Worthing (/ˈwɜːrðɪŋ/) is a large seaside town in England, and district with borough status in West Sussex. It is situated at the foot of the South Downs, 10 miles (16 km) west of Brighton, and 18 miles (29 km) east of the county town of Chichester. With an estimated population of about 110,000[2] and an area of 12.5 square miles (32.37 km2), the borough is the second largest component of the Brighton/Worthing/Littlehampton conurbation, which makes it part of the 15th most populous urban area in the United Kingdom. Since 2010, northern parts of the borough, including the Worthing Downland Estate, have formed part of the South Downs National Park. In April 2019, the Art Deco Worthing Pier was dubbed the best in Britain.[3]


Borough of Worthing
Clockwise, from top: Worthing seafront from Worthing Pier, Dome Cinema, Castle Goring, Cissbury Ring in the South Downs National Park, Connaught Theatre, Worthing Pier

Coat of Arms of the Borough Council
Etymology: Old English Weoroingas – (place of) Worth/Weorð/Worō's people
Sunny Worthing
"Ex terra copiam e mari salutem"
(Latin for "From the land plenty and from the sea health")
Coordinates: 50°48′52.96″N 0°22′16.99″W
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country England
RegionSouth East England
Historic county Sussex
CountyWest Sussex
FoundedIn antiquity
Town charter1803 (1803)
Borough status1890 (1890)
Administrative HQWorthing Town Hall
  BodyWorthing Borough Council
  LeadershipLeader and cabinet
  Leader of CouncilCllr Daniel Humphreys (C)
  Chief ExecutiveAlex Bailey
  MPsPeter Bottomley (C)
Tim Loughton (C)
  Borough32.48 km2 (12.54 sq mi)
Area rank298th
7 m (25 ft)
Highest elevation
184 m (603 ft)
 (mid-2018 est.)
  Borough110,025 (ranked 216th)
  Density3,383/km2 (8,760/sq mi)
183,000 (sub-urban Worthing)
(Office for National Statistics 2011 Census)[1]
93.8% White
3.2% British Asian
1.7% Mixed Race
0.9% Black
0.4% Arab and other
Time zoneGMT
  Summer (DST)British Summer Time
Area code(s)01903
ONS code45UH
Highest pointCissbury Ring (184m)
Grid referenceSU775075
WebsiteAdur & Worthing councils

The area around Worthing has been populated for at least 6,000 years and contains Britain's greatest concentration of Stone Age flint mines, which are some of the earliest mines in Europe. Lying within the borough, the Iron Age hill fort of Cissbury Ring is one of Britain's largest. Worthing means "(place of) Worth/Worō's people", from the Old English personal name Worth/Worō (the name means "valiant one, one who is noble"), and -ingas "people of" (reduced to -ing in the modern name). The recorded history of Worthing began with the Domesday Book. It is historically part of Sussex in the rape of Bramber, although Goring, which forms part of the rape of Arundel, was incorporated in 1929.

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 was one of Britain's chief market gardening centres.[4]

Modern Worthing has a large service industry, particularly in financial services. It has three theatres and one of Britain's oldest cinemas, the Dome cinema.[5] Writers Oscar Wilde and Harold Pinter lived and worked in the town.


Worthing means "(place of) Worth/Weorð/Worō's people", from the Old English personal name Worth, Weorð or Worō (meaning "valiant one, one who is noble"), and -ingas (meaning "people of", and reduced to -ing in the modern name). The name was first recorded as Weoroingas in Old English; then as Ordinges in the Domesday Book of 1086, Wuroininege in 1183, Wurdingg in 1218, Wording or Wurthing in 1240, Worthinges in 1288 and Wyrthyng in 1397. Worthen was used as late as 1720. The modern name was first documented in 1297.[6][7]

Another village with a similar name near Emmen in Drenthe in the Northeastern part of the Netherlands is Weerdinge.

Older local people sometimes claim that the name of Worthing is derived from a natural annual phenomenon. Seaweed beds off nearby Bognor Regis are ripped up by summer storms and prevailing Atlantic currents deposit it on the beach. A rich source of nitrates, it makes good fertiliser. The decaying weed was sought by farmers from the surrounding area. Thus the town would have become known as Wort (weed) -inge (people).


From around 4000BC, the South Downs above Worthing was Britain's earliest[8] and largest flint-mining area.,[9] with four of the UK's 14 known flint mines lying within 7 miles (11 kilometres) of the centre of Worthing.[9] An excavation at Little High Street dates the earliest remains from Worthing town centre to the Bronze Age. There is also an important Bronze Age hill fort on the western fringes of the modern borough at Highdown Hill.

During the Iron Age, one of Britain's largest hill forts was built at Cissbury Ring. The area was part of the civitas of the Regni during the Romano-British period. Several of the borough's roads date from this era and lie in a grid layout known as 'centuriation'. A Romano-British farmstead once stood in the centre of the town, at a site close to the town hall. In the 5th and 6th centuries, the area became part of the kingdom of Sussex. The place names of the area, including the name Worthing itself, date from this period.

