Archaeological evidence suggests that mankind has lived in this part of Sussex for some 500,000 years. The lives of these people remained unchanged for tens of thousands of years. The earliest physical evidence is a dug-out canoe which was exposed on the foreshore opposite Heene Road after a violent storm in 1843. This canoe, which is between 10,000 and 12,000 years old, is on display at Worthing museum.
Flint mining is believed to have started in this area in about 3,800 BC. In 1857 Colonel Augustus Pitt-Rivers, Britain’s leading archaeologist, began excavating at Cissbury Ring. According to local historian, Chris Hare: “One story popular in Worthing told how some men had found a secret passage leading from Offington Hall to Cissbury Ring; the tunnel was in places filled in with rubble, and they had to clear their way with picks and shovels, yet they were determined in their quest for they were certain that gold would be their reward. The story concluded on a note of terror, for it was said that huge serpents appeared at the end of the tunnel, and the men were lucky to escape with their lives. Such a tale, even if it was only half believed, must have made many in Worthing wary of joining the Colonel in his excavations. “
It was during this dig that Colonel Pitt-Rivers made one of his most important finds. He excavated right down into one of the pits, and at last came to a mine shaft. He later explained what happened next: “Presently a well-formed and perfect human jaw fell down from above, and looking up we could perceive the remainder of the skull fixed with the base downwards, and the face towards the west, between two pieces of the chalk rubble. When I saw this I hollered out so loudly that Mr Harrison, who happened to be outside at the time, although he had been himself previously assisting in the excavation of this gallery, thought that it must have tumbled in, and came with a shovel to dig us out. It was some time before I could make him understand that we had added a third person to our party.”
Chris Hare explains in his book, Historic Worthing: The Untold Story (1991): “After careful study it was decided that it was the skeleton of a Neolithic woman, who, it was later surmised, had either fallen into the shaft or been thrown. Whether her death had been an accident, ritual killing, or simply a hurried burial, is of course a matter for speculation.”
Offington Park was given to Earl Godwin by Cunate the Great in 1016. By the time Edward the Confessor became king in 1042, Godwin was the most powerful Anglo-Saxon in England. In order to maintain power Edward married Godwin’s daughter, Edith. Godwin hoped that his daughter would have a son but Edward had taken a vow of celibacy and it soon became clear that the couple would not produce an heir to the throne.
In 1065 Edward the Confessor became very ill. Harold Godwin claimed that Edward promised him the throne just before he died on 5th January, 1066. The next day there was a meeting of the Witan to decide who would become the next king of England. The Witan was made up of a group of about sixty lords and bishops and they considered the merits of four main candidates: Harold Godwin, Edgar Etheling (Edward’s nephew), Harald Hardrada of Norway and William of Normandy. On 6th January 1066, the Witan decided that Harold was to be the next king of England.
In May 1066 the king heard that Tostig and his army had landed on the Isle of Wight and forced the inhabitants to give him money and provisions. He then sailed had along the coast and did some plundering, including an attack on Sandwich. Harold and his army marched north but by the time he arrived Tostig's forces had been chased away by Morcar's army.
Harold was fully aware William of Normandy would try to take the throne from him. He believed that the Normans posed the main danger and he positioned his troops on the south coast of England. Harold's soldiers were made up of housecarls and the fyrd. Housecarls were well-trained, full-time soldiers who were paid for their services. The fyrd were working men who were called up to fight for the king in times of danger.
On 8th September 1066, Harold decided to send his soldiers home. He had run out of provisions and he knew that his men had to harvest their crops. Harold travelled to London and soon after arriving heard the news that King Harald Hardrada of Norway and his brother Tostig had entered the Humber. When the messenger told the king that Hardrada of Norway had invaded with the intentions of conquering all of England, it is said that Harold replied: "I will give him just six feet of English soil; or, since they say he is a tall man, I will give him seven feet!"
Harold quickly assembled his army and headed north. On 20th September, Hardrada's army defeated Morcar's forces at Gate Fulford. Four days later the invaders took York. Four days later, Harold's army arrived at Tadcaster. The following day he took Tostig and Hardrada by surprise at a place called Stamford Bridge. It was a hot day and the Norwegians had taken off their byrnies (leather jerkins with sewn-on metal rings). Harold and his English troops devastated the Norwegians. Both Hardrada and Tostig were killed. The Norwegian losses were considerable. Of the 300 ships that arrived, less than 25 returned to Norway.
