Selsey is a seaside town and civil parish, about eight miles (12 km) south of Chichester in West Sussex, England. Selsey lies at the southernmost point of the Manhood Peninsula, almost cut off from mainland Sussex by the sea. It is bounded to the west by Bracklesham Bay, to the north by Broad Rife (rife being the local word for stream or creek), to the east by Pagham Harbour and terminates in the south at Selsey Bill. There are significant rock formations beneath the sea off both of its coasts, named the Owers rocks and Mixon rocks. Coastal erosion has been an ever-present problem for Selsey.
|Area||12.28 km2 (4.74 sq mi)|
|Population||10,737. 2011 Census|
|• Density||804/km2 (2,080/sq mi)|
|OS grid reference||SZ854935|
|• London||60 miles (97 km) NNE|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Ambulance||South East Coast|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
The B2145 is the only road in and out of the town crossing a bridge over the water inlet at Pagham Harbour at a point known as "the ferry". At one time Selsey was inaccessible at flood tide, and a boat was stationed at the ferry to take horses and passengers to and from Sidlesham.
According to Bede the name Selsey is derived from the Saxon Seals-ey and can be interpreted as the Isle of Sea Calves (sea calves are better known as seals).
Edward Heron-Allen identified at least twenty different spellings of the place that we now know today as Selsey.
A selection of versions as identified by Heron-Allen are:
- Seoles – Old English
- Seleisi – Domesday Book 1086
- Celesye – Assize Roll 1279
The earliest evidence of human habitation in the Selsey area goes back to the stone age. Various stone implements have been found which date to the Palaeolithic period. People have been living in the area ever since.
It is believed that, in the Iron Age, the Atrebates (one of the Belgae tribes) built a city at Selsey, similar in status to the pre-Roman urban centre ( oppidum) at Hengistbury Head near Christchurch. So far there is no archaeological evidence to confirm this, although some have speculated that the old city that Camden refers to is, indeed the old Belgae settlement and was located at the Mixon rocks, now south of Selsey Bill.
There have been various finds of silver and gold coins in the Selsey area. Gold coins from the Atrebates rulers named Commius, Tincommius, Verica, Eppillus, and Cunobelin were found on the beach in 1877, it is thought that these coins would have been minted locally. The ancient British coins would have been superseded by Roman coins and there have been finds of them too. In addition, some Anglo-Saxon gold fragments were found on the beach between Selsey and Bognor, these were dated as late 6th/ 8th century and what made them particularly interesting is that they had a runic inscription on them, the fragments were handed over to the British Museum.
Selsey was the capital of the Kingdom of Sussex, possibly founded by Ælle. Wilfrid arrived circa 680 and converted the kingdom to Christianity, as recorded by the Venerable Bede. Selsey Abbey stood at Selsey (probably where Church Norton is today), and was the cathedra for the Sussex Diocese until the Council of London ordered the removal of the See to Chichester in 1075, during the reign of William the Conqueror.
In the Domesday Book Selesie is mentioned under the hundred of Somerley:
"The Bishop(of Chichester) holds Selesie in domain. In the time of King Edward it was rated at ten hides, and so it continues. The arable is seven plough lands. There are two ploughs in the demesne, and fourteen villains with eleven bondsmen have five ploughs.".
In July 1588 the Spanish Armada arrived off the Isle of Wight with the intention of attacking Portsmouth. The wind changed direction to the south-west. Men from the Manhood Peninsula serving under Francis Drake conceived a plan to lure the Spanish fleet onto the Owers rocks (off Selsey). However the Spanish Admiral, recognising the danger decided to head for Calais.
In 1647, a fatality was recorded following a cricket match at Selsey when a fielder called Henry Brand was hit on the head by the batsman Thomas Latter, who was trying to hit the ball a second time. The incident repeated one at Horsted Keynes in 1624.
Over the centuries that Selsey has derived an income from the sea, one of the enterprises was smuggling. In the eighteenth century Selsey Bill was very much more isolated than it is today, and the sand spit extended farther out to sea. There was only the causeway connected to the mainland and that was covered at high tide. The approach of the local riding officer would have been conspicuous in the extreme. The Rectors of Selsey reputedly claimed a tithe on all kegs landed there, and stories also tell of a passageway leading from the Old Rectory (at Church Norton) to the remains of a Mound, thought to have been built by the Normans. The course of the tunnel was marked by a depression on the surface of the ground as late as 1911.
