The club was founded just after WW11 as Sussex Motor Yacht Club – Sailing Division. Racing was mainly in Merlins in the river during the early years.
Soldiers Point became our home in the 50s, a clubhouse was built in 1960 and a permanent slipway added in 1970
We are now a separate entity – Shoreham Sailing Club. We still have several Merlins but also fleets of Wayfarers, Fireballs, Phantoms, Lasers and a few cats as well as a growing number of asymmetrics in the Fast and Medium Handicap fleets.
Having secured a new lease at the start of 2006 we have embarked on an exciting phase to bring the facilities up to the superb standard of the sailing!. In Spring 2010 we refurbished the changing facilities and provided extra showers. and in 2011 we finally priovided a long awaited winch!
This, very brief summary, is offered temporarily while a full history and Honours Board is being compiled. It will be published here when ready. In the mean time if you have any interesting information or club memorabilia (an old lease for example!) please email me, Tim, at email@example.com with details and I’ll pass them on.
We’re the men of Sussex, Sussex by the Sea,
We plough and sow and reap and mow,
And useful men are we;
And when you go to Sussex, whoever you may be,
You may tell them all that we stand or fall for Sussex by the Sea!
Oh Sussex, Sussex by the Sea! Good old Sussex by the Sea!
You may tell them all that we stand or fall, for Sussex by the Sea.
A ditty that only makes sense when sung in very merry company.
Records show a settlement existed at Old Shoreham as far back as Roman times, when the river flowed straight out to sea and the ‘beach peninsula’ where our club lies simply did not exist. Ships carrying soldiers fresh from the continent called at Portus Adurni on the River Adur to pick up a pilot, before proceeding up river to the Roman village at Steyning which had a road connection to London.
Shoreham harbour itself started to become important during the time of the Normans. For three hundred years after the Norman conquest a great deal of trade between Shoreham and Normandy made the harbour the major route to the continent along the South coast.
In the days when the South Downs had forests Shoreham gained a considerable reputation for ship building. In 1346, 26 boats were commissioned to be built at Shoreham for the blockade of Calais during the 100 years war with France. In the 17th century Shoreham was still the chief Sussex port and was building 4th and 5th raters for the Royal Navy. Square-riggers were also being built as merchantmen. These were usually barques, brigantines and schooners.
Everything was made here in the yards along the river; masts, spars, sails, rope and blocks. In the town lived shipwrights, carpenters and sailmakers, as well as merchants and seamen. The anchorage for these wooden ships was in the river just off the town quay by the old Customs House.
Pleasure Trip Circa 1910The merchant ships were needed locally as during the 1300’s wool and huge quantities of salt left from Shoreham bound for the continent. Unfortunately it seems likely that one of the returning merchantmen came back to Shoreham carrying the Black Death in 1347/48, which then spread to wreak havoc on the whole country.The entrance to the river Adur had been shifting East until in the 10th century the outlet was close to where Hove Lagoon now provides novice sailboarders with somewhere to get wet. Indeed it was from around here that Charles II made his escape to France from the Roundheads in 1651.
The river was becoming increasingly difficult to navigate because silting had caused shoaling along its reach, and the harbour as a consequence was being crippled. In 1766 local merchants and interested parties managed to get Parliament to pass an act which established a port with a Board of Commissioners empowered to develop the river and establish a safe entrance. An entrance was then cut through the beach at Kingston and the piers built, so forming the outline of the harbour which we are now so familiar with.
An interesting footnote is that 18 Church Street, Shoreham, was the home of Captain Henry Roberts during the 1780’s, and after circumnavigating the globe no less than twice alongside Captain Cook, he was in charge of the long boat that bore Cook ashore to his fateful meeting with some rather annoyed Hawaiian locals. 18 Church Street looks much today as it did back then.
