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There are a surprisingly large number, for such a small place, of excellent resources on the web about Portslade.  (See the Links list at left).  So I shall not be trying to make this the definitive source.  Just adding a few odd facts and comments, mostly of relevance to my Smith ancestors.


Our Smith ancestors were prominent citizens of Portslade, being the owners of the big flour mill there for three generations.  I visited Portslade recently on a trip to England.  Not a particularly impressive place, though interesting and the church was very pretty.  

Portslade is a part of what is now the conurbation that centres on Brighton and includes, Hove, Portslade and Shoreham. The sea front, is not directly accessible, because there is the harbour, rather like a long canal or lagoon, which is formed by a spit running parallel to the coast at the mouth of the River Adur.  This is now Shoreham Harbour, but in our ancestors’ time was known as Copperas Gap ( a much prettier name).  


The Portslade Map - The wonderful hand-drawn map above can be seen in much greater detail here.

My Brighton and Hove - This excellent, award-winning site has lots of information about Portslade, though most of it more recent than when our Smiths lived there.  A good place to get in touch with others interested in the families in the town.

St Nicolas and St Andrew Portslade - the local church site has lots of old photos and a short history of Portslade itself

Wikipedia - Wikipedia has quite a lot of information about Portslade past and present

A Vision of Britain- Maps, Gazeteer entries, links

British History Online - From the 1940 book A History of the County of Sussex, Volume 7 edited by L. F. Salzman.  A brief, rather ‘dry’  history of the parish and its manor house. 

The Shoreham-by-Sea History Portal - a bit hard to tell sometimes where Porstlade ends and Shoreham begins.  This site has lots of odd bits of information

A Portslade History - Not really a full history , more a look at Portslade 1960-1980.  Lots of pictures though.

The James Gray Collection - A wonderful collection of photographs of old Portslade and the area from the Regency Society’s archives.  

History of Shoreham - A webpage created by a local, Andy Horton, with a time-line sort of approach to the history of Shoreham.  Lots of information and illustrations.


Map shown courtesy of the Hamblett family with thanks.

Portslade 1840.JPG

In 1870-72, (around the time that our first Smiths were there), John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Portslade-by-Sea like this:

"PORTSLADE, a village and a parish in Steyning district, Sussex. The village stands on the South Coast railway, about a mile from the sea, and 4 W by N of Brighton; is a picturesque place; and has a station with telegraph on the railway, a post-office under Shoreham, and a police station. The parish extends to the coast, and comprises 1, 966 acres of land and 40 of water. Real property, £5,003. Pop. in 1851, 733; in 1861, 1, 103. Houses, 186. The increase of pop. arose from the formation of a canal and a floating basin, in connexion with Shoreham harbour, for the convenience of the coal and timber trade of Brighton and its neighbourhood; and from the consequent erection of houses for seafaring men and their families. ...”


I suspect one wouldn’t have much more to say about it now.  Indeed the entry in the Encyclopaedia of Brighton (an excellent publication), does not add a huge amount more. It seems, like many places in Britain, Portslade is probably in the throes of redefining itself in the modern world after the collapse of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century industries that saw it thrive.

Shoreham by Turner.jpg
portslade view.jpg
High St. 1908.jpg
station rd portslade.jpg

Portslade is actually in two parts.  Old Portslade, is the part away from the coast and up the hill towards the Downs.  This is where the old buildings are, and is, indeed the most picturesque part and includes the pretty parish church of St. Nicholas, which is where most of the Smith family baptisms and weddings took place.  Burials too no doubt, although I have yet to establish burial sites.  The other part - where the Smiths had their mill is known as Portslade-by-Sea, although it used to go by the rather more picturesque name of Copperas Gap.  This is the less attractive, industrial end of town, and included a gas works and an electricity power station, as well as the port of Shoreham.

The painting above is said to be by Turner.  It is of the inlet, with the suggestion that Copperas Gap is the gap in the cliffs at right.

Copperas Gap

The old name of Copperas Gap apparently refers to a substance called copperas (green vitriol) which was used in the textile industry.  Sounds nasty.  The Gap part of the name presumably refers to the mouth of the river - the lagoon behind the spit extends either side of the river and can just be seen in the Turner's painting.  At least I say it is a lagoon, but actually I think it is a canal.  The coastline here has changed a great deal over the centuries - initially being eroded by the sea, and then having the mouth of the river changed as the large sandbar built up in front of it.  Porteslage  portus + ladda way - way to the port.

copperas gap 2.jpg
copperas gap.jpg
portslade high street.jpg
canal portslade.jpg
Britannia Mills.jpg

Britannia Steam Mills


I had assumed (never assume) that my ancestor, Charles Richard Smith owned and operated the flour mill.  However, the truth is somewhat different I think.  (I am still researching).  I do not think he ever had anything to do with the original mill at Copperas Gap.  He was involved with the Britannia Steam Mills, which, in fact, probably put the original mill out of business.  Perusal of the wonderful A2A turned up a couple of documents that proved that, in fact, Charles leased the mill from the Lord of the Manor - the four times married John Borrer, who also, it seems, owned the windmill.  It seemed to be a good deal for Charles to my sister ‘s and my untutored eyes, and the Smith family certainly profited from it.  It was in their hands for another couple of generations, and at some point I think they must have actually owned it, as they sold it on eventually.  I have not investigated it a great deal as my direct ancestors were not involved after Charles Richard.   It was large and dominated the land side of the lower town.  I’m ashamed to say that I did not make a note of the title of the book from which the photograph of the mill and its wharf (above) was taken.  It was borrowed from the Portslade Library.  The cinders and hot water discharged from the mill were apparently used by the populace for kindling and for washing.  I gather that the Smiths were quite forward thinking and that the mill was one of the first to be driven by electricity.  Large amounts of grain were brought in and large amounts of flour exported via sea and by rail.  It would have been one of the main employers, along with the gas works and the electricity works (shown in the picture at left.)

The Church of St Andrew and St Nicholas.

I will not presume to give a history of the Church here.  The church itself has an excellent website.  Suffice to say that in 2010 I visited and took these photographs.  The memorial stone is for John Borrer, Lord of the Manor.  No doubt various Smiths are buried there, but we didn’t have time to do a thorough search.  It is a pretty little church at the top of the town, set above it all in a way.  Caroline Smith, my great-grandmother, was married here and various Smith children were baptised here as well.  So no doubt there are burials somewhere.

Portslade church.JPG
interior Portslade church.JPG
John Borrer memorial.JPG
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