Don't believe everything you are told! Ask “Where is the evidence?”

  • We need to look for clues and evidence from the past to find out about how people used to live. Sometimes there is evidence in the landscape and on buildings and in place names.
  • Sometimes we look at objects, known as “Artefacts” or “Finds”.
  • Some periods of history, (see Timeline), have left us lots of artefacts. In general, the more recent a time period is, the more artefacts there are, for example we are surrounded by buildings and objects from the industrial and modern ages.

    When you click on the timeline you can see pictures of some of the many objects found in the Harbour area.
  • For more information, contact Fishbourne Roman Palace or Chichester District Museum.

Timeline: How was the harbour used?

Time Periods
Stone Age stone age 450,000 - 2000 B.C.
Bronze Age bronze age 2000 - 600 B.C
Iron Age iron age 600 - 43 A.D.
Roman Age roman age 43 A.D. - 410 A.D.
Saxon and Viking Age saxon age 410 - 1066 A.D.
Medieval Age medieval age 1066 - 1484 A.D.
Industrial Age industrial age 1484 - 1899 A.D.
Modern Age modern age 1900 - Today


talking point Talking Point
How do our lives differ from the lives of people living in and using the harbour in the past?
challenge Challenge
Could you write a page of the diary of someone living in the harbour in 43AD?


stone age Stone Age


Palaeolithic 450,000 – 12,000 BC

Palaeolithic 450,000 – 12,000 BC
People were making tools for hunting and cutting up meat on the beaches under the cliffs in the Harbour area. They may have been getting flints out of the chalk cliffs. There may have been mudflats and lagoons. Animals which may have been hunted include; red deer, roe deer, horse, boar, bear, wolf, elephant, rhinoceros, lion and hyena.

Mesolithic 12,000 – 4,000 BC

Mesolithic 12,000 – 4,000 BC
As the Glaciers melted sea levels rose, cutting Britain off from the rest of Europe. There were streams, deep river valleys and forests. Valleys may have been used as routes to the coast, and for hunting camps. Mesolithic people probably hunted smaller animals such as deer and cattle and caught fish and shellfish. Meat was probably butchered at the kill site. The harbour area is likely to have been visited by people who lived inland. They may have cleared areas of woodland to make short-term settlements. In the later Mesolithic Period, people could trap game and find other foods in the pine forests that covered the sides of the valleys. As sea levels rose and salt water met fresh water in estuaries, people could eat a wider choice of fish and shellfish.

Neolithic 4,000 – 2,000 BC Neolithic 4,000 – 2,000 BC
Finds of flints from this time suggests the Neolithic people may have stayed for short-term visits, bringing their farm animals to graze in the harbour area They may have cleared areas of woodland for fields and settlements. Hearths for fires suggest seasonal occupation on the foreshore. Arrow shafts, spear shafts and plaited fish-traps may have been made and used along the foreshore and in the shallower river valleys.  They may have collected shellfish to eat. Flints were mined in the area and may have been traded, along with spare farm produce.



test Bronze Age 2,000 – 600 BC
Bronze Age 2,000 – 600 BC

In the Harbour area in the Bronze Age people were involved in farming as well as hunting. They visited to bring their animals to graze along the steams and in the tidal river valleys. They butchered meat and prepared animal hides, still using flint tools, which worked better than bronze. There is some evidence that people were settled in the Harbour area, and burials have been found. On Hayling Island bronze axes were found, which may have come from France, suggesting trading took place.



iron age Iron Age 600BC - 43AD


Iron Age 600BC - 43AD

In the Iron Age large areas of the harbour were salt marsh. Much of what has been found is evidence of salt working. Tourner Bury Hillfort on Hayling Island may have been connected with salt working. We are not sure that people lived full-time in the harbour area, they may have visited to take salt from the sea, or to hunt, or to graze farm animals. It is possible that Fishbourne was a settlement and trading place where boats could land, but this is not certain.



roman age Roman Age 43 - 410AD

Roman Age 43 - 410AD

Chichester Harbour presented the Romans with a safe harbour for their boats and a friendly tribe whom they would not have to fight. There are early wooden storage buildings and gravel roads. At Fishbourne there was an early palace, where the local king Togidubnus lived supported by the Romans. A larger palace replaced the earlier one in 75AD, using stone probably brought in by sea, and tiles made at Copperas point near Dell Quay. The Romans may have unloaded goods at Copperas Point onto smaller boats or carts, as the channel would have been too shallow to bring large ships any closer to the palace.