While Harold had been fighting against King Hardrada, William of Normandy had been completing his preparations for the attack on England. To make sure he had enough Normans to defeat Harold, he asked the men of Poitou, Burgundy, Brittany and Flanders to help. William also arranged for soldiers from Germany, Denmark and Italy to join his army. In exchange for their services, William promised them a share of the land and wealth of England. William also managed to enlist the support of the Pope in his campaign to gain the throne of England.
These negotiations took all summer. William also had to arrange the building of the ships to take his large army to England. About 700 ships were ready to sail in August but William had to wait a further month for a change in the direction of the wind.
While celebrating his victory at a banquet in York on 1st October, Harold heard that William of Normandy had landed at Pevensey Bay. King Harold immediately assembled the housecarls who had survived Stamford Bridge and marched south. He travelled at such a pace that many of his troops failed to keep up with him. When Harold arrived in London on 5th October and there he waited for the local fyrd to assemble and for the troops of the Earl of Mercia and the Earl of Northumbria to arrive from the north.
Harold's brother, Gyrth, offered to lead the army against William, pointing out that as king he should not risk the chance of being killed. Harold rejected the advice and after five days Harold decided to head for the south coast without his northern troops.
When Harold realised he was unable to take William by surprise he positioned himself at Senlac Hill near Hastings. Harold selected a spot that was protected on each flank by marshy land. At his rear was a group of trees. He further strengthened his position with a ditch and a palisade. The English housecarls provided a shield wall at the front of Harold's army. They carried large battle-axes and were considered to be the toughest fighters in Europe.
The fyrd were placed behind the housecarls. The leaders of the fyrd, the thegns had swords and javelins but the rest of the men were inexperienced fighters and carried weapons such as iron-studded clubs, scythes, slings, reaping-hooks and hay-forks.
We have no accurate figures of the number of soldiers who took part in the Battle of Hastings. Historians have estimated that William had 5,000 infantry and 3,000 knights while Harold had about 2, 500 housecarls and over 6,000 members of the fyrd. Before the fighting started on 14th October, William of Normandy spoke to his men reminding them they had never lost a battle under his command.
At nine in the morning the Norman archers walked up the hill and when they were about a 100 yards away from Harold's army they fired their first batch of arrows. Using their shields, the housecarls were able to block most of this attack. The Norman infantry then charged up the hill.
The English held firm and the Normans were forced to retreat. Members of the fyrd broke ranks and chased after the Bretons. William ordered his cavalry to attacked the English who had left their positions on Senlac Hill. English losses were heavy and very few managed to return to their place at the top of the hill.
At about twelve noon there was a break in the fighting for an hour. This gave both sides a chance to remove the dead and wounded from the battlefield. William, who had originally planned to use his cavalry when the English retreated decided to change his tactics. At about one in the afternoon he ordered his archers forward.
This time he told them to fire higher in the air. The change of direction of the arrows caught the English by surprise. The arrow attack was immediately followed by a cavalry charge. Casualties on both sides were heavy. Those killed included Harold's two brothers, Gyrth and Leofwine. However, the English line held and the Normans were eventually forced to retreat. The fyrd, this time chased the Flemings down the hill. William of Normandy ordered his knights to turn and attack the men who had left the line. Once again the English suffered many casualties.
William decided to take another rest. He had lost a quarter of his cavalry. Many horses had been killed and the ones left alive were exhausted. William decided that the knights should dismount and attack on foot. This time all the Normans went into battle together. The archers fired their arrows and at the same time the knights and infantry charged up the hill.
It was now four in the afternoon. Heavy English casualties from previous attacks meant that the front line was shorter. The Normans could now attack from the side. The few housecarls that were left were forced to form a small circle round the English standard. The Normans attacked again and this time they broke through the shield wall and Harold and most of his housecarls were killed.
The next day Harold's mother, Gytha, sent a message to William of Normandy offering him the weight of the king's body in gold if he would allow her to bury it. He refused, declaring that Harold should be buried on the shore of the land which he sought to guard.
