Each time I travel around the district I become more aware of historical and interesting facets of our locality.
I was taking another look at Pagham and Nyetimber recently, an area I feel sure that still many people think is ‘out there’ but do not travel to see what is available. I would say that there are still some companies, organisations and people who will insist in stating that they live in Pagham, near Chichester, to them I say ‘what about Bognor Regis’?
There are so many aspects that it is difficult to know where to start. Did you know, for instance, that the original village of Pagham was at one time one of the largest ports in England and was used to send wool to Europe? However, the harbour silted up in the 14th century and the wealth of the area diminished.
Let us first go down to the beach – here it is possible to walk and see one of the Mulberry harbours that were constructed as part of the war effort in 1944. On the beach, a large rock was once placed, with a plaque providing information on this particular part of the war effort, and also to act as a memorial to mark the 55th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 1944, also the historic association of Pagham beach with these Mulberry harbours. The boulder has since been removed because of the erosion of the beach.
The artificial harbours were 6,000-ton structures used during the liberation of Europe and by June 5, 1944, had been assembled between Pagham Beach and Selsey. This was done apparently to ‘hide them from enemy view’. During the summer of 1944, they were used along the Normandy coast to allow thousands of men and equipment to land as part of the invasion at that time.
The Pagham beach area has, of course, over the years come in for many historical reviews and articles both in the national and local press, also in certain magazines for the interesting homes that were created with the arrival of the railway carriages.
These were intended to be holiday homes, but over the years, the climate and location made them an excellent area for permanent residence, and now these carriages have been swallowed into more modern homes.
It is still possible to see the outline of some of the carriages in gardens being used as sheds, or as part of club houses. Sometimes, when homes are sold today, they include the phrase ‘complete with interesting features,’ this can mean original windows, frames or other memorabilia from the original carriages.
The railway carriages have, of course, featured on numerous postcards. One such set had a notation on the reverse stating, they were obtainable from G. Morris, Adames Lane, Tel. Pagham 16. Mr.
Morris was, in fact, the local stationer and newsagent, who appeared to take photos of various railway carriages and have them for sale in his shop. Adames Lane is today known as Sea Lane, Pagham.
Church Farm holiday complex today dominates any aerial view of the district, but it also had a Second World War use, such as a firing range, and also one area in the complex became known as the ballast hole!
Still staying in this vicinity we have the church of St Thomas a’Becket. The Saxons built the first church in the 7th century AD, on land given by Caedulla, the King of Wessex to St Wilfrid, in gratitude for having saved the people of the area from starvation.
With that amount of history, it is certainly somewhere to visit. One feature of great interest is the Rose Window, presented by Sir Arthur du Cros in memory of the convalescence of King George V.
There are so many interesting facts connected with this church I suggest you pay a visit.
Over the years, the visitor to any area would have looked for a welcoming hostelry and they would have been well catered for with The Lion and The Lamb. Each of these premises has its own tale to tell, such as The Lion, which is thought to have been built in the 15th century, and there are tales smugglers used it, and that it contains a priest hole and a secret panel.
The Lamb is reputed to have been built about 1702/6 and was an early ale house. The Bear has had two sites. The nearby Inglenook Hotel was developed from the conversion of two cottages about 400–500 years ago. More recently, the Kings Beach was opened during the expansion of the area in the 1930s. Its name derived from the fact that King George V stayed at Craigweil, which fronted on to the local beach. The pub has since become a convenience store but the building is still recognisable.
Walking around the village there are so many hidden aspects of history, such as the windmill which is now a retirement housing association, one of the ‘oldest houses in the land’, which is currently a convalescent home situated in a cul-de-sac. Originally, it would have been a house along a typical farm track of the time. There are also quite a number of thatched cottages, some on the main roads, others hidden behind modern constructions.
The 1807 Guide to Bognor or Hothamton provides only a brief description of the area, but states that it is ‘at least four miles distant from Bognor, and though not much frequented by company, its proximity to the sea, its harbour, and situation at the base of a peninsula, claim our notice, or, at least, amply repay the trouble of a visit’.
In 1964, much of the area around the sea was declared a nature reserve and this now includes more than 700 acres of salt marsh and nearly 400 acres of farmland. The area is frequented not only by wintering wildfowl and migrating waders but also by us, the general public, who come to enjoy the peace and solitude of the area.
take the chance to have a look at this area’s features while enjoying the surroundings.