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Pagham (West Sussex)

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A small coastal town in West Sussex between Bognor Regis and Chichester

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      12.05.2010 12:25
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      *I currently live in this town and have just completed a photographic study of it for my degree, which involved making a book and I have thus decided to write a review on the area.*

      Pagham is a small and little known town situated on the coast of West Sussex. Although Pagham itself is not particularly a well known tourist trap, the nearby towns of Bognor Regis and Chichester are.

      In the distant past Pagham had one of the most important harbours in the country until it was practically destroyed by a storm in the 1300's and from then on the area seemed to drop off the map, as it were.

      One of the most fascinating aspects of Pagham is one that even only a few residents know exists and that is 'Barton Manor'. Barton Manor is the oldest inhabited house in the UK and dates from the 600's. In some places the walls reach 3 feet in thickness and the property also has it's own private chapel dating from approximately 1250. In the 1500's the property belonged to the crown and was given by Elizabeth I to Edward Darell. Like many older properties, Barton Manor eventually fell into dereliction, but was restored in 1902 by it's owner William Fletcher. The property has since been converted into 9 apartments which can be rented out. It's almost impossible to find any information about the property and as it is located down the end of a private road, you really wouldn't find it unless you knew what you were looking for (luckily I did).

      Pagham is also home to a number of pubs - The Lamb, The Inglenook, The Bear and The Red Lion are all old fashioned country pubs with nice atmospheres and quite expensive to eat at. There is one remaining pub 'The Kings Beach Hotel' down by the sea front which was constructed in 1938 and is quite down market (not somewhere I would recommend eating/drinking or staying at).

      Pagham has 2 churches - St Ninians which is a 'modern' church built in the 1960's and Thomas a Becket church which was constructed in the 1200's, which is thought to be one of the first churches dedicated to Thomas Becket (the archbishop who was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170).

      Of particular interest to tourists is probably Church Farm Caravan Park - this used to be a farm and the original farm house is situated on the edge of the current complex, currently being used as a laundrette for holiday makers (personally I feel this is very sad and a complete waste of a beautiful building). The caravan park is currently owned by Bourne Leisure and it is situated at the end of Pagham Road. The entrance is quite small and almost concealed but the site itself is huge and goes all the way back to the nature reserve. On the caravan site is a pretty non descript looking building known as 'Beckets Barn' which was actually constructed in the late 1200's and was originally the hall to a palace, since then it was used as a barn for many centuries before becomming derelict and being restored for use as a restaurant in the 1970's. It is currently used as a sales reception for the caravan park.

      Down by the beach there are a number of bungalows and you may notice that some of these have odd shaped windows. After the war a large number of railway carriages were placed on the beach front which were eventually turned into homes, but you can still see the original windows and occassionally the curved roof. Unfortunately many of these properties have since been demolished and replaced with more conventional dwellings.

      On the beach front itself you have the Pagham Yacht club which was established in 1964 and has a current membership exceeding 300 people. To gain entry to the club you are required to be a member but day membership can be purchased if desired.

      Pagham harbour is roughly 1500 acres in size and approximately 700 acres of this is a dedicated nature reserve, mostly consisting of salt marsh and tidal mud flats. The harbour provides a half way point to many migrating species of bird and over 300 species of flowering plant. In the past their have been attempts to reclaim the land - two were recorded in the late 1500's and another in 1876 after parliment passed the 'Pagham Harbour Reclamation Act' (1873). The entrance to the sea was sealed up and roughly 700 acres of land were reclaimed, however on December the 16th 1910, a vicious storm broke down the defences and the area has since remained a tidal estuary.

      Pagham is host to a couple of yearly events. Firstly is Pagham on Parade (held on the 8th of August this year) which is a classic vehicle show containing military vehicles, buses, bikes and cars which are displayed in a field next to the town hall. There are also a number of stalls, a BBQ and entertainment.

      The second event is known as the Pagham Pram Race and it takes place every Boxing Day. The race began in 1946 when a group of men decided to race around town - one pushing a pram and the other inside it as a baby. At each pub they had to drink a pint and the winner got a christmas cake. Since then the race has become a tradition in Pagham and large numbers of people enter it each year dressing up in fancy costumes and with elaborate 'prams'. The first prize is £250 but the winners usually donate this to charities sponsored by the event. The race itself is about 3 miles long and does a loop around town, finishing in The Lamb's car park. During the race the roads are closed to traffic (although some apparently blind drivers still try to force their way through) and crowds line the streets to cheer on participants. The race president is Derek Bell, the former Le Mans winner.

      ***

      Things to do in Pagham:
      - Go to the beach and nature reserve
      - The arcade 'Beach Amusements'
      - Visit Thomas a Becket church
      - Take a walk in the countryside
      - Time your visit to coincide with one of the events

      Amenities:
      - Shops: small Tesco, newsagents, post office
      - A number of takeaways (fish & chips, Chinese and Indian)
      - Bus service

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