After his coronation in 1066, William the Conqueror claimed that all the land in England now belonged to him. William retained about a fifth of this land for his own use. The rest was distributed to those men who had helped him defeat Harold at the Battle of Hastings. The 170 tenants-in-chief (or barons) had to provide armed men on horseback for military service. The number of knights a baron had to provide depended on the amount of land he had been given.
Sussex was divided into six regions (Rapes): Chichester, Arundel, Bramber, Lewes, Pevensey and Hastings. Offington now came under the control of William de Braose, who took control of the Rape of Bramber. De Braose built Bramber Castle, to guard the strategically important harbour at Steyning.
In return for the land provided by his leader, William de Braose, had to promise to provide the king with knights. In order to supply these knights, barons had to divide their land up into smaller units called manors. These manors were then passed on to men who promised to serve as knights when the king needed them.
When William the Conqueror granted land to a baron an important ceremony took place. The baron knelt before the king and said: "I become your man." He then placed his hand on the Bible and promised to remain faithful for the rest of his life. The baron would then carry out similar ceremonies with his knights.
The name Offington dates back to Anglo-Saxon times and means Offa's farmstead. At the time of the writing of the Domesday Book in 1086, William de Braose had granted Offington to William FitzNorman. It was measured at 2 hides. "There is one plough in demesne. Nothing more. It is and was worth 26 shillings." It was clearly a small and unimportant manor. There is great debate about the size of this ancient measurement but local historian, Henfrey Smail, writing in 1950, estimates that the Offington manor was between 180 and 240 acres.
There are very few documents that survive from this period. Even those that we do have create more questions than answers. For example, in 1241 Richard of Offington and Matilda his wife granted ten acres of land at Offington to Robert Poyntel for 100 shillings and an annual rent of a pair of white gloves or one penny at Easter. As one historian has pointed out: "Of this land five acres are described as lying in Scortforling and five in Marscalesland. Unfortunately there is no information as to the exact location of these two curiously named pieces of land."
There is evidence that Offington grew in importance during the 13th century. One document dated 1282 suggests that Offington was of greater worth than Broadwater. In 1296, King Edward I imposed a tax on his more wealthy subjects. In the Worthing area it was paid by 23 people. This suggests that Worthing was not a very prosperous region.
The Black Death arrived in England in 1348. The first case was reported in the Dorset port of Melcombe Regis in September. From Dorset it spread west to Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. The port of Bristol, England's second largest town, was very badly hit. It has been estimated that about 40% of Bristol's population died from the disease. The disease then started moving east. It reached Sussex and Kent in the Spring of 1349.
The early symptoms of the Black Death included a high temperature, tiredness, shivering and pains all over the body. The next stage was the appearance of small red boils on the neck, in the armpit or groin. These lumps, called buboes, grew larger and darker in colour. Eyewitness accounts talk of buboes growing to the size of apples. The final stage of the illness was the appearance of small, red spots on the stomach and other parts of the body. This was caused by internal bleeding and death followed very quickly. All told, an estimated 35 million people, two thirds of the world's population, died from the disease.
We do not have accurate records of how many people died of the disease. One method that historians use to work out the death-rate is to examine the names of the vicars of a particular parish. Most churches kept detailed records of their vicars and historians have calculated that over 50% of church vicars were replaced between 1348 and 1350. We do not know how many people died in Offington, but the local manor of Heene was devastated.
Historians have estimated that in a three year period (1348-50) between 30% and 50% of the English population died of the Black Death. The dramatic loss in population led to great changes taking place. Fields were left unsown and unreaped. Those who had not died of the plague were in danger of dying from starvation. Food shortages also resulted in much higher prices. The peasants, needing extra money to feed their families, demanded higher wages. The landowners, desperately short of labour, often agreed to these wage demands. The landowners were worried that if they refused, their workers would run away and find an employer who was willing to pay these higher wages.
Landowners complained to Edward III about having to pay these higher wages. The landowners were also worried about the peasants roaming the country searching for better job opportunities. In 1351, Parliament decided to pass the Statute of Labourers Act. This law made it illegal for employers to pay wages above the level offered in 1346. Some employers, who were desperately short of workers tended to ignore the law. If the serfs were caught they were taken back to their village and punished. It was difficult for the lords of the manor to punish them too harshly. Execution, imprisonment and mutilation only made the labour shortage worse, therefore the courts were more likely to punish the serfs by a fine. Sometimes runaway serfs were branded on the forehead.
