Old and New Shoreham: Local government and public services

Pages 164-166

A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 1, Bramber Rape (Southern Part). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1980.

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The Duchy of Cornwall manor of Old Shoreham had by 1300 its own view of frankpledge at which each villein owed one appearance a year. (fn. 1) The jurisdiction presumably included the Abberbury sub-manor, for which a separate court baron was recorded in 1334. (fn. 2) In the early 14th century the courts of the Duchy manor seem to have been held irregularly, (fn. 3) but surviving rolls for 1643 and 1644 suggest that the court leet was held at least once a year and included tenurial business; the office or bailiff revolved by turn and could be served by deputy, and the outgoing bailiff became reeve or 'chief'. The stocks were then out of repair. (fn. 4) A continuous record of courts from 1706 shows the leet and the court baron meeting once a year on the same day, but separately recorded. From 1736 for 50 years the leet was not recorded and the court baron met in alternate years, from 1786 the two again met on the same day but at intervals of up to 3 years until 1806, and from then until 1832 the court leet, though held more often than the general court baron, met at intervals of up to 5 years. Court baron business, recorded until 1903, was increasingly done in special courts or out of court; a solitary court leet was held in 1844. (fn. 5)

Erringham Bruce manor had a court in 1293, (fn. 6) but suit of the whole of Erringham was claimed in 1352 for the leet of Bramber rape. (fn. 7) In the 16th century Erringham and Old Shoreham or Southbrook (i.e. Old Shoreham excluding the Duchy manor and Erringham) were each a tithing represented by a headborough at the Burbeach hundred view of frankpledge. (fn. 8) A court for the manor of Rusper or Old Shoreham, of which there is a court book for 1786-1848, dealt exclusively with tenures in Brighton. (fn. 9) No court for Buckinghams is recorded, but in 1876 and 1889 a court for the tenants in Beeding, Horton, and Old Shoreham of Harry Bridger, owner of Buckinghams, was summoned to meet at Beeding Court Farm, Upper Beeding. (fn. 10)

In 1821 it was stated that for many years there had been no proper vestry meetings for Old Shoreham, some of the inhabitants meeting among themselves to nominate each other as officers; an attempt by one of the ratepayers to put the vestry meetings and the accounts on a regular footing caused resistance. (fn. 11) Expenditure on poor-relief rose nearly fivefold between 1776 and 1803, but in 1803 the rate was well below the average for the rape. There was then a workhouse, perhaps more in the nature of a poorhouse, with 12 inmates whose labour earned £62 in the year, presumably by working outside since nothing was spent on materials. When the woman who managed the workhouse died she was not replaced, and the number of inmates fell to 4 in 1813 and 2 in 1815. (fn. 12) A fall in expenditure on poor relief after 1819, not characteristic of the area, (fn. 13) may be attributable to the employment made available by work on New Shoreham harbour. In 1835 there was no workhouse, and the single overseer, the only resident farmer, had served for 13 years in succession. (fn. 14) Old Shoreham became part of the Steyning union on its formation in 1835, (fn. 15) and the parish remained in Steyning rural district later. It was included in 1933 in Shoreham-by-Sea urban district, which itself became part of the Adur district in 1974. (fn. 16)

New Shoreham appears to have had a reeve in 1182, and may have had some form of corporate identity in 1189 when the men of Shoreham paid a fine for using false measures. (fn. 17) In 1209 the townsmen of Shoreham paid £20 for having their town at a farm of £70 a year and for liberties which they had previously enjoyed during the king's pleasure. (fn. 18) Bailiffs were recorded from the 1220s, (fn. 19) and Shoreham was called a borough in 1235. (fn. 20) The borough was separately represented by twelve jurors at the eyre of 1248, (fn. 21) and was treated as extra-hundredal in 1296. (fn. 22) In the mid 13th century the governors of Shoreham were addressed as the barons and bailiffs. (fn. 23) In the earlier 14th century the town appears to have been governed by a mayor and bailiffs, (fn. 24) and in 1325 an inquiry was ordered on the town's petition for a charter. (fn. 25) That no charter was granted may have resulted either from the extinction of the life-interest granted by William de Braose to the Crown and the annulment of the reversion granted to Hugh le Despenser (fn. 26) or from the decline of the port and the town at about that time. The town's sense of community is attested by its use of a seal in 1328. (fn. 27)

