Sidlesham History
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Sidlesham History

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The history of Sidlesham is well recorded in ‘Sidlesham – a look at the Past’ produced by the Parochial Church Council at the turn of the Millennium. Information is reproduced here from that publication and the Sidlesham Design Statement 2006

In 46AD the Romans landed in Pagham Harbour and the Saxon Aella landed along the Keynor rife near the site of the present village school in 477AD. St Wilfred is considered to have landed in Pagham Harbour at Church Norton. Street End Lane follows the line of a Roman Road and there are the remains of a Roman villa at Bird Pond. Sidlesham is recorded in the Domesday Book and the Normans built part of the present church in 1200AD.

Pagham Harbour has always been of significant importance to the area, by act of Parliament in the 19th century an attempt was made to reclaim it completely from the sea for agricultural use. A severe and prolonged storm in 1910 breached the shingle sea wall and the sea came back. Around the edge of the harbour many reclaimed fields still remain, protected from the high tide by earthen banks. In some of these fields the drainage channels of the harbour can be seen now covered by pasture grasses. A succession of mills was built on the harbour’s edge from the Middle Ages, the last mill at Sidlesham Quay ceased operations in 1865 and was dismantled in about 1918, the bricks and flagstones were re-used in local construction. For a brief period in 1944/45 the harbour was used as an aerial gunnery practice range for Spitfire and Hurricane fighter planes. Flights only allowed from the land towards the sea!

The Selsey Tram light railway was opened in 1897, drowned and almost destroyed when the sea returned in 1910, was rebuilt on an embankment then provided a questionable rail service from Selsey to Chichester until closing in 1935 when the ‘Wadeway’ at Ferry Pond was built up to form a causeway for the main road, linking Selsy to Sidlesham at all states of the tide. The tramway route can be seen in places and a platform at Chalder still exists. The Chichester, Sidlesham, Selsey cycle-way will follow part of the tram route alongside the harbour.

Motor vehicles have had a fundamental effect upon the parish. At the beginning of the 20th century transport was difficult and Sidlesham was self-sustaining with shops and facilities within the area sufficient to support the mainly agricultural and fishing inhabitants. Transport is now much easier by private cars and the regular bus service. As in the whole country very few are employed ‘on the land’, generally employment is at some distance. The 900+ adult inhabitants and their children rely on Chichester, Selsey and the Witterings for their needs. Sidlesham School was established in 1877 and continues to educate children up to the age of eleven.

A further significant change and increase in population came to Sidlesham in 1934 with the establishment of the Land Settlement Association (LSA). Former farms at Keynor, Fletchers and Street End encompassing about 800 acres of the best agricultural land in the south were passed over to several hundred government-sponsored emigrants from the depressed industrial north who, preceded by the men folk on self build projects, were accommodated in the houses with the distinctive ‘mansard’ hipped roofs, still very prominent today. The many nursery holdings in the parish are now all in private ownership as horticultural businesses or private houses.