Worthing remained an agricultural and fishing hamlet for centuries until the arrival of wealthy visitors in the 1750s. Princess Amelia stayed in the town in 1798 and the fashionable and wealthy continued to stay in Worthing, which became a town in 1803. The town expanded and 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. The town was home to several literary figures in the 20th century, including Nobel prize-winner Harold Pinter. On 9 October 1934 violent confrontations took place in the town between protestors and Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists which subsequently became known as the Battle of South Street.[10] During the Second World War, Worthing was home to several allied military divisions in preparation for the D-Day landings.

Worthing became the world's 229th Transition Town in October 2009. Transition Town Worthing, the project exploring the town's transition to life after oil, was established by local residents as a way of planning the town's Energy Descent Action Plan.


Local government for the borough of Worthing is shared between Worthing Borough Council and West Sussex County Council in a two-tier structure. Worthing Borough Council partners with neighbouring local authorities, as part of Adur and Worthing Councils and the Greater Brighton City Region. Worthing was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1890, when the towns absorbed the neighbouring civil parish of Heene.[11] Subsequent enlargements took place in 1902, 1929 and 1933 before being reincorporated as a borough in 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972.[11] Since its inception as a borough, the authority has granted freedom of the town to some 18 individuals.[12] The borough is divided into 13 wards, with 11 returning three councillors and two returning two councillors to form a total council of 37 members. The borough is unparished.[13]

The town currently returns nine councillors to West Sussex County Council from nine single-member electoral divisions.[14]

The town has two members of parliament (MPs): Tim Loughton (Conservative) for East Worthing and Shoreham, a former Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families;[15] and Peter Bottomley (Conservative) for Worthing West.[16] At the 2017 general election, the East Worthing and Shoreham seat became a marginal seat[17] for the first time, with both seats having been held by their incumbents since the seats' creation before the 1997 general election.

From 1945 to 1997 Worthing returned one MP. Since 1945 Worthing has always returned Conservative MPs.[18][19] Until 1945 Worthing formed part of the Horsham and Worthing parliamentary constituency.

Worthing is included in the South East England constituency for elections to the European Parliament.


Worthing is situated in West Sussex in South East England, 49 miles (79 km) south of London and 10 miles (16 km) west of Brighton and Hove. Historically within Sussex, in the rape of Bramber, Worthing is built on the South Coast Plain facing the English Channel. To the north of the urban area are the chalk hills of the South Downs, which form a National Park. The suburbs of High Salvington and Findon Valley climb the lower slopes of the Downs, reaching up to the 120 metres (394 ft) contour line, whereas the highest point in the borough reaches 184 metres (604 ft) at Cissbury Ring. Land at Cissbury Ring and the adjacent publicly-owned Worthing Downland Estate together form a 145-hectare (360-acre) area of open access land within the borough. Further high points are at West Hill (139m) north-west of High Salvington and at Highdown Hill (81m) on the boundary with Ferring.[20] Cissbury Ring forms the only Site of Special Scientific Interest in the borough.[21]

Worthing forms the second-largest part of the Brighton/Worthing/Littlehampton conurbation, the United Kingdom's twelfth largest conurbation, with a population in 2001 of over 460,000.[22] The borough of Worthing is bordered by the West Sussex local authority districts of Arun in the north and west, and Adur in the east.

Worthing is situated on a mix of two beds of sedimentary rock. The large part of the town, including the town centre is built upon chalk (part of the Chalk Group), with a bed of London clay found in a band heading west from Lancing through Broadwater and Durrington.[23]

Worthing lies roughly midway between the Rivers Arun and Adur. The culverted Teville Stream and the partially-culverted Ferring Rife run through the town. One of the Ferring Rife's sources is in Titnore Wood, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and one of the last remaining blocks of ancient woodland on the coastal plain.[24]

The development along the coastal strip is interrupted by strategic gaps at the borough boundaries in the east and west, referred to as the Goring Gap and the Sompting Gap. Each gap falling largely outside the borough boundaries.[25] The borough of Worthing contains no nature reserves: the nearest is Widewater Lagoon in Lancing.[26]

Marine environment

Lying some three miles off the coast of Worthing, the Worthing Lumps are a series of underwater chalk cliff faces, up to three metres high. The lumps, described as "one of the best chalk reefs in Europe" by the Marine Conservation Society, are home to rare fish such as blennies and the lesser spotted dogfish.[27][28] The site has been declared a Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI) (a site of county importance) by West Sussex County Council.[29] Since 2013 the area has also formed part of the Kingmere Marine Conservation Zone. Just south of the shoreline lies remains of what was once an extensive kelp forest which until the 1980s stretched from Bognor Regis to Brighton and covered approximately 177 km2 (68 sq mi).[30] With only 6 km2 (2 sq mi) remaining the kelp forest is now being supported to recover.[31]


