New book recalls Worthing's "bad old days"

Worthing in the Bad Old Days – Riot, Beer, and the Word of God is a new book which will take you back to rougher, tougher times.

Worthing historian Chris Hare
Worthing historian Chris Hare

It comes from Worthing historian Chris Hare.

Chris, aged 59, said: “When I was 17, I came across an old volume of the Worthing Gazette in Worthing Library and started to read of the riots that engulfed the town.

“I was a politically radical young sixth-form student and I was amazed and stunned that conservative Worthing had been the scene of violent rioting – so bad that the army was brought in to quell the disorder.

“Over the years I have returned to the history, writing about it extensively in my first book, Historic Worthing, The Untold Story, published in 1991.

“People who read the book found it hard to believe that it was the arrival of the Salvation Army in the town that proved the catalyst for the riots.”

Chris revisits the era now.

“In 2014, my wife, Ann Feloy, brought this history to life in the highly-regarded Worthing community play The Just Cause – a Victorian Romance and a Rollicking Good Riot, which played to capacity audiences at Christ Church in Worthing over three Saturdays that year.

“Not all the historical research found its way into the play.

“Then, by chance, a few years ago, lost bound copies of the Christ Church Parish Magazine were found, including the volume for the riot year – 1884.

“Having read this new material it was clearer to me than ever that the Vicar of Christ Church, the Rev Francis Cruse, tried to find a spiritual path between the Salvation Army and their opponents.

“No easy challenge when passions were inflamed and reason appeared to have been abandoned.

“I think this book comes out at a very timely moment when the UK seems very divided and the wounds of Brexit are far from healed. Even Covid 19 has pitted vaxxers against anti- vaxxers and supporters of lockdown restrictions against those who fear ancient liberties are being lost forever. People might like to reflect on the commotion and fury of these Victorian conflicts and ponder on the lessons that people at that time learned as a consequence.”

Chris doubts he will return to it again now: “It’s always possible although I think the Worthing Riots have now been pretty comprehensively covered.

“But you never know, new material may always be discovered, giving a new perspective on events.

“I have written many books and even more pamphlets – too many to count! My first published article appeared in the West Sussex Gazette in 1987.

“I think history connects us to the drama of humanity and to the generations who preceded us.

“The past informs the present and helps us to perceive the future. Also, I love a good story!”

The book is self-published at £5 and available from Chris at [email protected]

Or you can call him for a copy on 07794 600639.