A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 1, Bramber Rape (Southern Part). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1980.
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Social and cultural activities.
The entertainment facilities available to visitors to Worthing during the first half of the 19th century were those characteristic of resorts at that time. Bathingmachines are recorded from 1789, (fn. 1) and their number increased from c. 30 in 1804 to c. 60 by 1813. (fn. 2) Three hotels had been built by 1796, of which the two chief, the New Inn, later the Marine Hotel, and the Sea House, later the Royal Sea House and afterwards the Royal, Hotel, were in South Street. (fn. 3) Both were rebuilt in the 1820s. (fn. 4) The Royal Hotel, designed by J. B. Rebecca, (fn. 5) with a facade with Ionic columns and pilasters, was destroyed by fire in 1901, (fn. 6) and the Marine Hotel was demolished in 1965. (fn. 7) The Steyne, later Chatsworth, Hotel was opened in 1807, (fn. 8) with an assembly room which became the social centre of the resort; there was an orchestra and an organ by 1811, and a master of ceremonies c. 1813. (fn. 9) Worthing's original promenade was the sands, but by 1811 they had been replaced by the Steyne, (fn. 10) modelled on that at Brighton. A band played there during the 1812 season. (fn. 11) The Steyne was superseded in its turn by the esplanade, more than half a mile long, which was completed in 1821. (fn. 12) There was a hot sea-water bath in Bath Place by 1798, (fn. 13) which was rebuilt by 1833 as the New Parisian Baths. (fn. 14) Between 1818 and 1823 the Royal Baths were built further west. (fn. 15) Both survived in 1843. (fn. 16) By 1859 there was only one baths establishment in the town, (fn. 17) but c. 7 years later the West Worthing Baths were opened, (fn. 18) and in 1886 new baths were built in Worthing itself, next to the Steyne Hotel. (fn. 19)
There were already two libraries by 1798, (fn. 20) the Colonnade library, at the junction of High and Warwick streets, and Stafford's Marine library, west of what was later the Steyne Hotel. (fn. 21) By 1859 the number had increased to four or five. (fn. 22) In 1802 Thomas Trotter, a travelling actor-manager, started a barn theatre in High Street; five years later he replaced it with the New Theatre, later the Theatre Royal, in Ann Street. Performances were held only during the season, between July or August and October, (fn. 23) and many famous actors played there. (fn. 24) The theatre closed in 1855, and the building, a plain structure with a curved parapet and portico, was demolished in 1970 after being used as a warehouse for many years. (fn. 25) Pony races were held on the sands in 1805, (fn. 26) and autumn races there were still being held in 1855. (fn. 27) There were billiard rooms in the town c. 1811. (fn. 28)
Other inns and hotels which existed in the early 19th century besides those already mentioned included the Royal George in Market Street and the Nelson in South Street, both of which served as meeting-places for local government business and survived until the mid 20th century. (fn. 29) Eighteen inns or hotels were listed in 1855, and 32 in 1874. (fn. 30) Most of those listed in 1855 had disappeared by 1978, (fn. 31) but the successors of several listed in 1874 survived, including the Half Brick on the coast road east of the town, the Wheatsheaf in Richmond Road, and the Jolly Brewers in Clifton Road. There were 48 hotels and public houses in Worthing and West Worthing in 1900 and a similar number ten years later. (fn. 32) Both in the 19th and 20th centuries new public houses were built to serve new residential areas, and in the 1930s two large roadhouses were built within the borough, north of Broadwater and in Findon Valley.
