Set within the furthest recesses of the estuaries’ channels it offers good protection in most conditions. However it is exposed to a large body of water from the south, when at high tide in strong winds it becomes uncomfortable. Chichester Harbour's channels are well marked making access straightforward in most conditions but the final approaches to the quay can only be made on the top of the tide.
Keyfacts for Dell Quay
Summary* Restrictions applyA good location with straightforward access.
Position and approaches
Haven position50° 49.149' N, 000° 49.008' W
This is the southwest corner of the quay.
What are the key points of the approach?
Not what you need?
- Chichester Marina - 0.9 nautical miles SSW
- Birdham Pool Marina - 1.1 nautical miles SSW
- Bosham - 1.8 nautical miles WNW
- Itchenor - 2 nautical miles WSW
- Chalkdock Point - 2.3 nautical miles WSW
- Pilsey Island - 3.5 nautical miles WSW
- Thornham Marina - 3.9 nautical miles WNW
- East Head - 4 nautical miles WSW
- Emsworth Yacht Harbour - 4.6 nautical miles WNW
- Emsworth - 4.8 nautical miles WNW
How to get in?
Dell Quay is a small isolated quay about 5½ miles within the entrance to Chichester Harbour and on the east side of the drying Fishbourne Channel. It is located within 2 miles of the cathedral city of Chichester of which it was once its port. Dell Quay is no longer used commercially and is now a centre for yachting. It is home to a sailing club and offers a high tide access to visiting yachts.
The channel to Dell Quay dries a mile from its head and it is only accessible to vessels two to three hours either side of High Water. Vessels of about 1.5 metres, or very little more, can come alongside its jetty for a short stay where 2 metres will be found +/- 2 hours of High Water. If there are any questions regarding berthing, the Chichester Harbour Office can be contacted on VHF Ch. 14 or P: +44 1243 512301.
Shallow-draught yachts that are able to take to the hard may be able to obtain an overnight mooring from the Dell Quay Sailing Club P: +44 1243 785080 that have their club house on the quay.
At Longmore Point, 1.2 metres chart datum, the channel starts to shallow and turns north-eastward into Chichester Lake. It then passes the Birdham starboard-hand mark, Fl 4 G 10s, marking the entrance to the approach path into
The Chichester Marina starboard light-beacon, Fl G 5s, which marks the western end of the approach channel into the
Dell Quay will be clearly visible on the east side of the channel about a mile to the northeast of both these starboard marks. The narrow Fishbourne channel, leading to Dell Quay at high water, dries beyond this point. It commences at Copperas buoy green starboard hand buoy 750 metres above. From there pass very close to the port and starboard buoys, numbered 1 through 4, that weave their way up to the quay. The last part of the run to quay is between lines of moorings.
Take a short term high tide berth alongside the Harbour Master’s 32 metre long lifting pontoon situated on the north side of the quay. It provides at least 2 metres +/- 2 hours of High Water.
Vessels that can take to the hard may be able to obtain an overnight drying mooring from the Dell Quay Sailing Club. Their visitor moorings are situated close to the quay and out onto mud about -/+ 3 hours of High Water.
Visitors who come by tender can make use of the Dell Quay Sailing Club’s new jetty to the south of the quay.
Why visit here?Visitors arriving at the quiet and out of the way Dell Quay will be amazed to find that this isolated quay and hamlet was formerly an extraordinarily busy port. In the 17th Century it ranked as the seventh most important port in England.
Considering it being so far inland with an access path that dries a mile down-channel from its head this was a remarkable feat. But stepping back in time things were very different. Prior to the industrial revolution transporting goods overland was a slow and wearisome business. Up until then it was more practical to let water carry the weight of bulky goods and to leverage the wind to move them along. This developed coastal trade routes supported by hundreds of local ports which nowadays seem remote and obsolete. Likewise, two millennia ago, sea levels in the harbour were much higher than they are now. Back then, in Roman times, the Harbour was navigable all the way to Fishbourne situated at the head of the inlet. This is why the Romans built their palace there and it is believed Roman galleys sailed right up to a quay in front of it. Indeed, as it was a pivotal early Roman site it is believed by many that Fishbourne may have started life as a late Iron Age settlement and trading post.
The date and location of the first landing areas at Dell Quay have been lost in time. However the Romans are known to have traded from here in the first century AD although the exact position of their wharf has not been established. Well after the Roman withdrawal in the eighth century, merchants from Chichester were exporting goods to Flanders across the channel from Dell Quay. At this time it was the most important port in Sussex.
