Lancing Parish Council

Local history


Within the Adur district of West Sussex lies Lancing, reportedly England's largest village with a population of 19,000.


Lancing is located on the western edges of the Adur Valley; between Shoreham-by-Sea to the east, Worthing to the west and Coombes to the north.


The village of Lancing is a mix of chalk landscape, with the South Downs located in portions of Lancing, and urban dwellings along the coastal lines. It is also a historical village, with non-religious buildings that date well back into the 1500s.


During the middle of the 19th century Lancing was popular as a seaside resort location for the gentry, due to is atmosphere of seclusion. However, there is not much of the old tourist resort area left today, although some small guest houses are still in existence along the A259 coast road.


There is a shingle beach with good stretches of clean sand at low water. South of the coast road is Widewater, an internationally rare brackish lagoon, and the only known location of the probably extinct Ivell's sea anemone. Immediately north of the developed area is Lancing Ring, a Nature Reserve, part of the former Sussex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and now included in the South Downs National Park.


Farther north of the Lancing Ring is the Lancing College farm, which is a large agricultural facility. Within the Parish is Shoreham Airport, which is the oldest operating airport in the UK and indeed the world, although it is only open on a private and not commercial basis today.


The village's boundary with Sompting to the west has historically been along Boundstone Lane, named after the boundstone or boundary stone that marked the boundary. The stone is now kept at Boundstone Nursery School, Upper Boundstone Lane, having previously been kept at Boundstone Community College. Much of Lancing's northern boundary with the village of Coombes runs along the Ladywell Stream, a tributary of the River Adur, which runs from the South Downs near to Lancing College. The source of the Ladywell Stream, the Ladywell Spring, is believed to be an ancient holy well or sacred stream with pre-Christian significance.


Today most of the land in Lancing is used for housing, although in the past it was owned by market gardening businesses, which grew flowers or fruit for London's Covent Garden, Brighton and the South East.


Prominent landmarks in the area include Shoreham Airport, Lancing College and the Shoreham Toll Bridge, which is the last toll bridge that exists in Sussex and is today a Grade II listed structure. It can be seen to the east of Lancing Parish, and crosses over the River Adur into Shoreham-by-Sea.



In 1828, remains of what may be an iron age shrine and to its west a later Romano-British temple were found just west of Lancing Ring. The Romano-British temple was located within an oval temenos and seems to have been built in the 1st century AD. A track has existed since Celtic British times, which ran from Chanctonbury Ring via Cissbury Ring to Lancing Ring and from then on to a probable ford across the River Adur by the former Sussex Pad Public House, close to the Old Tollbridge at Old Shoreham. The Roman road from Noviomagus Reginorum (Chichester) to Novus Portus (probably Portslade near Brighton) also ran through modern North Lancing (along The Street) down to the ford.


Much of the land now covered with housing was formerly taken by a number of family-run market gardening businesses growing fruit or flowers for the Brighton Market or Covent Garden in London. Sparks Nursery was growing fruit such as tomatoes and Young's produced carnations. Chrysanthemums were grown by Frank Lisher on his land south of The Finches, the house he built. The Nash family were fruit growers, producing grapes under huge glass cloches that could be rolled into place on a rail track. 'Mr Marshall's Nursery' was also notable.


Lancing railway station opened with what is now known as the West Coastway Line in 1849. Between 1908 and 1912 the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway developed its railway wagon and carriage works in the area that is now the Lancing Business Park at the western edge of the Village. The railway works were closed on 25th June 1965.


Following World War II the population of Lancing increased dramatically. The Village is largely suburban in character and forms part of the Brighton/Worthing/Littlehampton conurbation.



Lancing probably means the people of Wlanc or people of Hlanc. Like many places throughout this part of Sussex, Lancing has an -ing ending, meaning people of. Wlanc seems to mean proud or imperious, while Hlanc seems to mean lank or lean. The suggestion that Lancing takes its name from the Wlencing or Wlenca, the son of the South Saxon king AElle, has been discounted.


Lancing is also mentioned in the Doomsday Book and formerly known as Lancinges.


River Adur

The River Adur is the namesake of the Adur District of West Sussex. The name of the river is thought to have been derived from the word 'dwyr' which is Welsh/Celtic for water.


At one time the river was used by large vessels to transport items up to Steyning, which also had a large port, but once the river started to silt up the port was moved, and the river ceased to be used for large transportation. In Mediaeval times, the River Adur was also used for transportation to the ports of New Shoreham and Bramber.


The Adur starts from two different branches known as the eastern and western Adur, which meet up together to form one long stretch of river slightly west of the town of Henfield.


The eastern Adur River begins in East Sussex at Ditchling Common until it crosses over to West Sussex and meets up with a stream that is found in Twineham. At the beginning of the river its flow is fed in Shermanbury by the Cowfold Stream.