No reference to a mayor has been found after 1346, (fn. 28) but single bailiffs continued into the 15th century. (fn. 29) The town was then governed through a court which presumably held the assize of bread and of ale, which the lord of the borough had claimed along with arrivage and other tolls and customs in 1279. (fn. 30) The court was recorded in 1368 as yielding £3 6s. 8d. a year (fn. 31) and apparently appointed the two constables recorded in the 15th century. (fn. 32) Rolls of the court with view of frankpledge and the assize survive for 1538 (fn. 33) and 1572, (fn. 34) and there are court books and other court papers for the periods 1665- 1851 and 1870-1925. (fn. 35) By 1572 only one constable was appointed in the court, though the 'chief' appointed at the same time may have been a vestige of the second constable. (fn. 36) In 1649 the borough constable had served the office for two years because no leet had been held; quarter sessions ordered his discharge and the appointment of a successor. (fn. 37)

The borough and manor court recorded from 1665 (called simply the manor court from 1890) dealt with tenurial business. It met annually, and in the 17th century rather more frequently, until 1917, though from the 19th century business was increasingly done in special courts, and from 1917 to 1925 business was done out of court. (fn. 38) The court leet, held separately from the borough and manor court, met annually in October by the late 17th century. In 1706 the court appointed a bailiff and a reeve, and in 1733 a constable, a headborough, two aleconners, a coal-meter, a crier and pound-keeper, and two leather-sealers. (fn. 39) In 1827 the leet still met annually and appointed the same officers except that there were no leather-sealers and only one aleconner; through the increase in trade the coalmeter's toll had become a source of considerable profit. (fn. 40) After 1771 (fn. 41) two constables, called high constables by 1845, were appointed but the number was later reduced again to one. (fn. 42) The leet dinner was still being held in 1877, and the leet was called in 1879. (fn. 43)

The parish of New Shoreham, which appears to have met the borough constable's expenses and paid the town crier, (fn. 44) established a workhouse in 1754, where all those in receipt of a weekly allowance were to live, being supplied with bedding, working tools, and one meal a day by a contractor. (fn. 45) What was presumably the same institution was called the poorhouse in 1782. (fn. 46) Total expenditure on the poor rose less than threefold between 1776 and 1803, when the rates were little more than half the average for Bramber rape. The workhouse, as it was called in 1803 though there is little evidence that work was done there, provided for 11 people, whereas 25 adults and 33 children were on regular outdoor relief. Ten years later the number in the workhouse had risen to 16 and the number of adults on outdoor relief was 20. (fn. 47) A decline in the cost of poor-relief in the later 1820s, not matched in the county as a whole, may be attributable to the greater prosperity of the harbour, but by 1835, in which year New Shoreham became part of the Steyning union, the cost had almost surpassed the peak reached in 1821, (fn. 48) and the workhouse was again referred to as a poorhouse. (fn. 49)

The inability of either the borough court leet or the parish vestry to deal effectively with the town's problems in the 19th century moved the parish in 1865 to adopt the Local Government Act, 1858, and form a local board of health. The board of 12 members (fn. 50) first met in 1866 and made by-laws, appointed a clerk, treasurer, collector, medical officer, and surveyor, and resolved to meet once a month. The medical officer in 1882 was also the high constable. The board, whose main concerns were drainage, nuisances, and repairing and lighting the streets, met in Dolphin Chambers until 1875, when it moved into the former National school building in East Street (fn. 51) (later called the old town hall), (fn. 52) and in 1890 took a lease of the customhouse in High Street; (fn. 53) that building became the town hall and was bought in 1911 by the urban district council (fn. 54) which replaced the local board under the Act of 1894. The membership of the council was increased from 12 to 15 in 1910 when the district was enlarged and divided into four wards; (fn. 55) the district was redivided before 1961 into six wards, the boundaries being afterwards adjusted and the membership being increased to eighteen. (fn. 56)

