I love cycling from Brighton to snoop at the house boats on the banks of the River Adur in the town of Shoreham-by-Sea. There are around 50 in the collection. You’ll find them hidden along a towpath called Riverbank at the south end of a footbridge linking it with Shoreham’s charming old town.
It’s fun to walk along and notice all the random details spilling out from the boats, and if you’re local or visit Shoreham often, to watch the boats transform over time. What’s fun is that no two boats are the same! Let’s go for a snoop…
I’m quite taken with this simple painted houseboat hidden behind the greenery. I also could not resist a peek through the gate of number 29 which had been left open. Look at that inviting little terrace getting ready for spring!
The Shoreham houseboat community has a history here that dates back to the 1920s, although it grew considerably after the Second World War as Britain faced a post-war accommodation shortage. It grew further in the 1960s and 70s as it became a popular place to live with those looking for an alternative lifestyle.
In the 1930s, there was even a floating nightclub called The Showboat set on a paddle steamer called Alexandra. Apparently it would go out past three miles so it could stay open all hours.
Some of the them are set inside decommissioned military crafts, for example, two of them were once used during the D-Day landings: a British gunboat and a British landing craft; while a post-war German torpedo boat has been turned into a four-bedroom home.
Rebus Stone – complete with pet cat – is set inside an old bunker ship which has been hand-crafted over seven years into a stylish family home, with a pretty outside deck and a living roof. I’d love to go in through that orange door and peer out through all the little portholes.
The Raft next door is owned by the same couple who own Rebus Stone. It has a simple, modern design, and has been completely hand built from scratch into a cosy home for two – available for rent on AirBnB! Take the tour here.
Apparently this one, The Shieldsman, is an old ferry which carried passengers between North and South Shields across the River Tyne in the north of England. It was saved from a life as a floating disco and turned into a house compete with living room and two new bedrooms. The lower passenger deck is now a living area and kitchen.
Some of the boats in the houseboat collective look more like flamboyant works of art than floating homes. There’s one with a rusty old coach on top of it; another with a Robin Reliant welded onto the side; another designed to look like a Second World War bomber aeroplane complete with faux missiles.
I read somewhere that this one above – Verda – is the setting for a huge workshop and pop-up café; a community social space that hosts meditation, yoga, film nights, live music, markets, healing sessions, and even a monthly pub night!
But mostly these are just ordinary homes, albeit floating ones, which is worth bearing in mind when you take a walk along here.