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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LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC SERVICES
Court books of Worthing manor's court baron survive from 1544 to 1925. (fn. 1) The court's jurisdiction was presumably over that part of Worthing tithing which lay outside the jurisdiction of Broadwater manor, (fn. 2) but Broadwater's leet jurisdiction may have included Worthing. In the late 16th century courts were held not more than once a year, and sometimes not for three or four years. Thereafter they were held more intermittently. Up to c. 1750 the court dealt with land transactions, the regulation of agriculture, and such matters as blocked ditches and the repair of houses.
After 1750 its business was mainly confined to copyholds. From c. 1790 courts were held more often, at least once every two years, and sometimes two or three times a year, but after 1847 business was increasingly transacted out of court. Only about six courts were held after 1860, the last two in 1895, but copyhold business was being dealt with until 1924. Besides the steward a beadle is recorded from 1843 to 1872. The remains of a building formerly used as a court-house survived on Worthing common south of the modern shore line in 1748. (fn. 3)
Since Worthing manor had no leet jurisdiction of its own, there was no local government machinery capable of dealing with the problems arising from the rapid growth of the resort in the early 19th century, especially those of drainage, police, and roads. (fn. 4) By an Act of 1803 72 commissioners were appointed to govern the town, with power to replace themselves by co-option. Most were local property owners, among them promoters of the resort like Edward Ogle and Miles Stringer. The quorum, however, was seven, (fn. 5) and rarely did more than twelve take an active part in the town's government. (fn. 6) A later Act of 1821 stipulated that new commissioners should be elected by occupiers of houses worth £20 and over, as well as by the existing commissioners. (fn. 7) At least one election was contested, pressure being put on tradesmen to vote for a particular candidate. (fn. 8)
The commissioners were empowered from the beginning to levy a paving rate, on the security of which they could borrow up to £2,000. (fn. 9) That limit was increased to £5,000 in 1809, when the commissioners were also empowered to set up a market, and to borrow up to another £4,000 on the security of the tolls. (fn. 10) By the Act of 1821 the commissioners' borrowing limit on the previous security was raised by £1,200, and they were also empowered to charge a duty on coal brought into the town, on the security of which they could borrow another £3,000. (fn. 11) The coal duty was levied until 1898. (fn. 12) Officers appointed in 1803 were a clerk, who was paid for each meeting he attended, a treasurer, and a beadle who was also town-crier and rate-collector. After c. 1811 the offices of beadle and rate-collector were separated. (fn. 13) A surveyor of drains, later of drains and roads, was appointed in 1804, but was apparently unpaid until 1822. (fn. 14) An inspector of nuisances was appointed in 1818, and the office of town scavenger was auctioned annually to the highest bidder. (fn. 15) The Act of 1821 stipulated that officers should be appointed annually, except for the treasurer, clerk, and collector. (fn. 16)
Among the commissioners' early activities were laying down, widening, and paving streets, (fn. 17) setting back projecting buildings, (fn. 18) covering open drains and ditches, (fn. 19) and building a new road from Worthing to South Lancing. (fn. 20) The draining and paving of the town had been completed by 1814. (fn. 21) For the maintenance of roads in the town which had been the responsibility of the parish, the commissioners were empowered to claim a proportionate part of the highway rate from the Broadwater parish surveyors, a provision that later caused disputes. (fn. 22) After c. 1825, however, the office of town surveyor of highways was amalgamated with that of the Broadwater parish surveyor. (fn. 23) The esplanade was built between 1819 and 1821, both for amenity and as a sea defence, (fn. 24) and enlarged between 1840 and 1842. (fn. 25) The commissioners also constructed groynes under powers granted in 1821, (fn. 26) more being built between 1840 and 1842. (fn. 27) The Act of 1821 also regulated the construction of new buildings, and extended the commissioners' powers to make bylaws to include the licensing of hackney coaches, sedan chairs, and bathing-machines, and the regulation of bathing and of boats and huts on the beach.