Frederick William Migeod, the author of Worthing - A Survey of Times Past and Present (1938), has pointed out that surviving records show that during the 14th century the area became the "centre of the cider industry". It was not only for local consumption, one document dated 1st April 1349, records cider to the value of £5 15s. 11d. was exported from Shoreham to Calais.
The local cider industry was severely damaged in the following century by the importation of hops from France, Holland and Germany. A tax was imposed on the hops to help protect cider production. Local people described hops as a "wicked and pernicious weed". Some areas took local action to protect the production of cider and ale (made from malted barley). In 1471, Norwich banned the use of hops in the brewing of ale. However, there is no evidence that Worthing took any action and by the end of the century local farmers began growing hops.
Ebenezer Howard was a stenographer working in the House of Commons. He took a keen interest in social reform and was a member of the Fabian Society where he mixed with a group of intellectuals that including George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Beatrice Webb, Edith Nesbit, Emmeline Pankhurst and Annie Besant.
In 1889 Howard read Looking Backward, a novel by Edward Bellemy. Set in Boston, the book's hero, Julian West, falls into a hypnotic sleep and wakes in the year 2000, to find he is living in a socialist utopia where people co-operate rather than compete. Howard later commented: "This I read at a sitting, not at all critically, and was fairly carried away by the eloquence and evidently strong convictions of the author. This book graphically pictured the whole American nation organised on co-operative principles - this mighty change coming about with marvellous celerity-the necessary mental and ethical changes having previously occurred with equal rapidity. The next morning as I went up to the City from Stamford Hill I realised, as never before, the splendid possibilities of a new civilisation based on service to the community and not on self-interest, at present the dominant motive. Then I determined to take such part as I could, however small it might be, in helping to bring a new civilisation into being."
Over the next ten years Howard worked on producing the blueprint of his "utopian future". Tomorrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform was published in October 1898. Howard states in the book that he has plans to build what he calls a Garden City: "The Garden City, which is to be built near the centre of the 6,000 acres, covers an area of 1,000 acres, or a sixth part of the 6,000 acres, and might be of circular form, 1,240 yards (or nearly three-quarters of a mile) from centre to circumference.... Six magnificent boulevards-each 120 feet wide-traverse the city from centre to circumference, dividing it into six equal parts or wards. In the centre is a circular space containing about five and a half acres, laid out as a beautiful and well-watered garden; and, surrounding this garden, each standing in its own ample grounds, are the larger public buildings - town hall, principal concert and lecture hall, theatre, library, museum, picture-gallery, and hospital."
On 10th June 1899, Ebenezer Howard and his friends established the Garden City Association. The Association organised lectures on "garden cities as a solution of the housing problem" which were addressed "to educational, social, political, co-operative, municipal, religious and temperance societies and institutions". Important members included Edward Grey, William Lever, Edward Cadbury, Ralph Neville, Thomas Howell Idris and Aneurin Williams.
In 1900 the Garden City Limited was established with share capital of £50,000. The following year a conference was held at Bournville which three hundred delegates attended. Over a thousand attended the national conference at Port Sunlight in June 1902. Howard's book was now reissued as Garden Cities of Tomorrow. By 1903 the Garden City Association had over 2,500 members. The Garden City Pioneer Company was constituted, with Howard as managing director, to find a suitable site for the first garden city. In 1903 Howard purchased 3,818 acres in Letchworth for £155,587.
Raymond Unwin was chosen as the chief architect. "The successful setting out of such a work as a new city will only be accomplished by the frank acceptance of the natural conditions of the site; and, humbly bowing to these, by the fearless following out of some definite and orderly design based on them... such natural features should be taken as the keynote of the composition; but beyond this there must be no meandering in a false imitation of so-called natural lines." Unwin believed that the destruction of a single tree should be avoided, unless absolutely necessary. It was decided that it was important to make full "use of the undulating nature of the terrain to provide vistas and prospects. By grouping numbers of houses together it was possible to have large gaps between the groups, thus providing views of gardens, countryside or buildings beyond."
The building inspired others to think about building Garden Cities. This included the men who established the Worthing First Garden City company. Like Ebenezer Howard, the First World War brought a temporary halt to his schemes. In 1920 Howard announced plans to build Welwyn Garden City. It was the same year that Worthing First Garden City issued its prospectus concerning the construction of houses on the Offington Park estate.