The Worthing Institution or Mechanics Institution was founded in 1838 to provide cheap information about literature, science, and art. (fn. 33) It was at first in Marine Parade, (fn. 34) but later moved to Warwick Street. (fn. 35) By 1849 it had a library, with weekly lectures in winter, (fn. 36) but ten years later the lectures were said to have almost ceased. (fn. 37) In 1855 its committee organized the Worthing Exhibition in the town hall, comprising works of art, antiquities, and curiosities, (fn. 38) which was visited by 5,300 people, many coming from London by excursion trains. (fn. 39) Three other similar institutions were founded by religious interests. The Workman's Reading Room or Institute in Montague Street was founded before 1859 by the incumbent of Christ Church, providing coffee, books, newspapers, lectures, and music. (fn. 40) In 1904 it moved to a new site in Buckingham Road near by, and in 1925 changed its name to the Working Men's Club and Institute. It survived in 1977. (fn. 41) The Christian and Literary Institution, next to the Independent chapel in Montague Street, was opened in 1861 or 1862 chiefly through the efforts of the minister of the chapel. Besides a library for the use of fishermen and other workmen, it had a hall (fn. 42) which was used for lectures, concerts, and other entertainments. The building, which was also used for a time as a school, was sold between 1950 and 1954. (fn. 43) The Church Institute, founded by the incumbent of the chapel of ease, was mentioned in 1865; it had a reading room, and classes and lectures were held there in the winter. (fn. 44) In addition the British Workman in Montague Street was opened as a public house for the benefit of working men in 1872, providing reading, refreshment, and committee rooms and bathrooms until at least c. 1883; (fn. 45) and a mutual improvement society provided cheap weekly intellectual entertainment during the late 19th century. (fn. 46)
After the closure of the Theatre Royal the chief venue for visiting theatrical companies was the Montague Hall, later St. James's Hall, in Montague Street, a former chapel, (fn. 47) where concerts and lectures were also held. (fn. 48) In 1883 the town and resort were said to lose incalculably by the lack of a proper hall, (fn. 49) and in the following year the New Assembly Rooms capable of holding 1,000 persons were opened in Bath Place, the gift of Sir Robert Loder, M. P. (fn. 50) The building was used as a seasonal theatre, and for concerts, (fn. 51) until 1897 when it was converted into a proper theatre, the Theatre Royal. (fn. 52) In 1906 it was enlarged by C. A. Seebold, a naturalized Swiss, and by 1910 it was open all the year round, the Italian and Carl Rosa opera companies, among others, performing there. Seebold sold the theatre in 1922, (fn. 53) and it was demolished in 1929. (fn. 54) In 1909 Seebold built the Kursaal in Marine Parade east of the pier, (fn. 55) where popular concerts, for instance by J. P. Sousa's band, were held. (fn. 56) Seebold also had his own band and orchestra. Another musical promoter of the time was J. W. Mansfield, who ran chamber concerts from c. 1906 in the St. James's Hall in which leading artists appeared, and children's concerts in the Theatre Royal. (fn. 57) Meanwhile open air concerts were held after 1889 in the grounds of Warwick House. (fn. 58)
A new esplanade had been built along the combined frontage of Worthing and West Worthing by 1867, (fn. 59) and was continued both east and west in the 1930s. (fn. 60) Meanwhile an iron pier in the form of a simple jetty had been constructed by a limited company in 1862 at the bottom of South Street, to the design of Robert, later Sir Robert, Rawlinson. (fn. 61) The town band played there during the summer season, and small pleasure boats used it as a landingplace. (fn. 62) By 1866 it was lit by gas, and there were shops on its end platform, (fn. 63) and in 1881 shelters and a bandstand were built at the landward end. (fn. 64) The pier was reconstructed in 1889 with landing-stages for steamboats and a domed pavilion at the seaward end, (fn. 65) where J. W. Mansfield's string orchestra played between 1891 and c. 1909. (fn. 66) In 1913 the centre of the pier was destroyed in a storm, but it was reopened in the following year. (fn. 67) In 