A History of Hayling Island

By Tim Lambert

Dedicated to Grace Cross

Early Hayling Island

At the time of the Domesday Book (1086), Hayling Island probably had a population of around 300. The Domesday Book also mentions a salt pan where salt was made. Making salt from seawater was an industry on Hayling Island for centuries. So were mackerel fishing, shellfish harvesting, and, of course, farming.

In the Middle Ages England was divided into estates owned by nobles or by the church. William I gave most of the land in Hayling Island to a French Abbey. The abbey built a priory (a small abbey) on Hayling. They owned the island until the early 15th century.

However, the English king objected to Frenchmen owning land in England and he confiscated their lands. He gave them to a priory in Surrey.

Hayling Island had 2 churches, St Peters, dating from the 12th century, and St Mary’s, dating from the 13th century.

Henry VIII closed the priories in England and he took Hayling Island. Henry exchanged it for some other lands owned by Holy Trinity College in Arundel. Later in the 16th century, Hayling became the property of the Dukes of Norfolk. They held Hayling until 1825 when it was sold to a man named William Padwick.

Meanwhile, Hayling Manor House was built in 1777.

In 1801, at the time of the first census, Hayling Island had a population of 578 divided between small villages.

There was an attempt, in the 1820s to turn Hayling Island into a seaside resort. At that time some villages had been transformed into seaside towns, such as Bognor Regis.

However, the attempt to change Hayling did not get off the ground. The Royal Norfolk Hotel was built in 1826. Norfolk Crescent was begun in 1826 but it was never finished. Until the early 20th century Hayling Island remained a place of farmers and fishermen.

In the year 1824 when a wooden bridge was built across the channel to Langstone. Before you could wade across at low tide or you could pay to use a ferry. Building Hayling Bridge required an Act of Parliament, which received royal assent on 2 May 1823. You had to pay a toll to use the bridge which was privately owned.

In the 1830s a guide to Hayling said ‘Such is the health of this sweet island that although a medical man resides here, his services are seldom in request’. The guide also said: ‘The watering-place of Hayling is rather a quiet retreat’. The guide also mentioned the salt industry in Hayling, which it said, had been carried on for centuries.

The Rose In June pub dates from 1848, though the building is even older. (Previously it was a cottage).

In 1865 Hayling Island gained a lifeboat. It was called the Olive Leaf and it was 32 feet long and had 10 oars. Then in 1867, a railway from Havant to Hayling Island opened to passengers.

A golf course opened on Hayling Island in 1883 and in 1895 a water tower was built on Hayling Island and people could get a view from the top. By 1898 all of Hayling Island had a piped water supply. However, the tower was demolished in 1952.

However, in the late 19th century, the salt-making industry on Hayling Island died out. n George Bell was born on Hayling Island in 1883. In 1929 he became Bishop of Chichester. He was famous for criticising the policy of ‘area bombing’ (indiscriminate bombing of German cities) during World War II. George Bell died in 1958.

Modern Hayling Island

In the 20th century, Hayling Island had a brick-making industry. In 1901 Hayling Island had a population of just over 1,600, one-tenth of the present-day figure. At that time Hayling Island was still a quiet place. However, in the 1930s it changed into a busy seaside resort. The population grew rapidly. Many new houses were built in Eastoke.

In 1931 an amusement park opened on Hayling Island. From the 1930s to the 1960s Hayling Island also had 2 cinemas called The Savoy and The Regal. The Regal was demolished in 1967 to make way for a car park. The Savoy is now used as a postal sorting office.

By 1950 Hayling Island had a population of over 5,500. It continued to grow rapidly. Hayling Congregational Church was built in 1954. Hayling County Secondary School opened in 1962. Mengham Infants School opened in 1967. Meanwhile, a new library opened on Hayling Island in 1966.

In February 1955 work began on building a new concrete bridge, slightly east of the old wooden one. From June 1955 a 100-foot-high pile driver drove piles into the ground. Some of them were 80 feet long and weighed 9 tons. There were 170 piles in all. A deck of concrete beams was laid across the piles. Each beam was 11 feet 6 inches long.

The first beam was laid in August 1955 and by March 1956 a lorry could drive across the new bridge. Hugh Molson of the Ministry of Transport opened the new Hayling Bridge on 10 September 1956. Travelers still had to pay a toll to use Hayling Bridge. Tolls were finally abolished on 11 April 1960.

The railway from Havant to Hayling Island closed in 1963. A pub called the Hayling Billy opened in 1966. The Kittiwake dates from 1959.

St Andrews Church was built in 1975. Hayling Community Centre was built in 1981. In 1995 Hayling gained a new lifeboat station. Station Theatre opened in 1997.

Today Hayling Island is still flourishing. East Hayling Light Railway opened in 2003. Today the population of Hayling Island is 16,000.

A view of the beach at Hayling Island

A Timeline of Hayling Island

6th Century The Saxons land in Southeast Hampshire

1086 The population of Hayling Island is about 300. Hayling has a salt pan.

12th Century St Peters Church is built

13th Century St Marys Church is built

1777 Hayling Manor House is built

1801 Hayling Island has a population of 578

1824 A wooden bridge is built across the channel to Langstone

1826 Norfolk hotel is built

1848 The Rose in June pub opens

1865 Hayling Island gains a lifeboat

1867 A railway opens from Hayling Island to Havant

1883 A golf course opens on Hayling Island

1898 All of Hayling Island has a piped water supply

1901 Hayling Island has a population of over 1,600

1931 An amusement park opens on Hayling Island

1950 Hayling Island has a population of over 5,500

1956 A new Hayling Bridge is built

1962 Hayling County Secondary School opens

1963 The railway to Havant closes

1966 A new library opens

1967 Mengham Infants School opens

1975 St Andrews Church is built

1981 An amusement park opens

1995 Hayling gains a new lifeboat station

1997 Station Theatre opens

2003 East Hayling Light Railway opens