In 1898, Julian Charles Gaisford, the owner of Offington Park, inherited the Howth Castle estate of over 9,000 acres of land, near Dublin. He decided to sell his property and it was eventually purchased by Lady Alice De Gex, the widow of Sir John Peter De Gex, the eminent Victorian Q.C., who had died in 1897.
Lady De Gex sold off part of the Offington Park Estate to a company called Worthing First Garden City Limited, a company that had the address of 150 Southampton Row, London. On 16rh September, 1913, Worthing Council minutes show that it “intended to proceed at once with the development of the Estate and enquiring whether the Council will supply to any houses erecting thereon, and if so upon what terms; and also whether it will be possible to drain the Estate into the Town’s sewerage system”.
The outbreak of the First World War seemed to have brought a halt to the scheme. It was not until 1920 that the Worthing First Garden City issued its plans for the new estate. The company made it very clear that they planned to create a Garden City that had been inspired by the ideas of Ebenezer Howard. “When considering the merits of Offington Park, it is interesting to reflect for a moment on those great changes that have come about in the minds of men during the last few decades as to the true meaning and importance to the home; they have been led on by a desire to live under conditions which disassociate from their minds the idea that work in itself is the aim and object of everything.”
The company pointed out that the 112 acre Offington Park estate was the ideal place to build a Garden City. “Only where absolutely essential will trees be removed, and that to no appreciable extent. The value, and indeed the necessity of open spaces has been considered to an unusual degree, for nearly one-fourth of the total estate is being laid out in open spaces, and in consequence of this overcrowding of buildings is impossible, for only a small number of houses will be permitted to the acre. The straight road is conspicuous by its absence, it has had to give way to something more akin to the country lane; and such is the care that has been taken in the plan, that it will be possible, from almost any point, to get a vista of open scenery.”
The Worthing First Garden City had ambitious plans for the estate. Offington Hall was to be converted into a residential Sports Club for the tenants’ use. “The question of sport and recreation has been good into with thoroughness and foresight which characterises the enterprise as a whole, and every opportunity will be afforded the tenants to indulge in their favourite pastimes. In the large open space south of the mansion it is proposed to lay out a polo ground, and no more delightful surroundings could have been selected for the devotees of this sport.”
The developers also had plans to build “a large number of tennis courts” and bowling greens for those “who may find polo and tennis somewhat too strenuous a form of exercise”. The company also promised a large ornamental garden (in an area which eventually became Shirley Drive).
The company explained: “For so unique a position the land is offered at an exceptionally moderate price, and the value of the houses will somewhat depend on what the would-be resident feels disposed to spend, and as a business proposition there can be little doubt that money expended in securing a home on this exceptionally beautiful estate will be the equal of many a gilt edged security.”
According to S. G. Carver, writing in 1939, the original plan was to keep the building of the houses to a value of not less that £1,000. This is around £670,000 in today’s money. The example given of what the Worthing First Garden City’s builders could provide was of a five bedroom detached house with a lounge, drawing room, dining room and kitchen.
It would seem that demand for these plots was not overwhelming. According to the records the first houses were built in Poulters Lane. The first houses were completed in 1924: Woodlands (84), Thanet House (68) and Notfar (66). Another two houses were completed the following year: Littlewood (64) and Galledge (62). That year the first house appeared in Shirley Drive. However, it was very different from the previous houses and I suspect it might have been at one time the company offices. Pleasance Cottage (2) was originally purchased by the Rev. C. J. Ledger. It was to be another two years before he had a neighbour, a G.A. Saunders in Medindie (4).
Progress was slow until the late 1920s. Shirley Drive to Offington Avenue was the first road completed and by 1931 the houses were numbered (a surprisingly large number still have the same house names). Council minutes showed there had been a dispute between people living in Shirley Drive concerning the maintenance of the grass verges, an important aspect of the Garden City idea. According to the council minutes 4 residents had refused to pay for the grass verges.
On 22nd January, 1931, the Highways Committee reported: “The Town Clerk reported that in accordance with the Committee’s instructions at the last meeting he had again been in communication with the remaining four objectors to the scheme for the making up of this street with a view of securing their approval to the retention of the grass verges and to their paying the commuted charge for maintenance… The Committee has therefore come to the conclusion that it is impossible to secure unanimous agreement amongst the owners and that the only course open to the Council is to proceed with the making up of the street in the ordinary way without grass verges.”
