To most people driving along the A27 the words ‘Adur valley’ mean a good view of Lancing College chapel, Shoreham Airport, Old Shoreham Toll Bridge and, to the north, perhaps a glimpse of the ruins of Bramber Castle – but there is much more to it than that. The Adur valley, with its tidal river, was once a broad sea estuary where coarse brown salt was made in medieval times. Ships made their way on the tide as far as Steyning, bringing wine and other goods from overseas.

Lancing College across river Adur from Mill Hill, Shoreham

Smuggling was rife, the proximity of Brighton in Regency times encouraging the illegal importation of opera glasses, tea, coffee, musical boxes and leather gloves, as well as the more commonly perceived spirits, wines and tobacco. Come and hear about the ‘Stone-Age doughnuts’ of Old Erringham and the lack of wild oats at Applesham Farm. Find out what some of the Coombes’ church wall paintings mean and something about St. Botolph.

Bramber Castle had been a ruin for at least a hundred years by the time the Royalists and Roundheads clashed at Bramber bridge in 1643, but the uncrowned Charles II did pass that way in 1651 on his flight from the Battle of Worcester.


I lived at Botolphs in the Adur valley for some years, worked on several archaeological excavations in the area, was archivist at Lancing College, and prior to 1968 handed over many sixpences in order to pass over Old Shoreham Toll Bridge on the former A27 route. Luckily I was not on the Southdown double-decker bus that plunged into the river on 1st January 1949, but this story does have a happy ending.


Contact Janet Pennington