Worthing

Worthing Methodist society is first mentioned in the records of the Chichester Mission with nine members. By 1820 it was in the Brighton Circuit, with meetings in a house in Marine Parade. Two years later, on 8 July 1822 Providence Chapel in Marine Place was opened by Jabez Bunting. The society was described as ‘small but promising’ and in 1823 it was transferred to the Chichester Circuit; then was made a separate station for one year before reverting to Brighton from 1826 until 1870.

In 1839 the chapel was sold to an Independent congregation and the Methodists moved to a new chapel in Bedford Row. At that time the society had a membership of 84 and reported 160 hearers (out of a population of 6,000). By 1850 the membership had risen to 150. A gallery was added in 1847 and a new schoolroom in 1861; the chapel was remodelled in 1871, with an organ added the following year.

At the time of the 1851 Religious Census Bedford Row chapel had seating for 173 free and 285 others. Reported attendances were: Morning 141 plus 60 scholars; evening 142.

Bedford Row was replaced in its turn in 1900 by the church in Steyne Gardens, in Early English style, complete with a tower. Changes were made to the interior c.1960.

After unsuccessful moves to divide the Brighton Circuit in the 1860s, Worthing became the head of a separate circuit in 1870. A serious epidemic of typhoid fever took its toll of local Methodists in 1893, and at the end of the century two circuit ministers were lost by drowning: George W. Clutterbuck on board the S.S. Stella in March 1899 en route to Guernsey and William Hothersall, drowned off Shoreham beach in 1900.

As Worthing grew in size, the Wesleyans opened other churches in the suburbs. In 1882 open-air prayer meetings were held in Tarring Road opposite London Street, and this led to the opening of a small brick and flint mission chapel in 1884. In 1928 a site was bought for the Offington Park church, built in ‘Sussex barn’ style and opened on 5 October 1932 by J. Scott Lidgett. This was the first Methodist church to be opened followingMethodist Union. It was replaced in 1958 by the present church with a tower. The Fletcher Hall was added in 1976 and a Pastoral Centre in 1979. At Goring the Bury Drive church was opened in 1951, with the Allan Fisher Hall added in 1975.

The Primitive Methodists began preaching in Worthing in the 1870s in the open air and then in hired rooms in Montague Street, Wenban Road and at Broadwater. In 1875 the work was formalized as the Worthing Mission. In 1880 an iron chapel was erected at the junction of Chapel Road and Wenban Road, replaced in 1893 by a red brick chapel, which survived until closed in 1955 and demolished in 1958. The iron chapel was moved to Lyndhurst Road and remained in use until replaced in 1929 on a nearby site by a red brick church, when it was sold to the local Labour Party. A proposal in 1900 to unite with the Bible Christians was unanimously turned down. Following Methodist Union in 1932, the local Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists became a single circuit in 1937.

Sources
  • The Widening Way: the Story of Methodism in Worthing, Shoreham and district 1820-1970 (c.1970)
  • D. Robert Elleray, A Millenium Encyclopaedia of Worthing History (1998)