Ferring Conservation Group welcomed the Worthing Society to its November meeting, for a talk given by its Chairman, Sue Belton and Committee member David Clark. The Society much in common with our Conservation Group, is striving to preserve and conserve all that is best in our environment, and is a valuable member of the Protect our Gaps Alliance. It also reflects what we do in our History Group, in researching and presenting the town’s history but its main focus is on Worthing’s buildings – past, present and future – and the talk was entitled ‘Worthing’s Buildings, Lost and Saved.’
Sue said far too many historic buildings were demolished in the1960s and were replaced by extremely unattractive buildings and multi-storey car parks. This trend continued into the 1970s but was challenged by a redoubtable character, Mrs Pat Baring, who campaigned to save what was left, and founded the Worthing Civic Society in 1973. Among the fine buildings that were lost was the old Town Hall (built in 1836), the Theatre Royal in Ann Street (18th Century), Grafton House, the Esplanade Hotel (where Oscar Wilde wrote ‘The Importance of being Earnest’), and the 17th Century ‘Selden’s Cottage’ but the biggest planning disaster of all was the demolition of half the High Street leaving only two or three of the old town houses.
But although much had been lost a lot more had been saved. There were 212 buildings on the Statutory List and another 750 on Worthing Council’s local list. The Worthing Society was involved in saving much of this built heritage, working closely with English Heritage and the Borough Council. Beach House was one of its successes, along with the Dome Cinema and Stanford Cottage (now a Pizza House), where Jane Austen had written the unfinished novel, ‘Sanditon’. Now the Society was much involved with preserving these and other historic buildings but was also regularly consulted by the Council on planning applications and its redevelopment schemes like Teville Gate and Montague Place.
The talk was followed by tea and hot mince pies, and the usual update on local wildlife and planning applications and appeals, including the dismissal of the appeal on Lansdowne Nursery, one of the cases which the Protect our Gaps Alliance had taken up and won.