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13 July 2014
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You are in: Southern Counties > Coast > Through artists eyes

Image of a boat

Through artists eyes

Here’s the picture postcard view of Bosham – a place which has long attracted artists who have come to paint this timeless view of the harbour, boatyard and houses clustered around the ancient church.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight. When you say the name Bosham, don’t make the mistake of saying the ‘sh’ in the same way as you would use it in the word ‘squash’. Locals will rapidly correct you. Bosham is said like this: ‘Boss-um’.

In fact the work of artists has been a useful tool which has helped historians to build up a picture of the significance of this coastal hamlet. You can see the original tower of Bosham church, for example, in the Bayeux Tapestry. We’ll move on to the Bosham connection with those two historic antagonists - Harold and William – later on in the walk.

Painters have often depicted the village over the years. The marine landscape painter Charles William Wyllie  (1853-1923) captured Bosham , as did Richatd Henry Nibbs, whose work is still in the collection of Brighton Museum. 

The pre-impressionist Henry Herbert La Thangue, an artist much admired by Walter Sickert, also painted Bosham and its people. Painters still flock to the harbourside to paint the view and you can see some examples of their work in the nearby Bosham gallery.

Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas

Writers have always been drawn to Bosham. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, wrote in 1865:
‘Better to have been a fisherman at Bosham, my good Herbert,
Thy birthplace - the sea creek - the petty rill,
That falls into it - the green field - the gray church -
the simple lobster basket and the mesh."

TS Eliot lived in Bosham during the summer for a few years in the early part of the 20th century; at a house known as Mariners. Whilst he was there, some members of the Bloomsbury Group - Mary Hutchinson, Roger Fry and Lytton Stratchey – came out to visit him.

“He used to come down here and sailed and went for walks and things like that. His first wife, well, I think she was bit of a hypochondriac and then when she died he brought his second wife down here.

He just used to come down for the summer months from London. He said that Bosham people were always very polite and used the word ‘Sir’ rather more than they did in the States.” said Angela Bromley-Carter, who has studied Bosham’s history for over 35 years.

During the later part of the Second World War, when Bosham Creek was a centre for D-Day invasion preparations, the poet Dylan Thomas also stayed in the village for a few months to avoid the heavy German bombing in London. He and his family stayed at Far End, which was the weekend home of the Cameron family.

But the poet and his family left in a rush after the only German bomb to land on Bosham fell on the field across the road. Angus Cameron, grandson of the original owner, still lives in the house. He recalls that the great poet and his family left in a hurry – food was still in the saucepans when the owners next arrived.

The Thomas’ stay in Bosham seems likely to have overlapped with that of another famous artist who was serving in with a tank regiment. Rex Whistler, Another famous artist with an association with Bosham is the painter Rex Whistler.

 One of his last works was a mural on the wall of a house in the village which was then used as a club for members of the armed forces. He went with his regiment of France and was killed in action a few days after D-Day.

More recently, in his poem ‘Old Bosham Bird watch, the Sussex poet Lee Harwood caught the atmosphere of Bosham in winter:

’ Out on the estuary four people in a small dinghy at high tide. Canada
geese and oyster catchers around. The pale winter sunlight and cold
clear air. Onshore the village church contains the tomb of Canute’ s
daughter, the black Sussex raven emblazoned on the stone….
Small rooms’

Finally, the writer PG Wodehouse, creator of Jeeves and Bertie Wooster,  lived just across the harbour in Emsworth for a number of years. He used local placenames for some of his characters and one was Viscount Bosham.

The views are spectacular, but if you want to move in to Bosham or anywhere in the Harbour then you will have to be prepared to pay for it.

About a third of buyers come from London on the hunt for second homes and according to one recent report, you can expect to pay about 25 per cent more for the kind of harbour view that TS Eliot and Dylan Thomas once enjoyed. 

last updated: 07/12/07

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