History Heritage Days with Chris Hare

History Heritage Days with Chris Hare


Local Worthing historian Chris Hare holds three History Heritage Days during the summer at the Sidney Walter Centre in Sussex Road, Worthing.

Each day will include illustrated talks and discussions, with free hand-outs to take home. There will be breaks for tea and coffee, with reasonably priced lunches available from the local pub, The Swan, between 1.00 and 2.00 pm.


Smuggling Days in Sussex – a true and deadly history :  Saturday July 26th from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm –  £20.00 per person.

Welcome to the Wild West, that is the Wild West Sussex of the eighteenth century!  Violent skirmishes between dragoons and smugglers in the 1740s at Goring and Arundel led to fatalities on both sides.

The brutal murder of thirteen year old Richard Hawkins by smugglers in 1747 led to the gang finally being brought to justice. Not all smugglers were murderers, many turned to the ‘wicked trade’ as a result of poverty and were seen as ‘Robin Hoods’ by local people.

This day will include the stories of John Olliver, the ‘Mad Miller’ of Highdown, of William Cowerson of Steyning, and of George Ransley of Romney Marsh and his notorious gang of smugglers known as ‘The Roaring Ransleys’.

The day will include a look at the causes of smuggling and why it so quickly declined after 1840.


Edwardian Sussex and the First World War plus screening of ‘Oh, What a Lovely War’:  Saturday August 2nd from 9.30 am to 6.00 pm – £20.00 per person.

This is a very special day.

In the morning, Chris will talk about life in Edwardian Sussex in the years leading up to the outbreak of war, and then chart the terrible impact of the conflict on local communities.

In the afternoon Chris, and Worthing Journal editor, Paul Holden, will be leading tours on Worthing Pier, as part of a day of commemorative events to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of hostilities on 4th August 1914.

At 3.15pm there will be a special screening of ‘Oh, What a Lovely War,’ which will include the live performance of First World War songs. Tickets for the screening are included in the cost of this History Heritage Day.

The morning session at the Sidney Walter Centre will take a close look at life in the years leading up to war, including the impact of militant suffragettes, and the campaign to eradicate drunkenness – seen as a scourge of Sussex towns at that time.

The terrible impact of war will then be considered, not just the terrible loss of life, but also the social changes that the war brought in its wake: the decline of the old rural culture, with its ancient customs and traditions.

Starting at 1.00 pm on Worthing Pier, Chris and Paul will use an illustrative timeline, laid out on the pier, to chart the chronology  of the First World War and the major events happening locally.

The screening of ‘Oh, What a Lovely War’ will include ‘extras’, such as live performances from the Southwick Players and soldiers songs of the time. There will be an interval at 4.30pm, with the screening ending at 6.00 pm. There will also be a ‘surprise’ ending!


The Sussex Riots:  Saturday August 30th from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm – £20.00 per person.

Oh for the good old days? A time of law and order and of peaceful streets? Sussex in the nineteenth century could conform to that idealised view, but it could also erupt into protest and tumult.

During the winter of 1830-31, the Swing Riots erupted with tremendous fury across Sussex. Impoverished and unemployed labourers vented their anger on threshing machines that robbed them of work by smashing them in ritualised assaults.

They set fire to hay ricks and sent threatening letters to landowners. These dangerous times flared up at regular intervals over the next decade or so, and the feared ‘incendiary’ was still at work in the wilds of Sussex as late as the 1880s.

This day will also tell of the Sussex Bonfire Boys, whose determination to ‘Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November’ led them into violent conflict with the ‘new police’, established in East Sussex in 1838, and West Sussex in 1857. The ‘night to settle old scores’ was itself an extension of the ‘rough music’ mob, which imposed popular justice against supposed wrong-doers.

Finally our day will conclude with the ‘Skeleton Army’ riots of the 1880s and 90s, which engulfed sleepy Sussex resorts like Worthing and Eastbourne. And the cause of these disturbances? The presence of the Salvation Army in these towns! There was, however, a lot more to these riots than mere religious intolerance, as this day will make clear.

For more information about lunches look at www.coxinns.com/theswan  Tea, coffee and biscuits will be supplied free at the Sidney Walter Centre. Those not wishing to buy a lunch at the Swan are welcome to bring a packed lunch.

For further information contact Chris Hare on 07794 600639.

Pictured: Local Historian Chris Hare