Seaford is a coastal town in the county of East Sussex, on the south coast of England. Lying east of Newhaven and Brighton and west of Eastbourne, it is the largest town in Lewes district, with a population of about 23,000.
In the Middle Ages, Seaford was one of the main ports serving Southern England, but the town's fortunes declined due to coastal sedimentation silting up its harbour and persistent raids by French pirates. The coastal confederation of Cinque Ports during its mediaeval period consisted of a confederation of 42 towns and villages in all. This included Seaford under the 'Limb' of Hastings. Between 1350 and 1550, the French burned down the town several times. In the 16th century the people of Seaford were known as the "cormorants" or "shags" because of their enthusiasm for looting ships wrecked in the bay. Local legend has it that Seaford residents would, on occasion, cause ships to run aground by placing fake harbour lights on the cliffs.
"The wily locals exploited their rights to flotsam and jetsam to the full, even to the extent of luring ships onto the beach by lighting fires. Scores of vessels fell prey to the wreckers of Seaford shags. Grounded in the bay they were stripped of their cargos" - Lewes DC local history of Seaford
However, Seaford's fortunes revived in the 19th century with the arrival of the railway connecting the town to Lewes and London. It became a small seaside resort town, and more recently a dormitory town for the nearby larger settlements of Eastbourne and Brighton, as well as for London.
The traditional Sussex pronunciation of the name has a full vowel in each syllable: "sea-ford". However, outside Sussex (and increasingly within), it is commonly pronounced with a reduced vowel on the second syllable: "seaf'd".