powered by FreeFind




MARKET TOWNS OF SUSSEX (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Seaford in 1841

SEAFORD, a small seaport town, and a member attached to Hastings, one of the Cinque Ports, is situated between two ridges of the South Downs on the coast of Sussex, 61 miles almost due south from London.

It was formerly the port where the river Ouse emptied itself into the sea, but the great storm of 12th Elizabeth (1570), which diverted the channel of the Rother, made a fresh mouth for the Ouse by breaking through the beach just below Bishopstone, and forming what is now called the Old Harbour, which was used till a safer exit was made at Meeching, since called Newhaven. The present harbour of Newhaven is formed in the channel of the river Ouse, at its entrance into the sea, by wooden piers carried out in a southerly direction across the beach to the line of low-water. The river is navigable without locks two miles beyond the town of Lewes and with locks 10 miles farther up the stream, making 18 miles altogether, and affords a powerful backwater for scouring the entrance. The average rise of spring-tides at the harbour’s mouth is from 19 to 20 feet, and of neap tides about 14 or 15 feet. The bar however is left dry at low-water of spring-tides, although within the piers there is at such times two feet water, and this depth continues uniform for a mile up the channel. The distance between the pier heads is only 106 feet. During the flood-tide and fine weather the harbour is easy of access, from the indraught and eddy tide, which set towards the mouth ; but from the rapidity of the stream during the ebb it is not considered safe for a sailing vessel to enter. The harbour is managed by trustees acting under a local act of parliament.

The town of Seaford was a Roman station ; the remains of Roman villas have been discovered on the site, and an extensive Roman cemetery on Sutton farm. On the hill above the town to the east there was a large Roman camp, the outline of which may still be traced. Some antiquarians have considered this the site of the city called Anderida by Pancirollus, in his Notitia, and Andredes-ceaster by the Saxons, one of those fortresses established by the Romans in the south and eastern parts of the island towards the sea, for watching the approach of pirates and other enemies. According to the Saxon chronicle, every inhabitant was slain and the city wholly destroyed by Ella and Cissa in 490. The lordship formed part of the possessions of the Earls de Warren.

The town, during the reigns of the Henries, was subject to those marauding visitations from the French so common on the southern coast ; in one of these it was burned, and several religious edifices, not afterwards rebuilt, together with the original chancel of the church, were destroyed.

Seaford is now little more than a large fishing village, with a few houses for persons who resort to this spot for bathing ; but the sea, having greatly receded, has left a bar of beach nearly a mile in breadth. The town was incorporated in the 35th Henry VIII (4th August), and is governed by a bailiff and an indefinite number of jurats and freemen, who hold an annual court of sessions and gaol delivery of unlimited jurisdiction : the style is, ‘the bailiff, jurats, and commonalty of the town and port of Seaford in the county of Sussex.’ The corporation was left untouched by the Act 5 & 6 William IV, c.76. Seaford returned two members to parliament from 26th Edward III to 21st Richard II ; it again sent two, 1 Edward IV, but ceased to elect till the right was restored after a resolution of the House of Commons, 16 Charles I (1640), from which time it regularly returned two members till disfranchised by 2 William IV, c.45. Seaford is within the diocese of Chichester. The church is in the decorated style of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The living is a discharged vicarage, with that of Sutton annexed. The population in 1831 was 1,098.