The Story Of Broadwater

Broadwater is today part of the borough of Worthing but it was once very different: until 1890 Worthing was part of the parish of Broadwater and whereas Broadwater had a fine medieval church; the old chapel at Worthing had been closed and allowed to fall into decay many centuries earlier. The rise of Worthing as a popular seaside resort eclipsed the fortunes of Broadwater. The final indignity came in 1938 when most of the ancient High Street at Broadwater was demolished for road widening on the orders of Worthing Council.

Yet much of interest and mystery remains at Broadwater which still, even in 2016, clings on tenaciously to its old identity and history.

Midsummer Tree

This mysterious and ancient oak tree is steeped in folklore. Charlotte Latham, arguably this country’s first serious folklorist, worked as a governess in Worthing, when she was a young woman in the 1820s. In 1868 she set about recording the superstitious beliefs of the people of West Sussex, including the legend of the Broadwater Midsummer Tree. She recalled viewing the tree “with an uncomfortable and suspicious look” in her younger days, having been told how skeletons would rise up from its roots at midnight on Midsummer’s Eve and dance round its trunk to “the rattling of their own bones”.

In 1868 she was introduced to a man who had claimed to have witnessed this spectral dance of the dead and been “frightened out of his very senses” by the ghostly apparition. A large branch fell off the tree many years ago. In 2006 it was due to be felled by the Highways Agency, which had deemed it unsafe; but a campaign led by Worthing historian, Chris Hare, led to its reprieve. The tree was greatly cut back and reduced in height, but its remaining branch has continued to bear leaf. A plaque, erected by the Highways Agency now records its unusual story.

Broadwater Green

Broadwater Green once covered a significantly larger area and originally had a pond. During the second half of the 19th century stone and gravel was excavated from part of the Green for repairing roads, though this pit was declared exhausted by 1865. The Green was home to Broadwater Fair for many years. It was also a well renowned cricket ground described  in The Sussex Advertiser on the 10th September 1827 as follows ‘Broadwater Green is considered by competent judges to be the best ground in England, and where the play can be seen to the utmost advantage’. The Green was granted in perpetuity to the people of Worthing, following a campaign in 1863 to restore it as a pleasure green, free from gravel and rubbish pits.

Pound House

This house was built in 1789 on a parcel of land that was originally part of Broadwater Green. At some time prior to 1848 a section at the end of the rear garden was used as the parish pound, where stray animals were kept until their owners claimed them, usually on payment of a small fine. At one time the property became the Temprance Laundry and laundry was hung to dry on the greensward in front of what is now the fire station.

The Parish Rooms

Erected in 1889 as a reading room, paid for by public subscription. In the disastrous typhoid epidemic of 1893 the room was used to house 22 patients. By 1900 it was run by the parish council continuing as a Parish Room and Reading Room. Many organisations have used the Parish Rooms over the years notably the Worthing Girl Guides and Worthing Scouts..

The Cricketers

Originally built as a private residence but used as a brewhouse and beershop from 1853 onwards under the ownership of Thomas Luff. At that time it was known as The Brewer’s Arms and was only renamed The Cricketers Arms around 1878. The public house was run by three generations of the same family beginning in 1888 for over 100 years and not surprisingly given its proximity to the Green it became the ‘home’ of the local cricket club.

Paine Manwaring (and Lephard)

From the 18th century until 2012, one of the core businesses of Broadwater has been Paine Manwaring. A very extensive ironmongery business had followed quite naturally into the 20th century after the arrival of William Paine, blacksmith in the early 1700s. The business once owned a forge and workshop until 1938, that stood where the current roundabout is today.

Cricketers Parade Cricket Match

Many grand matches have graced the turf on Broadwater Green including one renowned for its 500 guineas a side prize money. It took place in 1805 between 11 gentlemen of London and 12 of Worthing, Shoreham and Brighton. The local gentlemen lost! However the match commemorated here was between Sussex and an all-England side said to have taken place circa 1837.

Site of Old Rectory

The old Broadwater rectory stood on the land now occupied by Broadwater Boulevard. Although earlier rectory houses had stood on this plot dating back until 1554, the last house was probably built by Reverend Peter Wood in 1797. The house continued to be used by the church until 1924 and then it was given for use by private residents. During the Second World War is was used as a headquarters by the local Home Guard. Eventually it was demolished in 1959 but there is one single remnant of the old garden, the rather fine tree in the Boulevard.

St Mary’s Church, Broadwater

A church is thought to have existed here back in Saxon times and certainly a church is recorded at Broadwater in the Domesday Survey of 1086. The present church was commenced sometime after 1100. It is one of the outstanding examples of a cruciform church in Sussex. Inside are the impressive tombs of the 8th and 9th Lords de la Warr who lived at Offington as well as some wonderful brasses including one over the tomb of John Mapleton, priest at Broadwater in 1433. Between 1797 and 1925 Broadwater Church had the unusual distinction of only three rectors all from the same family (Peter Wood, his nephew, Edward King Elliott, and his son, Edward James Elliott). Jane Austin worshipped here while staying in Worthing. It is believed that ‘Old Sanditon’ in her novel ‘Sanditon’ was based on Broadwater.

Broadwater Street East

Broadwater Street East, westernmost section was originally part of the old Broadwater Street. It now forms a major part of the Broadwater Conservation Area. At this western end a group of 18th and 19th century buildings remain, indicating the traditional street pattern and a generally regular roofscape. Much of the attractive character and appearance of Broadwater Street East derives from the intimacy of the buildings, the irregular winding street pattern, and the narrow road which retains the feel of a village street.

Broadwater Lodge and Broadwater Cottage

These two fine Georgian houses were built quite separately but around the same time, 1820. Broadwater Lodge has now acquired the name Broadwater House a name taken from a former house demolished when Broadwater Street West was widened. Broadwater Cottage now merely languishes with the address 2, Forest Road however as you can see it was built from cream coloured bricks probably made from the blue clay found on Worthing Beach.

Old House at Home

The current public house was built in 1925 on the site of a much earlier beer-house and, at one time, bakery. As the name suggests a beer house sold beer (and cider),  but not wine or spirits - and this was one of the distinguishing features between it and a public house. The ‘Old House’ once had its own song, which promised plenty of cheer and female company to those frequenting the premises.

The Quashetts

Currently the northernmost part of what was probably a very ancient route connecting Cissbury with the coast at Worthing. What remains of the footpath or twitten now runs from the old Broadwater Street (now Broadwater Street East) running under the railway where once it would have crossed the old Teville Stream and emerging close to the Swan Public House.

The Square/Barletts Cottages

On through the beginning of the Quashetts on the right is The Square and Bartletts Cottages, The first house on this site may have been as early as 1752 but certainly Land Tax records confirm a house in 1789.  These small terrace houses were originally used mainly to accommodate the poor people of the parish.

Broadwater Manor House

A manor house in Broadwater was first mentioned in 1256 together with a private chapel. The current building shows many alterations over time with the oldest part being the north wing with rubble walls and a late medieval roof. The house and associated buildings now form part of the successful Broadwater Manor School. Former Lords of the Manor of Broadwater included the Misses Newland, who donated Broadwater Green to the people of Worthing, and William Foard Tribe, the irascible Victorian magistrate, notorious for his hostility towards the Salvation Army during the riots of 1884.

Thanks to Local Historian and Author Chris Hare for this article.
Much of the information in this article originally appeared in the Broadwater Heritage Trail
This summer Worthing Heritage guides are leading historic walks around the town. For details and booking go to

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