This trail begins at The Swan in what was once the old village of Worthing and then follows down the High Street (once just ‘Worthing Street’). Turning into Warwick Street, we enter an area of Worthing that became the focus of the seaside resort that developed following the visit of Princess Amelia in 1798. It continues up Chapel Road and into Union Place before returning to the Swan.
Duration: 90 minutes. 1.5 miles (2.4 km)
Terrain: follows pavements – this trail should be suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs.
The Heritage Trail
A few words of warning. Use caution whilst crossing roads and be careful not to step backwards into the road when looking at or photographing buildings!
Sites of Interest
The Swan. A public house since 1849, when it was known as the White Swan. The building dates from the eighteenth century, when it was the home of gentleman farmer Richard Lindup, later becoming a boarding house. The date ‘1938’ above the entrance lintel refers to rebuilding work carried out in that year.
The Hollies, now offices, was originally a private house of some distinction, being constructed of the much sought-after Worthing ‘yellow brick’. These bricks were fired from clay extracted from Worthing’s seashore. This particular seam was excavated between 1800 and 1830. Later bricks had a more orange hue rather than the yellow/cream colour found in the bricks at the Hollies.
The Sidney Walter Centre is situated within the Little High Street Conservation Area. It was built as Sussex Road School in 1902 and retains many original features. The school closed in 1964 and two years later was re-opened as the Sidney Walter Centre, being named after the founding chairman of the Worthing Youth Council.
The footpath or ‘twitten’ that runs down the eastern side of the Sidney Walter Centre can be followed to Broadwater Street East, a mile to the north. There has been speculation that this footpath, known ‘the Quashetts’, once linked the medieval chapel of Worthing with St Mary’s at Broadwater, although a walker today will see it connects the Swan with Ye Old House at Home ! At one time the path, which may be medieval or earlier, probably continued onto the Downs and Cissbury Ring.
Cross Newland Road into Dagmar Street. The Newlands were an important land-owning family during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The railway came to Worthing in 1845 and helped transform the local economy by boosting horticulture and tourism. The Quashetts continues through the tunnel under the railway – our trail continues south along Upper High Street.
Tower Road gets its name from the Italianate water tower that was built here in 1857. It was the major source of drinking water in Worthing, capable of holding 110,000 gallons of water. However, its contamination in 1893 led an outbreak of typhoid fever during which 188 people died. In 1898 a water pumping station was opened on the Downs at Hillbarn Lane and the water tower became redundant. It was demolished in 1924.
The Corner House, previously known as The Stage and the Jack Horner, and originally, the Anchor, is believed to be the oldest public house in the town centre. It was rebuilt in the late nineteenth century. The inquest into the death of William Cowerson, a smuggler shot dead by coastguards, was held at the Anchor in February 1832.
‘Burdens’, a farmhouse dating from at least the mid-eighteenth century, and Alma Cottage, named after the famous battle in the Crimean War, once stood here. Although listed as buildings of historic and architectural interest, they were demolished in 1959. Many other historic buildings dating back to the time when Worthing was an agricultural village, were lost at this time.
Number 40 High Street (Fancy Coffee, still known to many older residents as the ‘Toby Jug’) has for many decades now served as a tea shop or café. It is probably the oldest surviving building from the old village, dating back to the late seventeenth century.
Numbers 28-30 High Street date from the eighteenth century. Although altered and modified over the years, they still represent a precious survival from the old village. Worthing’s first know butcher’s shop was situated here.
Warwick Street was built in the early nineteenth century to accommodate the town’s growing middle-class population, only later in the century were the properties converted into shops. Some of the buildings on the south side of the street date back to the eighteenth century and represent the earliest phase in the development of Worthing as a seaside resort.
Stanford Square is a modern development, but Stanford Cottage, now a restaurant, is an eighteenth century building. Jane Austen stayed here in 1805. For more information on Jane Austen and her stay at Stanford Cottage, click on the button below.
Bedford Row was built between 1803 and 1806 and is a grade II listed building. The bow-fronted architecture, so typical of the Regency period, is in its earliest form here. The style allowed the maximum light into the rooms, and reached the height of its popularity in the 1820s , when it was replicated across much of Brighton. No.7 Bedford Row, originally Bloss’s Boarding House, was refronted during the Victorian period, breaking the continuity of the terrace. The naturalist, W.H.Hudson, was believed to have stayed at no. 8 towards the end of his life.
Bedford Cottage was saved from demolition in 1988. It is now a grade II listed building. Flint cobbles and yellow brick feature in its design. The building dates from c.1800. It is similar to Threadpaper House which stands behind it to the south. Local tradition claims it as a ‘fisherman’s cottage’, although its situation in what was, in the early nineteenth century, a highly fashionable quarter of town, suggests this was unlikely.
24 Marine Place, today a youth drop-in centre, was built as a Wesleyan Chapel in 1826. It later became a Masonic Hall.
The Nelson Passage is a little alleyway, easily missed. An exit from the north side of the alley used to lead to Nelson Shades – a ‘shady’ bar long since closed. From South Street it is possible to see the bow-fronted windows of the old Nelson, above the modern shop window façade.
The Old Town Hall, built 1835, stood where the steps and concourse leading to the Guildbourne Centre are now situated. The Old Town Hall was much loved in Worthing as a focal point of the town centre. It lost its function when the current Town Hall was opened in 1933, but it remained in use for other civic purposes until its demolition in 1966.
Market Street was one of the first streets laid out following the passing of the Worthing Town Improvement Act of 1803. It remained a largely intact Regency street until it was demolished, virtually in its entirety, between 1969 and 1970, to make way for the Guildbourne Centre development.
The Connaught Theatre was opened in 1933, under its actor-manager, Bill Fraser. Considered to be a good example of an Art Deco building, the original black and white tiles that faced the building were removed in the 1980s. A proposal to close the theatre at this time led two brothers to go on hunger strike until the threat was lifted. The long-term future of the Connaught remains uncertain.
Fairlawn, a once elegant villa dating from the 1820s, is now incorporated into the modern retirement flats complex that surrounds it. For several decades, until the current conversion, Fairlawn was the local adult education centre. In the early nineteenth century it was the home of geologist, Dr. Frederick Dixon.
Union Place derives its name from the Act of Union between Britain and Ireland passed in 1800.
As Worthing developed into a seaside resort in the years following 1800, many new residential streets were laid out, fronted by grand houses. Union Place was one such street. Haverfield House is now a lone survival from that elegant age.