Sea Captains’ Mutual Benevolent Society Insurance 1853

An historically important document recording the signatures of those Shoreham Master Mariners who took out insurance and assurance cover prior to their voyages. Each were indemnified for up to £40 against loss of their nautical instruments, charts and clothes and a full £40 in the case of their death payable to the widow or nearest relative. Shoreham born Thomas Brown Kirton of Queen’s Place who wrote and signed the front page conditions of the document was himself a shipowner.

The year 1853 could be misread as 1833 but has been discounted as many of the ships named were not built until after the latter. Some entries only show the year but a few do include a date – were these the date the ships were due to sail or just when they were added to the policy? In the case of James Francis of the War Hawk it had to be near the maiden voyage as the date entered was only six days after the launching!

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The Early Bungalows

Before the bungalows arrived the chemical works, cholera hospital, coastguard station, and a few boat and fishermen’s huts were about the only buildings on the beach. The location of the earliest bungalows can be seen on the 1898 Ordnance Survey map. Matching this to the 1930’s Bungalow Town map and lists shows that these first bungalows were named, from west to east, Kittiwake, Arcadia, Struan Lee, Rhodesia, Lazyland, Sea View, Sea Spray, Coronation, Shoreham Dene, Waterville and Canaan (the empty rectangles were plots for later bungalow to be built on them but some don’t seem to have materialised.

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The Old Town Hall

Built as a Custom House in 1830 by George Henry Hooper at the expense of the ancient Poole family mansion that had stood on the same site for centuries before. Hooper was himself a descendant of the Poole family and the new building was, initially at least, an attractive one designed by Sydney Smirke R.A, but its appearance was somewhat compromised during the subsequent enlargements of 1920.

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Ropetackle – the last 300 years

– a collection of images from the galleries and collections of shorehambysea.com illustrating the changes to the area since the 18th century.

What a wonderfully eccentric place it was! Besides a fascinating ropemaking and shipbuilding past there were, in Victorian times, ancient buildings still standing, quaint cottages, wharf houses, a gas works and, spookily, a mortuary alongside an incinerator! In the Little High Street there were peculiarly shaped houses and strange, shop-like windows.

It was never a fashionable area, being part industrial and part residential where the poorer, labouring families largely dwelt. In 1817 William Butler’s poor grammar  described it as being “the lower ‘hend’ of town” and goes on to mention a ‘pour new’ shop where he had ‘connections’ with Sarah Fillaps. Something of a mystery and perhaps a pawn shop (a corruption of the French ‘for us’) or as William’s escapades suggest one of the numerous brothels in Shoreham port then?

During the early part of the 19th century Ropetackle included wharf houses, sheds, a brickyard, coal yard, a bonding pond, Thomas Clayton’s deal yard, his cement factory, stables, a mixture of 17th to 19th century houses and even a mill pond. By the Victorian era there was also a sewage plant and of course the gasworks, flint-built ware houses, incinerator and mortuary. It all added to a certain air of eeriness and mystery to the area.

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HMS Dover

Naval sketches of the fourth rate, 48 guns,  three-decked man-of-war HMS Dover, built at Shoreham in 1653, give the impression of a very large ship. Surprisingly at 533 tons and keel length of 104 feet it was very similar in terms of length and tonnage to many of Shoreham’s typical 19th century home built merchantmen such as the Shamrock 500 tons/117 feet; Agricola 600 tons/119 feet and Cambria 500 tons/116 feet.


Visual comparisons perhaps give more idea of sizes and this view of an average 19th century vessel between the Dover (left) and the considerably larger Britannia (right, recorded at 800 tons and a length of 140 feet) reveals a perhaps diminutive but nevertheless beautiful example of Shoreham’s shipbuilding history.

East Street Arms

The sad loss (besides others) of the two southern-most buildings on the east side of East Street included the East Street Arms inn. More usually seen from a distance in photos from the church tower this rare shot reveals it in more detail. (from a Michael J. Fox photo)

1920’s Shoreham

An absolute cracker of a 1920’s photo of Ernie Butcher and Maude Paige, later to marry and become Portslade residents – but where in Shoreham is the location? (photo from Sharon Willard).

The building is Adur House located on the Brighton Road. (photo from Lofty)
This was demolished to make way for the new (now old) Civic Centre.

Clearing the Harbour

Top – two men digging aither side of a barge (1920’s Harbour Trustees photo). The aerial shot of similar period shows three barges together near the back of the Victory suggesting perhaps a permanent mooring and therefore a permanent function – e.g., the regular scouring of the mud flats by hand near that point.
The old dredgers were perhaps unable to operate away from the main channel even at high tide until they got through the locks. The photo shows the barge outside the round marker bouys of the main channel.
Even dredging by hand gradually between hightides (common in Victorian times) over a period of time may well have been effective “for shovelling away by navvies called muckshifters…..” until relatively recent times when dredgers had more efficient mechanisms and shallower draughts as the whole area there inside and outside of the old main channel seems now to be maintained at 1.9 metres.
Is that what is happening here …. or have they just grounded?