Some local people complained about the building of the estate. S.G. Carver, who lived in the area since boyhood, claimed that the area had deteriorated badly since before the First World War. “The Lodge at the entrance was always a picture, with a pretty garden and the avenue lined with trees leading to Offington Lane, where a stile gave access to Ashacre Lane opposite; the lane was lined with trees on both sides. Poulters Lane was known as the lovers’ walk, being heavily lined with trees which met overhead and formed a delightful walk on a summer evening. The Park was enclosed on all sides with the famous Sussex flint walls… The property fell into the hands of a group of speculators… there needs to be a searching enquiry into the circumstances which led this once charming park into the deplorable mess that has been made of it.”
In 1869 Parliament passed the Municipal Franchise Act. This legislation extended the vote to women rate-payers in local elections. This act also enabled women to serve as Poor Law Guardians. However, women were unable to vote in national elections.
On 14th October 1897, the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) was formed. The main purpose of the organization was to obtain the vote for women. Ellen Chapman was the leader of the Worthing branch of the NUWSS.
The NUWSS was committed to using non-violent methods of winning the vote. Some members became disillusioned with the lack of success of the NUWSS and in 1903 Emmeline Pankhurst joined forces with her three daughters, Christabel Pankhurst, Sylvia Pankhurst and Adela Pankhurst to establish the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). It soon became clear that the WSPU was willing to use violent tactics to win the vote.
Brighton established a branch of the WSPU but Worthing rejected the idea and continued with their peaceful campaigning. Ellen Chapman became involved in local politics and in 1910 became Worthing 's first female councillor.
It was announced that Emmeline Pankhurst would be holding a public meeting at the Kursaal (now the Dome Cinema) at the end of February, 1913. However, on 20 th February, an attempt was made to blow up a house which was being built for David Lloyd George, the Chancellor of Exchequer. At a meeting held in Cardiff, Pankhurst admitted that the WSPU had "blown up the Chancellor of Exchequer's house" and stated that "for all that has been done in the past I accept responsibility. I have advised, I have incited, I have conspired".
Pankhurst was arrested and was unavailable for the meeting to be held at the Kursaal. It was decided that the meeting would go ahead and the main speakers were Georgina Brackenbury, Flora Drummond and Edith Zangwill, who lived locally in East Preston.
Several thousand people turned up for the meeting, and the Kursaal was packed to capacity. This included several hundred young men who had drunk too much alcohol. Some men carried bugles and other wind instruments and they were blown to stop the audience from hearing what the speakers were saying. Flora Drummond attempted to ridicule their behaviour. "It is almost alarming to see how little it takes to amuse you… if I had thought you were so easily amused, I would have asked the stewards to bring some rattles."
This only enraged the young men and they ran towards the platform. The women left the Kursaal by a back door but as The Daily Mail reported the next day: "The meeting broke up in confusion, and afterwards the women were attacked by the crowd. Later there was more disorder in the streets. An attempt was made to duck two suffragettes in a drinking trough outside the Town Hall." It was noted that the police made no attempt to arrest the troublemakers.
The next edition of The Worthing Mercury printed several anonymous letters about the riot. One wrote: "Had I been a man and boxer, some of the boys would have gone away with sore heads… but as I am only a weak woman over 60 years of age, I sat and smiled my contempt for the only arguments Worthing knows against Women's suffrage."
A man who signed himself as "Justice" argued: "The exhibition by the hooligans at the meeting in Kursaal made me ashamed of my nationality, yet proud of the fact that I belong to the minority who love fair play and justice; fair play even for our opponents. I anticipate with the utmost confidence that there will be vehement protest against the scurrilous behaviour of a large number of our townsmen at the women's meeting. Worthing has every reason to be ashamed of itself."
Parliament decided to give women over the age of 30 the vote in 1918. Two years later Ellen Chapman became Worthing 's first woman mayor.
On 31st March, 1930, Charles Bentinck Budd, was elected to the Offington Ward of the West Sussex County Council. Later that year, Budd, who lived at Greenville, Grove Road, was elected to the Town Council as the independent representative of Ham Ward in Broadwater. At an election meeting on 16th October 1933, Budd revealed he was now a member of the British Union of Fascists (BUF). He was duly re-elected and the national press reported that Worthing was the first town in the country to elect a Fascist councillor. Worthing was now described as the “Munich of the South”.
