Littlehampton, West Sussex is a seaside resort town and civil parish in the Arun District of West Sussex, England, on the east bank at the mouth of the River Arun. It lies south-south-west of London, west of Brighton and east of the county town of Chichester.
The parish covers an area of and has a population of 25,593 (2001 census). The Sub-Urban Area of the town has a population of approx 55,000. The conurbation includes other settlements: Wick in the north west; Lyminster to the north; and Rustington to the east. Wick and Toddington became part of the town in 1901. Nearby towns include Bognor Regis west southwest and Worthing to the east. The town is also the westernmost settlement of the 12th largest urban area in England and Wales, the Brighton/Worthing/Littlehampton conurbation, a region encompassing some 474,485 people (2011 census).
A human settlement at Littlehampton can be traced back to prehistoric and Roman times, while it appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as the small hamlet of 'Hantone'. The settlement is believed to have been a fishing community around this time, appearing on a French map in around 1100 as 'Hanton'. The settlement is then believed to have been given to the Abbey of St Martin de Seez in Normandy, who owned Littlehampton until around 1400. The area then passed back to the ownership of successive Earls of Arundel and Dukes of Norfolk, whose successors still reside in Arundel today.
Littlehampton began to develop as a port as a result of constant silting of the River Arun, perhaps leading to the prefix of 'Little' being added to 'Hampton', in order to distinguish it from the larger Southampton further along the coast. The expansion of port activities led to a new river mouth being cut in 1735, alongside the building of a wooden harbour. At this time it was also known as Arundel Port.
As the eighteenth century progressed, the town developed from a fishing community to a holiday destination, with Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Constable all believed to have spent time there.
The town's status as both a port and a holiday resort led to economic success in the nineteenth century, with a railway line and a cross-channel ferry to Honfleur in France being introduced. The population of the town grew tenfold over the century, from 584 in 1801 to 5,954 in 1901. Littlehampton remained as a holiday resort in the twentieth century, becoming known as 'The Children's Paradise' in the 1920s.
Post-war Littlehampton saw large-scale house building on the outskirts of the town, eventually absorbing the surrounding villages of Wick, Lyminster and Toddington, while the commercial element of the town became increasingly focused on boat building and water sports.
In 1967, the town attracted attention by becoming the base for the first ever Blue Peter lifeboat.