Thursday 17 September 2009

Maritime History

Shoreham high street seen from Shoreham Beach. You can see the Norman Built St Mary's Church and the footbridge that links the beach to the high street.

It's not just Shoreham Beach that is fascinating, the town has an intriguing maritime history too. The beach itself is a shingle spit formed by the river adur as it flows to the sea and deflected east by longshore drift (the natural movement of shingle pebbles from west to east). Shoreham has been important as a port town for many centuries and one of the biggest problems was combating the longshore drift of pebbles that kept blocking the harbour mouth. However, without longshore drift there would not have been a Shoreham Beach as we know it today.

By 11th Century Shoreham-by-Sea, as it is known, was an important thriving trade port following the conquest by the Norman invaders. There has also been a very important ship building industry at Shoreham until the late1800's. The ships were built entirely on site and many of the towns population were engaged in this trade as shipwrights, sail makers, rope makers, sailors etc.

There was a steady supply of timber from the trees that covered the chalk hills to the North - the South Downs. They could be floated down river to Shoreham and sawn up to make the ships. Over the years vessels were made for trade, to combat piracy and some took part in major sea battles against the Spanish Armada and during the 100 Year War. In the 1800's, the Victorian Period, there was an industrial Renaissance. Wooden sail vessels were no longer required, now it was the age of iron and steam.

Two of the last ships built at Shoreham, viewed from Shoreham Beach before the footbridge was built. The tower of the Norman St Mary's Church can be seen in the background.

The shipwrights at Shoreham wanted to continue to use the old methods of ship building and their industry slowly died out. The port however continued to thrive and today. The main part of the harbour is now to the east of the town, built within a channel that is believed to have been created by the river trying to find another exit point to the sea when the river mouth was blocked by longshore drift.
Brighton Beach

Most people in the UK have heard of Brighton (and many people worldwide), which is a few miles to the east of Shoreham. However until the Victorians made the seaside popular with the advent of rail travel which allowed cheap day trippers from London, Shoreham was far more important. Until then, Brighton had been just a small fishing village.
Bye for now

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