in 1566 as a landing stage. Its location is not known. In 1587, a lagoon at Lancing was called Penhowse. This is unlikely to have been the present Widewater Lagoon.)
1421  Another date I have for flooding by the sea (from P. Brandon in "Sussex Downs")

1477  Silting was preventing navigation under Bramber Bridge.
1545 The French attack Hove, Aldrington and Shoreham.
1571  Ship building recorded in the town after a quiet period.

1586  The greatest part of New Shoreham is ruined and under water.

(Although the residents of Shoreham did not know at the time, theoretical highest range of tides because of the alignment of the Moon and Sun in relation ship to the Earth occurs only every 1600 years with the last maximum around the year 1600. There were considerable floods all around the south coast of England and in the Netherlands.)
(Also the land in southern England is sinking at the rate of about 2 mm a year [2 metres in a millennium] and there is is also a probable sea level rise - information to be checked.)

(About this time, Brighthelmstone (Brighton) five miles to the east emerged in importance as the premier fishing port in this part of Sussex.)

[St. Mary's Church: I have not got the precise date that the Nave fell down, but the downfall in the fortunes of Shoreham after the Black Death, and destruction of half of New Shoreham by the inroads of the sea, as well as other floods may have reduced the population to such an extent that there were enough workers to repair the church.)

(Spanish Armada Threat)
(Beacons were erected in 1587 at Lancing and Aldrington. The first Spanish Armada (of 130 ships) was defeated in 1588 opening the world for trade and commerce for British merchant vessels.  The second Armada in 1597 was scattered by storms.)

1587  Record (possibly the first) of the river being blocked by a shingle bank, deflecting the river and entrance to the harbour eastwards. (Silting problems occured as far back as 1368).
In the late 16th century, the area known as Ropetackle was first mentioned by name. Rope and sails were made in the town.

1622  A mud bank called Scurvy Bank was formed outside the harbour obstructing entrance. (This may be area now known as Adur Recreation Ground, as shown in a map of 1789. Another low tide bank called Mardyke was in the area of the present airfield.). This was the second record of the effects of the longshore drift that deflected the harbour entrance eastward. At one time the vessels entering the port would enter on the west side of this bank. However, this See 1724.

1625-38 Shoreham was a very important port and shipbuilding centre.  Ships were built in New Shoreham (near the current Norfolk Bridge). Nearby was the George Inn. 21 ships were built for Charles I. (At the start of the Civil War the English Navy had 82 vessels under sail). The other inns in New Shoreham were the King's Arms, Fountain, Garter, Dolphin and the Star.

1627-29 Shoreham sea captains and ships were given "letters of marque" authorising them to attack foreign ships, notably Dutch vessels, as privateers. One of these, the successful Captain William Scras attacked at least 7 ships. He was buried at St. Botolphs churchyard.
(The Naval Discipline Act and the formation of the Navy brought about the end of uncontrolled privateering, which sometimes turned to outright piracy. In 1637 The protoype of the "line of battle" ships, the 100 ton "Sovereign of the Seas" was launched (not from Shoreham).

1651 Royal Escape

After the Battle of Worcester (3 September), Charles II had to flee from the Cromwellian forces. He eventually made his way to Bramber were he had to cross the substantial bridge over the River Adur. The route to the coast then followed the present hill route from Beeding Hill to Old Shoreham via Erringham. The story then says he ventured to Brighthelmstone (Brighton) where he met the skipper of the Surprise, Tattersall, in a pub called the George. The King and Tattersall and crew boarded the brig "Surprise" which departed from Shoreham (15 October) for Fécamp in France when the tide was right.
(The maritime forces were given the name Royal Navy by Charles II before his flight. He was restored to the Throne in 1660.  Samuel Pepys became Secretary of the Admiralty.)
(The longshore drift may have made the entrance to the harbour nearer Kingston, although their would still be an inlet on the river course at New Shoreham.).
Royal Escape (notes)

Wednesday 15 October 1651,  3 days before the Full Moon.