Worthing has a temperate climate: its Köppen climate classification is Cfb. Its mean annual temperature of 10.6 °C [51.1 °F] is similar to that experienced along the Sussex coast, and slightly warmer than nearby areas such as the Sussex Weald.[32] On most summer afternoons a sea breeze, sometimes known as The Worthing Effect[33][34][35][36] by the local watersports community, blows from the south-west, building throughout the morning and peaking generally mid to late afternoon.[33]


The naming of parts of the town reflect its growth in its formative years of the 19th century. Central parts of the town are made up of the former townships of Worthing and West Worthing, which merged in 1890 when the town gained borough status. This area comprises the town centre, East Worthing and West Worthing. To the north and west of this area are the former villages of Worthing which have old roots but only became urbanised in the 20th century. These districts sometimes share their names – although not necessarily boundaries – with local electoral wards and include the former parishes of Broadwater, Durrington, Goring and (West) Tarring, as well as Findon Valley, which was formerly part of the parish of Findon. Other areas within these parishes include High Salvington, Offington and Salvington.


Population change

According to the Office for National Statistics, Worthing's population increased to an estimated 100,200 in 2008.[37] Worthing is the most densely populated local authority area in East and West Sussex, with a population density in 2001 of 30.04 people per hectare.[38] Worthing underwent dramatic population growth both in the early 19th century as the hamlet had newly become a town and again in the 1880s. The town experienced further growth in the 1930s, and again when new estates were built, using prisoner of war labour, to the west of the town from 1948. The main driver of population growth in Worthing during the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century has been in-migration into Worthing; in particular Worthing is the most popular destination for people moving from the nearby city of Brighton and Hove, with significant numbers also moving to the borough from London.[39]

Historic and projected Population growth in Worthing since 1801
Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1939 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2011 2018 2021 2031
Population 2,151 3,824 4,922 5,654 6,856 7,615 9,744 11,873 14,002 19,177 24,479 31,301 37,906 45,905 55,584 67,305 77,155 88,467 90,686 98,066 97,540 104,640 110,025 113,600 122,200
Source: A Vision of Britain through Time ONS[40] ONS Projections[41]


According to the UK Government's 2011 census, 93.8% of the population was White (89.4% White British, 0.8% White Irish, 0.1% Gypsy or Irish Traveller, 3.5% Other White), 1.7% of mixed race (0.4% White and Black Caribbean, 0.3% White and Black African, 0.6% White and Asian, 0.4% Other Mixed), 3.2% Asian (0.7% Indian, 0.2% Pakistani, 0.5% Bangladeshi, 0.5% Chinese, 1.3% Other Asian), 0.9% Black (0.6% African, 0.2% Caribbean, 0.1% Other Black), 0.1% Arab and 0.3% of other ethnic heritage.[42]

The town also has some notable communities from overseas. At the 2011 census 0.65% of its population (682 people) were born in India, 0.56% (593 people) were born in the Philippines and 0.56% (also 593 people) were born in Poland.


Worthing has a younger population than the other three districts of coastal West Sussex, albeit older than the South East average. In 2006, 26.7% of the population were between 25 and 44 years old, which is a higher proportion compared to the other districts in the coastal West Sussex area.[39] Over the last 20 years, Worthing has seen the sharpest decline in its population aged 65 years or more with its proportion of the total population falling by 8.1% (7,000 in real terms), at a time when this age group has actually grown across the South East region and elsewhere.[39] In contrast there have been comparatively significant increases in older families (4.5%) and family makers (4.3%) within the borough.[39] In 2010 the estimated median age of the population of Worthing was 42.8 years, 3.2 years older than the average for the UK of 39.6 years.[43]


More people in Worthing identify as Christian than any other religion (58.1% in 2011)[44] and the borough has about 50 active Christian places of worship. Worthing's Churches Together organisation[45] encourages ecumenical work and links between the town's churches.

Worthing's first Anglican church, St Paul's, was built in 1812; previously, worshippers had to travel to the ancient parish church of Broadwater. Residential growth in the 19th century led to several other Anglican churches opening in the town centre: Christ Church was started in 1840[46] and survived a closure threat in 2006;[47] Arthur Blomfield's St Andrew's Church brought the controversial "High Church" form of worship to the town in the 1880s—its "Worthing Madonna" icon was particularly contentious;[48][49] and Holy Trinity church opened at the same time but with less dispute.[49][50]

Other Anglican churches were built in the 20th century to serve new residential areas such as High Salvington and Maybridge; and the ancient villages which were absorbed into Worthing Borough between 1890 and 1929[51] each had their own church: Broadwater's had Saxon origins,[52] St Mary's at Goring-by-Sea was Norman (although it was rebuilt in 1837),[53] St Andrew's at West Tarring was 13th century,[54] and St Botolph's at Heene and St Symphorian's at Durrington were rebuilt from medieval ruins.[55][56] All of the borough's churches are in the Rural Deanery of Worthing and the Diocese of Chichester.[57]

