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Earliest times

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Earliest Times

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How the Adur valley may have appeared


A
lthough there is debate about the exact course of the River Adur in ancient times it is certain that this valley proved attractive to settlers and it is likely that people have lived on its banks since the these islands were first populated by humans. Excavations in St Nicolas' churchyard have found evidence of activity in the Bronze Age and also Romano-British pottery.  The report by Archaeology South East says "the evidence suggests that Roman and prehistoric activity was taking place in the vicinity long before the foundation of the existing church".

T
he Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (right) relates that Ælle, an Anglo-Saxon overlord, came ashore at a place called Cymenes ora on the South Coast in 477. Having defeated the native inhabitants he became the first king of the South Saxons, the people who gave their name to Sussex. Historic claims that he landed near Shoreham are now considered unlikely, but it is thought that a church may have been founded near our river as early as 481.

Throughout recorded history the river has been called by a variety of names (such as Bramber Water, Sore, Wealdditch, Water of Knepp, Hulkesmouth, Water of Pende, Shoreham River) but the name Adur, which is now the title for the river and the administrative district, has only been used since the mid-eighteenth century when it was a poetic invention.  Shoreham itself comes from the Saxon meaning "dwelling, or settlement, by the shore".

Old Shoreham owes its existence to the geography of Sussex, being sited at a point where north/south travellers along the river valley crossed the east/west route along the coastal plain.   In Roman times and earlier, the estuary of the Adur covered a vast area, several miles across, west of the future site of Old Shoreham.   Where planes now take off from Shoreham airport there was, at high tide, an area of water and, at low tide, a maze of channels, mud flats and marsh.   The estuary narrowed inland, becoming two channels.   One led to Sompting church and the aptly named Broadwater in Worthing, but did not penetrate the chalk downs and hence was no hindrance to east/west traffic.   The other estuary of the Adur cut through the Downs and extended many miles into the Weald and, while providing access to the interior, was a major obstacle to traffic across the coastal plain.  

Travellers approaching from the west the site of the present ‘Sussex Pad’ inn.  ‘Pad’ is an old word for a causeway and this probably indicates how the river has been crossed since earliest times using the mid-stream mudbanks visible today.   At low tide the traveller could walk or ride over the causeway but at high water we must assume the existence of a ferry running from the small sheltered inlet just north of the inn to the small bay north of Old Shoreham church.   From here the traveller followed the northern part of The Street, crossed what is now Buckingham Park, and then continued on the line of the present Old Shoreham Road from the area of Southlands Hospital to Preston where they could join another road running north to London.




The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle