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  THE STORY OF SHOREHAM       EXCUSED FROM TAXATION  
                     
ground known as Stone Gate. This may not imply the former existence of an actual gateway but may well indicate a metalled road forming a " gate " (i.e., an entrance) into the town from this direction. A strip of land accompanying the Green Lane and dividing it from the site of the stream was known as the Green Dam. A " dam " of any sort can scarcely have been required to restrain a small and insignificant stream-and in the direction of its length, too-and seems clear proof that what existed there was a very large volume of water which had to be kept within bounds. This would be the broadening mouth of the Northbourne, above where it emptied into the estuary, and the upper end of the harbour itself.   by the time the 15th century was reached, to an " overlap " of the mouth that diverted the latter, about its own width, further east. Probably by then, too, the sand-banks, subsequently known as the Mardyke Bank and the Scurvy Bank, were forming and presently blocked the approach to the haven within the river.
  Meanwhile, the destruction of that part of the town situated south of the High Street proceeded apace, being doubtless assisted by the efforts of the partially blocked river to get past the sandbanks now beginning to choke its outlet. Before the latter half of the 15th century Shoreham was, for the time being, ruined.
It is possible that the harbour, in this position, may have served Old Shoreham first. In that case, of course, the theory that " New " Shoreham succeeded " Old " Shoreham, on account of increasing difficulty of access to the harbour, would have to be abandoned.   Indeed, there is an entry in Bishop Robert Read's Register, dated January 16th, 1404, which tells us that the collectors of the 10th were inhibited at that early date from exacting tax from Shoreham, which was one of the benefices described as " destroyed by the sea." In 1432 the inhabitants of the town, shrunk from about 2,500 to a poor 200 or less, petitioned Parliament for a reduction of the assessment of 12s. for the 10th due to the Crown, "as by the encroachment of the sea and other causes they are not able to pay the same," and between the years 1472 and 1496 it is on record that the town was exempted from contributing to the 10ths and 15ths nine times. In 1489 the town was excused from contributing to the tax for raising " an armee of 10,000 archers for the defence of the realme against its auncyen enemies." The petition from Parliament to King Henry VII. anent this matter expressly stated that " the Borough of Newe Shoreham in the Shire of Sussex " was " now greatly wasted by the sea and the inhabitants much impoverished thereby." The towns of Lincoln, Great Yarmouth, and Cambridge were also exempted from the tax on account of their poverty.
           
There had doubtless been some early trouble at the river-mouth -the conflict between the tides would have led to a certain amount of deposit in the river-bed and to a consequent difficulty in entering and leaving the haven at times. In the absence of methods of prevention, familiar to us moderns, a sort of " harbour bar " would have been always in danger of forming.  
Some indication of these early troubles may be discerned in the agreement between Philip de Braose and the Abbot of Fecamp before mentioned. The latter had property at Steyning (the " Port of St. Cuthman ") and ships on their way to that place were impeded by a bridge maintained at Bramber by de Braose. The agreement records an arrangement by which the bridge was evidently to be prevented from being an obstruction in the future. Apparently its shape was to be modified (probably by a drawbridge, which could be raised) to let the ships through. What is evident, however, is that in spite of this plan some obstruction was still anticipated, and this may have been due to a decrease at times in the amount of water in the river. This was in 1103. Whether tidal difficulties were the cause or not it seems apparent that the trouble did not become really acute till the 14th century. By that time the changes in the coast-line were probably beginning to affect the haven.   The gradual formation at last of a spit of land on the west side of the river-mouth, from which the accumulation of beach could extend eastward, no doubt led,  
  The type of vessel coming into use at this time required more depth of water than former ships had done and the haven must have become incapable of accommodating its former number. In the early part of the 15th century some attempt seems to have been made to give a much-needed stimulus to the fortunes of the town. Permission was given to pilgrims to embark from it as well as from Dover.   But measures of this kind were valueless in face of the fact that the forces of nature seemed arrayed against the place.   The torpor which followed the
                     
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Copyright © Martin Snow 2002 All rights reserved
Revised 27 February 2002