Chichester Harbour – a Saxon naval base of international importance?

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The mystery of what happened to the long-lost navy of King Harold which disappeared in 1066 could now be solved – and one man thinks he has the answer.

Southbourne councillor and local historian Philip MacDougall feels the mystery lies under the silt of Chichester Harbour.

In the autumn of 1066 on the eve of the Battle of Hastings, the King’s powerful fleet of not less than 20 warships returned to its home waters of the harbour.

He believes a site on the east side of Thorney Island was used by the Saxons, where vessels were protected.

“From that point onwards, the entire fleet, its crew and shore-side support buildings, simply disappear completely from the annals of history,” said Mr MacDougall.

Giving further support to the importance of Thorney Island is a passage in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, an early collection of historical writings that tell of members of Harold’s family boarding ships at Thorney.

These had been brought from nearby Bosham for that purpose. 

Given the year in which this occurred was 1051, it also seems likely the vessels referred to were part of the same fleet that disappeared in the autumn of 1066. 

To explore the importance of Chichester Harbour, Mr MacDougall is organising a one-day event designed to encourage interest in an archaeological site of potential local, national and international importance.  

The morning will include talks on the significance of this particular Saxon harbour, its national and international importance, together with an overview of similar archaeological sites elsewhere in the world.

The one-day event, entitled Chichester Harbour: an exploration of the Anglo-Saxon naval base, will take place on Saturday, April 16.

It will start at 10.15am at Southbourne Village Hall while the afternoon will consist of two field walks to explore local related sites, finishing at 4pm.

The cost of the day will be £6.50 per person (unwaged £5) with a background booklet and morning refreshments included.

Further details of this event are available by contacting Philip by post at 62 Maybush Drive, Chidham, Chichester, PO18 8SS, telephone on 01243 573782 or email philip.macdougall@btinternet.com