In the 1720s one Selsey man ran a regular ferry service to France, traveling back and forth every five weeks, and other prominent Selsey figures made considerable fortunes just from part-time work in the free-trade.
Landings were not confined to Selsey itself: in a single run in 1743 2,000 lbs of tea were brought inland at West Wittering some six miles (10 km) away.
In 1749 fourteen smugglers, members of the notorious Hawkhurst Gang, were accused of the murder of Mr. William Galley, a custom-house officer, and Daniel Chater, a shoemaker. Seven were tried and condemned to death at Chichester assizes; one died in gaol before sentence could be carried out and the other six were hanged at the Broyle north of Chichester. Subsequently, the bodies of two of the smugglers, John Cobby and John Hammond, were hung in gibbets at Selsey Bill so that they could be seen at great distance from east and west.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Selsey opened its first school. In 1818 premises were granted to the Rector and churchwardens of Selsey which were "on trust to permit the premises to be used for a schoolhouse or free school, for the gratuitous education of such poor children belonging to the Parish of Selsey as the said trustees or successors may think proper." The school was eventually taken over by the local authority in 1937.
Selsey was connected to Chichester from 1897 to 1935 by a rail link initially called the Hundred of Manhood and Selsey Tramway and later the West Sussex Railway. The light railway rolling stock was all second hand and not very reliable and the journey times lengthy. Various nicknames such as the "Selsey Snail" were attributed to the tram and comic postcards were issued reflecting its poor service.
The parish has a couple of Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Bracklesham Bay runs along the coastline of the parish. Pagham Harbour falls partly within the parish. The harbour and surrounding land is of national importance for both flora and fauna. The shingle spit is also of geological interest.
Sport and leisure
Selsey Cricket Club
A former President was Hubert Doggart, OBE, MA. He was the son of the sportsman Graham Doggart who rose to chair the Football Association. Doggart represented England in two Test matches in 1950. He was President of the M.C.C. (1981–1982), the Cricket Council (1981–1982) and the Cricket Society (1983–1998), and he chaired the Friends of Arundel Castle Cricket Club (1993–2003). In the 1970s he played occasionally for Selsey C.C.
Sir Patrick Moore, CBE was a former club secretary, an active playing member, and an Honorary Life Vice President. Selsey Cricket Club in Paddock Lane, is the home to the Sir Patrick Moore 3D Exhibition which recreates Moore's study at his home "Farthings" with original items on show.
Selsey has a secondary school called the Selsey Academy (formerly known as Manhood Community College up till September 2011) and two primary schools, Seal Primary School (now known as Seal Academy) and Medmerry Primary School. Before and after the Second World War there were several private preparatory schools in Selsey including Broombank School housed in the former residence of the music hall entertainer Bransby Williams next to the Selsey Hotel. The owner/headmaster from the early 1950s until the school's closure in 1969 was William Percy Higgs (died Bristol 1986), a former Cambridge University organ scholar and music master at Eton. Higgs made Broombank a music and arts school attracting the children of well known actors, artists and musicians as well as temporary pupils from France, whose numbers occasionally matched those of the British children.
RNLI Selsey Lifeboat
Selsey had an RNLI lifeboat station and shop on Kingsway, east of Selsey Bill. The station was established in 1861. In 2014 Selsey had a Tyne-class lifeboat and a D Class Inshore Lifeboat which had its own boat house just off the beach. In 2011 Selsey Lifeboat Station celebrated 150 years during which period lifeboat crew have received 10 awards for gallantry.
A new boathouse, to replace the old off shore boathouse, has been constructed on shore. The final launch from the old boathouse was made on 1 April 2017. The new boathouse accommodates both the inshore lifeboat and the new Shannon-class lifeboat, which has been allocated to Selsey, to replace the Tyne class. The RNLI shop has also been transferred to the new building.
