Worthing is not an ancient town like Chichester, Arundel or Lewes, but there are still buildings in the town that date from the eighteenth century and, possibly earlier.
No one can say for sure which is the oldest surviving building in the town centre, but it is probably No. 40 High Street, parts of which are believed to date back to the 1690s.
The building is currently a café called ‘The Orchard,’ previously known as ‘Fancy Coffee.’
The façade dates from the late eighteenth century as does most of the standing structure, including the bow-fronted windows.
It has been a teashop or café for many decades and older Worthing residents fondly remember it as ‘The Toby Jug.’
Also dating from the eighteenth century are Nos 28 – 30 High Street. These were built as shops, including the first ever recorded butcher’s in the town.
Box Cottage at the northern end of High Street has what is known as a mansarded or ‘hipped roof,’ this type of construction is typical of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and dates Box Cottage back to the days when Worthing was still a rural village.
Prior to that it was a boarding house of dubious repute; but originally it was the home of Richard Lindup, a gentleman farmer.
The Swan has recently had a makeover for the changing tastes of 21st century customers.
Opposite The Swan is another pub, The Corner House. This is a recent name change and the fourth in twenty years. Other names include, The Stage, The Jack Horner, and The Anchor.
A guide book of 1805 names The Anchor is being one of Worthing’s original pubs. About 1890 The Anchor was rebuilt and it would appear that none of the original building was retained in the new one.
There are no known photographs or drawings of the original ‘Anchor.’
In 1830 the inquest into the death of William Cowerson, the smuggler, was held at The Anchor. Cowerson died in a battle fought on the streets of Worthing between smugglers and coastguards.
By the 1980s, The Anchor had become a rather seedy establishment and was in need of an image change.
No one then could have predicted that it would become ‘The Jack Horner’ – Worthing’s first openly Gay pub.
Worthing has four surviving Georgian and Regency terraces. The oldest is Bedford Row, which was built between 1803 and 1806.
It is an early example of bow-fronted architecture and once accommodated the well-to-do visitors who came to Worthing as it developed as a seaside resort.
What were once imposing gardens have been turned into parking lots and the row itself is in need of loving restoration.
Ambrose Place – originally Mount Pleasant – was built in the 1820s and is named after its builder – Ambrose Cartwright.
This is arguably the most elegant terrace in Worthing and still retains its gardens and sense of propriety.
Equally sought-after is Park Crescent, which was left only half completed in 1829 as a biting economic downturn brought all building projects on the Sussex coast to a halt.
In the 1980s, Park Crescent was looking rather dilapidated and shabby. The Council had the presence of mind to restore the large communal gardens that faced the terrace and these were formally opened in 1990 by the mayor, Michael Clinch.
Since then Park Crescent has prospered, with properties in the terrace being much sought-after.
Liverpool Terrace was completed in 1829 and was named after Lord Liverpool, Tory prime minister from 1812 – 1827.
Liverpool was one of Britain’s longest serving prime ministers. He succeeded Spencer Perceval, the only prime minister of this country to have been assassinated.
During the nineteenth century, the terrace included a number of professional people and other ‘genteel’ businesses, including a Girl’s School at No.7.
Today Liverpool Terrace continues to house a number of successful local businesses.
The southern end of Montague Place also includes a row of Regency buildings.
Some believe that Princess Amelia, the youngest daughter of George III stayed here during her visit to Worthing during the summer and autumn of 1798.
She came to recuperate after illness and her visit ‘put Worthing on the map’ and led to a period of rapid development, leading to the passing of the Worthing Town Improvement Act in 1803.
This act established the Worthing Town Commissioners – the forerunner of the present Borough Council – and enabled them to raise a rate from the inhabitants to provide, paving, street lighting and sewerage.
The first Town Hall was built in 1830 and stood where the steps leading up to the Guildbourne Centre in South Street are now located. Before there was a town hall, the Commissioners held their meetings at the Nelson Inn in South Street.
The Nelson closed in 1961, but the twitten or alley way that ran by the side of the inn, can still be located, linking South Street to Marine Place. It is still known as ‘Nelson Passage.’
At the Marine Place end of the passage is a youth drop-in centre. This building was opened in 1826 as a Wesleyan (Methodist) Chapel.
It later became the town’s first Masonic Hall and remained so until replaced by the modern Charmandean Centre in Forest Road during the 1960s.