There are smuggler's tunnels underneath the Crown & Anchor that link to the old fort, and other places in Shoreham and Southwick so there are many spirits linked.... Charles II apparently used the tunnel to escape....

It seems that practically every port or village in West Sussex has some sort of association with the widespread smuggling which went on in the 18th and early 19th centuries in the county. While many of the Sussex smuggling stories are fanciful, there is a large degree of truth in many of them for the simple reason that smuggling was a huge industry in West Sussex at least up until the 1820s.
While these stories may seem romantic, in truth the smugglers were a mixture of hardened criminals, enterprising businessmen and, mostly, frightened locals who were desperately poor and welcomed the extra few shillings a night’s smuggling could bring their families.

During the 18th and 19th centuries one of the Customs & Excise’s main south coast administrative offices was located at Shoreham in Church Street up to 1830 then in the High Street building that later became the Town Hall before it moved to Southwick. In addition the town once had its own Coast Guard Station.

The Coastguard Service evolved from the old Blockade (or “Preventative”) Service, the latter of which was created in 1817 following the country’s huge loss of revenue due to what was then considered by some to be a lack of success by the Customs and Revenue Services in coping with the smuggling problem. It is perhaps unfair to lay the blame for this entirely upon them as, amongst other things, we know that manpower was short compared with the smuggling gangs they came up against; pay was poor and even the ships they used were invariably slower and less well armed than the smugglers’ own vessels. Run along Naval lines the new service provided employment for the considerable number of service men that were otherwise no longer required following the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

Buildings such as the Napoleonic Martello Towers along our southern coasts, barracks and forts were utilised. These were known as Coast Blockade Stations or “Watch” houses and many existing houses were also converted for this purpose or were newly built. However, none of the houses were fortified as such being intended only as lookout posts (or “watch” houses) and for housing the officer’s and rating’s own families – something of a first in providing facilities for employees! During the period of the Blockade (1817 – 1831) the areas were reorganised from time to time and some watch houses abandoned in favour of better sites.

The Victoria History of the County of Sussex (vol.VI. part 1, 1980) states that a coastguard station was built at South Lancing c.1820, and perhaps this was the station known by the Blockade Service as ‘West Shoreham’ (Copperas Gap as far east as Portslade was known as East Shoreham station) but, confusingly, Shoreham Beach was generally regarded then as belonging to Lancing. Another was recorded at Shoreham Beach on the 1851 census returns and another was built at Kingston (where a pilot’s watch house existed) “to replace the one at Shoreham Beach in 1900.”(1)

Two surveys of Shoreham Harbour dated 1829 and 1844 (Mss.20,107 and 20,109) both show a “Preventative Service Watch House” at the same location as shown on the 1860 Ordnance Survey map
although it is difficult to be absolutely certain on such a small scale map. All the foregoing is prior to 1857 and cannot be confused with the Shoreham Fort as this is sited at the harbour mouth and upon which work did not begin until that year and finished in June.

There is little doubt therefore that if not the earliest original site, the Watch House or Coastguard Station as it later became is clearly shown on the 1860 map at a point at the sea end of where Ferry Road now is, on it’s south-western corner and where it almost certainly stood from at least 1829 in one form or another and possibly earlier.

The 1860 map showing the Coastguard Station’s position in relation to the town.

  • With regards to the individual Shoreham blockade men and coastguards we do have records of some of them. The New Shoreham Parish Records provide the following names entered by a diligent parish clerk who also included their occupations:-
  • George Shirley, Preventative Service 1823
  • William Hyatt of Lancing Blockade Service 1828
  • Charles Entisell, Blockade Service 1829
  • Thomas Dipper, Blockade man 1830
  • Matthew Hodge, Blockade Service of Shoreham Watch House 1831
  • Richard Rowland Turner, Coastguard of Shoreham Watch House 1831 & 1833
  • William Barrett, Coastguard of Coastguard Station House 1834 &1836
  • James Clark, Coastguard of the Stationhouse on the beach 1836
  • George Canning of the Station House 1837

The censuses also provide us with:-
 Thomas White born at Cowes on the Isle of Wight living in Ship Street, 45years old, Superannuated Coast Guard 1841 and again in 1851
William Newell born at Selsey living in St.John Street, 67 years old, Superannuated Coastguard 1851
Richard Gill born at Mevagissy, Cornwall living in East Street, 61 years old, Superannuated Coastguard 1851
Thomas Butler, a Shoreham man by birth living in the High Street, 53 years old, Superannuated Coastguard Boatman 1851

Whilst the Coastguards named in1841 and 1851 are mostly past active service age they nevertheless indicate a likelihood that they were once serving in Shoreham and perhaps even as Blockade men before they were transferred to the Coastguard Service.

Some later coastguard personnel are also recorded in the parish records:-

  • Jonathan Dale, Coastguard 1857
  • Thomas Billett, Coastguard 1862
  • William Rocketts, Coastguard 1863
  • Edward Cord, Coastguard 1866
  • William Slaven, Coastguard 1869 (lived at Lancing and perhaps stationed there)
  • James Brunnen, Coastguard 1870
  • Henry Popham, Coastguard 1871
  • William Hines, Coastguard 1871, Rodney P.Jones, Coastguard 1871, Joseph Henry Hicks, Coastguard 1873 are all recorded as living in Lancing and again could have been stationed there.
  • R.P.Jones, Coastguard 1873
  • Thomas Fuller, Coastguard 1873
  • John Stephens, Coastguard 1880 (another Lancing resident)

A 63-year-old died a hero yesterday fighting to turn his crippled light aircraft away from dozens of passers-by.
The pilot lost control of his plane on its maiden flight after a mid-air collision with another aircraft but managed to wrestle the doomed vehicle away from the A27 and pedestrians before it plummeted to the ground at Shoreham Beach.
Eyewitnesses reported hearing three loud bangs “like an engine backfiring” before seeing a huge plume of smoke rising into the air.