Seaside Fun

Visitors on Littlehampton beach, Sussex

Activities & Entertainment

In the 1920s and 1930s Littlehampton was regarded as a ‘children’s paradise’. Popular entertainment for holidaymakers at the time included boat trips up the river to Arundel, sandcastle competitions, exercise classes on the Beach Green, ferry rides across the river and live entertainment.

Donkey rides were also a popular attraction with holidaymakers. Children too small to ride the donkeys would be pulled in a cart by a goat. Other seaside attractions such as the water chute, putting greens, parks, carnival, casino, and Butlin’s, all made Littlehampton an exciting place to visit.

Traditional seaside Punch & Judy shows, comedy and music were commonly played along the promenade.

There were many affectionately named characters, such as “Uncle Terry” (real name Harry Page) who ran quizzes, sold refreshments and reading material along the promenade. Fred “Freddie” Spencer performed variety acts, including impersonations and songs. One of his popular acts was to perform as his alter ego “Mrs ‘Arris of the Sunday ‘Erald”.  ‘Uncle Charlie’ (Charles Speller) performed Punch and Judy shows. Watch a short film to learn more about him:

Annual Bonfire Celebrations

The Littlehampton Bonfire Society, formed in 1952, hold an annual celebration in the town every October. This free event includes a fireworks display, funfair and torchlit procession, with floats, bands, and bonfire societies taking part from all across Sussex. The event draws huge crowds and raises vast amounts for charity. It is one of the biggest and best in the county.

More about Littlehampton Bonfire Society
Old photo visitors to Littlehampton, West Sussex with a horse and cart
Bonfire boys dressed in feathered hats walking through town at night with burning torches
Littlehampton Bonfire Society Programme from 1988
Fireworks against a night sky in Littlehampton, West Sussex
Ozzie's Quiz - Ozzie the owl holding a sign saying Ozzie's Quiz


When was the society formed?


Littlehampton Miniature Railway

Littlehampton Miniature Railway opened in 1948, with two steam locomotives and eight open passenger coaches running on a very rare 12 ¼ inch gauge track between Norfolk Gardens and Mewsbrook Park. After many different operators the running of the railway was taken over in 2016 by the Littlehampton Heritage Railway Association in association with Arun District Council on a not-for-profit basis.

Images Courtesy of Littlehampton Heritage Railway Association.

Front of a Littlehampton Miniature Railway train stopped at the platform with driver
Littlehampton miniature railway
Littlehampton Miniature Railway steam train at the platform
Mewsbrook Park train sign and local area map at the station
Littlehampton Miniature Railway train passing through level-crossing
Old photo of a seaside train in Littlehampton, West Sussex
Littlehampton Miniature Railway train
Littlehampton Miniature Railway train
Ozzie's Quiz - Ozzie the owl holding a sign saying Ozzie's Quiz


What makes the miniature railway one of only six to exist?

It runs on a very rare 12¼ inch gauge track


In 1932, W.E.(Billy) Butlin built a holiday park at Littlehampton on the seafront, replacing several structures including a windmill. The park had water dodgems, an amusement arcade and a large roller coaster known as ‘The Wild Mouse’ or ‘Giant Dipper’, apparently modelled on the Colosseum in Rome. The park temporarily closed from 1941 to 1945 – because of the second world war – being used for storage and as a base for gathering troops going overseas. It suffered bomb damage during that time, but repairs were made and the park re-opened after the war.

In 1977 Billy Smart bought the park from Butlin’s and in 1995 the area between the oyster pond and the seafront was renamed ‘Harbour Park’

Old photo of Butlin's Park in Littlehampton, West Sussex
Exterior view of the canal and Castle Slide at Harbour Park in Littlehampton, West Sussex
Old black and white photograph ofButlins Park, Littlehampton
Flags flighing at the funfair and amusement arcade on Littlehampton pier, West Sussex, UK
Ozzie's Quiz - Ozzie the owl holding a sign saying Ozzie's Quiz


What was here before Harbour Park and Butlin’s?

A windmill

West Beach

On the other side of the River Arun, Littlehampton’s West Beach, with its miles of sand dunes, is a tranquil oasis. It has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and as such has seen little development over the years, although in the early 20th century, beach chalets used to nestle on the dunes.

Over 250 different species of rare vegetation have been identified on the site, including the Yellow Horned Poppy, Sea Kale, Sea Beet, Curled Dock, Eryngium maritimum, Sand Catchfly, Viper’s Bugloss and Nottingham Catchfly. The site is also home to much wildlife, including migrating Sanderling birds who nest there over winter.

A ferry service operates in the summer linking East (Town Quay, Pier Road) and West (Littlehampton Yacht Club, Rope Walk) banks.

Images of visitors using futuristic dynasphere vehicles on the beach have been found. Its inventor was optimistic about it becoming as popular as the motor car but as it was almost impossible to steer or brake it never caught on!

Old photo of visitors enjoying some fun on the beach in Littlehampton, West Sussex
The boardwalk and sand dunes leading down to Littlehampton's sandy beach, West Sussex, UK
Drone aerial landscape image of Littlehampton on English South coast at sunrise
Ozzie's Quiz - Ozzie the owl holding a sign saying Ozzie's Quiz


When do Sanderling birds nest here?

Over winter


Postcards were for many years popular mementos for holidaymakers on seaside holidays. The front would depict scenery or landmarks from the area, or a humorous cartoon and the reverse was blank for the sender to write a message. Postcards would then be sent to friends and family in the post. Littlehampton Museum has an extensive collection of Littlehampton postcards from the 20th Century.

Old postcard of the Oyster Pond, Littlehampton

Littlehampton Beaches & Rivers

Explore more from the beaches and rivers of Littlehampton.