The civil Parish of Southbourne is an artificial creation and can be seen as a collection of settlements. Southbourne as a place name did not exist until 1876 when the church of St John the Evangelist was built on the corner of Main Road and Stein Road.
Apparently the whole area, with the exception of Nutbourne, comprised the Manor of Prinsted until the latter part of the sixteenth century, and stretched from Nutbourne to Emsworth including common fields with names familiar today - Noglands, Gosden, Longlands, Sleane and Slipper; however until 1894 Southbourne was an integral part of the Parish of Westbourne when, as a result of the coming of the railway in 1847 (which precipitated the building of Southbourne Church), the land to the south separated and became the Southbourne ward of Westbourne. The area to the north of the railway, largely developed since the Second World War, remained with Westbourne until 1958 when, in 1967, new boundaries were drawn and Southbourne became the civil parish it is today. As far as Nutbourne was concerned it too was a separate ward of Westbourne until becoming part of Southbourne Parish; its boundary until the 1930s stretched as far as New Road and included the Travellers Joy public house. Thorney Island, although now part of the Church of England Parish of Southbourne and West Thorney, has otherwise always been a parish in its own right and, in secular terms remains one today.
Prinsted (Pernested, Prynsted) and Nutbourne are mentioned in the Doomsday Book, the latter having a corn mill worked by the tides. The Hermitage is recorded as a chapel built in 1527 attached to the manor of Prinsted connected with and used by the Hermits of the Causeway; it is understood that here the word hermit does not refer to a recluse as in the modern sense, but to one having responsibility for the maintenance of a bridge or causeway and, in this instance, the causeway to Emsworth.
At the turn of the last century, employment in the parish was almost exclusively agricultural with market gardens, orchards, and cattle predominating. Since 1900, however, it can be seen from the steady increase in housing that the professions were taking over as people increasingly earned their living outside Southbourne; thus agriculture became much less important to the economy of the area.
Since Roman times, the main artery of the Parish has been the present Main Road, the A259 and formerly the A27. Seeing it today, with the plethora of street furniture, with pavements and with lights, it is hard to imagine it as it was in previous centuries when horse drawn traffic ruled and the road was used extensively for driving cattle and taking produce to the markets in Chichester and Portsmouth. Cattle were still being moved along the road from field to field as late as the 1950s. Since the Second World War the road has been steadily improved; in places it has been widened and straightened, main drainage incorporated, and a pre-war innovation was the regular bus service between Portsmouth and Brighton.
An imposing Victorian village school once stood on the present car park of the Southbourne Social Club, but its capacity was insufficient after the war and classrooms were found in various other venues throughout the Parish; it was at this time that the New Road huts presently occupied by Age Concern, were built to cope with the overflow. The old school was demolished and the new junior school was built on land behind the social club in the early 1960s. The Bourne School, initially a Secondary Modern School, was built in the mid 50s and became a Comprehensive School in 1969. It is now a Community College.
The Southbourne Club has had a long history originating between the wars at the now demolished Bell and Anchor public house. After several changes of venue, it eventually moved, prior to the Second World War, to 56 New Road on the eastern side of the then Southbourne School where it remains today. Its bowling green has been updated over the years, as has its many other facilities.
The Age Concern Day Centre has existed for the last 30 years, run entirely by Volunteers and is probably the only such centre in West Sussex. Starting with one room and no kitchen but plenty of dirt and pests various, it has been built up by hard work over the years to provide a pleasant day centre for the elderly, including cooked lunches, snooker and bingo, and of course information and advice. Over 50 people use the centre regularly.
Also the result of considerable endeavour is the village hall, which finally opened in 1972 after many years of private fund raising stretching back to the 1950's.
The 1st Southbourne Sea Scouts was founded in 1933 by a local farmer, Mr Charles Brundrett. They originally met in a barn and Mr Brundrett became their first Scoutmaster. They met in a variety of locations throughout the village until the 1960s when land was donated and a permanent home built on the foreshore, where they still meet today. In addition, the land on the shoreline opposite the Scout Headquarters was donated to the villagers of Prinsted; allowing boats to be launched to this day. The Sea Scouts have provided a unique service to the young of the community for over seventy years and continue to do so. Many scouts joined the Services prior to and during the Second World War.
The population growth in the last hundred years or so has proved difficult to quantify. For example, the structure of local government has changed over the years resulting in changes to boundaries; also, for much of the period, figures for Southbourne have been included under Westbourne. However, the 1961 census gave Southbourne a population figure of 4197. By the time of the 1971 census this had increased to 6009. The best current estimate is 6500+ and this it seems will inevitably continue to grow.