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  THE STORY OF SHOREHAM              
        SITUATION OF THE MEDIAEVAL HARBOUR  
               
                     
there might have been eventually an entire removal of the shingle spit again and a general break through of sea to river once more. As a matter of fact, at a much later period (the 18th century) the outlet from river to sea was once more almost direct, but as a whole the shingle spit has remained-to receive Bungalow Town.            
  list of property belonging to the Chantry in New Shoreham Church) must have come from Old Shoreham Parish, down in this direction. Ancient records mention two water-mills in the Parish of Old Shoreham and more particular reference to these will be found elsewhere in these pages.   For our present purpose it is sufficient to say that unless they were tidal-mills situated right on the side of the main river-which there is no evidence to show could have been the case-their position in Old Shoreham can have been nowhere else but at Little Buckingham. Here the Northbourne stream (rising still further north up the valley) would supply the ponds, afterwards flowing downwards and outwards in a westerly direction to join the main river over the site of the Meads, the Swiss Gardens, and the area whereon in modern times the adjacent streets were built.
           
Meanwhile, to go back to the Middle Ages, what was the effect of all these changes on the fortunes of the town ? It may be described in one word-disastrous ! The prosperity of Shoreham began seriously to suffer, for there was involved in all this the very core of the economic position of the place-the haven. And this brings in the very important question-where was the mediaeval harbour situated ?  
The evidence for placing it where shown on the map may be thus given. It is certain that no shelter for ships can have existed along the outer coast-line, and while the river still had almost a straight course out to sea there was clearly nothing that could be called a haven merely in the river itself. The dashing in of the tides from the Channel on the one hand and the powerful current outwards, when the tide turned, on the other would, together, have the effect of making the river-mouth use!ess for such a purpose. In the absence of strong piers jutting out to sea-and it may well be doubted whether the engineering science available would have been capable of the construction of thesethe chief necessity would be a " pocket " of water lying; off the main course of the river. Where was such a pocket or backwater to be found ?  
  It is possible that, after entering New Shoreham Parish, the same stream supplied yet another water-mill, which may have been the main town mill, before emptying itself into the upper end of the broad estuary off the main river, which the levels indicate to have existed hereabouts. All this ground has evidently and inevitably received deposits, which have raised it as the: centuries passed considerably above its original level.
  Here, then, it is surely no extravagant speculation to infer, was situated the harbour of mediaeval Shoreham. In size it would not have compared badly with some modern ones in constant use for it probably had an area of some nine or ten acres. The ships of the Middle Ages were small compared with modern vessels and, above all, they were (especially in the earlier periods) of very shallow draught. A harbour situated here would have been possessed of all the essential conditions : it would be out of the storms and strong currents of the main river and would always have been able to provide sufficient depth of water. The Northbourne, as a feeder, would have contributed materially to this. It was, no doubt, a considerable stream, flowing down from a valley more thickly wooded than now, though trees are plentiful even at present. In former times, and not so many years back either, the trees are said to have closely approached the town of Shoreham.
Here, where present appearances baffle and the records are silent, tradition and the " old inhabitant " step in. The former asserts that " the river was once at the back of the town," the latter recalls the fact that fragments of a ship were once unearthed in the direction of the cemetery.   A further clue comes from the fact that all that part of the town has been found (during drainage excavations, etc.) to lie over a stratum of sea beach. With these indications as a starting point some levels have been taken for the special purpose of this enquiry. These levels disclose the fact that if existing banks were removed the high tides would flow over much of the land on the town-side of the cemetery known as the " Meads " and the former site of the Swiss Gardens. Further investigation shows that a stream (without doubt that referred to as the " Northbourne " in the  
  Finally it may be remarked that the road leading down beside the track of the Northbourne stream was known formerly as Green Lane. This seems to suggest a connection with " Green Street," the designation of so many old roads, and it leads to
           
                     
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Copyright © Martin Snow 2002 All rights reserved
Revised 27 February 2002