During the 1950’s when roads were much quieter we would occasionally cycle up to West Grinstead railway station where one of my predecessors served as stationmaster there in the 1880’s. Rather than returning on the busier road we would drop down to pick up the B2135 to Partridge Green and on to Shoreham.
The first part of the route took us past the catholic church ‘Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation’ at West Grinstead, resting place of the much loved Sussex writer and historian Hilaire Belloc and his wife, then continued along a pretty, meandering switchback of a road with occasional views in the distance to the South Downs.
For centuries Shoreham folk have earned a living from the sea and one hundred years or so ago the fishing families of Ratcliffe, Page, Laker and Maple were prominent. Perhaps the best known of them were the Maples who sold their fish and oysters from their shop at the west end of the High Street in one of the ancient cottages that once stood alongside the King’s Head pub. Continue reading “A Fisherman’s Tale – the Maple Family”
1942: 7 Canadian Soldiers die in accident on the river
The West Nova Scotia Regiment had been carrying out defensive and security duties at various places in the southeast of England before arriving at Worthing on the 22ndNovember 1941 from their previous posting at Newhaven. Here they took over responsibility for the area including Shoreham Airport from the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. The official strength of the Regiment at the time was 36 officers and 840 other ranks.
In the Shoreham area some billeting was arranged for the Canadians in local residents homes but others were also thought to have been housed at the Grammar School in Pond Road (the pupils had been evacuated) and more under canvas in the school’s playing fields, now the Greenacres housing estate, where a searchlight, anti aircraft gun and heavy machine gun emplacements were installed
Besides their day-to-day duties the men, like all soldiers from whatever regiment or country at the time, received ongoing training, route marches and exercises. The latter were necessarily made as realistic as possible to harden the men in readiness for what was anticipated to be an eventual return to the continent and renewed face-to-face conflict with the enemy.
A chance swop of postcards between collectors Neil De Ville and Alan Humphries revealed previously unnoticed buildings on Shoreham Beach. The image is of the old Norfolk Suspension Bridge and across the river below the bridge span two large shed-like structures can be made out.
The image has been postitively dated as 1921 by local historians at the time when the Bridge was being prepared for demolition so what were the mysterious buildings for? Their location looked to be near Ferry Road and at first sight 1927 aerial photographs seemed to confirm this by showing their likely footprints on the beach, not just of the structures but also a concrete raft or apron on their seaward side.
One of the regiments that carried out their training at Shoreham during WW1 was the Northamptonshire Regiment. Unusually despite wartime restrictions their stay there and at Southwick is comprehensively recorded in numerous photographs that were taken at the time.
One soldier who served with the Northamptonshires and trained at Shoreham was Albert Warren of whom we are lucky enough to know a little more through a magazine article in Albert’s home town and letters that he wrote home whilst serving his country.
Before the war Albert, or Bert to his friends and family, worked with his father at the local brickworks and at the outbreak of hostilities at the age of 21 enlisted with the 7thBattalion of the Northamptonshires.
In 1782 Shoreham shipbuilder John Edwards is shown as owning land called ‘David’s Marsh’ where today’s Swiss Gardens School now stands, together with, just below it, ‘a meadow embanked.’ This was later acquired by his son-in-law John Britten Balley, his partner in the ship building business. Hitherto, the area had been unsuitable, marsh-land saturated by the waters of the Northbourne Stream on its last stretch before it emptied into the River Adur. The stream’s embankment of 1782 largely cured all that providing Balley with an opportunity to develop the land.
It turns out that three past and present Shoreham residents Brian Bazen, Denis Turrell and I are linked in a surprising set of coincidences. Earlier this year I was looking through Bob Hill’s collection of Old Shoreham photographs (he wrote the booklets ‘Old Shoreham Village & Farms’) in Marlipins Museum and found one of a V1 flying bomb (they were known generally as doodlebugs) that was taken through a window.
Shoreham historian Henry Cheal tells us that following the great storm of 1703 that blew down the town’s original market house another was built in its stead in 1711 on 10 columns and stood opposite the Crown and Anchor pub.The new market house was described as having consisted of ‘an oblong canopy of freestone (a fine grained stone, usually sandstone or limestone) embellished with gothic ornaments, supported by ten columns’ and was ‘a fine piece of architecture.’ Was it merely a canopy or roof supported on columns – maybe not as Cheal refers to the new building as a market house? It was itself later removed and replaced by another market house contemptuously described as ‘a mean building of brick,’ in East Street near the New Road junction in 1823. From there we are told it was taken to the island at the bottom of Southdown Road where it would have been a landmark seen by the crowds on their way from the station to the popular Swiss Gardens.