Social History Collection

WTM has an extensive Social History collection with objects and images covering the history of Worthing over several hundred years. 

Learn more about the collection

A seaside resort since the 1790s, Worthing has a long and fascinating history.  Worthing was not only where Oscar Wilde wrote “The Importance of Being Earnest”, it was also the model for Jane Austen’s last work, “Sanditon” and the site of the major “Skeleton Army” riots provoked by the Salvation Army in the 1880s.  A centre for smuggling in the 18th and 19th centuries, skirmishes were fought against the Excise men in the area more than once during this period.  Worthing also has the only pier to have been “blown down, burnt down and blown up”, in spite of this the elegant pier is still standing!  We have an extensive collection of local material including photographs and ephemera, with a particularly strong assemblage of items from 19th century rural Sussex, with a focus on shepherding and rural employment and other artefacts dating to the suffragette movement and World War II.

Exploring the collection

Naval journal of John B Palmer 1860-1884

The Opening of the Pier Pavilion, 1926

The Newman Family, Worthing market-gardeners

Anti-gas ointment no.2, World War II

Diorama of Worthing in 1815

Royal Artillery Sword 19th century

Worthing Library & Museum staff, c. 1910

Worthing Regatta, 6th August 1924

Suffragette movement materials

Invitation card to Lord Nelson’s Funeral

Worthing Promenade and Heene Terrace, Colourised, c. 1905

The Kursaal & Marine Parade, c. 1912

Coules Family at Chanctonbury Ring, August 1915

Photograph of old shepherds struggling with gas masks at Findon Sheep Fair

The Coules family to Worthing beach during the summer of 1915.

Social History James Sainsbury