Shoreham in 1841
SHOREHAM, a parliamentary borough and a seaport-town, is situated in a valley of the South Downs at the mouth of the river Adur, near the centre of the county of Sussex, and 57 miles south from London. The borough of Shoreham, now called New Shoreham, was part of the possessions conferred by the Conqueror upon William de Braose, lord of the rape of Bramber. The intercourse between England and Normandy at that time was considerable, and the Adur became a port of some consequence. John landed here from Normandy with a large army in 1199, and he made it a free port in 1210. In the time of Edward III (1346) it contributed 26 ships towards the two fleets of 706 which were fitted out by the king, being one ship more than was furnished by London ; Fowey, Yarmouth, and Dartmouth alone furnished a larger number. But the encroachments of the sea and the attacks of foreign enemies so reduced the town, that in the time of Camden ‘the commodiousnesse of the haven, by reason of bankes and barres of sand cast up at the river’s mouth, was quite gone.’ In 1718 the first act was obtained for its security and improvement, but the embouchure continued to shift towards the east, and advanced a mile and a half in the course of half a century, so as to render the haven of little use.
The proximity however of the rising towns of Brighton and Worthing turned public attention towards the improvement of this port, and in 1816 the cutting of an artificial channel through the shingle embankment and the erection of substantial piers, which have rendered the mouth of the harbour permanent, were effected by Mr. William Clegram. The opening is preserved by wooden piers (formed of piles) 218 feet apart, which run in a south-south-west direction across the shingle into the sea. Within this entrance a third pier has been built out from the shore nearly across the harbour, for the purpose of driving the water, on the ebb, from the eastern and western sides of the inlet, directly to the mouth. The great body of water which thus ebbs and flows through the entrance keeps the channel open ; and though the width is so considerable, the stream runs between the pier-heads at the rate of five or six miles an hour. The harbour-mouth is nevertheless subject to a bar, which rises occasionally above the low-water level, and shifts its position from 60 to 160 feet from the pier-heads. The lift of the spring-tides is about 15 feet, and neaps about 9 feet. The depth of the water over the bar at high-water is from 14 to 17 feet, according to the tides and the state of the bar. The Adur was formerly crossed by a ford once belonging to the priory of Hardham. In 1782 a long narrow bridge was built over the old ford a mile above the town ; the money was raised in shares by way of annuity, and the income arising from the tolls, after the death of the annuitants, fell to the duke of Norfolk. In the year 1833 the present duke built at his own expense, and under the direction of Mr. Clark, a beautiful suspension bridge nearer the mouth of the river and close to the town.
The chief trade of Shoreham consists in the export of timber, and the import of coals, corn, timber, and Irish provisions ; and it is a warehousing port for all descriptions of timber, and for West Indian, Mediterranean, African, Russian, French, Dutch, and other produce. The number of vessels that annually enter the port exceeds 1,000, the united tonnage of which is 90,000, giving employment to 5,000 mariners. Shoreham has long been noted for its ship-building, which continues to flourish.
The borough of New Shoreham returned two members to parliament from the 23rd Edward III till the 11th George III, c.55, in which it was declared that a wicked and corrupt society, calling itself ‘The Christian Club,’ had for several years subsisted in the borough, and consisted of a great majority of persons having the right to vote ; that the chief end of that society appeared to be for the purpose of selling from time to time the seats of that borough, and that John Burnett and eighty others were members of such society. It was therefore enacted that these eighty-one persons should be thenceforth disqualified from ever giving a vote at any election for members to serve in parliament ; and that the right of voting should thenceforth be exercised by every 40 shilling freeholder within the rape of Bramber, as well as by the burgesses of New Shoreham.
The town is irregularly built, and the houses are for the most part old. A corn-market is held on Mondays. Shoreham is within the diocese of Chichester. The church, dedicated to St. Nicholas, is a large and elaborately finished edifice : the mixture of the round and Gothic arches fixes its date about the middle or latter end of the twelfth century. It was originally a stately and capacious edifice of a cruciform shape, with a handsome tower in the centre of the cross, but the nave has long been destroyed. The living is a vicarage, the present endowment of which consists of £20 from tithe and glebe, and the interest of £200 private benefaction, £800 royal bounty, and £800 parliamentary grant. The population of the parish, in 1831, amounted to 1,503.