Saturday, June 4th 2016
Shoreham-by-Sea is a curious little town. I don’t know what it is like to live in but it is quite a pleasant place to visit. As you can see from the above map, the town is crossed by the River Adur and it is on the river, not on the sea, that you find Shoreham Harbour.
It is said that the name ‘Shoreham’ does not mean ‘town on the shore’. There is, however, uncertainty about the true derivation of the name. The last part, ham, no doubt comes from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning a settlement or village but the first part, ‘shore’ is less clear. Several sources (possibly copying one another) allege that it comes from a word scor (pronounced ‘shor’), meaning a slope. If this is correct, the name would mean something like ‘town on the slope’. However, having searched several Anglo-Saxon references in vain for anything resembling scor in that meaning, I have to say I am unconvinced, especially as the putative slope on which the town supposedly sits is far from noticeable. The question remains in abeyance until further information becomes available.
We arrived by train at the small railway station. It is typical of the railway stations in the area and was built in the Victorian era, though I do not know the exact date. The railway line crosses Brunswick Road via a level crossing.
Outside the station, taxis were parked in a row awaiting customers. One of the drivers sat in his cab eating his lunch and a couple of herring gulls stood patiently beside the car, obviously in the hope that they might share in the feast. I don’t think their luck was in today.
This tidy but obviously ecclesiastical building is the Shoreham-by-Sea Methodist Church. There’s not much to say about it (but if you want to known more, see the Website) except that building began in 1902. We know this because there are at least four foundation stones, all dated March 7th, 1902.
Opposite the church is the Vintage Emporium, a covered market selling not-quite-antiques (or far-from-antiques, in some cases). I did buy a secondhand book here to read on our forthcoming holidays (The Pelican Brief by John Grisham, in case you are interested). Here too we found the Artisan Cafe, where we stopped off for coffee and cake.
Suitably fortified, we went on to our next point of interest. The Church of St Mary de Haura is the Anglican parish church of what is now part of Shoreham-by-Sea but was once a separate settlement and port built by the Normans and known as New Shoreham. The unusual name of the church derives from the port that at some point came to be known as Le Haura, meaning ‘the harbour’ or ‘the haven’ (c.f. Le Havre). Thus the church became ‘St Mary of the Harbour’, a name it still retains.
On the churchyard wall we saw a gull, apparently very calm and self-possessed, untroubled by the coming and going of people. What he was waiting for, I do not know, but he seemed to have expectations of some kind.
The church was hosting an exhibition of art by local people so it was open, which was good, but also crowded, which wasn’t so good as it made it difficult to take photos. (You may have noticed, or I might have mentioned, that I avoid pesky humans as far as possible.)
The church we see today is only a part of the original foundation. More fabric lies behind the church but now in a ruinous condition. That original foundation was the work of the local Norman baron, Philip de Braose, son of William, who had come to England with William the Conqueror and been rewarded, as was the custom, with a grant of land (and, of course, the people who happened to live on that land). Building began around 1100 and continued until at least 1130 or 1140, though modifications and repairs were done at various times after that.
Despite not being all there, so to speak, the church is quite grandiose, especially for a relatively small community. On the other hand, we should recognize that people like de Braose built churches to enhance the own prestige and also to generate income from the lands with which they endowed them.
One of the side chapels, St George’s, is set aside for individual prayer but it is also a memorial to the fallen of the Second World War.
St Mary’s has a good collection of stained-glass windows, some very beautiful, and I have gathered six of them together as a slide show.
We walked down to the Adur and crossed it by the Ferry Bridge. From the bridge, you have good views up and down the river. In the above picture, we are looking downriver, that is, roughly east.
The Adur is tidal here (and for quite a way upstream) and this has produced broad sweeps of sand bank (or mud bank) where ships can be permanently berthed and used as homes. There are a few such houseboats in view looking east from the bridge and a well known population or fifty or so along the south bank behind us. That is a subject I have covered before (see, for example, Riverbank houseboats, Shoreham).
In the above view, we are looking from the south side of the river towards the north bank. We see an extent of tidal sand bank, then the river, and then the houses beyond. Near the left of the photo the tower of St Mary de Haura is visible.
We now started a long walk eastwards along the beach. Here, the beach is a broad stretch of shingle between the sea and the houses of Beach Road and Old Fort Road. There are not many points of access to the beach other than walking from either end. Consequently, the beach here is relatively undisturbed and we find flowers and sea kale growing on the shingle. Walking far on loose pebbles is quite tiring and made the walk seem longer than it really was.
A clue to our destination appears in the name of the road mentioned above – Old Fort Road.
Officially known as the Shoreham Redoubt but popularly called Shoreham Fort or the Old Fort, this stronghold was built in the mid-19th century to defend the Adur and its port from possible enemy attack, especially the French. There was some sort of event in progress at the fort that involved people wearing military uniforms of different periods, together vehicles and weapons, etc. There were also many sightseers milling around, creating the sort of conditions which I dislike, so I was glad to leave.
Rather than undertake the long walk back along the beach, we went into the streets and found a bus stop. Happily, we did not have to wait long for a bus.
We had a longer wait at the station for a train but this too arrived at last, ending our visit to Shoreham for today. We shall return, though, because we are quite fond of the town and have happy memories of it.