The western Adur River begins at Slinfold and circles around Coolham where it continues on to flow through Shipley, until it meets Lancing Brook, and continues on through Knepp Castle and West Grinstead. The western portion of the river is much stronger in flow, and even tidal in the North, towards the Bines Bridge, which is south from the village of West Grinstead.


When the two sections of the river meet up by Henfield they flow through the South Downs, past Lancing College, which is where the sacred Ladywell Stream feeds into it. From there the Adur continues until it flows out into the English Channel.


Shoreham Airport


Shoreham is the oldest airport in the UK (although its ownership has switched several times), aviator Harold Piffard first flying from there in 1910, however, the aerodrome only officially opened on 20 June 1911. It served as a base for Alliott Verdon Roe who was the founder of Avro, and John Alcock who was one of the first men to fly the Atlantic.


The airport featured the first ever commercial flight when electric light bulbs were transported by air from the airport to Hove, a short distance along the coast.


At the start of the First World War, the first flight of British military aircraft left from Shoreham to join the fighting in France. In the 1930s the airfield became an airport for Brighton, Hove and Worthing and a new terminal building designed by Stavers Tiltman in the Art Deco style was opened in 1936. This building is still in use today and is now Grade II listed.


In 1937 one of the local flying schools received a contract to train pilots for the Royal Air Force and was known as No. 16 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School initially using the de Havilland Tiger Moth which were later supplemented by the use of the Hawker Hart and Hind. With the start of the Second World War the training school moved away from Shoreham in August 1939.


During the Second World War, Shoreham Airport once again served as a military airfield. The airfield started the Second World War in civilian hands until a detachment of Westland Lysanders of 225 Squadron arrived in July 1940 to undertake coastal patrols. With the nearby RAF Tangmere damaged by air raids the Fighter Interception Unit with the Bristol Beaufighter moved to Shoreham although they had problems with the grass runway. In October 1940 422 Flight arrived with the Hawker Hurricane operating as night-fighters. However, by October 1941 both units had moved away from Shoreham.


The airfield was regularly attacked during July and August 1941 and the next unit to arrive was No 11 Group Target Towing Flight in October 1941. Westland Lysanders were used to tow targets for fighter squadrons to practice air-firing. Lysanders and later the Supermarine Walrus were also based for search and rescue duties. In December 1941 a detachment of Hawker Hurricane fighters from 245 Squadron arrived at Shoreham to support the Tangmere based squadrons. By August 1941 the fighters had moved on and only the 277 Squadron remained in the search and rescue, the Lysanders were replaced by the Boulton Paul Defiants in May 1942.


In February 1943 the Defiants were replaced by Supermarine Spitfires and in April 1943 the airfield became a practice camp to RAF Regiment gunners in the anti-aircract role. Lysanders appeared again but this time to tow targets for the regiment gunners. A gunnery training dome was built on the northern perimeter of the airfield that still survives today. In April 1944 No. 345 (Free French) Squadron arrived with Spitfires to support the preparation for the Normandy invasion, the squadron was active on D-Day over the beaches and escorting glider formations. The airfield was bombed several times and a Messerschmitt Bf 109 was shot down by ground fire during one such attack, crash-landing near the terminal building. A B-17 Flying Fortress crash-landed at the airfield after being damaged during a raid on Germany. The consequent damage to the old guardhouse on the north side of the airfield can still be seen.


Up until 1981 the landing fields were entirely composed of grass, but during this year the landing area was upgraded to a tarmac runway.


In 2008 the airport was closed for a brief period of time when its owners faced liquidation and feared their flying insurance coverage had been cancelled. Soon after this Shoreham Airport was sold and re-opened. It was sold once more on 2nd May 2014, when Brighton City Airport Ltd took over ownership of the airport and its operations, which at the time was named Shoreham Airport. Once the takeover was completed, the airport was officially renamed as Brighton City (Shoreham) Airport.


Today there are no commercial flights out of Shoreham Airport, but it is instead, used by those who own private light aircraft, for flight instruction, and for those wishing to go on sightseeing or pleasure flights. Also, it was used as a filming location in Agatha Christie's 'Poirot' and for exterior shots used in 'The Da Vinci Code'.


The South Downs National Park

The South Downs is an area of chalk downloads found on the eastern section of Hampshire, extending on through Sussex, until they reach their end at the Beachy Head cliffs.


Due to their great aesthetic beauty, two distinct areas that are contained within the Downs four portions, they have been named Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and throughout the Downs there are multiple Sites of Scientific Interest.


For the most part the South Downs is not a populated region, but instead a natural feast to visit, and observe the plants, natural beauty, and wildlife. There are a sprinkling of seaside towns on its Southern boundary that are lined up side by side along the coast.