1920 it was bought by the corporation, (fn. 68) and a concert pavilion, the Pier Pavilion, was built in 1926 at its landward end to the design of S. Adshead and S. Ramsey. A bandstand to the west, designed by the same architects, was built about the same date. (fn. 69) The Pier Pavilion became the centre of Worthing's musical life; in 1927 there was a resident quintet, (fn. 70) which later became the municipal orchestra. By 1930 the orchestra played there daily, and concert parties and other entertainments were given during the summer season. (fn. 71) In 1937 there were bi-monthly orchestral concerts. (fn. 72) The municipal orchestra was disbanded in 1978. (fn. 73) By the late 1930s the pier also had an amusement hall in the centre, and the pavilion at the seaward end had been rebuilt after a fire with a dance hall and sun lounges. (fn. 74)
The former Congregational chapel in Montague Street, renamed the Winter Hall, was used for showing silent films and for other entertainment after 1903. (fn. 75) In 1921 part of the Kursaal was converted into Worthing's first permanent cinema, the Dome. (fn. 76) By 1935 there were four cinemas in the town, of which C. A. Seebold owned three. (fn. 77) In 1977 there were two. In 1931 a repertory company was formed in the Connaught Theatre, formerly the Connaught Hall, on the corner of Chapel Road and Union Place. In 1935 it was transferred to a converted cinema in Union Place near by. By the late 1930s audiences were drawn from a wide area. (fn. 78) Also in 1935 a new assembly hall was opened at the rear of the new town hall, chiefly at the expense of a former mayor. (fn. 79) The Connaught Theatre closed as a commercial enterprise in 1966, and was bought by the corporation and reopened in 1967. It continued in 1977, under the management of trustees. (fn. 80)
There were two musical societies in the town by c. 1883, (fn. 81) and in the early 20th century musical groups included choral, orchestral, madrigal, operatic, and musical comedy societies, and a music club. In 1938 there was an amateur symphony orchestra, an operatic choir, and a boys' choir. (fn. 82) The amateur Worthing Citizens Orchestra was formed in 1949 with help from the corporation, (fn. 83) and was called the Worthing Philharmonic Orchestra in 1976, when there were also several amateur choirs. A music festival was started by the corporation in 1949 and continued in 1976. (fn. 84) In 1978 there were five operatic or musical comedy societies. (fn. 85)
Summer steamboat trips were available from the pier from 1889 (fn. 86) until c. 1960, except during the First and Second World Wars and the years immediately after each. (fn. 87) In the late 1920s and 1930s there were frequent services from Worthing to other south coast resorts, (fn. 88) and also to France. (fn. 89) Motor charabanc trips, including some longdistance ones, were started in 1907, and in the 1930s (fn. 90) and in 1977 many motor coach trips were available.
The Worthing cricket club was formed in 1855, (fn. 91) and by 1859 played on Broadwater green. (fn. 92) In 1884 the Worthing Town cricket club was formed for those whose work prevented them from playing at Broadwater. (fn. 93) During the early 1860s a small race meeting was held in the town. (fn. 94) An archery club met during the summer season in 1865; (fn. 95) in 1869 there was a croquet club and a rowing club which held an annual regatta. (fn. 96) An indoor and outdoor rollerskating rink was opened in Montague Street in 1875 or 1876, (fn. 97) in addition to the one at West Worthing, and roller-skating was also accommodated at the Kursaal, opened in 1909, (fn. 98) where 'rink hockey' was played. (fn. 99) By c. 1883 there were two rowing clubs, one of them for working men, and a bicycle club, (fn. 100) and by the 1890s there were clubs for football, tennis, and swimming. (fn. 101) An athletics club was recorded in 1900. (fn. 102) The corporation had acquired the West Worthing Baths in 1895, and enlarged them in 1906. (fn. 103) Meanwhile the neighbouring downland provided golf courses. A nine-hole course which opened in 1892 closed shortly afterwards, but the Worthing golf club, with a course on the downs above Broadwater, was formed in 1905. (fn. 104) Hill Barn municipal golf course was opened in 1935. (fn. 105) Both courses survived