The successive raising of the limit of the commissioners' borrowing powers is symptomatic of their financial difficulties, which were increased by the decline in market tolls not long after they were granted. (fn. 28) Despite the provisions of the 1821 Act their financial position never improved thereafter. In 1826 the responsibility for protecting the road from Worthing to South Lancing was transferred to a turnpike trust (fn. 29) because the commissioners no longer had the resources to maintain it. (fn. 30) Two years later several officials, including the surveyor, were dismissed through lack of money to pay them, their posts being revived one or two years later. (fn. 31) Thereafter the commissioners became increasingly ineffective in dealing with some of the town's major problems, especially drainage and the control of the beach. (fn. 32) By the time of their dissolution in 1852 much of the income from rates and tolls was being devoted to paying off interest charges. (fn. 33)
In 1850 an inquiry into the town's sanitary conditions, following a petition to the General Board of Health, was thwarted by opposition led by the clerk to the commissioners, William Tribe. (fn. 34) After a second enquiry the board's inspector recommended the appointment of a local board of health, (fn. 35) and in 1852 a board was set up to replace the commissioners, with W. H. Dennett, a leading advocate of reform, as its clerk. (fn. 36)
The new board at first had 9 members, increased to 15 in 1867. (fn. 37) Its area of jurisdiction was enlarged in 1875. (fn. 38) Officers appointed from the beginning, besides the clerk, were a treasurer, a surveyor and engineer, and a collector. By 1872 the posts of surveyor and engineer were separate. Other officers appointed later were inspectors of gas lighting and coal duties and of hackney carriages and public walks (by 1859), an inspector of nuisances (by 1872), and a medical officer and a clerk of works (by 1878). (fn. 39) By 1882 there were committees for general purposes, finance, by-laws, legal matters, parks, roads, sea defences, and special works. (fn. 40)
The board's first concern was with water-supply and drainage, the necessary works for which cost nearly £19,000. (fn. 41) Those responsibilities continued to account for much of the board's expenditure. (fn. 42) A related concern was sea defence, for which the board's powers were enlarged in 1859. (fn. 43) After storm damage in 1865-6 the board built a sea-wall and a virtually new esplanade, and did other works. (fn. 44) In 1869 it took over the powers and debts, amounting to c. £19,000, of the Worthing and Lancing turnpike trust, and was given jurisdiction over part of Lancing parish for sea defence purposes. (fn. 45) Because of the previous lack of maintenance the low-lying east part of the town had been exposed to the risk of flooding, which would have created a stagnant lake of sea-water and sewage, (fn. 46) and the board incurred heavy expenditure on both the road and its defences in order to prevent that. (fn. 47) A third chief concern was the control of the beach. In 1852 the board made by-laws regulating the collection of seaweed for use as manure; (fn. 48) six years later, however, seaweed was still being piled there. (fn. 49) The right to collect sand and other material was reserved in the by-laws of 1852 (fn. 50) and confirmed in 1859, (fn. 51) and removal of both sand and shingle continued into the 20th century. (fn. 52) In 1858 fishermen were using the esplanade to dry and mend their nets, the field which they had previously used having been turned into a lawn. (fn. 53) That right too was confirmed in 1859, (fn. 54) and again in 1868. (fn. 55) In 1859 the board was empowered to make by-laws for pleasure boats, (fn. 56) and in 1868 to regulate fishing boats. (fn. 57) By-laws for giving notice and depositing plans of new buildings were made by the board in 1864, (fn. 58) and further building by-laws were adopted in 1869. (fn. 59)
In 1890 Worthing and Heene were incorporated by charter as the borough of Worthing; Worthing civil parish formed in 1894, however, excluded Heene. (fn. 60) Six aldermen and 18 councillors, including the mayor, at first represented 5 wards. At the enlargement of the borough in 1902 the corporation was increased to 8 aldermen and 24 councillors representing 7 wards. After 1929 there were 10 aldermen and 30 councillors representing 10 wards. (fn. 61) The first Labour mayor was chosen in 1936, (fn. 62) but after the 1950s there was always a Conservative majority on the corporation. (fn. 63) The first town clerk was the former clerk to the local board, and he and his successor gave 73 years' service between them to the local board and corporation. (fn. 64)