The first Roman Catholic church in Worthing opened in 1864; the centrally located St Mary of the Angels Church has since been joined by others at East Worthing, Goring-by-Sea and High Salvington. All are in Worthing Deanery in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arundel and Brighton.[58] Protestant Nonconformism has a long history in Worthing: the town's first place of worship was an Independent chapel.[59] Methodists, Baptists, the United Reformed Church and Evangelical Christian groups each have several churches in the borough, and other denominations represented include Christadelphians, Christian Scientists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and Plymouth Brethren.[60] A Coptic Orthodox church is also present in the town. The Salvation Army have been established for more than a century, but their arrival in Worthing prompted large-scale riots involving a group called the Skeleton Army. These continued intermittently for several years in the 1880s.[61][62] Other Christian organisations include Worthing Churches Homeless Projects and Street Pastors.

In 2011 1.3% of the population of Worthing were Muslim[44] and Muslim community has a mosque at the Worthing Islamic Cultural Centre which follows the Sunni tradition.[63]

There are also small communities Buddhists (0.6% in 2011)[44]including a community of Triratna Buddhists. There is a small Jewish community (0.2% in 2011) and the town had a synogogue in the 1930s.[64] In 2011, 0.5% of the population were Hindu, 0.1% were Sikh and 0.6% followed another religion. A small community of the Bahá'í Faith practises in Worthing. 30.2% claimed no religious affiliation, a figure significantly higher than the average for England of 25.1%, and 8.3% did not state their religion.[44]


Worthing has 22 primary schools, five secondary schools, one primary and secondary special school, two independent schools, one sixth form college and one college of higher and further education. With campuses in Worthing, Shoreham Airport and Brighton, Greater Brighton Metropolitan College was formed in a merger between Worthing-based Northbrook College and City College Brighton and Hove and is an affiliate college of Brighton University.[65] Its West Durrington campus is referred to as University Centre Worthing[66] and it provides Higher Education to around 1,000 students, most of whom study art and design.[67] In 2013 the town's sixth form college, Worthing College relocated to a new campus located at the Warren covering 8 hectares (20 acres).

Schools in the borough are provided by West Sussex County Council. Broadly speaking, the town has a system of First-Middle-High progression, and so the 22 primary schools are made up of a combination of first, middle and combined schools. In 2012, a consultation was underway to review whether to continue this policy or adopt a policy of transferring to secondary schools at the age of 11 as elsewhere in West Sussex.[68] Our Lady of Sion School, an independent school, was the most successful secondary school in Worthing for GCSE results in 2012: 100% of pupils gained five or more GCSEs at A* to C grade. Durrington High School was the highest achieving state school with 58%, closely followed by Davison High School with 52%. Worthing High School and St Andrews School achieved 48% and the worst performing school was Chatsmore Catholic High School where only 43% of students achieved five or more A* to C grade results.[69]

Economy and regeneration

Labour Profile[70]
Total employee jobs43,800
Distribution, hotels & restaurants9,60022.0%
Transport & communications1,4003.3%
Finance, IT, other business activities9,60022.0%
Public admin, education & health16,20036.9%
Other services2,0004.6%

Worthing's economy is dominated by the service industry, particularly financial services. Major employers include GlaxoSmithKline,[71] HM Revenue & Customs,[72] MGM Advantage[73] and Southern Water.[74] In October 2009, GlaxoSmithKline confirmed that 250 employees in Worthing would lose their jobs at the factory, which makes the anti-biotics co-amoxiclav (Augmentin) and amoxicillin (Amoxin) and hundreds of other products.[71][75] As of 2009, there were approximately 43,000 jobs in the borough.[76]

Although Worthing was voted the most profitable town in Britain for three consecutive years at the end of the 1990s,[77][78] the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings 2009 found that Worthing residents' mean pre-tax pay is only £452 per week, compared to £487 for West Sussex and £535 for South East England as a whole.[76]

In 2008, Worthing was in the top 10 urban areas in England for jobs in each of three key sectors, thought to have a significant impact on economic performance: creative, high-tech industries and knowledge-intensive business services.[79] The 2012 UK Town and City Index from Santander UK ranked Worthing as the second highest town or city in the UK for connectivity[80] and ranked fifth in the UK overall out of 74 towns and cities.[80]