Walkers enjoy taking trips to the South Downs due to the South Downs Way footpath, which reaches over a large portion of the area, and subsequent smaller footpaths, that link into the primary South Downs Way. One of the most popular smaller footpaths is the Monarch's Way which starts at Worcester, and continues across the South Downs until it ends at Shoreham-by-Sea.


The South Downs is split up by three gaps where rivers pass through, and throughout the entire area of the region there are also several dry valleys that make up its composition.


Outside of the natural wonders that are found in the South Downs, the area is also quite historical, with archaeological remains that have been dated as far back as the Neolithic period. Until the last century for those who do lived in the South Downs area the main occupation was sheep-rearing.


The region is actually part of the Wealden dome which used to be a shallow sea until the sea dried up which has cleft behind many fossils and flint that line the mountains of the area. Erosion has left behind a great deal of chalk which has created many winterbournes (seasonal rivers).


The South Downs are about 122km in length from west to east about 11km in width from the northern to southern borders. It meets up with the North Downs at the Hampshire border at the Wessex Downs near the River Meon Valley.


On the eastern border of the South Downs you can see the Seven Sisters which are large undulated cliffs that are what is left of the dry valleys that were carved out slowly by erosion over time.


Butler Hill is another prominent part of the South Downs and is the highest point throughout the area measuring 270m in height making it one of England's Marilyns (peaks over 150m).


Archaeological studies have revealed that the Downs were used and inhabited by people during the Neolithic times, Iron Age, and Bronze Age. The area used to be covered by trees but about 2500 years ago, scientists estimate, the trees were cleared.


The South Downs have been romanticized in several authors' works over time including, William Henry Hudson, Jane Austen, and Rudyard Kipling.



The local senior school, The Sir Robert Woodard Academy, formerly Boundstone Community College, located just inside the neighbouring village of Sompting, is a mixed comprehensive of around 1,100 students from ages 11-18.


In the north-east of the Parish on the Downs lies Lancing College, an independent school and major landmark.


Lancing College

Lancing College is an independent school that aims to provide an education that is rooted in the Christian faith. The school was the first of more than 30 schools that were founded by Nathaniel Woodard.


In the same manner as public schools, Lancing College emphasizes basic educational subject areas, as well as attendance at chapel services, and has a strong athletic prowess out of which their squash, tennis, hockey, football, and cricket teams are the most well known.


The College is located on the hillside on the South Downs and is the most prominent part of the landscape in the area. The view from Lancing College is also notable, due to the fact that the College looks down over the Ladywell Stream (a sacred pre-Christian stream with historical significance) and the River Adur.


Girls were not admitted into Lancing College until 1971, but it is now known as a prestigious school for both sexes, even though it was originally known as a school for professional men, and those in the upper middle classes.


The private school hosts children between the ages of 13 to 18 years old and offer musical and academic scholarships. In the typical style of London schools, the college is split into dormitory living areas known as houses, which hold up to 80 students.





There are several adult and junior teams in the village. Lancing F.C. is based at the Culver Road ground while Lancing United play at Monks Recreation Ground (Crabtree Lane) and at Croshaw Recreation Ground (Boundstone Lane), where they have a newly-built club house.


The Sussex County Football Association headquarters is based at Culver Road in the Village and they have recently installed a state of the art 3G artificial pitch.


Also located in the Village is Brighton and Hove Albion's prestigious Academy and training complex, which cost in excess of £15m to complete. The complex has a number of outdoor full-size grass and artificial pitches, some of which are lit plus indoor facilities, which include undercover training areas, state of the art medical and recovery centres. As part of the planning agreement a number of local football teams use the 3G floodlight pitch for training.



Lancing Manor Cricket Club play at the cricket ground which is situated north of the junction of the A27 and Grinstead Lane.


Water sports


Lancing has a 3km shoreline and boasts a variety of water sports and activities. The beaches are zoned and offer dedicated areas for swimming, sailing, windsurfing, kitesurfing and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). A beach patrol operates throughout the summer months along Lancing's entire coastline.


Lancing has a long established sailing club and has one of the largest kitesurfing clubs in Britain. Lancing is considered to be a leading water sports centre in the UK and in 2015 hosted one of the three British Kitesurfing Championship events.


Some Famous People

Lancing was visited by Oscar Wilde in the 1890s when he stayed at nearby Worthing. The working title for his masterpiece The Importance of Being Earnest was Lady Lancing. Wilde's friend and lover, the poet Lord Alfred Douglas lived in nearby Brighton and died while staying at Monk's Farmhouse in Lancing. Lancing was also visited by another poet, Algernon Charles Swinburne, who stayed at The Terrace in the 1880s.


The writer Ted Walker was born in Lancing in 1934 and grew up at 186, Brighton Road, by the Widewater. His autobiographical work, The High Path takes its name from the footpath that ran between Brighton Road and the Widewater, and which was formerly a public right of way.


As a child, heavyweight boxer Sir Henry Cooper was evacuated from London to Lancing, along with identical twin brother George.