Chichester Harbour Trust


The Harbour


Chichester Harbour is one of the few undeveloped estuaries on the South Coast; its tranquility, natural beauty and richness of wildlife make it an internationally recognised treasure.

Situated on the borders of Hampshire and West Sussex the 22 square miles of low-lying land and water against a backdrop of the South Downs provides an unspoilt landscape of startling beauty.


Chichester Harbour is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, recognition of its significance as a habitat for wildlife. Nutbourne Marshes, Eames Farm, Pilsey, Sandy Point and Gutner Point are all 'Local Nature Reserves'.

The Harbour's European importance is confirmed by its status as a 'Special Protection Area' and it is designated a 'wetland of international importance' under the Ramsar Convention.

The Harbour has the sixth largest area of saltmarsh in Britain. Other important habitats include sand dunes, vegetated shingle, saline lagoons, ancient woodland and coastal grazing marsh. The eelgrass beds are unique in Sussex.

The Harbour's saltmarsh and inter-tidal mud provide feeding grounds for wintering and migratory waterfowl. Around 52,500 birds are recorded each year.

Botanically, the grazing marshes are even more diverse than the saltmarsh. Together, these habitats support 15 nationally scarce plant species.

The harbour mouth is a nursery for bass.



Widespread finds of artefacts of the Neolithic Period, and Iron Age works on Hayling Island, testify to the early colonisation of Chichester Harbour by man.

In the Roman period the harbour was of sufficient importance to be developed initially as a military base. Thereafter, with the growth of Chichester and the development of the palace at Fishbourne, it served an important local community and, through a network of roads spreading from the harbour, a much wider area as well. It is believed that Stane Street - the important Roman artery from Chichester to London - started at Dell Quay.

The good soils around the harbour attracted early Saxon settlers and agriculture flourished. Grain made the harbour area important in later centuries and in the saltings many examples of broken dykes show where landowners attempted to reclaim land from marsh.

 Around the shores are the remains of several mills that served the harbour and its hinterland.

The harbour developed as an important port, with landings at Dell Quay and Bosham and, from the 13th century onwards, Emsworth. The harbour never had deep-water anchorages but it served coastal trading until well after the arrival of the railways. There were considerable fishing fleets and a flourishing oyster dredging industry until well into the 20th century.

  Bookmark and Share  

Chichester Harbour,West Sussex,ANOC,Chichester Harbour Trust,Itchenor,The Friends of Chichester Harbour,Emsworth Online