The Chidham and Hambrook local authority area, formerly called ‘The Parish of Chidham’, is a small, attractive rural parish situated five miles west of Chichester and is comprised of two villages – Hambrook and Chidham. The residents of part of a third village, Nutbourne, are now also part of the Chidham and Hambrook parish, after the boundary realignment of 2014.
We live in a lovely and peaceful part of the world. There is a network of public footpaths for walkers, and the beautiful shore and intertidal mudflats of Chichester harbour to enjoy. Otherwise, the land is largely flat, and agricultural, but with sufficient variety and cover for a whole variety of wildlife to exist. With the combination of beautiful countryside and the expanses of Chichester Harbour so close, it is no surprise that walking, horseriding, and sailing are popular activities. However, apart from the foreshore, the parish has little public open space.
Parts of the Chidham peninsula are potentially at risk from tidal flooding. The west tidebank is in a poor state, but the Harbour Conservancy has realigned a section of the bank, which will have the added benefit of creating 22 hectares of intertidal habitat. Elsewhere, the tidebanks are in generally good condition.
We also have a history as a place that has been a settlement for a very long time. A recent excavation has shown that man made use of Chidham more than 4000 years ago. The flint scrapers discovered on the site on the western shore of the peninsula, seem to suggest that spear shafts or kiddles (fish traps) were being made here.
The present flint and rubble church dates from the 13th century – a wooden one may have stood here before. Close by is the manor house, a large late 17th century building but of greater interest to many people is the nearby pub, the ‘Old House at Home’ which offers a selection of real ales.
The men of Chidham seem to have been farmers rather than fishermen or sailors, probably due to the good quality of their soil. The village seems almost oblivious to the nearness of the sea.
In 1812 an embankment wall was built across from Chidham to Bosham where use was made of an old quay. Writing of Bosham in the 1860s Charles Longcroft described how the newly enclosed land was ploughed and planted with corn. ‘But one November, there came a raging tide and a gale wind, from the southwest and away went the embankment..’. In 1825 the sea returned covering the farmland and inundating new buildings. One of these is said to have been a mansion, standing at Cutmill whose stone was afterwards used to build Cutmill Cottage.
A significant proportion of residents are relatively new to their current home, with 36% having lived there for less than six years. On the other hand, 18% have occupied their home for more than twenty-five years.
Most homes (83%) are owner-occupied and 99% of dwellings are the household’s main residence The people of the community are evenly divided between the sexes (48% male, 52% female) and the age distribution of people over 11 years old is more uniform than might be expected. 8% of residents are aged between 11 and 17 years and 9% are aged 75 years or more. Children under 11 years old constitute 14% of the population. The picture that emerges is of a community with a good mix.
The parish is cut by two east-west lines of communication – the A259 and the Portsmouth to Brighton railway line. The Chidham peninsula extends southwards into Chichester Harbour and lies within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The whole of the parish, with the exception of two Settlement Policy Areas (SPA’s), lies within the Rural Area, as defined in the Chichester District Local Plan.
There are 705 households in the community, with a total population of about 1800, including children. The population is concentrated in three areas. There is no single focal point in the community. Around 41% of the households lie to the north of the railway line and 49% to the south; the remainder are technically part of Nutbourne, also to the south of the Railway line.
The parish is served by a railway halt and a half-hour bus service along the A259. There is a primary school, a church, a village hall and a church centre. Facilities include a post office/shop, a garage/shop, three Inns, two riding stables, three caravan sites and three residential nursing homes. Further employment is provided through arable farming, market gardening, nurseries and orchards and also a national concrete product manufacturer and several small rural businesses. The youth of West Sussex and elsewhere are catered for by two activity centres, each having a strong sailing bias, located adjacent to the Bosham Channel where there is also a dinghy park and slipway.
The civil Parish of Chidham was increased in area in April 2003, when the west side of Broad Road north of the railway line, Priors Leaze Lane , Hambrook Hill South and Shepherd’s Meadow were included. This brought the whole of the Hambrook community into the parish. However, a similar proposal to bring part of Nutbourne into the parish was not implemented. Over the last 10 years from 1995 to date, there have been approximately 72 new houses built within the current parish of Chidham. Most of these are to the north of the railway line in Hambrook. In addition to these, several conversions of existing buildings into dwellings have also taken place and approximately 10 new houses have been built within the additional consultation area in Nutbourne. The Shepherd’s Meadow development in 1999 is of note in that 36 houses were constructed on a single site, allocated in the Local Plan, between Hambrook Hill South and Broad Road .
Local organisations include the Parish Council which has nine elected members. The Hambrook and District Residents’ Association (HDRA) currently represents 126 households. Chidham WI meets monthly in the Village Hall and draws members from both within and outside the parish. St Mary’s Church has a thriving congregation and the popular and successful Chidham Parochial Primary School, with around 90 pupils, has an active Parents, Teachers and Friends’ Association. Clubs and societies meet in both the Village Hall and St Wilfrid’s Church Centre.