The corporation succeeded to the board's preoccupation with water supply and drainage, (fn. 65) and continued to be responsible for the South Lancing road and the related sea defences. It was represented on the Lancing Sea Defences Committee established in 1891, and from 1913 on the successor East Lancing Sea Defence Commission, (fn. 66) but its sea defence jurisdiction in Lancing parish was abolished in 1921. (fn. 67) The corporation also began to take an increasing part in promoting Worthing as a resort. Besides keeping the beach clean and regulating boating and bathing, (fn. 68) it provided shelters and seats on the esplanade, (fn. 69) and chairs and bathing huts on the beach. (fn. 70) There was a music and entertainments committee from c. 1915, (fn. 71) and by 1921 there were at least two committees specifically for the resort. (fn. 72) In 1922 the corporation extended its powers to provide for recreation and entertainment. (fn. 73) There was a borough publicity and information bureau by 1913, and a borough entertainments manager by 1930. (fn. 74) The open spaces and recreation grounds acquired by the corporation are mentioned elsewhere. (fn. 75) During the 1920s and 1930s the corporation also promoted Worthing as a residential town, especially for London commuters, and encouraged its expansion. After the Second World War, on the other hand, it adopted a deliberate policy of increasing employment opportunities in the town itself. (fn. 76) Between 1921 and 1929 it built c. 500 houses, and in 1936-7 another 260. (fn. 77) By 1976 there were c. 3,300 council houses and flats in the borough. (fn. 78)
In 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, the borough became a district with borough status granted by a new charter. In 1976 30 councillors still represented 10 wards, but aldermen had been abolished. (fn. 79)
The town commissioners first met at the Nelson inn in South Street, and after 1812 at the Royal George in Market Street. (fn. 80) A site for a town hall, at the junction of Chapel Road with South and Warwick streets was given to the town in 1825 by Sir Timothy Shelley of Castle Goring, a commissioner and the father of the poet. The building, of two storeys in classical style, with a portico and clock tower at the southern end, was opened in 1835. (fn. 81) New offices for the local board were built in Liverpool Road in 1887; the corporation met there until at least 1910, but by 1914 it met in the town hall. (fn. 82) In the 1920s the municipal offices were in houses in Chapel Road; a new town hall, of pink brick and stone in classical style, was built on the site of two of them to the design of C. CowlesVoysey and opened in 1933. (fn. 83) The clock-tower of the old town hall was removed in 1950, (fn. 84) and the rest of the building demolished in 1966. (fn. 85) The bell from the clock-tower had been placed in the Guildbourne centre near by in 1974. (fn. 86)
The wells and springs which at first supplied Worthing with water (fn. 87) were causing concern by the 1820s, (fn. 88) and by the 1840s many of the wells were contaminated by cesspools. (fn. 89) Between 1853 and 1856 the local board sank a well off Lyndhurst Road north-east of the town, with a pumping-engine and water-tower near by, and mains were laid in the town. (fn. 90) Another engine had been added by 1865, (fn. 91) a new storage tank was built in 1866, (fn. 92) and a second well was dug in 1867 (fn. 93) or 1868. (fn. 94) In the latter year the local board was empowered to supply the rest of Broadwater parish. (fn. 95) By 1879, however, the supply had become inadequate; (fn. 96) in 1882, especially in the summer, the main tank was frequently empty soon after midday. (fn. 97) A third well was dug in 1885, but the supply had again become inadequate by 1893. (fn. 98) The typhoid outbreak of that year was caused by pollution in the third well; (fn. 99) as a result all three wells were at first superseded by a temporary supply from a well sunk in the chalk at Lyons farm, Broadwater, (fn. 100) and from 1897 by a new pumping station and reservoir on the downs north of Broadwater village. Meanwhile in 1896 the borough took over and closed the West Worthing water-works, while retaining the associated reservoir at Durrington.