Street lighting in New Shoreham, Southwick, and Kingston using gas supplied by the Brighton General Gas Light & Coke Co. was authorized in 1839, (fn. 57) and by the 1860s the streets were so lit by contract with the local board. (fn. 58) The Shoreham and District Constant Service Waterworks Co., estab lished in 1868, was empowered in 1870 to supply an area including both Shorehams, Southwick, and Kingston (fn. 59) and did so from a natural spring which gave, through a reservoir, a constant and sufficient supply; (fn. 60) the undertaking was transferred to Brighton corporation in 1896. (fn. 61) The local board had completed main drainage works by 1872, (fn. 62) and opened the cemetery on the boundary between Old and New Shoreham in 1886. (fn. 63) Electricity was provided under an order of 1922 by the Shoreham and District Electric Light and Power Co., (fn. 64) which obtained its supply from Brighton corporation. (fn. 65)

The Steyning union workhouse built in the 1830s in Ham Road was enlarged in 1882 by the addition of two large infirmary wings which survived when the original main block was demolished in 1906 and were used over the next 50 years as children's homes under the county council, being themselves demolished in the 1970s. The union infirmary was rebuilt on a new site ¾ mile north-east of the town just across the boundary with Kingston, (fn. 66) and on its transfer to the National Health Service became a general hospital called Southlands, which was much enlarged and improved in the 1970s. (fn. 67) A health centre in Pound Road just north of New Shoreham parish church was opened c. 1974. (fn. 68)

There was a post office in New Shoreham by 1699 (fn. 69) and in the 1790s, (fn. 70) possibly in Middle Street which in the early 19th century was known as Post Office Lane. (fn. 71)


Borough Seal Of New Shoreham (½)

The matrices of the seal used by the borough in the early 14th century (fn. 72) are round, 2¾ in. in diameter, and made of latten. (fn. 73) On the obverse are the arms of de Braose, a lion rampant facing sinister (allegedly through the engraver's carelessness) (fn. 74) on a field of cross-crosslets, impaling the three leopards of England; legend, Lombardic, s(igillum) communitatis burgde de nova shoram brewes. On the reverse is the representation of a ship with human heads and cross-crosslets; legend, Lombardic, hoc hulci singno vocor os sic nomine dingno, which alludes to the name Hulksmouth used of the river or harbour in the 14th and 15th centuries and is best translated 'By this sign I am called hulk's mouth, and a worthy name it is'. The ship is said to be of the time of Edward III, (fn. 75) but the last word of the legend on the obverse suggests a date before 1324 when William de Braose surrendered his life-estate in the honor of Bramber, including New Shoreham. The lion rampant facing sinister on a field of cross-crosslets was used on its seal by the urban district council from 1894. (fn. 76)