There was a temple at Northney on Hayling Island. The Wadeway from Langstone to Hayling Island may be dated to Roman times.

At Broadbridge (Bosham) there was a villa,a temple and possibly an amphitheatre. In this area a marble statue head was found, also a coin and a brooch. On Penwarden Way a tegula tile was found in topsoil. This suggests that the North part of Bosham was being used in Roman times. By Bosham Church an enormous stone head was found, this size of statue would have been put into a public building, such as a temple. It is thought that there was a Roman building where the church stands today.

Farming continued into the Roman Age, with farming estates around villas (Roman houses) such as at Bosham, Warblington (near Emsworth), and Langstone. The Roman farms tended to be on the richer soil, leaving the other areas for the poorer peasants. Trees were needed for buildings, and woodland was cleared for growing crops. Some farm produce was exported (sent abroad). Goods such as wine and olive oil were imported from other parts of the Roman Empire using Fishbourne as a port.
Salt was taken out of sea water by evaporation and then by heating the water over fires.



saxon age  Saxon Age 410 - 1066AD


Saxon Age 410 - 1066AD

After the Roman army left, the number of people living and working in the area became smaller, with less farming and fewer villages. People may have used a system of barter (swapping goods) instead of money. Bosham may have continued as a settlement, there was a monastery there in 650AD and the church is Saxon.
The better soils in the area were probably used for crops, the poorer soils as pasture for animals, the wet valleys for meadow and the woodland for timber and grazing. No salterns have been identified from this time, but salterns are listed in the Domesday Book (in 1086), for example in South Hayling there is Mengham Saltern.

After around 900AD trade started to increase, and villages increased too.  Warblington Church dates from Saxon times, and had a settlement nearby, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book as having 2 churches and a mill. Itchenor, Birdham and Wittering are all mentioned as existing in 957AD. Bosham was the major trading port of the harbour during the 11th century.



medieval age  Medieval 1066 - 1485AD


Chidham Church
Chidham Church

The population grew during this time (with a drop in the 14th century which may have been caused by the Black Death). People lived in villages around their parish churches. There were manor houses, some of which had moats (Warblington, Apuldram and Bosham). Rymans at Apuldram is a medieval house, built in 1410. 
Warblington Castle is in fact the surviving gatehouse to a fortified manor house, which was built around 1520 and destroyed in the civil war.

Many of the churches in the area were built at this time.

Farming was very important in the harbour area, for crops like corn and animals such as sheep and cattle. Open fields were ploughed by oxen, which lived on nearby meadows. Large estates may have had deer parks around them, where rich people could hunt.

Salterns Copse – coppice wood
Salterns Copse – coppice wood
Many harbour industries, such as boat building and farming, needed timber or charcoal (made from wood). Woodland was probably coppiced to supply local timber. Coppiced woods provided large trunks of oak and many small stems from hazel trees, which were cut down to small stumps every 10 years or so. Salterns Copse near Chichester Marina is an example of ancient woodland that is coppiced.

Bosham had 8 mills, 2 fisheries and woodland yielding 6 swine. It exported corn and held a market on Thursdays in 1218. At the head of the Fishbourne Channel “salt mills” or “sea mylls” are mentioned, a water mill with mill pond and also a medieval pottery kiln.
Fishbourne mill pond
Fishbourne mill pond
Fishing, oyster farming, boat building and salt working were important industries.

Trade was taking place with other ports in this country and abroad. The growth in coastal trade in corn from harbourside ports seems to have first happened through Emsworth. With Dell Quay, Emsworth was the main medieval port in the harbour, with a merchant fleet, shipbuilding yards and a fishing industry.

