worthing history
 

© FREDDIE FEEST 2012

 
The Roaring Twenties
 
       
 
The Broadway, Brighton Road
GRAND ENTRANCE: These trees (top right) in The Broadway, Brighton Road, made a splendid entrance to Worthing from the east until February, 1928, when they were all chopped down for road widening.

IN THE 1920s, Worthing was expanding to cope with an increasing number of people moving from inland cities, all hooked on a promised combination of “sea air, countryside and a more relaxing pace of life”.
     They arrived determined to either commute or retire, recalls Freddie Feest, just so long as they could live in what they were convinced was one of the best towns on the sunny south coast.

IN 1928, nobody would have believed they were midway between the 20th century’s two most devastating conflicts.
     Or that before another decade had elapsed, they would all be teetering over the edge of another precipice, leading to a battle that would transform the world for the second time in less than half a century.
     Here on the south coast, at least, life in 1928 promised a host of benefits, from greater economic stability, more comfort and better housing, to green, open spaces and beautiful downlands for recreation.
     Not that all the promises were fulfilled.
     For years, visitors to Worthing had been sending postcards to friends and relatives all over the world, depicting a row of massive, elegant trees decorating the centre of The Broadway in Brighton Road.
Duchess of York when they visited Worthing in 1928
THE Duke (main picture) and Duchess of York – later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth – paused to view Worthing’s new Pier Pavilion during an unofficial visit to the town in 1928.
     Then, during one week in February, 1928, all the trees fell to the lopper’s axe and, in less than a month, all traces of their existence had been blotted out, leaving a wider – but relatively boring – approach road into Worthing from the east.
     It was all done on a council majority of the narrowest possible margin, following a highly controversial debate about the possibility of them becoming unsafe “some time in the future”.
A less publicised row concerned the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York – later to become King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth.  
     Town officials were more than a little upset when their visit was scheduled as “unofficial”, being arranged solely so they could privately visit the Prince Albert Convalescent Home on Worthing’s seafront.
     It meant town officials would be unable to bathe in civic pomp, ceremony and presentations, which was especially galling to those who considered the newly completed council-owned Pier Pavilion deserved high recognition.
     As was the way in those days, the row was resolved “behind the scenes” by royal diplomacy. There would be no official speeches, but the royal couple would pause to look at the new Pier Pavilion while driving along Worthing seafront.
     Only the future Queen was overheard to comment on the occasion, observing: “How beautiful everything looks – and what a lovely Pavilion.” No wonder the people of Worthing instantly took her to their hearts.
     Not that it helped when consideration was later given to decorating the Pavilion with fairy lights. This was condemned by several councillors as – and I quote – “a shoddy idea, degrading, undignified and suggesting that a boxing match or bullfight was going in inside”.
     In the late 1920s, couples were still bringing up large families and some could even field their own football team.
     The Herberts, of Broadwater, not only formed their own team, but also bravely challenged the crack local favourites Broadwater Athletic FC.
     On the big day, they fielded every Herbert family member of playing age – Leonard, Edward,
James, Wilfred, Arthur, Cecil, Fred, Harold, Douglas, Alfred and Raymond. Their trainer and chief spectator was 83-year-old grandfather Edward Herbert.
     Sadly for Herbert family legend, the family team suffered a crushing defeat, scoring only once against Broadwater Athletics’ five goals. Even so, family honour had been well and truly satisfied and they were justly and proudly cheered from the ground by every one of the Broadwater crowd.
     Recession and a housing slump were still two years away, but, even so, if the house you live in today was built around 1928, you might prefer not to read the next few lines.
    
THE Morris Tourer
THE Morris Tourer, immediately above, was the most coveted model of 1928. It cost £170.

They reveal just how little somebody paid for your £295,000 to £400,000 home back in the late 1920s.
     A semi-detached house within walking distance of Worthing station and shops, containing five bedrooms, three reception, bathroom, usual offices, nice garden, electric light, etc., gas and garage was advertised in 1928 for – wait for it – £1,700 freehold!
     Or you could have moved into a “residence with two reception rooms, six bedrooms, dressing room, bath and usual offices, just a few minutes from Worthing seafront”, for a mere £1,800.
     Buy a brand new property on then rapidly extending Marine Parade and you were into real money. One in this desirable location offering five bedrooms, three reception, tiled scullery, bath, lavatory and garage cost £3,250 in 1928 – a substantial sum when compared with the north end of Grand Avenue, where a home with four bedrooms, two reception rooms, tiled scullery and decorations could have been yours for a mere £1,750. Many brand new homes were on offer elsewhere in the town for £1,250, £1,075 and even £975.
     You could make a 10 per cent down payment and, if really strapped for ready cash, could take a leasehold option and shave a further £300 off the price.
     Prices – and the stage of Worthing’s development at this time – are brought into perspective by the town council treasurer’s 1928 borough budget announcement that local ratepayers would have to find £151,935 to run the town during the following financial year. The same year, John Bright’s new tailor shop in Montague Street was offering new suits to measure for 49 shillings and sixpence – or, in today’s money, a cool £2.50.
     Although, by 1928, the town’s food-growing industry had passed its peak, in that year more than one million packages of fruit and vegetables, mostly tomatoes and grapes, were picked in Worthing’s 44 miles of greenhouses and despatched from West Worthing station to London’s Covent Garden market by Southern Railway.
     Two newcomers who arrived in Worthing that year will be remembered with particular affection by many who lived here through the 1930s.
     Both men were to play notable roles in the town’s public sector life during the next two decades.
     Mr D. A. (‘Dabber’) Best was chosen from a record 109 candidates to be the new headmaster of Sussex Road Senior Boys School and Mr H. J. Jones was appointed the town’s new fire chief.
     Today’s public service staff might be astonished to learn that Mr Jones was appointed to his highly responsible role at an annual salary of £208, plus uniform and apartments at the fire station, with free light and fuel!