Shoreham High Street 1920By 1820 nearby Brighton was fast developing and with the need for power and heat the coal trade was booming. With coal ships were arriving from the North on every tide, the port of Shoreham prospered as never before, but this golden age was to be short lived. During the Victorian era things began to change with wood being rapidly superseded by Iron as the preferred maritime material. The world was demanding Iron ships, but the builders of Shoreham put their heads into the river mud and were left behind. The last of the square riggers to be built on the river was the 800 tonner Osman Pasha which was launched in 1878, marking the end of an era.
Fishing provided livelihoods for around a hundred boats in the 1880’s, with most of their effort being directed at the mid-channel oyster beds. It was recorded that in 1850 some 200,000 tons of oysters and scallops were sent inland by rail from Shoreham, destined for fishmongers slabs in the capital.MTB – Motor Torpedo Boat
Right up to the 1980’s boat building continued on a small scale, with a lot of activity during the 2nd World War when the yards turned their hands to building Motor Torpedo Boats, which of course were built for lightness from plywood. Many of these MTB’s served on the south coast, and even took part in Dunkirk and the D-Day landings. Today a few of these once sleek hulls have been converted into houseboats, and can be seen on the mud flats along the river opposite the town). Sadly the last of the yards has now closed and its latter day GRP moulds broken up, however you can still find the occasional square rigger being refitted in the dry dock beyond the lock gates of the eastern harbour.
Shoreham beach itself was largely empty scrubland until around the 1920’s when it became something of a colony for entertainers. Named by some forgotten hack as ‘bungalow village’ , the peninsula became well known for its beach homes created from old railway carriages.
Redundant cars from the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway had their wheels and bogies removed and were brought to the beach from the Lancing carriage works (usually by a horse drawn trailer). Once on the beach, two of these crarriages were placed alongside each other on a ‘concrete raft’, and a roof erected between the two cars, which was then walled off with timber to create a quick-build holiday chalet (one of these carriages was recently removed from the structure of a surviving beach chalet by a railway preservation society). Being made largely from timber and with rudimentary oil lights and stoves to provide heat, fire was a very real hazard.
From around 1914-1920 the beach was also known for its great light, which lead to the development of a rudimentary film industry with silent movies being turned out in rickety studios, with locals drafted in as extras.
One of these early film makers was Francis Lyndhurst, the Grandfather of Nicholas Lyndhurst, star of today’s Only Fools and Horses. Another famous resident of the beach at this time was Sir Malcolm Cambell, who was well known for roaring around in a large and noisy Bugatti.
It was only in 1921 that the current footbridge from the town to beach was opened to replace small ferryboats. There is an early picture of this toll bridge (1 penny each way) with an indistinct notice directing people to the hospital, which may have related to the Cholera Hospital which was supposed to have stood on the river bank where the present day Emerald Quay development stands.
The picture on the right shows two of Shoreham’s great mystery towers under construction by the Royal Engineers in 1918. These huge concrete structures could be floated at high tide, and were intended as mobile forts that could be towed to a strategic position and then sunk. This picture may strike a chord with Solent yachtsmen, as after the First World War one of these towers was towed along the coast to become the famous Nab Tower off the Isle of Wight.Concrete Mobile Forts 1918
Much of the original beach area was flattened during the Second World War by the army. The South coast was girding its loins ready for invasion by the axis forces, and the peninsula on which Bungalow Village stood would have made a great beach-head. Consequently the area was evacuated and extensive defenses erected. If you walk along the beach above the high water mark you can find the crumbling remains marking what is left of original concrete chalet rafts.
This potted history was originally written by Nick le Mare, and then expanded upon with the help of a splendid book called Shoreham-by-Sea Past and Present by Edward Colquhoun & K.T. Nethercoate-Bryant. This is mainly a fascinating pictorial history of the town and can be found in Sussex Stationers on East Street. (ISBN number 0-7509-1560-9).
If anyone visiting this site can expand on the maritime history of Shoreham, or perhaps have any pictures relating to the old town and port, we would be delighted to hear from you.