Littlehampton is located on the coastal plain below the South Downs and alongside the River Arun. It has always been a popular area to live, with evidence of human activity going back to prehistoric and Roman times.
The area was owned by the Earls of Arundel and later the Dukes of Norfolk who still live at Arundel. Littlehampton started to develop as a port due to constant silting of the River Arun making it less navigable for larger ships. In 1735 a new river mouth channel was cut and a wooden harbour erected at Littlehampton. Sometime between 1610 and 1695, the town changed its name to "Littlehampton", possibly to distinguish it from Southampton further along the South Coast.
The town started to develop from a fishing community to a holiday resort from the late 18th Century. The relaxed and tranquil location attracted famous painters and poets such as Byron, Coleridge, Shelley and Constable.
The Expansion and growth of Littlehampton continued in the 19th C. The development of trade from fishing to ship building and importing of aggregates and Baltic wood played a major part in the town’s economic success. However it was the holiday trade, the building of a direct train route into the town, and having a cross channel ferry service to Honfleur in France in the latter half of the 19th Century that made the town prosperous as a Victorian holiday resort.
This trend continued well into the 20th Century with holiday seasons in Littlehampton. By the late 1920s the town was known as "The Children’s Paradise". Post war brought further changes with the building of new housing estates on the outskirts and absorbing surrounding villages like Wick, Lyminister and Toddington. Trade altered to light industry such as boat building and water sports. However Littlehampton continued to attract holiday makers and is a well established holiday resort on the South Coast.
Today Littlehampton has around 30,000 inhabitants and is reinventing itself as a holiday resort for the 21st Century. Change is already on the way to ensure Littlehampton’s future as a premier destination on the South Coast, with the East Beach Cafe and Littlehampton's Longest Bench attracting thousands of visitors all year round.
Discover the history of Littlehampton at this modern and welcoming Museum, FREE entry!