Sir Oswald Mosley, now announced that Budd was the BUF Administration Officer for Sussex. On Friday 1st December 1933, the BUF held its first public meeting in Worthing in the Old Town Hall. According to Michael Payne, the author of Storm Tide: Worthing 1933-1939 (2008): “It was crowded to capacity, with the several rows of seats normally reserved for municipal dignitaries and magistrates now occupied by forbidding, youthful men arrived in black Fascist uniforms, in company with several equally young women dressed in black blouses and grey skirts.”
The Worthing Labour Party was very angry about the election of Budd and they passed a resolution with a view to forming a united opposition movement of the “liberal and democratic bodies of the town to meet on a common platform to combat the menace of Fascism”. It was agreed to distribute anti-Fascist literature and propaganda and to link up with kindred organisations in order to form a nationwide front against Fascism.”
On 4th January, 1934, Budd reported that over 150 people in Worthing had joined the British Union of Fascists. He claimed that the greatest intake had come from increasingly disaffected Conservatives. The Weekly Fascist News described the growing membership as “phenomenal”.
The mayor of Worthing, Harry Duffield, the leader of the Conservative Party in the town, was impressed with the Blackshirts and congratulated them on the disciplined way they had marched through the streets of Worthing. He reported that employers in the town had written to him giving their support for the British Union of Fascists. They had "no objection to their employees wearing the black shirt even at work; and such public spirited action on their part was much appreciated."
On 26th January, 1934, William Joyce, the deputy leader of the BUF, addressed a public meeting at the Pier Pavilion. Over 900 people turned up to hear Joyce speak. In his speech he pledged to free British industry from foreigners, “be they Hebrew or any other form of alien.” Joyce ended his two-hour speech with: “Reclaim what is your own in the fullness of Fascist victory!”
John Robert Peryer, of Allendyne, 24 Offington Gardens, a maths teacher at the Worthing High School for Boys (WHSB) became one of the leaders of the anti-Fascist movement in Worthing. Along with Marion Barber he established the International Friendship League, an organisation attempting to “foster peace and harmony between groups of young people from a spectrum of European nations.” Peryer's parents were themselves refugees and along with his wife Harriet Peryer, spent their adult life in promoting international friendship.
It was announced that Charles Bentinck Budd had arranged for Sir Oswald Mosley and William Joyce to address a meeting at the Pier Pavilion on 9th October, 1934. The venue was packed with fascist supporters. The meeting was disrupted when a few hecklers were ejected by hefty East End bouncers. Mosley, however, continued his speech undaunted, telling his audience that Britain's enemies would have to be deported: "We were assaulted by the vilest mob you ever saw in the streets of London - little East End Jews, straight from Poland. Are you really going to blame us for throwing them out?"
At the close of the proceedings the main body of uniformed Fascists, led by Joyce, emerged from the Pavilion on to the Esplanade. It was estimated that there were 2,000 people waiting outside. The crowd surged forward and several fights began. A ninety-six-year-old woman, Doreen Hodgkins, was struck on the head by a Blackshirt before being escorted away. When the Blackshirts retreated inside, the crowd began to chant: "Poor old Mosley's got the wind up!"
Chris Hare, the author of Historic Worthing (2008) has argued: "Mosley, accompanied by William Joyce, left the Pavilion and, protected by a large body of blackshirts, crossed over the road to Barnes's cafe in the Arcade. Stones and rotten vegetables were soon crashing through the windows of the cafe. Boys were observed firing peashooters at the beleaguered Fascists, while some youths were taking aim with air rifles. Meanwhile a group of young men climbed onto the roof of the Arcade and dislodged a large piece of masonry, which plummeted to earth through the arcade, landing only feet away from the Fascist leader. Things were getting too hot for the Fascists, who made a run for it, up the Arcade into Montague Street, then into South Street. Their intention was presumably to reach either their headquarters in Ann Street, or The Fountain in South Street, known as a 'Fascist pub', but they were ambushed on the corner of Warwick Street by local youths. Hearing the row, more Fascists hurried down from the Fountain to go to Mosley's aid. Fights broke out, bodies were slung against shop windows, and startled residents threw open their windows to see a seething mass of entangled bodies desperately struggling for control of the junction between South Street and Warwick Street."