In June 2006, Worthing Borough Council agreed a masterplan for the town's regeneration,[81][82] focused on improving the town centre and seafront. A new £150 million development is proposed for Teville Gate, between Worthing railway station and the A24 at the northern approach to the town centre. It is expected to include two residential towers, a multiplex cinema, hotel and conference and exhibition centre.[83] The developers are expected to apply for planning permission in the summer of 2010.[84] Redevelopment is planned for the Grafton Street car park area;[85] and the town's major undercover shopping centre, the Guildbourne Centre, may be rebuilt entirely and extended to Union Place, covering the site of the town's former police station. Work planned for the seafront includes the installation of an artwork named Suncloud, gardens and public space.[86][87] The former Eardley Hotel, overlooking Splash Point, is being demolished and rebuilt in a similar style as luxury flats.[88][89] Swiss electronics firm LEMO are building a new headquarters in North Street; the building, nicknamed "The Peanut", is due to open in 2010.[90] In early 2008, the town's further education college, Northbrook College, announced proposals to invest £70 million to consolidate its operations on to one campus in Broadwater.[91] Worthing College, the town's sixth form college, has had plans approved for a £42 million redevelopment of its campus near Durrington railway station. In 2009, both schemes were threatened by delays in receiving money from the Learning and Skills Council.[92]

In the longer term, the area around Worthing's museum, art gallery, library and town hall—collectively described as the "Worthing Cultural and Civic Hub"—is to be revamped to provide extra facilities and new housing.[93] In 2009, Worthing Borough Council applied for a £5 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to redevelop and enlarge the museum.[94] A new £16 million municipal swimming pool, Splash Point Leisure Centre, has been designed by Stirling Prize-winning architects Wilkinson Eyre;[95] it was opened by Paralympian Ellie Simmonds in June 2013. It has been proposed that Montague Place is pedestrianised to improve the link between the town centre and the seafront.[96]

Completed regeneration projects include the reopening of the Dome Cinema in 2007 after major investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and a £5.5 million mixed-use development on the site of a former hotel near Teville Gate.[97]


A turnpike was opened in 1803 to connect Worthing with London,[98][99] and similar toll roads were built later in the 19th century to connect nearby villages.[99][100] Stagecoach traffic grew rapidly until 1845, when the opening of a railway line from Brighton brought about an immediate decline.[101] The former turnpike is now the A24, a primary route which runs northwards to London via Horsham. Two east–west routes run through the borough: the A27 trunk road runs to Brighton, Chichester and Portsmouth, and the A259 follows a coastal route between Hampshire and Kent.[102]

Most local and long-distance buses are operated by Stagecoach in the South Downs, a division of Stagecoach Group plc which has its origins in Southdown Motor Services—founded in 1915 with one route to Pulborough.[103] Stagecoach in the South Downs operates several routes around the town and to Midhurst, Brighton and Portsmouth.[104] The most frequent service, between Lancing and Durrington, was branded PULSE in 2006.[105] Worthing-based Compass Travel have routes to Angmering, Chichester, Henfield and Lancing;[106] and other companies serve Horsham, Crawley,[107] Brighton[108] and intermediate destinations. National Express coaches run between London's Victoria Coach Station and Marine Parade.[109] During the 1920s and 1930s, a fleet of up to 15 converted Shelvoke and Drewry dustbin lorries—the Worthing Tramocars—operated local bus services alongside more conventional vehicles.[110][111]

The borough has five railway stations: East Worthing, Worthing, West Worthing, Durrington-on-Sea and Goring-by-Sea. All are on the West Coastway Line and are managed and operated by the Southern train operating company.[112] Worthing opened on 24 November 1845 as a temporary terminus of the line from Brighton, which was extended to Chichester the following year and electrified in the 1930s.[113] Regular services run to destinations such as London, Gatwick Airport, Brighton, Littlehampton and Portsmouth.[114]

Shoreham Airport is about 5 miles (8 km) east of Worthing. The nearest international airport is London Gatwick, about 28 miles (45 km) to the northeast.[102]

Public services

Home Office policing in Worthing is provided by the Worthing district of the West Sussex division of Sussex Police.[115] The district is divided into two neighbourhood policing teams—North and South—for operational purposes. The police station is in Chatsworth Road.[116] The West Downs division's headquarters is at Centenary House in Durrington.[117] Worthing's fire station has been in Broadwater since 1962. The borough had been in charge of fire protection since 1891, after several decades in which volunteers provided the service. A fire station was built on Worthing High Street in 1908; it was demolished after the move to Broadwater.[118] The Worthing and Adur District Team, part of the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service,[119] employs 60 full-time and 18 retained firefighters.[120]

Worthing Hospital is administered by the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.[121] The 500-bed facility on Lyndhurst Road was founded in 1881 as an 18-bed infirmary.[118][122] It replaced older hospitals on Ann Street and Chapel Road.[122] Other medical care facilities include two mental health units (Greenacres and Meadowfield Hospital)[123][124] and a 38-bed private hospital in the Grade II-listed Goring Hall.