Wool was exported through Chichester Harbour and flour was milled at Chichester before being sent off from Dell Quay, the main landing place for the Port of Chichester. Stone was being imported from the Isle of Wight and Normandy.

industrial age  Industrial Age 1485 - 1899AD


Chichester Canal Lock
Chichester Canal Lock
Dell Quay grain store
Dell Quay grain store
Bosham Water Mill
Bosham Water Mill
Emsworth Slipper Mill store building
Emsworth Mill Pond
The Terror – oyster boat
The Terror – oyster boat
Grave watchers huts
Grave watchers huts

Some features of Harbour life from this time remain today, such as mills, churches, villages and field boundaries. If you look at a map of the area, place names sometimes show a past use, such as “Mill Pond” or “Salterns”.

At this time the Harbour had many people living in it, buying and selling goods, trading with other countries by sea, and with different parts of this country by sea, canal, road and (later) rail. The old grain store at Dell Quay was built 200 years ago when Dell Quay was the port for Chichester. Emsworth and Langstone were busy ports, importing goods from abroad and exporting local produce.

Farming and fishing continued, as did oyster farming, salt working, milling, boat building and brick and tile making. These industries are each outlined below, along with the making of copperas, and brewing.

Watermills – Used stream water (sometimes collected in a millpond) for grinding corn as well as in the production of iron, gunpowder and paper. A water mill is shown at Marsh Farm, near Nutbourne. A large millpond lies to the east of Emsworth. A watermill can be seen at Bosham. A watermill at Fishbourne was in existence in 1790, and there may have been another nearby. The watermill at Langstone is fed by the Lymbourne stream into its millpond, and dates from the 18th century.

Tidemills – These collect seawater in a millpond, which is then released through a sluice gate to power a mill wheel. There were 2 tidal mills at Emsworth; Hermitage and the Slipper Mill. Both mill buildings were destroyed, although the Slipper Mill store building remains. The tidemill at Birdham had 2 water wheels and was built in 1768, an earlier mill is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Originally there were 2 mills side by side. Hayling Island Tide Mill is recorded as a “corn mill” on an early map and you can still see part of the mill today.

Windmills – These used wind power to grind corn. There are windmills shown on early maps, at Marsh farm near Nutbourne and Bosham. At Dell Quay the windmill still stands. At Fishbourne there was a corn mill built in 1796 at the end of the wharf, this was replaced by a mill that burnt down in 1866. A windmill from Rustington was imported when the millers at the watermill couldn't agree. It was pulled down in 1898. The black towered windmill at Langstone dates from the busy trading days of the 18th century.

Brick and Tile Making – This industry dates from Roman times in the Harbour area. Clay would be shaped, dried and then fired in a kiln. At Chidham “Brick Kiln Marsh” is mentioned in 1785. A brickfield was making hand made bricks at Maybush near Chidham by 1932. A brickworks was using the local clay at the Round House, this stands on the site of a puddling mill turned by horses. “Brick field” is marked in south-west Emsworth and on Bath Road there was a brickworks. On Hayling Island “Old Clay Pit” “Kiln Piece” and “brick works” are marked on early maps. In the Bosham area, the 19th century maps show a brickfield south of Colner Farm, a brickworks and pottery at the junction of Chequer Lane and the Portsmouth Road. At Bosham Hoe a brick kiln and tile house are first mentioned in 1759. On the shore at West Wittering a brick kiln was probably in use from the 18th century.

Salt Production – This dates from the Iron Age in the Harbour Area. Seawater would flood in at high tide and then the water would dry off, firstly due to the sun and wind, then by heating the water over fires, leaving salt behind. On Hayling Island archaeologists have discovered salt workings, which date to the Iron Age and Roman times. By the 17th century concentrated seawater was boiled in lead or iron pans over coal fires. Salt production took place on Hayling Island, at “The Great Salterns” and “The Little Salterns” in North Hayling, and at Menghams, Yenmans and Eastoke Salterns in South Hayling. The Apuldram to Birdham shoreline was the site of salt workings, at New Wall Marsh, Salterns Copse, Salterns Field and Salterns Lane. The “swimming pool” of Dell Quay House marks the site of an old salt panning pond. During the 19th century most salt making stopped in the harbour area.

