History of Aldingbourne

A bourne is a stream or small river.

The name derives from either; Alding (old) or Elda’s (a Saxon chieftan), burne or bourne.

In Roman times the settlement was based around an area close to the Rife (bourne) on the western boundary.

The evidence for this was the finding during cleaning of the Rife in 1942, a large deposit of oyster shells, these were a staple food in ancient times. In the same area close to Park Farm a Roman’s toga pin was found. (refer ’Around Aldingbourne 900 years’ by Cliff Mewett & Vivienne Salmon p.2,3).

Later, in early Norman times(11thc), a fortified look out tower was built on a mound by the Rife for the security of the adjacent Bishop of Chichester’s summer palace, it’s farm and watermill, now in ruins, it is called Tote Copse(Mewett’s ’900 years of Aldingbourne’ p. 3, 11).

St Mary’s, the parish church (since 1086) is close by and it was here that the settlement grew initially.

The Black plague of 1348 and attendant pollution of the Aldingbourne Rife forced the population to move eastward to the next rife, hence creating the new settlement of Westergate next to Eastergate.

This happened again during the plague of the 17th century with small farms and crofts beginning to appear in linear form following the rife southwards towards Lidsey.

Hook Lane was the meandering cattle track joining the two settlements, with ponds for watering en route, various footpaths also connected Westergate with it’s parish Church.

Over centuries this rife was dammed to create ponds to serve the numerous, small dairy farms along the main street, starting at Nyton and ending at Woodgate.

These ponds disappeared and the Rife was piped underground to allow development of the unviable farms (Mewett’s 900 years,p.1) (’ Down my Way’ p56)

This got the attention of the newer residents when Westergate Street was flooded in 1975, 1994 and 2000 with some homes inundated, it had though, been happening for centuries.

Park Farm, south of Hook Lane had been part of a large hunting park visited by both King John and Edward 1st, it served the Bishop’s palace and was still shown on the more accurate maps such as Budgen’s of 1724.

This park stretched from Nyton to beyond the current Park Farm and was bounded by a wooden paling fence. 

A major hindrance to development in Westergate had been the lack of sewer drains, most homes had outside soil toilets. Main drainage was installed in 1975, this allowed several in fill developments to go ahead.

However, many houses are still on cesspits as the high winter ground water levels prevent installation of mains sewers.

The Brighton to Portsmouth South Coast railway was built in 1846, there was a station at Woodgate, which served as Bognor’s station until the opening of the branch line from Barnham junction to Bognor in 1864,Woodgate was then closed.

Historical and archaeological features of great importance in Aldingbourne


The Church of St Mary and the site of the Bishop’s Palace look out tower (Tote Copse) are found to the west of Westergate in the same area as Park Farm, within the former Aldingbourne hunting park which was established in the 11thc., lasting into the 17thc. when it reverted to common ground, followed by Enclosure, which was completed by 1779, so transforming the area into the field pattern bounded by hedges and fences with small lanes, crofts and cottages, some of which remain today. ( Mewett, ’ 900 years around Aldingbourne’ p.4, 26 )

Hook Lane was an ancient highway route joining Westergate with Aldingbourne and the church.

It is possible this area was inhabited in Palaeolithic times ( Boxgrove Man was discovered 3.5 kms north of here).

Park Farm had Cromwell’s soldiers camped here during the Civil War where there were skirmishes, musket balls have been found and a nearby field is named Oliver’s Meadow. The Parliamentarian soldiers sacked and levelled the Bishop’s Palace in 1642. (Mewett p. 11,72)

The Mill and pond ( still existing) in Park Lane date from Norman times, it provided flour until 1914 and was converted into a private residence in the 1950’s.

(Mewett p.29,30)

Consideration should be given to the potential for archaeological remains of importance in the general area of Park Farm and Hook Lane.

An historical feature of importance to the industrial archaeology of West Sussex is the remainder of the Arun to Chichester Canal, opened in 1823 and closed to commercial traffic in 1856.(Mewett p.30,31)

The section crossing through Aldingbourne Parish at Lidsey should be retained and restored as part of our pre railway transport history.

Of particular interest is the aqueduct crossing of the Rife.

Chichester DC have protected the section to the west in their LDF documents.