Gas was manufactured in Worthing for nearly 100 years until 1931,[118][125] but Scotia Gas Networks now supply the town through their Southern Gas Networks division.[126] Electricity generation took place locally between 1901 and 1961;[118][125] EDF Energy now supply the town.[127] Southern Water, who have been based in Durrington since 1989, have controlled Worthing's water supply, drainage and sewerage since 1974. The town's first waterworks was built in 1852.[128] Drainage and sewage disposal was poorly developed in the 19th century, but a fatal typhoid outbreak in 1893 prompted investment in sewage works and better pipes.[118][129]

Voluntary and community groups

There are a number of voluntary and community groups active in the town ranging from small volunteer-led groups to large well established charities. There is a Council for Voluntary Service and a Volunteer Centre funded by the local authority to support voluntary action. In 2003-4 registered charities in Worthing indicated a combined income of £56 million in the submitted accounts to the Charity Commission. The Place Survey conducted in all local authority districts by central government in 2009 found that up to 24,000 people in Worthing described themselves as giving volunteer time in the community.



Oscar Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Earnest while staying in the town in the summer of 1894.[130] Salvington in Worthing was the birthplace of philosopher and scholar John Selden in 1584.[131] 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. In the 1960s, playwright Harold Pinter lived wrote The Homecoming at his home in Ambrose Place.[132] Other literary figures to have lived in the town include W.E. Henley,[131] W.H. Hudson,[131] Stephen Spender,[133] Dorothy Richardson,[134] Edward Knoblock,[135] Beatrice Hastings,[136] Maureen Duffy,[137] Vivien Alcock,[138] John Oxenham[131] and his daughter Elsie J. Oxenham.[131] Jane Austen's unfinished final novel Sanditon is thought to have been significantly based on experiences from her stay in Worthing in 1805.[139]

Film and television

The history of film in Worthing dates back to exhibitions on Worthing Pier in 1896, and two years later William Kennedy Dickson—inventor of the Kinetoscope, a pioneering motion picture device—visited the town to film daily life. In the early 20th century, several cinemas were established, although most were short-lived.[140][141] Other former cinemas include the Rivoli (1924–1960), the 2,000-capacity Plaza (1933–1968) and the 1,600-capacity Odeon (1934–1986).[141] The Kursaal was built in 1910 as a combined skating rink and theatre by Swiss impresario Carl Adolf Seebold. It was renamed the Dome in 1915 in response to anti-German sentiment during World War I. Seebold opened the 950-capacity Dome Cinema in place of the skating rink in 1922;[140] it is still open, and is one of Britain's oldest operational cinemas.[142] The Connaught Screen 2 cinema (formerly the Ritz, and before that Connaught Hall) was established in 1995.[141][143]

Many films and television programmes have been filmed using Worthing as the backdrop including: Pinter's The Birthday Party (1968),[144] directed by William Friedkin (best known for directing The French Connection in 1971 and The Exorcist in 1973), Dance with a Stranger (1985)[145] and Wish You Were Here (1987).[145]


Artists from Worthing include Alma Cogan,[146] Royal Blood and The Ordinary Boys. Worthing was home in the late 1960s to the Worthing Workshop, a group of artists and musicians who included Leo Sayer,[147] Brian James of The Damned, Billy Idol and Steamhammer, whose guitarist, Martin Quittenton, went on to co-write Rod Stewart's UK number one hits "You Wear It Well"[148] and "Maggie May".[149] In the late 1980s and early 1990s Sterns Nightclub was a major centre for UK rave culture.[150] For three days in 1970 a field on the outskirts of Worthing was the site of the Phun City music festival, the UK's first large-scale free music festival.[151]

Music venues include the Assembly Hall, which is home to the Worthing Symphony Orchestra, the Worthing Philharmonic Orchestra[152] and the Sussex International Piano Competition,[153] the Pavilion Theatre, St Paul's Arts Centre, Bar 42 and the Factory Live.[154] Howarth of London, the UK's largest manufacturer of professional standard oboes are based in Worthing.[155][156]


As of 2019 Worthing has three council-owned theatres: the Art Deco Connaught Theatre (formerly called Picturdrome),[157] the Baroque Pavilion Theatre[158] and the Modernist, Grade II-listed Assembly Hall, which is mostly used for musical performances (including since 1950 an annual music festival).[157][159][152] Theatre has been performed in Worthing since 1796. Thomas Trotter, the early promoter and manager at the town's temporary venues,[131] was asked to open a permanent theatre in 1807; his Theatre Royal opened on 7 July of that year and operated until 1855. The building survived until 1870. The 1,000-capacity New Theatre Royal in Bath Place, run by Carl Adolf Seebold for several years, lasted from 1897 until 1929.[158]

Museums and galleries

Worthing Museum and Art Gallery hosts one of the most significant costume collections in the UK.[160] Built in 1908 as the town's museum and library, it is expected to undergo a major redevelopment in 2020.[161] Alfred Cortis, the first mayor of Worthing, and the international philanthropist Andrew Carnegie funded the construction.[162]

In the visual arts, painter Copley Fielding lived at 5 Park Crescent in the mid-18th century.[131] and more recently Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin created cult comic figure Tank Girl while at college in the town in the 1980s.[163] The town has a famous work by sculptor Elisabeth Frink. Uniquely in England, Desert Quartet (1990), Frink's penultimate sculpture, was given Grade II* listing in 2007, less than 30 years from its creation. It may be seen on the building opposite Liverpool Gardens.