Colin Pullinger (1814–94): A Victorian business man who was an undertaker, wooden pump maker, repairer of umbrellas, letter writer and clerk to the Selsey Sparrow Club. He was famed for making more than two million humane and perpetual mousetraps, which were exhibited at international exhibitions in London and Philadelphia. A blue plaque has been placed at the site of his Inventive Factory, which is today occupied by the offices of Selsey Town Council in the High Street.
Edward Heron-Allen (1861–1943): Selsey's most distinguished resident in the early 20th century, Mr Heron-Allen made an enormous contribution to village life and today is still well known as the author of the classic work on local history for the area.
Eric Coates (1886–1957) the English Composer lived and worked in Selsey. He was inspired to write By the Sleepy Lagoon after overlooking the sea towards Bognor Regis. His musical composition can be heard as the theme tune to Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4.
Air Commodore Edward 'Teddy' Mortlock Donaldson CB, CBE, DSO, AFC and Bar, LoM (USA) (1912–1992) who set a new world air speed record of 616 mph in September 1946, also breaking the 1,000 kilometres per hour (620 mph) barrier for the first time in the Star Meteor IV. Donaldson lived at Iron Latch Cottage and there is a blue plaque on the beach at the bottom of Park Lane to mark the event. Donaldson has a second plaque at No. 86, Grafton Road.
David Hewlett, (1968– ) British-born Canadian actor, writer, director and voice actor best known for his role as Dr. Rodney McKay on Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe resided here for some time before he and his family later emigrated to Canada.
Selsey Bill is referenced in the song "Saturday's Kids" by The Jam (from the 1979 album Setting Sons), along with Bracklesham Bay, as a place where these working-class children take holiday with their families; "Save up their money for a holiday/To Selsey Bill, or Bracklesham Bay."
In the opening scene of the Lerner and Loewe musical My Fair Lady, Professor Higgins correctly identifies one of the characters as coming from Selsey.
Selsey's climate is classified as warm and temperate. Although Selsey is in one of the sunnier areas of the UK, there is rainfall throughout the year and even the driest month still has rain. Probably the most problematic climatic hazard is wind. The town is situated in an area where tornadoes and waterspouts are common. A tornado in 1986 damaged 200 houses and cut a swathe 70 metres wide. Another tornado in 1998 left an estimated £10m of destruction and damaged Patrick Moore's observatory.
In 2015, around 50 Smooth-hound sharks were observed near the beach at Selsey.
- "2001 Census: West Sussex – Population by Parish" (PDF). West Sussex County Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 10 May 2009.
- UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – Selsey Parish (E04009925)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
- Parish. A Dictionary of the Sussex Dialect. pp. 96–97
- SCOPAC. Sedimentary Study from East Head to Pagham. Section 1.1. – The Standing Conference on Problems Associated with the Coastline (SCOPAC) was established in 1986 and consists of local authorities, the Environment agency and others. Archaeological evidence demonstrates that the coastline was some 2 to 3 km seawards of where it is now at about 5,000 years. Retrieved 5 February 2014
- Horsfield. History and Antiquities Vol II p.35.A man and horse paid twopence; a foot passenger one halfpenny. The farmers and renters paid annually a certain portion of corn..
- Bede. p.227
- Heron-Allen.Selsey Historic. pp.6 – 7
- Heron-Allen p.72.
- Heron-Allen. Plate XI
- Heron-Allen p.73
- Mee. pp.5 – 6. The early beginnings of Selsey.
- British Museum catalogue and description.
- Roman Sussex-Chichester and the Chilgrove Valley. Alec Down.p.52.The main oppidum of this shrunken kingdom was probably at Selsey
- History files. The Tribe of the Atrebates.
- English Heritage. National Monuments Record.
- Cambden. Britannia. p.228. At low water there are obscure Remains of that ancient little City where those Bishops resided
- Richardson. The Owers, p.76. If, as seems almost certain, The Mixon is the site of 'the old city' perhaps Cymenes ora itself...
- Admiralty Chart 2045 – This chart provides details of the coastal waters around Selsey Bill
- Mee. A History of Selsey, Chapter 2 – The author lists various finds and provides illustrations of the coins found
- Heron-Allen. Selsey Historic and Prehistoric . Chapter XXI — Description and pictures of coins found.
