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With its clean and safe beaches, the South Downs to the north and easy access to Chichester and Worthing, Littlehampton is a popular British holiday destination. Although there are few outstanding architectural features in the town itself, Littlehampton is surrounded by plenty of history, things to do and see, and is the ideal place to stay whether you want to relax or explore the surrounding area. Located at the mouth of the River Arun, the town was once just called Hampton, as was the nearby port of Southampton. It was probably the sailors who added the 'Little' to avoid confusion and the name had stuck by the late 1400s. Being a seaport, it would seem obvious that fishing has played a part of the local economy since early times. Indeed, although little is known about the fishing industry before the 19th century, evidence has been found of Roman fishermen in the area. In 1869, 364 men and boys crewed 189 fishing boats. The boats were very small with only two crew per boat and were probably manned on a part time basis. Oyster Pond was created on the east bank next to the river mouth in the early 19th century to hold shellfish which had been caught, but today the main catch of the 20 or so registered boats is cod, Dover sole, lobsters, crabs and sea bass. Shipbuilding at Littlehampton has been a source of activity since at least the 18th century and even King Henry VIII's royal dockyard was located here. The heyday for ship building came in the mid-19th century when deep sea merchant wooden sailing ships were being constructed by builders such as the Harvey family who were located on the west bank of the river between 1846 and 1880. In the 20th century, boat yards such as David Hillyard and William Osborne Ltd built yachts, motor cruisers, speedboats and even small naval craft during the war. Osborne also built 100 lifeboats in Littlehampton between the 1950s and 1990s. Today the sea trade is only a shadow of its former times. Some boat builders still exist, as do a number of fishing boats, but the main commercial shipping trade is now sand and shingle dredged from the seabed, a trade that started in the 1960's. Many ships have been lost off the coast of Littlehampton over the centuries. Of the boats registered in Littlehampton, forty had been wrecked between 1863 and 1904. It was not until 1884 that the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) opened a lifeboat station here. Manned by local sailors and fishermen using oars and sails, the boats were launched a total of 26 times before the station was closed in 1921. With the growth in water sports, an appeal on the children's television programme Blue Peter paid for a fast inflatable boat and the lifeboat station was reopened in 1967. Used for inshore work, the lifeboat has saved hundreds of lives since that time.
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