Modern Durrington is very much part of Worthing and many people probably don’t realise that for hundreds of years, Durrington was not only separate to Worthing, it was also much larger. In medieval times, Durrington was famous for the cider it produced and the parish even contributed archers who fought with Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt (the six hundredth anniversary of which falls on October 25th this year).

During the English Civil War, the people of Durrington seemed to have favoured Parliament and been at odds with their Vicar who was a Royalist, which lead to a heated dispute between congregation and minister.

In more recent times the parish was famous for its market gardens, glasshouse industries and orchards. Until 1968 the Corporation Nurseries were still located in Greenland Road. There were even commercial lavender fields at Durrington – long before most of the land here was given up to housing.

Durrington was officially incorporated into Worthing in 1929 and its parish council abolished. Ever since then the village life has given way to a suburban one, although several old and historic buildings still remain

The Lamb

The first known written reference to The Lamb pub is in a guide book of 1808, although an inn on the site may have existed by 1740. According to local legend, the first landlord was a retired shepherd – hence ‘The Lamb.’ The current building was constructed in 1914 and completely replaced the old building.  Records survive from 1769 of Thomas Lilywhite and John Parsons of Durrington being fined three shillings and fourpence “for drinking in the Public House in time of Divine Service,” although somewhat perversely Edward Pascoe was fined ten shillings for drinking in his own home during the church service – perhaps he was an old offender? At this time, parish accounts show that two gallons of beer were regularly provided for ‘corpse watchers’ – those paid to watch over the deceased of the parish until burial. It was considered a great slight on the memory and reputation of the dead to allow a corpse to be unaccompanied between death and committal.The Old Forge and Rose Cottage

The Overington family were associated with these buildings for over 250 years. Henry Overington came to Durrington from Hampshire in 1740 to run the local blacksmith’s. The family continued to run a business from the property until recent times. During the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century, Overingtons held all the important offices of the parish, including Overseer of the Poor, Highway Surveyor, Churchwarden, and Parish Constable. They were also parish councillors and latterly, town councillors. When party-politics came into local government in the 1950s, Alfred Overington refused to adopt a party political colour and remained a ‘Durrington representative’ for many years, until finally defeated by the Conservatives.

In the nineteenth century, a ‘Dame School’ was run by Avis Overington from Rose Cottage. In 1959, one of her descendants claimed that naughty children were tied to the grandfather clock in the cottage, forcing them to be still, for fear they might pull it over on themselves!

St Symphorian’s

To the left, heading north up Durrington Hill is the parish church of St. Symphorian’s, which was consecrated in 1916 and only fully completed in 1941. This twentieth century church does incorporate into its structure remnants of a medieval chapel that was allowed to fall into decay during the seventeenth century. It would appear that the congregation at that time were at odds with their vicar, William Stanley, whom they accused of neglecting his church duties and being more interested in promoting the royalist cause during the English Civil War. Stanley was ejected from his living but later reinstated, only to be expelled a second time. His successor, William Pixe, was himself removed from office after the Restoration of Charles II. By 1677, the chapel was in such a terrible state of disrepair that the people of the parish asked to be exempted from having to contribute to its upkeep, as the cost would be more than they could bear and would lead to “theire utter ruine and undoing.”  In 1680, the church authorities took pity of Durrington and the parish was united with West Tarring and the chapel was allowed to become a ruin, amongst which generations of local children made a playground.

The Manor House and the Dower House.

Both these buildings were once part of the same property and owned by consecutive Lords of the Manor of Durrington. The current buildings are eighteenth century, but a manor house stood on this site from medieval times. The old coach house and associated buildings were converted into their present use in 1961.

At the junction of Arundel Road and Salvington Hill is Swandean, which today houses a hospital for the severely mentally ill. It was originally built in the 1860s for the Dalbaic family, who sold the house in 1896, when it was converted it into an Isolation Hospital following a severe outbreak of typhoid fever in the town. In later years children suffering from Scarlet Fever were treated at Swandean. Before a telephone was installed in 1907, the matron used to cycle down into Worthing if she needed the assistance of a doctor and carried a stout stick over her handlebars in case she met with any ‘rough elements’ while passing through the wooded area of north Durrington.

Edgar Overington, when acting in his capacity as Highways Surveyor, claimed that the corpse of a gibbetted highwayman, still welded into his chains, was found in a bank on the Arundel Road by Swandean. Overington had expected to find such gruesome remains at the spot, as it was known locally as ‘Steer’s Bank,’ named, it was said, after the dead criminal. It is a lovely story, although no documentary evidence exists to back up the claim.

There was a pond in Pond Lane until it was drained by the local authority in 1985, by which time it had become heavily silted and something of a tipping ground. Heavy rains in 1995 and 2000 saw the area flood, although improved drainage in recent years seems to have overcome the problem. Two historic properties remain in Pond Lane. The Thatched Cottage, on the left, dates back to at least the mid eighteenth century. Fifty years ago it was the home of ‘Adele,’ the famous beautician. Opposite is Durrington Farmhouse, which also dates from the eighteenth century. In the 1960s and 70s it was home to Betty Anderson MP, created Baroness Skrimshire in 1970. She was the first female Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.

With thanks to local historian and author Chris Hare for this article.

More information about the locality, its history and historic buildings can be found in Worthing Heritage Trails No.10, published by the Worthing Heritage Alliance. Copies are available at the cost of 50p from Worthing Library and Worthing Museum.