LITTLEHAMPTON - A History of Promise

The seaside town of Littlehampton, home to the Body Shop, the contentious East Beach Cafe and – of course - the world’s longest bench!

While its status of a prosperous port and holiday destination brought it economic success during the 19th and 20th centuries, Littlehampton’s industry has since been in decline, and as such, this once flourishing seaside resort is now better known as a home to the single parent family and the motability scooter. In fact so popular is the motability scooter around Littlehampton, there appears to be a growing underground culture of serious pimping!

Of course there is more to Littlehampton than just a struggling social class. The harbour has been witness to centuries of shipping activity which dates back to roman times.

The fishing industry was once very strong, with lobsterpots and nets being assembled all along the pier road. In fact, even an oyster bed was found off the local beaches and the Oyster Pond – a well known land mark - was later created in 1822 to store them – of course now it’s just a regular pond.

As the coal and timber trade declined during the 20th century, agricultural imports increased. Then from 1967 the harbour began to receive thousands of tons of limestone, granite and other heavy stone, unfortunately this trade also went into decline as the port was unable to compete with the likes of Southampton, Shoreham and Newhaven – all of which were able to receive much larger vessels.

Littlehampton’s future now lies mainly with leisure activities, but it does serve a lifeboat station – made famous for becoming the base for the first ever Blue Peter lifeboat.

The river Arun, around which the town of Littlehampton was built, has a history of dropping tons of sediment at the river mouth which can silt up its entrance. Over the centuries huge amounts of work has been carried out to both secure and increase the accessibility of the harbour which resulted in the east and west piers being extended out into sea in the late 1700’s.

The current lighthouse was constructed near the entrance of the east pier in 1948. Its predecessors included the well liked ‘Salt and Pepper Pots’. Unfortunately these were demolished during the Second World War because they provided clear landmarks for attacking the harbour. The pier itself is rather an overstatement of perhaps no more than 100 meters in length. However it does offer a fantastic view of the west pier – a huge wooden breakwater created from wooden piling that reaches far out into the Littlehampton Channel.

The harbour has also played a part in military operations. Henry VIII ships used Littlehampton Harbour as a supply port around the time of the flag ship - the Mary Rose. The Mary Rose accidentally sank in the Solent during an engagement with the French fleet in 1545.

During the Napoleonic wars a defensive fort was constructed on the western side of the harbour mouth in 1854. Unfortunately after 16 years it was inspected and found to be inadequate to defend the harbour due to the advances of modern artillery. That being the case it was dismantled in 1891 - but the rampart and Carnot wall are still in place and be seen from the West beach nature reserve.

Littlehampton has also had its fair share or celebrities – although no-one of note has been seen recently. During its heyday it had an almost hypnotic draw to the rich and famous including Shelley, Coleridge, and Lord Byron. Lord Byron actually swam the river which is no mean feat as the river Arun is one of the fastest of all the British rivers. He is seen here in a portrait which I presume to have been taken immediately after his swim. And, not least of course, was John Constable, who painted the harbour in 1835. Even Samuel Pepys – Admiralty inspector and famous diarist visited the Harbour during the 1660’s in order to keep a check the quality of timber that was being brought in to build admiralty ships.

Perhaps the most famous Englishman in history – Horatio Nelson - also found time to visit Littlehampton. Nelson was on a ship here in 1801 when Admiral Phillip returned orders to him in the Port. However he was not aboard HMS Victory as it was being repaired at the time – a tenuous link perhaps, but the town needs all the recognition it can get!

So what does the future hold for Littlehampton. Well in this current age of economic crisis perhaps not much or maybe just more of the same? However, at least some of the area’s natural beauty has national protection as this coastal area of west beach is now a site of special scientific interest. This area includes sand flats, the tide line, vegetated shingle, and sand dunes. This also includes the plants, birds, molluscs, reptiles and mammals which either live or feed on them. The most interesting of which are probably the cormorants, sand lizards and oyster catchers.

Although Littlehampton may no longer be a home to the beautiful people, it is still – and now likely to remain - an area of stunning natural beauty.

.For other films click onto:
MY LITTLEHAMPTON - A history of promise

For related articles click onto:
Charles Darwin's Greatest Experiment

Hever Castle, Viscount Astor and the Worlds Greatest Pleasure Garden
Plants and Trees of the Garden of Eden
RHS Wisley Gardens - A Photographic Walk Through

Rome: How to get to Villa D'Este from Rome

1 comment:

fer said...

Very nice videos! and your new website looks great!