- British Museum Catalogue of pre-Roman coins at Selsey
- Hines. p.448 Two bits of gold found on the beach between Selsey and Bognor..
- Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People. ch.13
- L.F. Salzman, ed. (1953). "Selsey". A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4: The Rape of Chichester. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 19 October 2009.
- Horsfield. History and Antiquities Vol II. p.20. ... all cathedral churches should be removed from villages to cities.
- Powell-Smith, Anna. "Open Domesday: Hundred: Somerley". Anna Powell-Smith. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
- Heron-Allen. Selsey Bill Historic and Prehistoric. p.132. That is to say that the Bishop of selsey(or Chichester) holds Selsey in his own hands, or as his own domain. He holds some of his lands in "demesne" for his own use, and lets out parts of it to tenants..
- Horsfied. History and Antiquities Vol II P.35
- Horspool. Alfred. p.102. A hide is a bit like a form of tax, it is the amount of men required to maintain and defend an area for the King. The Burghal Hideage defines the measurement as one hide would be equivalent to one man. The hidage explains for the maintenance and defence of an acres breadth of wall sixteen hides are required
- Mee. pp. 11 – 12. Description of what preparations Selsey made to support the action against the Armada
- McCann, p. xxxix.
- Mee. Ch.7 the author explains the various ways the sea has been important to Selsey. Including wrecks, wrecking and smuggling
- Smugglers Britain. Description of Selsey Bill and smuggling activities
- SAC. Volume 119. p.221 – talking about the Mound.. the earthworks were probably constructed in the Norman period and probably soon after 1066..
- Mee.p38. There is even a tradition in Selsey that some of the Rectors used to take a 'tythe of kegs'..
- Heron-Allen p.195. The author speculates that the gullys were built as part of the Armada defences.
- SAC Vol 119. pp. 218–219. Plan of the mound
- Smugglers and Smuggling. The book provides a narrative on the offence, capture, trial and execution of the smugglers involved.
- Platt. Smuggling in the British Isles: A History. pp.152–153
- Smugglers and Smuggling. p.124.
- Heron-Allen. Historic and Prehistoric. p.309. and copy of tithe map. The Author says that it is not clear where the gibbets would have stood, but in an old tithe map, there was a Gibbet Field and he feels that this would have been the most likely place. The field was immediately adjacent to Selsey Bill.
- Mee. p.75
- Mee. p.80
- Mee. pp.84–96. Information on the railway.
- "SSSI Citation – Bracklesham Bay" (PDF). Natural England. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2009. Cite journal requires
- "SSSI Citation – Pagham Harbour" (PDF). Natural England. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2009. Cite journal requires
- Historic England. "MEDMERRY WINDMILL (1026236)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
- Timothy J McCann (2004) Sussex Cricket in the Eighteenth Century, Sussex Record Society
- Selsey Cricket Club Website.
- "Astronomer and broadcaster Sir Patrick Moore dies, aged 89". BBC. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
- "Chichester Art". Chichester Web. Archived from the original on 6 July 2015.
- Bay with headland Selsey Bill by J.M. Turner. Tate website, Retrieved 18 May 2012.
- "Schools in Selsey". DofE. 2014. Archived from the original on 1 December 2014. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
- Mee. Chapter Nine. Education in Selsey.
- Kellys Directory (1938) pp.515 – 516. Entry for Broombank School: Broombank Boarding; School(Misses Morgan, principals), Manor road.. Entry for the Selsey Hotel: Selsey Hotel (Selsey Hotel Ltd.), Manor Rd.
- Selsey Lifeboat, RNLI Selsey Lifeboat, accessed 30 June 2012
- Last Launch, from the old boathouse, accessed 21 April 2017
- Eric Coates Remembered. Blue Plaque Citation by local council.
- Blue Plaque press release. Citation by county council of blue plaques awarded to Selsey and reasons.
- "The Novium – Pullinger Perpetual Mousetrap". thenovium.org. Archived from the original on 30 March 2014.
- Selsey Bill: Historic and Prehistoric, published in 1911
- "Eric Coates in Sussex", transcript of The Enchanted Garden, a BBC local radio programme, devised, scripted and produced by Ian Lace. Available on MusicWeb, Retrieved 14 November 2010.