October  1651
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa 
          1  2  3  4 
 5  6  7  8  9 10 11 
12 13 14 15 16 17 18 
19 20 21 22 23 24 25 
26 27 28 29 30 31 
 4:   11:   18:  26: 
LAT:50º50'N; LON:0º15'W

14/10/1651  17:09       0.79
14/10/1651  23:16       6.19
15/10/1651  05:27       0.77
15/10/1651  11:31       6.23
15/10/1651  17:41       0.76
15/10/1651  23:46       6.24
16/10/1651  06:00       0.84
16/10/1651  12:00       6.24
16/10/1651  18:14       0.82

 Mean High Water Spring Tide is 6.3 metres
Mean Low Water Spring tide is 0.6 metres

Town Map (Reconstructed)Kingston Timber Wharf and location of harbour entrance according to the English Pilot 1671Copperas Gap, near harbour entrance in 1695

1662  A ferry boat carried travellers from New Shoreham to the Sussex Pad. The ferry service was unreliable and many travellers had to cross the river at the Bramber bridge.
1671  A timber wharf is at Kingston.
1695  Copperas Gap at Fishersgate is used for the export of Iron ore to London.
1690-96 Seventeen Men-of-War built for the Royal Navy at Shoreham during these years.The vessels included the first  HMS Shoreham, constructed in 1693, with a length of 82 ft. and supporting 32 guns. She was engaged in convoy duties.

1698  The harbour entrance has shifted 2 miles east of St. Mary's, New Shoreham (near the current Power Station).
The Navy Board visits Shoreham with a view of constructing an additional shipyard, but there were problems getting the vessels out summed up as follows: "The haven's mouth is a very dry barr upon the ebbs of spring tides, and the outsea in foul weather throws up extraordinary quantities of beach in the manner of small islands; and whether you go in or out, you meet with great difficulties and hazard."
Dummer and Wiltshaw's 1698 survey of harbours on the south coast, copies in British Library, K Mar III, 67, and Bodleian.

1690-1791  Many trading vessels avoided import duties during the 18th century, smuggling the contraband in at night. (In 1791, Revenue Officers seized contraband and transported it to the Customs House at Shoreham.)

Great Storm shattered the town of Shoreham

1703 A great storm shattered the town of Shoreham. This major storm of 26 November caused destruction on the English Channel coast of England killing over 8000 people (Defoe). "The Market House at Shoreham was blown flat to the ground and the whole town shattered."

1724 The longshore drift had deflected the harbour entrance 3 miles to the east of New Shoreham.

1724 The building of ships resumed in Shoreham after the silting up of the harbour problems of 1698. The first recorded warship was not listed until 1741. Merchant ships were not recorded.

1753  The harbour entrance is now nearly four miles to the east at Aldrington. This drift had to be rectified. See 1821. In 1760 an attempt was made to cut a new harbour entrance# but it soon failed.
(Navigation note: 1762  John Harrison [from Yorkshire] proved his accurate chronometer at sea to enable the determination of longitude with accuracy).
1762  A map of New Shoreham was published.

1772-75, 1776-80
(Captain) Henry Roberts (from Shoreham) sailed with Captain Cook on HMS Resolution, and witnessed the death of Captain Cook, killed by natives in Hawaii in 1779. More.

1781 The wooden bridge over the River Adur at Old Shoreham was built, replacing a ferry. The bridge was rebuilt to a similar design in 1916 and up until 1971 was the main A27 road for all traffic passing through Shoreham.

1787 (George, the Prince Regent commissioned the Pavilion in the village of Brighthelmstone, already the most populous town in Sussex, thus assuring the emergence of nearby Brighton as a premier tourist resort. He was crowned as King George IV in 1820 and visited Brighton until 1827. From 1796 to 1815 England was at war with Napoleon and troops were stationed at Brighton. Sea bathing became important for Brighton as a tourist resort from about 1736.  1754, Richard Russell, the author of a treatise on the health benefits of seawater, settled in Brighton to put his theories into practice, initiating the vogue of sea bathing. In 1783, George, the Prince Regent first visited Brighton.)

1791 Southdown Sheep (improvement of the breed 1788) introduced to Erringham Farm, north of Shoreham . By 1829, his flock attracted international attention because of improved fleece and superior mutton. (ref:  Peter Brandon, the South Downs, 1998 pic).
Southdown Sheep (External site)

1792 A highway robbery by a Shoreham man named Rook, an accomplice to Howell, on the mail at the Goldstone Bottom resulted in the execution of the perpetrators by hanging. The recovery of the bones from the gibbet by Rook's mother, inspired Tennyson's poem 'Rizpah' (written about 100 years later).
"Wailing, wailing, wailing, the wind over land and sea ..."
Goldstone Mail Robbery

1792  A ship with 50 refugees from France arrives at Shoreham. (French Revolution of 1789. France declared war on Prussia & Austria in 1792.)

Captain Henry Roberts (from Shoreham) was promoted to Captain and whilst in command of HMS Undaunted in the West Indies, he caught yellow fever and died in 1796. (see earlier entry).

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