Superintendent Bristow later claimed that a crowd of about 400 people attempted to stop the Blackshirts from getting to their headquarters. A series of fights took place and several people were injured. Francis Skilton, a solicitor's clerk who had left his home at 30 Normandy Road to post a letter at the Central Post Office in Chapel Road, and got caught up in the fighting. A witness, John Birts, later told the police that Skilton had been "savagely attacked by at least three Blackshirts." It was not until 11.00 p.m. that the police managed to clear the area.
In August 1935, R. G. Martin, the headmaster of Worthing High School for Boys, controversially took a party to Nazi Germany with their production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. On their return, Max Fuller, the head of WHSB’s Dramatic Society, reported that in Germany “Hitler is looked upon as the saviour of the country.”
R. G. Martin invited 15 members of the Hitler Youth to visit Worthing High School for Boys. They arrived in March 1936. The local historian, Freddie Feest, argues: “It has since been well documented that there were ulterior motives for most such visits and that German youth with strong Nazi-influenced motivation were surreptitiously – though with various degrees of success and reliability – collecting information, documents and photographs during their tours that might prove invaluable when the time came for Nazi forces to carry out an invasion of that country.” Feest suspects that the visit was arranged because members of staff were sympathetic to fascism: “So, had R.G.Martin been duped by the Nazi propaganda machine into believing such a visit was merely culturally inspired? Possibly. Certainly, according to several former pupils, their headmaster and at least one other teacher involved with the trip to Germany were ‘greatly impressed by and demonstrably sympathetic to’ many of the Nazi ideals projected during the two-way visits.”
Despite the efforts of people like the headmaster of Worthing High School for Boys, war broke out with Germany on 3rd September, 1939. Soon after Winston Churchill became prime minister, the British government announced the imposition of Defence Regulation 18B. This legislation, passed on 22nd May, 1940, gave the Home Secretary the right to imprison without trial anybody he believed likely to "endanger the safety of the realm". One of the first people to be arrested was Harry Bentinck Budd. While in prison Budd’s house in Worthing was damaged during a German air raid.
One of the most interesting people to live on the Offington Park estate is John Robert Peryer. For many years he lived at 24 Offington Gardens. He taught maths at the Worthing High School for Boys (WHSB). However, he is best remembered for his campaigning for those suffering persecution. Peryer’s forebears were French Huguenots and along with his wife Harriet (Hatty), helped to promote international friendship and combat persecution.
In 1931, Noel Ede, who lived in Peacehaven, established the International Friendship League (IFL). The main objective of the organisation was for young people from various European countries to meet one another and develop a mutual understanding of each other's way of life.
John and Hatty Peryer joined forces with Marion Barber, to form a Worthing branch of the International Friendship League. Marion was the wife of Charles Barber, who in 1922 became the first Labour Party member to be elected to the Worthing Council (he became mayor in 1936). It was reported that after a few months it had a membership of 106 people. friendship.
Peryer had the idea of holding a regular summer camp for European youngsters. In 1933 Worthing Council agreed to make Beach House in Brighton Road, an impressive late Regency house, available to the IFL. A council spokesman stated that Worthing intended “to show that it realises, even more than any other town in the country, the vital importance of personal contact between the youth of the world.”
Preyer issued an appeal to equip Beach House with “camp or single beds, mattresses, sheets, pillows, deck chairs, carry chairs, coloured blankets or travelling rugs, and a piano”. Mrs. Summers of the “Old Tree House” in Gorse Avenue, was put in charge of collecting these items. This publicity increased membership to 153.
The summer camp in Worthing took place in August 1933. Adolf Hitler refused permission for German youngsters to travel to Worthing (two German boys already living in England attended). The summer camp was mainly made up of young people from France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Peryer arranged for the foreign youngsters to visit the Old Mill at High Salvington, to play tennis at Worthing High School for Girls and orchestral concert at the Pier Pavilion. On 17th August, two coaches carrying between them fifty guests and officials of the IFL, drove to Midhurst for lunch, before returning, via Pulborough, to Arundel where, following a tour of the castle, tea was provided. The group also stopped at Storrington and Amberley.