- Moore. The Autobiography p.62 -We arrived in Selsey on 29 June 1968 ..
- "Famous Selsey" (PDF). Visit Selsey 2017. Selsey Life. 6 July 1998. Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 October 2017. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
- "Saturday's Kids (Lyrics)". Archived from the original on 27 February 2013. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
- Ben Johson. Volpone. Act 1. Scene 2. SIR POLITIQUE WOULD_BEE: "In oranges, musk-melons, and such like: sometimes in Colchester-oysters, and your Selsey-cockles.'
- Lerner and Lowe. My Fair Lady. Act 1 Scene 1. pp. 18 – 19. ..THE SELSEY MAN: "He ain't a tec. He's a gentleman, look at his shoes." HIGGINS: (Turning on him genially) "And how are your people down at Selsey?" THE SELSEY MAN: (Suspiciously) "Who told you my people come from Selsey?..."
- "Driving in my Car (lyrics)". Archived from the original on 27 February 2013. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
- World Map of the Köppen-Geiger climate classification updated. Retrieved 15 January 2018
- Average Maps Retrieved 15 January 2018
- Selsey Climate Retrieved: 15 January 2018.
- Gardiner and Matthews. The Changing Geography of the UK p. 362
- Doe. Extreme Weather. pp.73–74
- Town picks up the pieces after tornado BBC News 9 January 1998 retrieved 19 September 2010
- Up to 50 sharks filmed in West Sussex BBC
- Aldsworth, F.G.; Garnett, E.D. (1981). "Excavations at the Mound, Church Norton, Selsey. SAC Volume 119". Lewes: Sussex Archaeological Society. Cite journal requires
- Bede, Venerablis; translated by Leo Sherley-Price (1988). A History of the English Church and People. Penguin Classics. ISBN 0-14-044042-9.
- Cambden, William (1701). Britannia Vol 1. London: Joseph Wild.
- Carter, Dave; Bray, Malcom (2003). "Sediment Transport Study East Head to Pagham Harbour". SCOPAC. Archived from the original on 24 February 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
- Chart 2045. Outer Approaches to The Solent (Map). United Kingdom Hydrographic Office. 2005.
- Doe, Robert K. (2016). Extreme Weather: Forty Years of the Tornado and Storm Research Organisation (TORRO). Chichester: Wiley. ISBN 978-1-118-95109-5.
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- Gentleman, A. (1749). Smuggling and Smugglers in Sussex. Brighton: W.J.Smith. - The author was simply described as A Gentleman of Chichester. Not clear why his identity was hidden!
- Heron-Allen, Edward (1911). Selsey Historic and Prehistoric. Duckworth.
- Hines, John (1990). BAMMESBERGER WOLLMANN (ed.). The Runic Inscriptions of Early Anglo-Saxon England. C.Winter. ISBN 3-533-04271-5.
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- Horspool, David (2007). Why Alfred Burnt the Cakes. London: Profile Books. ISBN 978-1-86197-779-3.
- Jonson, Ben (1929). Rea, John D (ed.). Volpone, or the Fox. Oxford: OUP. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
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- "COMPOSER ERIC COATES REMEMBERED Press Release Number:347". West Sussex County Council. 6 July 1998. Archived from the original on 27 February 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
- "Details of gold fragments found at Selsey". British Museum. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
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- Lerner, Alan Jay; Loewe, Frederick (1958). My Fair Lady, a Musical Play in Two Acts, Based on Pymalion by Bernard Shaw. New York: The American Library.
- McCann, Timothy J. (2004). Sussex Cricket in the Eighteenth Century. Lewes: Sussex Record Society. ISBN 0-85445-055-6.
- Mee, Frances (1988). A History of Selsey. Chichester, Sussex: Philimore. ISBN 0-85033-672-4.
- Moore, Patrick (2003). The Autobiography. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton. ISBN 0-7509-4014-X.
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- Post Office Directory — Sussex. London: Kelly's Directories. 1938.
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- "SSSI Citation — Bracklesham Bay" (PDF). Natural England. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2009. Cite journal requires
- "SSSI Citation — Pagham Harbour" (PDF). Natural England. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2009. Cite journal requires
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