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Pagham’s history

Pagham’s natural environment is coastline, harbour and acres of arable farmland and it is known that people lived here at least three-and-a-half thousand years ago, as evidenced by excavated Bronze Age artefacts. 

The Romans came through Pagham in 46 AD, and during Roman times Pagham Harbour was a primary seaport for Southern England. 

Saxons were in the area from the 5th century, and Pagham is the subject of a transaction dated c.680 in which Caedwalla King of Wessex gave the area to Bishop Wilfred, the missionary to the South Saxons, although the charter recording this transaction is probably not as early as the seventh century.

Pagham Church

A church in Pagham is first mentioned in the Domesday Book.  It was at one time considered that this referred to the chapel of St. Andrew, whose ruins are in the grounds of ’Little Welbourne’ west of the church; however the 1976 church excavations showed fairly conclusively that the Domesday church and probably at least one earlier church were on the site of the present parish church of St. Thomas à Becket, which was built about 1206.

Where does the name ‘Pagham’ originate from?

The name Pagham apparently originated from the settlement of a tribal leader called ’Paega’, from whom are derived other place names in southern England.  The name Nyetimber was first recorded in the 12th Century as Neuetimbra, meaning ’new timbered building’.  Even until the 14th century Pagham continued as one of the foremost English ports, trading wool to Europe but with the coming of a huge storm in 1341 a large area of the Parish was utterly devastated by the sea, and the hamlet of Charlton was engulfed and disappeared.  As the harbour gradually silted, so Pagham’s wealth gradually diminished.

However, the loss of a commercial feature became a gain for wildlife.  Today, a Local Nature Reserve, incorporating seven hundred acres of inter-tidal saltmarsh with associated shingle banks and nearly four hundred acres of surrounding farmland, pools, ditches and hedgerows, has become an internationally known refuge for migrant birds. The Parish contains a number of ancient buildings.  Opposite the Church is the Old Cottage, built at the same time as the current Church in 1206.  Becket’s Barn in the Church Farm Holiday Centre is the restored tithe barn of a large Rectory first mentioned in 1299.

Historic buildings

The Vicarage at the end of Church Lane is first mentioned in 1626 and overlooks the Harbour.  In parts 1200 years old, Barton Manor is reputedly the oldest continuously occupied manor house in England.  

The Lion Inn dates from the 15th, The Inglenook Hotel from the 16th, and the Lamb Inn from the 17th centuries.

Pagham can proudly lay claim to having one of the earliest established Parish Councils in the Country.  Archival records show the penned signatures of the Founder Members – farmers, fishermen and a blacksmith – at the time of their very first meeting, held in the village in 1894 during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Dating from before the First World War, the Beach Estate originally consisted of holiday homes largely created from redundant railway carriages.  These gradually became permanent homes and were extended by various additions.

By virtue of its coastline position Pagham played its part during the Second World War.  A granite memorial stone on the hardstanding in front of the Yacht Club honours Pagham’s contribution to Operation Overlord and the famous Mulberry Harbour project.  One of the 6000-ton Mulberry Harbour caissons originally stored offshore prior to D-Day can still be seen at low tide, around two thirds of a mile out.  The monument, its plaque and a transcription of the plaque may be viewed on the Overlord Monument page.

A number of concrete roads were constructed before the Second World War which facilitated troop movements during the war.  Some remnant of these can still be seen at the southern end of Harbour View Road, Cardinals Drive and The Causeway. A longstanding resident of Pagham recalls the layout of the Concrete Roads and proposed junctions of roads that were never constructed, one of which is clearly visible opposite Queensmead.

At the junction of The Parade and The Causeway there were islands in the road with bushes/small trees growing on them. Until recently the original aligment of the road direction layout could be seen.

During the immediate post-war years the village of Pagham began a period of rapid expansion, this has continued to the present day.  From time to time the civil Parish boundaries have been redrawn, but today Pagham still embraces both Nyetimber and Lagness, with over 6.000 residents.

An interesting fact on an opportunity missed for Pagham is that when George V recuperated at Craigweil House in 1928-9, Craigweil was very definitely part of Pagham.  It only became part of Bognor by formal Order of West Sussex County Council in 1934, following the 1933 Local Government Act, after which the Bognor traders successfully petitioned the Privy Council to add “Regis”.  Maybe Pagham could have become Pagham Regis….

Overlord monument

Pagham beach and Operation Overlord  June 6th 1944

To mark the 55th anniversary of D Day in 1944 this plaque was erected as a memorial to mark the historic association that Pagham beach had with the Mulberry harbour project in support of the liberation of Europe.

The huge 6000 ton structures started to arrive from early may 1944. By June 5th some 50 had been assembled between Pagham beach and Selsey. To hide them from enemy view they were sunk to await refloating when the invasion got underway. One which failed to be raised can still be seen from this spot at low tide.

The Mulberry concept now etched in history was quite unique. it was a key factor in the liberation of Europe in the summer of 1944. it allowed the allies to disgorge thousands of tons of men and equipment in the shallow waters along the Normandy coastline at any state of the tide. The Mulberry harbour project was without doubt a great feat of British and allied engineering skills. Many still remain at Arromanches in Normandy.

Please give thanks and offer a short prayer for those who survived and for those who did not.

This memorial is erected by the D Day Aviation Museum at Shoreham Airport