There’s a lot more to Worthing than its well-earned reputation as a charming, traditional seaside town. The classic and contemporary combine to make it a place where you can find just about anything you’re looking for, whether it’s the stunning beach and wide-open promenade, a first-class choice of high street stores and independent shops, a tremendous range of pubs, cafés and restaurants, sports and leisure venues or a taste of art and culture. Everything is within easy walking distance and when you want to take a breather, enjoy fresh air and gaze across the waves into the distant horizon, the sea front is only a few minutes away.
This is a town with a wealth of history, but Worthing has always evolved with the times, making it a place that has something to offer everyone, yet retaining an abundance of old-world charm and its centuries-old heritage.
For many centuries Worthing was a small mackerel fishing hamlet, until in the late 18th century it developed into an elegant Georgian seaside resort and attracted the well-known and wealthy of the day. In the 19th and 20th centuries the area became one of Britain’s chief market gardening centres.
Worthing remained an agricultural and fishing hamlet for centuries until the arrival of wealthy visitors in the 1750s. Princess Amelia stayed there in 1798 and the fashionable and wealthy continued to stay in Worthing, which became a town in 1803. As it expanded, elegant developments such as Park Crescent and Liverpool Terrace were begun. The area was a stronghold of smugglers in the 19th century and was the site of rioting by the Skeleton Army in the 1880s.
Oscar Wilde holidayed in the town in 1893 and 1894, writing the Importance of Being Earnest during his second visit. During the 20th century, several literary figures, including Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter, lived there. The poet Shelley owned several properties in the area including Castle Goring and Goring Park House, having inherited them from his grandfather who had them built in the 1750s.
Worthing Museum and Art Gallery was built in 1908 as the town’s museum and library. Alfred Cortis, the first mayor of Worthing, and the international philanthropist Andrew Carnegie funded the construction. West Sussex County Council built a new library in 1975 and the museum has had a chequered history ever since, fighting off closure in 2003 with the support of local residents and now a real asset to the community.
During the Second World War, Worthing was home to several allied military divisions in preparation for the D-Day landings.
Modern Worthing has a large service industry, particularly in financial services and is fortunate enough to have three theatres and one of Britain’s oldest working cinemas, The Dome, which opened in 1911. Since 2010 northern parts of the borough, including the Worthing Downland Estate, have formed part of the South Downs National Park.
Shoppers from far and wide come to Worthing, drawn by the tremendous choice of retail outlets of all kinds and sizes, as well as the town’s ease of access by rail, bus and car, with plenty of parking available.
The lively atmosphere in the town centre reflects its popularity with those looking for a great retail experience. Here you’ll find shops galore stocked with the latest fashions and accessories, beautiful jewellery, gifts, antiques and elegant homewares, as well as stores and services catering for all everyday needs.
The town is also extremely well catered for with a wealth of cafés, pubs and restaurants offering a mouth-watering range of everything from welcome snacks to fine dining, just what you need when you want to relax after a busy shopping expedition.
Sports and leisure enthusiasts have plenty of choice also. Worthing has a wealth of lovely gardens and parks, many of them laid out in the Victorian and Edwardian eras and ideal whether you’re looking for somewhere to relax or to get active.
Beach House Park is well-known as a superb venue for bowling – and it’s also home to a possibly unique memorial to homing pigeons that served in the Second World War.
A great attraction for young and old is the 18-hole crazy golf course at the southern end of Denton Gardens, while Field Place, near Worthing Leisure Centre, boasts tennis courts, lawn bowls, a putting green and conference facilities. Nearby is West Park with its running track and basketball court.
The beautiful Highdown Gardens, at the foot of the South Downs, are deemed to be of national importance, while Steyne Gardens include a garden re-landscaped in 2007 with a stunning fountain of the ancient Greek sea God, Triton.
Liverpool Gardens, overlooking the graceful Georgian Liverpool Terrace, is overlooked by four striking bronze heads known as Desert Quartet, sculpted by Dame Elisabeth Frink.
Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, Worthing has a great deal to offer, a perfect blend of the old and the new, a bustling town centre and plenty of opportunities to just sit back and take it easy.
The Midsummer Tree, an oak, stands near Broadwater Green and is said to be around 300 years old. Until the 19th century, it was believed that on Midsummer’s Eve skeletons would rise from the tree and dance around it until dawn, when they would sink back into the ground. The legend was first recorded in 1868 by folklorist Charlotte Latham.
Since 2006, when the oak was saved from development, meetings have been held on Midsummer’s Eve there.
It was once believed that monsters known as knuckers lived in bottomless ponds called knuckerholes. There were several knuckerholes in Sussex, including one in Worthing by Ham Bridge, on the present Ham Road, close to East Worthing railway station and
According to legend, a tunnel several miles long led from the now-demolished Medieval Offington Hall to the Neolithic flint mines and Iron Age hill fort at Cissbury. It was said to be sealed, and there was treasure at the far end; the owner of the Hall ‘had offered half the money to anyone who would clear out the subterranean passage and several persons had begun digging, but all had been driven back by large snakes springing at them with open mouths and angry hisses’.