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History in the Streets


There's a lot to be dismayed about when you look at Worthing these days but if you explore, you can discover some fascinating things that hint at the town's previous pride in itself. Worthing actually has some world-class public sculpture: the Grade 2* listed Desert Quartet by Dame Elisabeth Frink, installed in 1990. This group of four monumental heads by an international artist faces the terrace of fine Georgian houses of Liverpool Gardens and makes amends, in a way, for the scandalous removal of the iconic Odean cinema that used to stand on the same site. Built in 1934, this Art Deco masterpiece (where my sister and I spent many happy hours watching Bruce Lee movies) closed down in 1986. According to RIBA, it became a listed building in 1987, then it was de-listed and demolished that same year, to make way for the 'Montague Quarter', which should be recognised with an award for one of the worst places to find yourself, another being the back alley between Chatsworth Road and the Guildbourne Centre (don't get me started.)

Just down the road from Desert Quartet, you will find four more sculpted heads on the wall at the back of TK Maxx. I don't know who made them or why but they're obviously based on the classical heads on the triumphal arch of Park Crescent. The houses in Park Crescent were built in 1833 by Amon Henry Wilds, who also worked on many architectural projects in Brighton. The busts on the triumphal arch are made of Coade stone: four bearded atlantes support the main carriage arch; and there are four caryatids on the pedestrian arch ways.

Down on the seafront, on an outside wall of Denton Lounge, there are four relief panels by sculptor Laurence Henderson Bradshaw. The work was created in 1960 and depicts Minerva and Neptune flanked by the most evil-looking dolphins I've ever seen. This is a brilliant piece of public art but it's easy to make your way onto the pier without noticing it. I had not heard of Bradshaw but apparently he was a committed socialist and is best known for his sculpture of Karl Marx on the Highgate Cemetery tomb.

Here are a few more highlights of the town: Dutch gables in Montague Street; the old gasometer in Lyndhurst Road (now part of Waitrose car park); the nicely-restored frontage of my old home, The Egremont pub, built in 1835; a really old flint cottage in Prospect Place; stained glass windows at The Egremont; part of the main front of the beautiful Arts & Crafts-style building that was the United Reformed Church in Shelley Road (now a health centre).


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