1 May, 2015
I grew up in Goring and so can claim to have a special interest in the place. Sadly my memories only go back to the 1960s, by which time the rustic charm of the old village had already given way to the surburbanisation that began when Goring village was incorporated into the Borough of Worthing in 1929. It is not difficult to understand why the then parish council should have decided to throw in their lot with their much larger neighbour: being part of Worthing brought the promise of many infrastructure and utility improvements, including better roads and pavements, street lighting, refuse collections and electricity to private homes. However the cost was high and had to be paid for in terms of large scale house-building. Leafy rural lanes were soon transformed into rows of detached and semi-detached middle class homes. For a time the old inhabitants lived apart from their new neighbours having little to bind them together in terms of common backgrounds or interests. Eventually the old timers passed on, although many of them are still remembered with fondness and affection. Goring became ‘Goring-by-Sea’ in the nineteenth century with the coming of the railway and the need to distinguish it from ‘Goring-on-Thames.’
St. Mary’s Parish Church
Although Goring is a very ancient parish, dating back to Anglo-Saxon times, the church of St. Mary’s is not so old. In 1837 the existing church was demolished and replaced by a new building, designed by the famous architect, Decimus Burton and financed by the local lord of the manor, David Lyon, who lived at Northbrook. Nairn and Pevsner were not impressed when they visited in 1965, but many people find Goring church very pleasing, with its clear lines and resolute spire. It is mock-gothic, but mock-gothic ‘lite’ if you like; there are no dark and forbidding turrets and cornices and no array of fearsome gargoyles staring down at you. Some of the tombs and memorials from the old church were incorporated into the new; but perhaps the most impressive internal feature is the 1954 mural of Christ in his glory, painted by Hans Feibusch. When I was a child, attending school services with Goring School, it was this image that impressed itself on my young mind as being the real image of Christ, rather than the long-haired, bearded representation more popularly associated with Him.
Goring Hall and the Ilex Avenue
Not content with building a new church, David Lyon decided to build a new manor house. The old house at Northbrook was demolished and in 1840 the new seat of the Lyons was erected closer to the sea and only a short distance from the new church. Goring Hall, as it was named was set in its own parkland, and was reached, both from the Goring and Ferring ends by a stately avenue of Ilex Oaks, again planted by Lyon. These marvelous trees survived the urban developments of the 1930s and 1950s, but were threatened with being felled in the early 1980s, when the council claimed that they had come to the end of their natural lives. Goring residents and in particular the Ilex Group fought long and hard against this proposal and even won the support of the Queen Mother (who was related to the Lyon family). They were successful in their campaign and this unique avenue can still be enjoyed today. The name ‘Ilex Way’ actually refers to the houses built either side of the avenue at the Goring end, but in recent years the name has been applied to the whole avenue.
Goring Hall was gutted by fire in 1888 and was then rebuilt to the original design. The Lyons vacated in 1906 and leased the property to the Molsons, who remained in residence until 1938 when the house became a full-time boarding school. Today Goring Hall is a private hospital.
This year marks the 160th anniversary of the birth of one of this country’s greatest writers of the English countryside – Richard Jefferies. A native of Coate in Wiltshire, Jefferies moved to Sussex in 1883, first to Crowborough, then Hove and finally, in 1886, to Goring. He made his home at Sea View, in a cul-de-sac just off Sea Lane. The house had been built for a Mr. Buster, formerly the local schoolmaster. Jefferies died here in August 1887, aged only 38, worn down by mental and physical illness. Twelve years later, the writer W.H.Hudson came to stay at Sea View and being a great admirer of Jefferies, wished to absorb the atmosphere of the house in which his hero had died. Hudson claimed that whilst staying in Goring he encountered a ghostlyapparition in the churchyard, which, he claimed bore the unmistakable countenance of Jefferies. Sea View is now known as ‘Jefferies House’ and the cul-de-sac as ‘Jefferies Lane.’
Back in the early seventeenth century, at a time when puritan-minded Justices of the Peace were seeking to impose a more Godly lifestyle on the rural population, the decision was taken to ‘close the inn at Goring.’ Whether this closure related to the inn now known as the Bull, or to some other hostelry is not stated, but it is known that parts of the existing building date back to the sixteenth century and possibly earlier. The smaller building, now forming part of the pub and which appears on the left as you face The Bull from Goring Street, was originally the village butcher’s shop. It was the practice in the days before refrigeration to hold inquests at inns, as the bodies could be stored in the cellar. The corpses of two young men, killed by lightning near Highdown in 1907 were taken to the Bull, where the inquest into their deaths was held. This may have been the last occasion when such an inquest was held at the Bull.
201 Goring Road
Probably the oldest house in Goring, it has been known variously as ‘Smugglers Cottage’ and the ‘Thatched Cottage.’ In appearance it is suggestive of a building of the Tudor era, but it may be older. The first floor rooms are in the roof space and the windows are set at floor level. At one time it was a tea shop and more recently a sweet shop. In 1937, during the first phase of building-frenzy in Goring, it was proposed to demolish the cottage, but luckily the threat was never carried out.
90 Goring Way
This lovely old thatched cottage is a very precious survival from eighteenth century Goring. Until 1966 it stood with its neighbour, 88 Goring Way, which had in its grounds the old Blacksmith’s forge. All three buildings where threatened with demolition to make way for the new Steele’s Garage. Yet despite a local protest, including a petition, only no.90 was spared. The chairman of the planning committee at the time commented, “I like old cottages, but I think in this instance they’re a little out of place.” For many generations the Haffenden family were blacksmiths at Goring – a name still remembered by older residents.
196 Goring Road
It is not so much the inter-war house that is of interest, as the open strip of land to the east, which is gated at both the Goring Road and Marlborough Road ends. This piece of land is a remnant of a massive ditch that was dug around Worthing in 1940, when a German invasion was a very real possibility. The idea was that if the Germans took Worthing their progress would be impeded by this modern Offa’s Dyke surrounding and enclosing the town. Goring Road itself was lined with anti-tank blocks at this point. After the war the ditch was infilled with earth and shingle.
Courtlands was built for Paul Schweder in 1906 on the site of the former Courtlands farmhouse, built by William Olliver some ninety years earlier. Schweder sought out buildings in both England and France that were in the process of being demolished and used the best pieces in his new home. These additions included two Queen Anne fireplaces and the now famous ‘Gold Room.’ The grounds were laid out to a high standard, with an ornamental lake and various statues and fountains. After Schweder’s death in 1936, there were various proposals for Courtlands future use, including a health spa and a country club, but the war intervened to quash these ideas; instead Canadian troops were billeted at the house.
In 1951 Courtlands became a post-operative recovery hospital and later an administrative centre for the Health Authority. Today it is flats, with many of the old outbuildings also having being converted into dwellings. In 1949 one of the Queen Anne fireplaces was stolen and many of the statues and other features found in the grounds have since ‘disappeared.’ The building has recently been converted into flats and houses built in part of the grounds.
Goring, or should we say, Goring-by-Sea continues to thrive and develop and is now perhaps the most popular housing location in Worthing.
Article kindly written and supplied by Chris Hare, Worthing Historian.