Buildings and architecture

Few structures in central Worthing predate the 19th century, these being a few buildings on Worthing High Street that are survivals from the early fishing hamlet of Worthing.[164] There are some older buildings in the former villages outside the town centre. For example parts of St Mary's Church in Broadwater date to the Saxon period and West Tarring has several buildings from the medieval and Tudor periods, including St Andrew's Church and the Archbishop's Palace, which date from the 13th century.

There are 213 listed buildings in the borough of Worthing. Three of these—Castle Goring, St Mary's Church at Broadwater and the Archbishop's Palace at West Tarring—are classified at Grade I, which is used for buildings "of exceptional interest, sometimes considered to be internationally important".[165] Worthing Pier, Park Crescent, Beach House and several churches are also listed.[166]

Since 1896, when Warwick House was demolished, many historic buildings have been lost and others altered.[167] The town's first and most distinguished theatre, the Theatre Royal, and the adjacent Omega Cottage (the home of the theatre's first manager) were lost in 1970 when the Guildbourne Centre was built;[158][168] Warne's Hotel and the Royal Sea House burnt down;[169][170] the early bath-houses which were vital to Worthing's success as a fashionable resort were all demolished in the 20th century;[171] Broadwater's ancient rectory rotted away after it fell out of use in 1924;[103] and several old streets in the town centre had all their buildings demolished for postwar redevelopment.[168]

Pale yellow bricks have been made locally since about 1780, and are commonly encountered as a building material.[172] Flint is the other predominant structural material: its local abundance has ensured its frequent use. The combination of flint and red brick is characteristic of Worthing. In particular, walls built alongside streets or to mark out boundaries were almost always built of flint with brick dressings, especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[173]

Boat porches are a unique architectural feature of Worthing. These structures surround the entrance doors of some early 19th-century houses, and take the form of a stuccoed porch with an ogee-headed roof which resembles the bottom of a boat. Historians have speculated that the cottages, examples of which are in Albert Place, Warwick Place and elsewhere, may have been built by local fishermen who used their boats as a basis for the design.[74]

The town has a small number of residential high-rise buildings including Manor Lea at 43 metres, built in 1967[174][175] and Bayside Vista (42 metres),[176] under development. The Splashpoint Leisure Centre won a World Architecture Festival award in 2013.[177] A 46-metre tall ferris wheel was opened in 2019.[178]


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.[179] The legend was first recorded by folklorist Charlotte Latham in 1868.[180] Since 2006, when the oak was saved from development, meetings have been held on Midsummers Eve there.[181]

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 Teville Stream.[182]

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".[180][183]

Open spaces

The town has five miles of beach and large areas of open space on the South Downs including the Worthing Downland Estate, Cissbury Ring and Highdown Hill. The town also contains a number of parks and gardens, many laid out in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

  • Beach House Green
  • Beach House Park – named after nearby Beach House, the park is home to one of the world's most well-known venues for the sport of bowls. The park is also home to a possibly unique memorial to homing pigeons that served in the Second World War.
  • Broadwater Green – Broadwater's 'village green'.
  • Brooklands Park
  • Denton Gardens – at the southern end of Denton Gardens is an 18-hole Crazy Golf course.
  • Field Place – tennis courts, lawn bowls, putting and conference facilities. Can be found north of Worthing Leisure Centre.
  • Goring Green
  • Highdown Gardens – a garden at the foot of the South Downs containing the National Plant Collection of the plant collection of Sir Frederick Stern[184] containing rare plants collected from east Asia.
  • Homefield Park – formerly known as the 'People's Park' it was once home to Worthing F.C.
  • Liverpool Gardens – overlooking the graceful Georgian Liverpool Terrace, the gardens and terrace are named after Lord Liverpool. Overlooking the park from the east are four bronze heads known as Desert Quartet, sculpted by Dame Elisabeth Frink.
  • Marine Gardens
  • Palatine Park
  • Promenade Waterwise Garden
  • Steyne Gardens – which includes a sunken garden re-landscaped in 2007 with a fountain of the Ancient Greek sea god, Triton, by sculptor William Bloye.
  • Victoria Park – was donated by the Heene Estate to the poor of Worthing in commemoration of the death of Queen Victoria. (Taken from title deeds to property owned in St. Matthews Road.) The land was previously used for market gardening and once sported a paddling pool which was closed due to foot infections in the children. Victoria Park is used by clubs and casual footballers.
  • West Park – has a running track and basketball court and lies next to Worthing Leisure Centre.

