Secret Shore Project

HLF logoThe traditional songs, folklore and history of the coastal region of the South Downs are being brought to life in this exciting project.


On April 23rd 2016 – St Georges Day – singers from song workshops that were held in Littlehampton and Shoreham over the previous six months came together to record the sea shanties and sailors songs they had learnt. These songs were once popular in the harbour and coastal towns of the South Downs but have not been sung for decades. 

Historian and Project Manager Chris Hare from History People UK has been singing these songs since he was 19 years old. He and singer Emily Longhurst, who was involved in the South Downs Songs project two years before, taught volunteers in an ‘oral tradition’, just as would have been the case for hundreds of years, with no words or music given out. At the first workshop session a CD of the songs was given to the participants to help them practice at home.

Chris said: “These are songs that were generally sung without instruments. Often they would have been sung by groups of people meeting together for a celebration, a festival or simply in the pub.  There were songs that told of lost loves – men who had sailed away years before, but who had promised to return. Some songs told of the life of fishermen and their battles against the ‘raging sea.’ Others celebrated specific trades or jobs, such as the collier boats that brought coal from the Northeast to the Sussex coast.”

As well as learning the songs off by heart, Chris told participants about the fascinating folklore and superstitions of the south coast. Along with a group of volunteers, he also conducted a survey of modern superstitions in the coastal towns to see how present day beliefs compare with those recorded in Victorian times.  The volunteers were given training in how to conduct oral history interviews, so that the lives and stories of fisherman and other local people could be recorded for posterity.

You can purchase the CD and the book from our store.


April 23rd 2016 – Secret Shore Recording Session

July 31st 2016 – A Walk to the Devil’s Jumps

April 15th 2015 – BBC South Today featuring Project Manager
Chris Hare and accompanying singers

History & Folklore Workshop attendees
talk about why they have joining in


3 thoughts on “Secret Shore Project

  1. Great video, really enjoyed the songs. I now live in Cornwall where sea shanties are still alive and kicking. A brilliant project, well done to all

  2. Hey, I saw your video on the Internet, and I would be really interested in joining your group. I kinda fell in love with the whole ‘Sea Shanty’ thing after spending New Year’s Eve with some boater friends in Bradford-on-Avon last year. I have missed the atmosphere, and singing with people like that ever since. I had absolutely no idea that there was a local group, otherwise I would have joined up ages ago! I don’t know all the songs, but I can hold a tune and I’m willing to learn… I look forward to hearing from you guys soon x

    1. Hi Jo,

      If you would like to join the songs workshops you will need to register for either Littlehampton or Shoreham. The dates and times are on this page, as is the registration form:

      We look forward to receiving your registration.

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