Further boreholes were sunk at Broadwater between 1922 and 1937. (fn. 101) Under the Worthing Corporation Act, 1922, (fn. 102) the borough acquired a private water-works in Durrington parish and built pumping stations and reservoirs in Clapham, Durrington, and Patching. Further works were carried out in the late 1930s, (fn. 103) and by 1939 water was supplied to 77,000 people in a large area surrounding the borough. (fn. 104) The water undertakings of Littlehampton urban district and Worthing rural district were transferred to the corporation in 1961, and those of Arundel borough and of the duke of Norfolk in 1965 and 1966 respectively; by 1972 the corporation supplied an area of 64 square miles. Works constructed after the Second World War included reservoirs between 1952 and 1970, and pumping stations between 1961 and 1970. (fn. 105) The corporation's water undertaking was taken over by the Southern Water Authority in 1974. (fn. 106)
Sewage disposal was a great problem in Worthing during much of the 19th century. The town commissioners were given jurisdiction over sewers in 1803; (fn. 107) in the same year they laid a sewage drain northwards from the town to the Teville pond, (fn. 108) and by 1814 all the open drains and ditches in the town had been covered. (fn. 109) From the 1820s there were complaints of bad smells from the drains. (fn. 110) In 1850 there were several hundred cesspools in the town, which had to be emptied frequently because there was little soakage; to prevent the flooding of basements in the lowest part of the town eight drains deposited sewage from cesspools on the foreshore. (fn. 111) In 1857 a system of main drainage was constructed by the local board, consisting of a main sewer ending near the water-works, the engine of which was used to pump the sewage through an outfall sewer to the sea at Sea Mills bridge 2 miles east of the town. (fn. 112) In the winter of 1865-6, however, the town's sewers remained full for long periods and many basements were flooded. (fn. 113) In 1866 the sewage was being used to grow animal fodder east of the town. (fn. 114) Twelve years later a new main sewer was laid along the course of the Teville stream, the old works being disused. (fn. 115)
By 1893 the sewerage system had been extended to houses north of the railway in Broadwater and West Tarring. (fn. 116) In 1894 a pumping station and tanks were built with a new outfall into the sea. A new pumping station and an additional outfall were built in 1914, and after 1932 further works were constructed which also provided for the disposal of Lancing's sewage. A separate system had been completed for the former Goring and Durrington parishes by 1936, with two pumping stations in Goring and tanks to hold the sewage until the tide was favourable. (fn. 117) A comprehensive unit for treating sewage, street sweepings, and domestic refuse was built east of the town between 1960 and 1967. The West Worthing unit was reconstructed between 1961 and 1965, and there were 10 auxiliary pumping stations in the town by 1971. (fn. 118) Land drainage and sewerage were taken over by the Southern Water Authority in 1974, (fn. 119) as whose agent the borough council carried out sewerage services in 1976, when the East Worthing works were being extended and improved. (fn. 120)
Oil lamps were erected by the town commissioners in 1818 and lit during the winter months. (fn. 121) In 1833 the commissioners agreed with contractors who were to supply gas for 120 street lamps for 21 years, and might supply gas to other consumers. (fn. 122) A gasworks was built in Lyndhurst Road north-east of the town in 1834, (fn. 123) and the undertaking was bought in 1835 by a syndicate which became the Worthing Gas Light and Coke Co. (fn. 124) In 1850 there were 129 public lamps. (fn. 125) The works were enlarged in 1868 and 1882. (fn. 126) In 1871 the area of supply was extended to Broadwater, and in 1881 to West Tarring. (fn. 127) By 1894 there were 1,550 consumers and 548 public lamps. (fn. 128) The supply was later extended to Sompting and Findon, and in 1931 the company was amalgamated into the Brighton, Hove, and Worthing Gas Co. Manufacture of gas at Worthing then ceased, the works being used for storage. (fn. 129) By 1935 there was a storage gasholder in Goring. (fn. 130) The premises in Worthing and Goring were later disused, and in 1949 the company was absorbed into the South Eastern Gas Board. (fn. 131)
