Most visitors to the western corner of West Sussex wash up in Bosham at some point and have done for thousands of years. And why not. It’s compellingly pretty, perched as it is on an inlet of Chichester Harbour with tidal waters lapping at the feet of quaint little quayside cottages at high tide. From painters of the 19th and 20th centuries to the Instagrammers of today, Bosham attracts visitors for its picture-book beauty. But beyond its good looks, it also has a rich and long heritage and there are simply dozens of reasons to put it at the centre of a weekend away.
Romans and Normans
Bosham dates back to at least the Roman era. Its notable Saxon church is believed to be partly built on the remains of a Roman basilica which may have dated back to the 4th century. A significant Roman building was found in 1832 at nearby Broadbridge, a Roman bath was found near the churchyard and, of course, the Roman palace at Fishbourne is not far away, all of which point to its strong Roman roots.
It’s thought that Christianity first dipped its toe into Bosham’s waters as early as the 660s when a Celtic monk named Dicul established a small monastery here. Christianity was not well received by the locals back then and when St Wilfrid was shipwrecked on its shores in 666, he allegedly described Bosham folk as angry Sussex pagans. That said, he went on to establish a small monastery in Bosham (in 681).
King Canute (1016 to 1035) is believed to have had a palace in Bosham and legend has it that he tried unsuccessfully to “part Bosham’s waters”. A second legend holds that King Canute’s daughter was buried in the church, and in 1865 the chancel arch was excavated and two coffins discovered. One contained the bones of an eight-year-old girl, the coffin being described as typical of those dating to the reign of Canute.
The second coffin is believed to belong to Earl Godwin. He was the father of King Harold (of 1066) and he and Harold are both believed to have lived in or near Bosham. Having visited Battle Abbey recently, it’s a reminder that the connections between Battle and Bosham are strong and the Bayeux Tapestry shows Harold at mass at Bosham in 1064 prior to meeting William of Normandy. The Domesday Book (1086) lists Bosham as one of the wealthiest manors in England.
Your perfect weekend
If you’re not interested in history, there’s plenty else to do in the area. Arrive for your weekend’s stay on Friday afternoon or evening and pick up a hamper on the way. You can pre-order a hamper from Harbour Hampers in Birdham and collect it on your way down. They do a fabulous charcuterie box filled with cheeses, fruit and antipasti for £30 and why not add in a bottle of Tinwood brut (£29) or rosé (£31)?
Start your weekend, by heading north east to the Tinwood Estate Vineyard just outside Chichester for a vineyard tour and tasting. For £18 per person, the tour takes 1 ½ hrs and you’ll enjoy three glasses of sparkling wine and a tour around the estate, with nibbles as extras. This is a dynamic, young vineyard and a great introduction to Sussex wines.
Quite close to Tinwood is Halnaker Windmill, a Grade II listed building on Halnaker Hill which is also an ancient monument due to a Neolithic earthwork structure. The windmill has been restored and the walk up is via the ancient route of Stane Street, the London to Chichester Roman road which passes through an iconic tunnel of trees. It’s also part of Monarch’s Way, which was the alleged route Charles II took as he escaped from Worcester via Shoreham-by-Sea to France. The Anglesey Arms in Halnaker does food if you fancy lunch here, or head over to the Goodwood Estate’s Bar and Grill where they do an excellent a la carte and sandwich lunch.
Head back to Chichester for the afternoon to browse the shops, explore the cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace Gardens, and discover local art galleries (large, like Pallant House or small, like Oxmarket). With dozens of theatres in Chichester including the renowned Festival Theatre, you cannot go far wrong by soaking up a little culture on Saturday night. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from but do, if you can, head back to Bosham later, and watch the moon rise over the harbour.
When it comes to the great outdoors, you’re spoilt in the Bosham area with nature reserves such as Pagham, Selsey and Thorney Island all within easy reach. The 12 km walk around Thorney Island is reasonably quiet so a great option for a leisurely Sunday morning. But if that doesn’t float your boat, head down to the sandy beaches and sand dunes of West Wittering (do check the parking requirements in advance) for the morning and try your hand at some kite surfing or windsurfing.
Back to Bosham
Of course, you can’t spend a weekend in Bosham without spending a little time in Bosham itself. Book yourself a table at the Anchor Bleu for Sunday lunch overlooking the harbour and then spend the afternoon walking around the quay, visiting the church and soaking up the more leisurely pace of life that unfolds in this ancient corner of Sussex. And whatever you do, remember that Bosham is pronounced Bozzum by the locals.
Places to stay
Hammer Cottages is located in the heart of Bosham and just around the corner from picturesque Bosham Harbour. It sleeps six, across three bedrooms, so is ideal for families or small groups.
For a romantic weekend for two, you’ll find a delightful shepherd’s hut in nearby Westbourne where you can also enjoy an alfresco dining experience with the South Coast Supper Club.
You can pre-order your hamper here. Please check the ordering requirements in advance.
“Better to have been a fisherman at Bosham, my dear Herbet, thy birthplace – the sea, the creek – the pretty rill that falls into it – the green field – the gray church – the simple lobster basket and the mesh”
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