Copperas is made from a mineral, called iron pyrites, found in clay. It was used in the production of chlorine, which was used to bleach clothes in the17th and 18th centuries. It was also used to tan leather, make ink and gunpowder. Copperas Point near Dell Quay may have been a site for copperas production.
Farming in the harbour area produced goods such as wheat, malt and wool for export abroad. Goods were also traded along the coast. Some grain was locally milled before being exported.  Villages were often surrounded by small, hedged paddocks for the grazing of heavy horses, oxen or calves. Fields were enclosed during this time, and woodland cleared for crops.

Fishing – A fleet of boats went out of Emsworth and sold their catches locally. Eels were caught in the shallow waterways around Birdham and West Wittering, using spears.

Oyster Fishing – Oysters were farmed in raised enclosures in many locations around the harbour. Over 50 oyster beds were marked on an 1813 map at the head of Emsworth Channel, 74 beds at Gutner Point, and possibly some in the Prinsted Channel. Bosham had a tradition of oyster collection thought to date back to the 17th century.

Boat building – Emsworth, Birdham and Itchenor built navy and merchant ships in the 17th and 18th centuries, Bosham took over from Itchenor in the 19th century. Boat building needed large amounts of timber, which probably came from local woodland.
A gruesome industry, which people tried to stop, was the trade in dead bodies for medical study. The two grave watchers huts in Warblington Churchyard were built in 1828 to shelter men who kept watch over the graves.
Tourism started at the end of this period, with trains bringing people to the coast who needed hotels to stay in and places to eat.



modern age Modern Age 1900 - Today


Spitfire Kept at Tangmere Military Aviation Museum
Spitfire, Tangmere Military Aviation Museum

Emsworth Slipper Mill store building
Birdham turntable

Chichester marina
Chichester marina

Bosham view
Bosham view

The Modern Age has seen a large growth in population, as many people want to live in the harbour area. There are more roads, houses, cafes, shops and other businesses all supplying what people need to live.
In modern farming many hedges have been removed, creating larger fields, to make it easier to farm with tractors, rather than by horse or ox drawn equipment.

In the last century there were 2 World Wars. The harbour was used to defend Britain and also as a base to fight the enemy abroad.

In World War 1 An airfield was in use on the Chidham peninsula at Cobnor. This was used as a testing field and as a flying school.

In World War 2 many shorelines in the harbour were defended with concrete blocks, used as anti invasion defenses.  A boom was put across the mouth of the harbour, secured to underwater concrete pillars.
There were also pillboxes and machine gun placements, especially on Thorney Island, which was an airfield from 1938. Flying stopped in 1975, but the Island is still used as an army base.

There was an airfield at Apuldram from February 1943 to November 1944, used by a squadron of Czech pilots flying Spitfires modified to carry bombs and Typhoons. Since the war the airfield has been used as farmland.
Birdham Pool was used by the Navy during the war for building and repairing small craft. The turntable and slipways are still in use in the boatyard. Today Birdham is a tranquil marina and boatyard.

Recreational boating (for fun) has increased since the 1930s; sailing became very popular after the War. Since World War 1, sailing clubs started up at Hayling, Itchenor, Emsworth and Bosham. Chichester Harbour is now home to about 11000 vessels, with increasing demand for marina berths and moorings.

There is less commercial fishing than in the past, but some boats still bring in fish to Emsworth. The oyster trade suffered a blow after pollution led to a bad case of poisoning, but it is hoped that Emsworth Oysters may make a comeback. The oyster boat “The Terror” is being restored in The Dolphin Shipyard in Emsworth. Boat building and repair still provide jobs around the harbour, with boatyards at Emsworth, Birdham, Dell Quay and Itchenor.

The harbour is popular with tourists now. It has been named as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Chichester Harbour Education has the job of protecting it, while allowing residents and tourists to enjoy it. Groups of people who use the harbour include bird watchers, walkers, artists, photographers, cyclists, wildfowlers (who shoot birds), sailors, motor boat users, people using kayaks and canoes, fishermen. People who use the harbour for business include farmers, professional fishermen, house builders, pub, cafe and shop owners, marina operators and boat builders.



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