How the Adur valley may
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".
The 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