  • 1. C 133/95 no. 17; cf. S.C. 6/1110/11 m. 16.
  • 2. C 135/37 no. 20.
  • 3. S.C. 6/1028/17.
  • 4. S.C. 2/206/40.
  • 5. Arundel Cast. MSS. M 176-7.
  • 6. E 149/2 no. 1.
  • 7. Cal. Pat. 1350-4, 335.
  • 8. Arundel Cast. MSS. M 279-80.
  • 9. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 377.
  • 10. Ibid. 378-9.
  • 11. Ibid. Ep. I/41/66.
  • 12. Poor Law Abstract, 1804, 516-17; 1818, 456-7.
  • 13. Poor Rate Returns, 1816-21, 174; 1822-4, 212; 1825-9, 202; 1830-4, 196.
  • 14. Rep. Com. Poor Laws [44], pp. 524b-c, H.C. (1834), xxxi-xxxii.
  • 15. Poor Law Com. 1st Rep. H.C. 500, p. 234 (1835), xxxv.
  • 16. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1930), 495; O.S. Map 1/625,000, Admin. Areas (1973 edn.).
  • 17. Pipe R. 1182 (P.R.S. xxxi), 90; 1189 (Rec. Com.), 211.
  • 18. Pipe R. 1209 (P.R.S. N.S. xxiv), 4.
  • 19. Rot. Lit. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i. 559; Cur. Reg. R. xiii, p. 114; Close R. 1227-31, 213, 245, 255, 298, 483, 582.
  • 20. Close R. 1234-7, 215.
  • 21. J.I. 1/909A rot. 25.
  • 22. Suss. Subsidies (S.R.S. x), 66-7.
  • 23. Close R. 1253-4, 137; 1259-61, 37.
  • 24. Rot. Scot. (Rec. Com.), i. 126; Cal. Close, 1346-9, 153.
  • 25. Cal. Pat. 1324-7, 227.
  • 26. See above, Bramber Rape.
  • 27. Magd. Coll. Oxf. Mun., Shoreham 17 (TS. cat.).
  • 28. Cal. Close, 1346-9, 153.
  • 29. e.g. Cat. Anct. D. iii, A 4092, A 4145, D 549.
  • 30. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 760.
  • 31. E 152/145 no. 2.
  • 32. Wedgwood, Hist. Parl. 1439-1500, Reg. 698.
  • 33. Arundel Cast. MS. M 279.
  • 34. Ibid. M 724.
  • 35. Ibid. M 166-70; M 172-5; M 266; M 301.
  • 36. Ibid. M 724; cf. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1635-6, 267.
  • 37. Q.S. Order Bk. (S.R.S. liv), 177-8.
  • 38. Arundel Cast. MSS. M 166-70; M 172-5; M 301.
  • 39. Ibid. M 176; M 266; cf. ibid. MD 170.
  • 40. Ibid. MD 1620.
  • 41. 11 Geo. III, c. 55 mentions a single constable.
  • 42. Univ. Brit. Dir. iv (1798), 409; Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1845), 708; Cheal, Shoreham, 71.
  • 43. Marlipins Mus., notice of dinner and summons.
  • 44. W.S.R.O., Par. 170/31.
  • 45. Ibid. Par. 170/12/1, f. 156 (TS. cat.).
  • 46. Arundel Cast. MS. A 1241.
  • 47. Poor Law Abstract, 1804, 516-17; 1818, 456-7.
  • 48. Poor Rate Returns, 1816-21, 174; 1822-4, 212; 1825-9, 202; 1830-4, 196; Poor Law Com. 1st Rep. H.C. 500, p. 234 (1835), xxxv.
  • 49. W.S.R.O., Par. 170/31.
  • 50. Cheal, Shoreham, 71; Lond. Gaz. 19 Jan. 1866, p. 324.
  • 51. W.S.R.O., New Shoreham local bd. rec.
  • 52. Cheal, Shoreham, 257.
  • 53. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1905), 561.
  • 54. W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 5404.
  • 55. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1922), 567-8.
  • 56. Census, 1961; Shoreham-by-Sea: Official Guide [1968], 29.
  • 57. 2 & 3 Vic. c. 38 (Local).
  • 58. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1867); W.S.R.O., New Shoreham local bd. rec.
  • 59. 33 & 34 Vic. c. 22 (Local).
  • 60. Return relating to Urban Water Supply, H.C. 265, pp. 10-11 (1878-9), lxi.
  • 61. 59 & 60 Vic. c. 137 (Local).
  • 62. W.S.R.O., New Shoreham local bd. min. bk. 1866- 74, p. 276.
  • 63. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1905), 561; date corrected by Chich. Dioc. Kal. (1887), 127.
  • 64. Brighton Corp. Act, 1931, 21 & 22 Geo. V, c. 109 (Local), s. 132.
  • 65. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1930), 480.
  • 66. Ibid. (1887, 1909, 1922), s.v. Steyning; Census, 1911-61.
  • 67. Hosp. Yr. Bk. (1975), 178; cf. e.g. Worthing Herald, 30 Aug. 1974; 29 Oct. 1976.
  • 68. Local inf.
  • 69. Pepys, Priv. Corresp. i. 207.
  • 70. Univ. Brit. Dir. iv (1798), 410.
  • 71. N.R.A. Rep. 0708 (docs. in Marlipins Mus.).
  • 72. Magd. Coll. Oxf. Mun., Shoreham 17 (TS. cat.).
  • 73. In Marlipins Mus. in 1976, wrongly dated c. 1200.
  • 74. L1. Jewitt and W. H. St. John Hope, Corporation Plate and Insignia, ii. 371-2.
  • 75. S.A.C. xxvii. 82; xlviii. 156; li 190.
  • 76. W.S.R.O., New Shoreham U.D.C. rec.; Scott-Giles, Civic Heraldry, 371.