What others say about Bosham
Pictured in the Bayeux Tapestry - by Gil
Bosham (Bozz'm) has invariably had a good press. A random trawl through
half a dozen travel books produces the same sort of language: "One of
the most charming places in Sussex... Outstandingly pretty ... a gem of
a place." And so on.
Only E.V Lucas, writing at a start of the century and ever on the
out-look for a phrase to stop the reader in his tracks, called Bosham "a
slut", showing a vast tracks of mud at low tide. On the other hand, he
said, at high water she was " a fair abode of peace."
Bosham stands on a little peninsula between two tidal creeks at the
eastern end of Chichester's inland harbour. As well as providing a
sanctuary for migrating wildfowl - shelduck, wigeon, Brent geese, waders
and many more - it is a wonderful centre for sailing. Artists, walkers
and weekenders love the place, and at this time of the year it draws
visitors like a magnet.
Particularly those with a sense of history. Where else would you find in
a local parish church the original chancel that is depicted and named in
the Bayeux Tapestry? With Harold entering it to pray before crossing the
Channel from these very waters more than 900 years ago to parley about
the English throne with William of Normandy.
An earlier king, Canute - he of the "turn back the tide" story - also
knew Bosham. The body of a young girl, discovered in a small Saxon
coffin when the church floor was being renewed in 1865, was almost
certainly that of Canute's daughter who was drowned in an adjoining
brook. Later on, in the unfolding story of our island history, there are
more footnotes about this waterside community.
During the Great Plague of 1665, which killed an estimated 70,000 people
in London alone, the fisherman of Bosham are said to have saved the
population of Chichester from starvation. The story goes that the city
was sealed off when a single visitor died, it was thought from the
plague. No-one was allowed in or out, and appeals for food were posted
at the main gates. Supplies of fish and other food were deposited by the
Bosham men and taken in after dark by the citizens, who left coins for
payment in buckets of water as a form of sterilisation. In the years
following the plague, any hawker who was charged with trading in
Chichester without a licence and was found to come from Bosham was
invariably let off. Documentary evidence for all this is not available,
partly because records for the period are missing, but it has support in
an oral tradition that, three centuries later, is powerful today. Angela
Bromley-Martin, a researcher and lecturer who has produced several works
on local history, says the story is firmly believed by families whose
links with Bosham go back many generations.
The Bosham waterfront
Up to the early part of this century, Bosham was still a place where
life was supported by the sea. In Mrs Bromley-Martin's book Bygone
Bosham (Phillimore, 1978) are photographs of fishing boats, shipbuilding
yards, oyster beds and the Quay lined with schooners and barges. At one
timer Bosham was second only to Whitstable in the oyster industry. Up to
40 boats dredged them from the Solent and the French coast and deposited
then in the Sussex harbour until they were big enough for market. The
trade ended when stocks were wiped out by limpets soon after the first
world war, but it is now being revitalised.
Many recognisable signs of those seafaring days are still to be seen in
the village. The Quay and the tiny High Street are lined with cottages
that were once the homes of fishermen. An old building known as the
Raptackle and now leased by Bosham Sailing Club, was used to house rope
and gear for the busy shipping business.
Today, in a phrase of Angela Bromley-Martin, Bosham is for "the tired
and retired, the weekenders and the yachtsmen."
If it were not for its geography the village would doubtless by now have
decked itself with accoutrements to woo revenue-generating tourists:
restaurants, cafes, flatlets, a promenade, boat trips and plenty of
places to park the car. Everything, in fact, likely to make the
Caught by the tide
The fact is that Bosham was not designed by nature to provide a popular
day out for the family. It is not a particularly easy place to find.
There is no beach, no sand, and bathing is virtually out of the
question. The tide sometimes swamps Shore Road and despite the warning
signs, motorists who leave their cars on hard standing when the seas is
out of sight, get caught by the dozen, summer and winter. (If the salt
water can be washed out quickly there may be hope. Completely submerged,
the car is a write-off. Which was the fate of a brand-new Rover among
those caught last year.)
The Anchor Bleu is at least 300 years old.
The 'Bleu' is believed to come from the days
when there were seperate Admirals of the
Blue Fleet and the Red Fleet.
A large car park, preferably free, would undoubtedly help to meet such
problems, but for all kinds of reasons this is not feasible. A
pay-and-display area, of limited capacity, is ignored by many visitors
and by virtually all residents, very few of whom have parking spaces by
their homes. (Fishermen's cottages weren't designed that way).
Last year the parish council issued a document on traffic strategy
making a number of suggestions with an eye to the future; although as it
pointed out, the council itself can only "exhort and persuade", the
decision-making powers residing elsewhere.
It calls for a careful balancing act to plan for the needs both of the
residents and the people who come to enjoy what Bosham has to offer and
spend their money. "A place to share but not to spoil" is how the
council puts it. To some extent, Bosham is a victim of its own
popularity. It is praised in tourist literature both in Britain and
abroad; and the excavation of the Roman palace at nearby Fishbourne
further swelled the number of visitors. Having viewed the palace, people
went on to discover Bosham - and spread the word.
If you have yet to make a first-time call on Bosham a few pointers may
be helpful -
Choose a weekday if possible and arrive early
Take note of the times of high water, posted on notices at strategic
points - particularly if you are parked on hard standings.
Go, whatever the weather or season. Bosham is always worth seeing.
May be used freely with appropriate accreditation.