Being situated a mile away from the city walls of Chichester the quay established itself as its designated city port by the 13th century. Cargoes of grain, timber and wool were among the goods exported, and imports included coal, wines from southwest France, cloth and building materials. One of the quays most unusual mediaeval exports were ships full of pilgrims bound for the north coast of Spain and the shrine of St. James de Compostela, patron saint of the crusaders. Wool grew to become England's most important medieval export. The king tried to control the trade by only allowing certain ports to export wool. These ports were called ‘staples’. In 1353 Chichester, which was in port terms Dell Quay, was made a staple port. Trade at the quay burgeoned as it was the only place in Chichester Harbour legally allowed to receive foreign trade. So successful was Dell Quay, that its medieval name Horemouth was also applied to the entire harbour area and the entrance to Chichester Harbour, and eventually it slowly became known as Chichester. Dell Quay would remain the cities port until the Canal was built in the 1800s as discussed in the
The medieval landing place however was not the quays current location but further up the ever silting inlet. It is marked by a sunken cart track that leads from Apuldram Church, then surrounded by a thriving village, that lead directly to the waterside. This met the inlet a little to the south of the mouth of the small winterbourne River Lavant which indicated the early mediaeval quay stood there. The present wharf was moved down channel due to silting of the upper reaches. It was built in 1536 on the orders of Lord Fitzwilliam of Cowdray, Lord High Admiral from 1536 to 1540. In 1580 it was recorded that the wharf had been "longe sythens buylded by the Lord Fitzwilliam". The original ruins of the wharf approximately 90 ft. in length and 49 ft. in breadth form the base of the present one. The new quay thrived in Elizabethan times, being more frequented than any other port in Sussex except for Rye. Three vessels were dispatched from its walls to fight the Spanish Armada. The picturesque ‘Crown & Anchor Inn’ initially called the 'Dell Key House' was built at the end of the 16th century.
Dell Quay continued to prosper as a mercantile port in the 18th century when a flourishing grain trade took off from here. This followed the abolition of export duty on corn and flour, and in the year 1731 alone, 309 ships called in, 58 of them with foreign cargoes, primarily shipping grain. By 1735 the place ranked 6th amongst all English ports as an exporter of grain, and by the middle years of the century her foreign exports equalled the combined exports of all the other ports in Sussex and Kent. The grain trade required the construction of storehouses, two of which still remain on the quay whilst the others have been replaced or renewed. It is from this period that many of the harbour side mills date, amongst them is the 1787 Tipper's windmill, whose remnant stump now forms part of Dell Quay House. The Dell Quay Sailing Club stands on the site of two timber cottages built in 1789 as a granary for the windmill. Small coastal barges and occasional foreign-going traders also plied their trade from the port. They bore an interesting variety of other cargoes, ranging from bacon, cheese, fish and oysters to canvas, leather, lead, iron and timber.
By the end of the 18th century and early 19th century coal from Newcastle became the major import. The coal was transferred into lighters at Itchenor for carriage up to Dell Quay before being loaded into road wagons for Chichester. This was a labour intensive and inefficient procedure. There was a crane, which in 1789 was said to be 'much out of repair, useless and obstructive'. By 1908 there was a steam driven crane, running on rails, which was later replaced by a diesel powered crane. By then the dramatic improvement in overland haulage coupled with the increased size of coastal vessels had obsoleted small, tide bound ports such as Dell Quay. Latterly the quay was let to merchants dealing in cattle fodder and fertiliser and the last shipments were unloaded here in the 1930s.
The period when Dell Quay was the seventh most important port in England is far in the distant past. However today Dell Quay, and nearby Apuldram, must rank amongst the most beautiful locations within Chichester Harbour. These days yachtsmen and tourists explore the ancient landing-place, and vestiges of its industrial past remain in its number of small marine related businesses and boatyards. A grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund has enabled the preservation of this grain store and the restoration of the original winch which was used to offload cargoes. From a sailing perspective it is not a place to berth overnight but is a wonderful place to visit two hours either side of high water to come alongside and have a walk or a meal at the inn.
Any security concerns?Never an issue known to have occurred to a vessel visiting Dell Quay.
With thanks to:Phil Walker Deputy Harbour Master. Photography by Michael Harpur, epcp, Justin Brice, Robin Webster and Rob Farrow.
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