Worthing corporation began to supply electricity from works in High Street in 1901; (fn. 132) 108 consumers were connected during the first year, when there were 110 arc lamps. (fn. 133) Street lighting remained the chief use for some time. (fn. 134) Durrington was added to the area of supply in 1922, (fn. 135) and 9 other neighbouring parishes in 1925. (fn. 136) The town was connected to the national grid in 1930, (fn. 137) and by 1939 there were c. 23,000 consumers. (fn. 138) In 1948 the undertaking was transferred to the South Eastern Electricity Board, (fn. 139) and the Worthing works were closed in 1961. (fn. 140)
A beadle was appointed to police the town in 1803, and a lock-up was provided in Cook's Row off High Street which served until the town hall was built in 1835. (fn. 141) In 1821 a constable was appointed for Worthing, and the beadle was made headborough of Brightford hundred. A second headborough appointed at the same date was made assistant beadle in the following year, and became superintendent of police in 1837. The police force was increased to 3 in 1838, to 4 by 1843, and to 5 by 1845. (fn. 142) In 1857 it became part of the county police force. There was a police station in Ann Street by 1859, (fn. 143) which moved to High Street in 1922. A new police station was built in Union Place near by in 1939. (fn. 144)
A fire-engine was given to the town by a resident in 1815, and kept in the lock-up until 1835; thereafter the fire station was at the town hall. A new engine was ordered by the commissioners in 1839, and in 1855 the local board set up the town's first fire brigade, consisting of 30 men. (fn. 145) By 1891 there were sub-stations in East and West Worthing, (fn. 146) and in 1905 Broadwater and West Tarring. The central fire station was then in High Street, (fn. 147) but was replaced by a new building for the county fire service on the south side of Broadwater green in 1962. (fn. 148)
Worthing had a postal service by 1798, (fn. 149) which by 1804 was a daily one. (fn. 150) From 1878 the main post office was in Chapel Road, a new building being put up in 1930. (fn. 151) There were telegraph services in the town by 1859, (fn. 152) and a public telephone call office by 1900. (fn. 153)
A dispensary was established in Ann Street in 1829, supported by residents' and visitors' contributions, and in 1831 more than 500 patients were treated there. (fn. 154) A new dispensary in Elizabethan style was built in Chapel Road in 1845-6, (fn. 155) and was enlarged in 1860 as the Worthing infirmary and dispensary. (fn. 156) Over 600 patients a year were treated there c. 1859. (fn. 157) A new building was opened in Lyndhurst Road in 1882, (fn. 158) becoming the Worthing hospital in 1904. A children's ward was added in 1889, and an operating theatre in 1900. (fn. 159) In 1948 the hospital was transferred to the South-West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board. (fn. 160) The first portion of a new building to replace the old was opened on an adjacent site in 1975. (fn. 161)
Swandean isolation hospital, Durrington, was opened by the corporation c. 1896, replacing a temporary hospital. (fn. 162) It too was transferred to the South-West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board in 1948; (fn. 163) by 1975 it was a geriatric hospital. (fn. 164) Courtlands House, Goring, became a recovery home in 1946 or 1947, (fn. 165) and was officially opened as a recovery hospital in 1951. (fn. 166) It was closed in 1973. (fn. 167) The Acre hospital in Boundary Road, West Worthing, was opened in 1957 to give out-patient psychiatric treatment. (fn. 168) A clinic for school children was set up by the corporation in 1910. A new maternity and child welfare centre was opened in 1932, and a branch clinic in Durrington by 1938. (fn. 169) A health centre was opened at Durrington in 1973. (fn. 170)
Broadwater cemetery in South Farm Road was opened in 1862 (fn. 171) by a burial board for Worthing and Broadwater and was twice enlarged later. (fn. 172) By 1927 the corporation had acquired another 42 a. for a cemetery at the south end of Findon Valley; four years later 13 a. had been laid out there. (fn. 173) A municipal crematorium in Findon was opened in 1968. (fn. 174)
A lifeboat station was established in 1852 (fn. 175) and was taken over by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in 1865. The lifeboat house was moved from Crescent. Road to Marine Parade c. 1874. (fn. 176) Between 1852 and 1930, when the station was closed, the Worthing lifeboats were launched 36 times and saved 58 lives. (fn. 177) The boat-house survived in 1977.