in 1978. One bowls club was in existence before 1924, but by 1938, with the influx of elderly people, there were eight, and Worthing had become a centre for the game. (fn. 106) By 1976 the town was the bowls centre for the whole country. (fn. 107) Firstclass cricket matches were being held at the Manor sports ground in Broadwater Road by 1935, (fn. 108) and an annual county cricket week was held thereafter until 1964. (fn. 109) About 1960 the bandstand on the sea front was converted into the Lido swimming pool, (fn. 110) and in 1968 the former West Worthing Baths were replaced by the Aquarena indoor swimming pool on the sea front east of the town centre. (fn. 111) A tenpin bowling centre was opened west of the pier in 1968, (fn. 112) and a sports centre at Durrington in 1972. (fn. 113)
The local board acquired Broadwater green in 1865, (fn. 114) and in 1881 a public park, later Homefield park, was opened, the gift of Robert, later Sir Robert, Loder, M.P., and others. (fn. 115) It was enlarged in 1887. (fn. 116) The corporation acquired the Steyne gardens in 1900, (fn. 117) at the expense of Sir Robert's widow, (fn. 118) and the Victoria recreation ground west of the town centre was opened in 1901. (fn. 119) In the 1920s the corporation bought Beach House and grounds, providing facilities for bowls and tennis. (fn. 120) By 1938 it owned 50 a. of recreation grounds and several parks and open spaces, (fn. 121) besides managing Cissbury Ring after its purchase by the National Trust in 1925. (fn. 122) After the Second World War it acquired or laid out other open spaces and sports grounds, notably The Gallops, Findon Valley, and Brooklands pleasure park of c. 45 a. at the east end of the town, (fn. 123) of which the central feature was a lake fed by the Teville stream. A sports ground near West Tarring village was mentioned in 1912. (fn. 124) The recreation ground south of the church there was bought by the corporation in 1922, and a bowling green, gardens, and tennis courts were laid out next to it between 1936 and 1938. In 1938 the Worthing rugby club played at Tarring. (fn. 125) Land for a recreation ground at Durrington was sold to the corporation by the vicar of Durrington in 1936. (fn. 126)
A temporary lending library was opened in the former West Worthing commissioners' offices in Rowlands Road in 1896. In the following year the corporation bought Richmond House in Chapel Road and converted it into a lending library, to which a reference library and reading room were added in 1898. (fn. 127) The building was replaced in 1908 by a new library, museum, and art gallery; the library was the gift of Andrew Carnegie, and the museum and art gallery that of the town's first mayor, Alfred Cortis. A junior library was opened in 1929, (fn. 128) a travelling library service was started in 1964, and by 1972 there were four branch libraries and a junior centre. (fn. 129) After the transfer of library functions to the county council in 1974 a new library was opened in Richmond Road in 1975, (fn. 130) behind the old one, which became part of the museum.
A weekly Worthing newspaper was published in the 1820s, (fn. 131) and the same or another Worthing paper was recorded in 1836. (fn. 132) The Worthing Monthly Record, (fn. 133) later the Worthing Record, appearing weekly, flourished between 1853 and 1856. Between 1856 and 1862 the incumbent of Christ Church edited a monthly periodical, the Worthing Messenger and Workmen's Friend, which was supported by subscriptions and circulated free among the poor. (fn. 134) The Worthing Intelligencer, described as Liberal, appeared between 1856 and 1901, when it was incorporated with the Worthing Observer, which ceased publication in 1916. A Conservative paper, the Sussex Coast Mercury, flourished from 1861 to 1919, changing its name to the Worthing Mercury in 1903. The Worthing Express, a local edition of the Sussex Express, was published between 1863 and 1902, and the Worthing Monthly Times apparently between 1865 and 1874. The Worthing Gazette, founded in 1883 as a Conservative newspaper, (fn. 135) and the Worthing Herald, started in 1920 by T. R. Beckett Ltd. (later Beckett Newpapers Ltd.) of Eastbourne, both survived as weekly newspapers in 1976, the Gazette having been bought by Beckett Newspapers in 1963. (fn. 136)