Annual events

Worthing Open Houses is an annual festival of arts and crafts. The 2013 event is due to be the largest so far, with 50 venues and nearly 300 artists over three weekends in June and July.[185]

In January, the ancient custom of wassailing takes place in Tarring to bless the apple trees. A flaming torchlit procession takes place down Tarring High Street culminating in hundreds of people gathering around an apple tree to shout, chant and sing to drive away evil spirits.[186] The apple trees are toasted with wassail, apple cider and apple cake, followed by fireworks.[187]

On May Day, a procession and dancing takes place in Worthing town centre, culminating in the crowning of the May Queen.[188] Also in May, the Three Forts Marathon starts and finishes at the Norwich Union building on the outskirts of Worthing before taking in the ancient hill forts of Cissbury Ring, Devil's Dyke and Chanctonbury Ring over the rough and steep terrain of the South Downs.[189]

The Worthing Festival is held in the last two weeks each July with open-air concerts in the town centre and a fairground along the town's promenade.

Since 2008, Worthing has been the home to the International Birdman competition; the 2013 event at Worthing Pier on the 10–11 August.[190]


In the early 19th century, Worthing was served by newspapers with a wider geographical circulation, such as the Brighton Gazette, Brighton Herald, Sussex Daily News, Sussex Weekly Advertiser and West Sussex Gazette.[191] Weekly or monthly publications such as the Worthing Visitors' List and Advertising Sheet (notorious for its condemnation of people who had displeased its owner, Owen Breads),[192] the Worthing Monthly Record & District Chronicle and the Worthing Intelligencer[193] provided some local coverage from the middle of the century onwards; but the town's first regular local newspaper was the Worthing Gazette, introduced in 1883.[193] It favoured the Conservative Party at first, and supported the Skeleton Army's anti-Salvation Army riots later that decade.[194]

In 1921 its scope was extended to include Littlehampton, and it was renamed accordingly.[193] The Worthing Herald was founded in 1920; it acquired the Gazette in 1963, but continued to publish the newspapers separately until 1981. Since then, a single newspaper has been published weekly under the Herald name, but it is officially known as the Worthing Herald incorporating the Worthing Gazette.[193] It is now owned by Johnston Press, and has been based at Cannon House in Chatsworth Road since 1991.[193][195] The Brighton-based daily The Argus, owned by Newsquest, also serves Worthing. An anarchic local newsletter called The Porkbolter, focusing on environmental issues, has been published monthly since 1997.[196]

Worthing is served by the BBC South television studios based in Southampton,[197][198] BBC South East from Tunbridge Wells, and by the ITV franchise Meridian Broadcasting, also with studios in Southampton.[199] Television signals come from the Rowridge or Whitehawk Hill transmitters.[200][201]

Splash FM is Worthing's local commercial radio station. Launched in 2003 by local residents Roy Stannard and David Cunningham and now owned by Media Sound Holdings Ltd, it broadcasts from the Guildbourne Centre on 107.7FM.[202] Heart Sussex, a Global Radio-owned commercial station, also covers Worthing.[203] BBC Local Radio coverage is provided by BBC Sussex.[204]


Worthing's location between the sea and the downs makes the area a location for outdoor recreation. Its wide open water and five miles of coastline provides for many types of watersport, especially catamaran racing, windsurfing and kitesurfing and the town has held a regatta for rowing since at least 1859.

The South Downs is commonly used for hiking and mountain-biking, with around 22 trail-heads within the borough. Two of Worthing's three golf clubs, including Worthing Golf Club are also located on the Downs, which is also the location for the Three Forts Marathon, a 27-mile ultramarathon from Broadwater to the three Iron Age hill forts of Cissbury Ring, Chanctonbury Ring and Devil's Dyke.

Worthing F.C., nicknamed "The Rebels" or "The Mackerel Men", is the town's main football club which formed in 1886.[205] They play in the Isthmian League Premier Division. Worthing United F.C. who are nicknamed 'the "Mavericks" play in the Division One of the Sussex County League.[206]

Worthing Hockey Club was formed in 1896 and has a number of teams. The home pitches are at Manor Sports Ground.[207]

Home to Bowls England, Worthing is, with Johannesburg, one of only two locations in the world to have hosted the men's World Bowls Championships twice. The events were held in 1972 and 1992, both at Beach House Park, which is sometimes known as the spiritual home of bowls, and is also the venue for the annual National Championships each August.

Denton Gardens is home to an 18 Hole Mini Golf Course which is due to host the British Masters Mini Golf Championships in April 2012.

Club Nickname Sport League Venue Established
Worthing Cricket Club Cricket Sussex Premier League Manor Sports Ground 1855
Worthing Football Club The Rebels Football Isthmian League Premier Division Woodside Road 1886
Worthing Rugby Football Club Raiders Rugby union National League 1 Roundstone Lane, Angmering 1920
Worthing United Football Club The Mavericks Football Southern Combination Football League Robert Albon Memorial Ground 1988
Worthing Thunder Thunder Basketball English Basketball League Worthing Leisure Centre 1999

Notable people

Notable inhabitants include:

In the 20th century, these writers chose to live in the town:

Twin towns

Elzach, Germany
Gutach im Breisgau, Germany
Les Sables-d'Olonne, France
Simonswald, Germany
Waldkirch, Germany



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