History of Pagham
Railway carriages in Pagham
While there has been some residential settlement around the Harbour, including Church Norton on the opposite side, the beach was first inhabited in the 1920s when a local farmer sold off plots along the beach at a moment that coincided with the sale of surplus rolling stock from the railway tram serving Selsey to Chichester. Accordingly a number of Sussex folk purchased an old tram carriage to serve as an extemporary summer holiday dwelling which were offered for sale for 10 shillings including haulage to a site of the buyers request. Many of these railway carriages are still visible to this day, though many have become encrusted with lean tos and trussed rooves spanning two or three carriages. Enlarge the image above and see if you can spot the carriages that have been cleverly integrated as houses.
Pagham Harbour is a natural harbour formed by the delta of the Pagham Rife, a water course which runs off the South Downs. However the outlet has been managed since Roman times, as the pebble beach is highly dynamic and can create new spits and logoons overnight from time to time. The harbour is a designated bird sanctuary run by the RSPB. The beach is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), a rare example of vegetated shingle.
Fun fact: Current US President Joe Biden's great grandfather was christened at St Thomas à Becket Church in Pagham in 1767.
From the BBC
The story of Eric Coates's By the Sleepy Lagoon
In a BBC local radio programme in 1997, Eric's son Austin was asked about his father's music – and how By the Sleepy Lagoon came to be, theme tune to the BBC's Desert Island Discs.
'It was inspired by the view on a warm, still summer evening looking across the "lagoon" from the east beach at Selsey towards Bognor Regis. It's a pebble beach leading steeply down, and the sea at that time is an incredible deep blue of the Pacific. It was that impression, looking across Bognor, which looked pink – almost like an enchanted city with the blue of the Downs behind it – that gave him the idea for the Sleepy Lagoon.'
Coates scribbled down the melody while he was in West Sussex, looking at the view, but it wasn't until he returned to London that he wrote and orchestrated the piece.