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Smeaton’s harbour was a failed 18th century attempt at opening a new channel to the port town of Rye. Once a a thriving coastal town and port, it had gradually lost its ability to trade due to coastal change which had gradually moved the shoreline southward and silted up the rivers that connected it to the increasingly distant sea.
The new harbour and associated channel was intended to connect the Brede and Rother rivers and use their combined force to scour sediments through the channel, keeping it open for shipping.
Although named after the eminent 18th century engineer John Smeaton, he only provided consultation on the project producing suggestions that were largely ignored by the Rye Harbour Commission. Their failure to heed his advice (which may well have saved the project) led to a lengthy and incredibly costly project.
Taking 63 years to complete and costing £20million in todays money, the harbour only opened for 4 months before it silted up and was abandoned for good.