Littlehampton is a coastal town situated at the mouth of the River Arun. Signs of settlement date back to at least the Iron Age and some significant Roman sites have been discovered in the area including a large Roman villa at Angmering. By the time of the Domesday Book, there was a small fishing settlement here named ‘Hantone’ Sometime between 1610 and 1695 the town changed its name include the prefix ‘Little’ to differentiate itself from Southampton.

Its character has mainly been defined by its beach and river location with tourism and harbour activity central to much of the town’s history and economy. The town experienced rapid growth in the 19th century when the population grew tenfold between 1801 and 1901.

Hero image collage containing ten images of Littlehampton from times gone by

The Victorian period brought huge changes to the town

Infrastructure such as the arrival of the central railway station in 1863 brought visitors to the town and provided transportation for freight, and in the 1880s sanitation improved when drains and a piped water supply were built.

The Dukes of Norfolk were once powerful figures that owned significant amounts of land but due to the economic downturn in the 1930s the estate was sold and their influence diminished. Many of the town’s most notable landmarks were gifted by one of the Dukes of Norfolk.

The town continued to expand rapidly, absorbing neighbouring villages of Wick, Toddington and Lyminster.

It currently has a growing population of approximately 30,000 and is popular with families and retirees, for the excellent quality of life it offers.

Since its peak in the 1960s there has been a gentle decline in tourism, having become a more relaxed, quiet place for most of the year. Today, the town remains a popular day-tripper destination in the summer for its family friendly atmosphere, award-winning beaches and successful regeneration schemes, delivering iconic modern architecture (notably East Beach Café and Long Bench) and redeveloped riverside promenade and harbour.

Aerial view of Littlehampton in the past
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Books about Littlehampton

Littlehampton Revisited Paperback (2007) by Zeegers (Author)

Littlehampton (1998) by Ian Friel and Rebecca Fardell

The monograph series of books published by the Littlehampton Local History Society

Famous Faces of Littlehampton, Jill Belchamber et al, 2019 Littlehampton History Research group

Littlehampton 1800-1940, Peter Walton, Jill Belchamber and Nina Twinn. 2022 Littlehampton History Research Group

Littlehampton in Old Photographs, Jones and Stanford 2000

Littlehampton: A pictorial history, Elleray, 1991

Littlehampton Ghost Tour: a self-guided walk around Littlehampton town and harbour, Noble, Stoner and Petch, 2018

Littlehampton (archive photographs), Friel and Fardell, 1998

Check out Littlehampton Library catalogues.