Demolition: The moment the fireplace at The Wheatsheaf pub in Worthing went up in smoke

As the fireplace at the former Wheatsheaf pub in Worthing went up in a puff of smoke, a local studies volunteer was watching.

Jean Kirk was at Worthing Library, in Richmond Road, next to the demolition site, on Monday, July 4, as the wall came down – and she captured the moment on camera.

Jean said: "No one else was taking photos at the time. They show the fireplace in the wall and then it was gone in a puff of smoke."

Demolition work at the former town centre pub began in June and the site will be transformed into eight contemporary apartments by an independent developer, due to be completed in the spring/summer of 2023.

The Wheatsheaf in its green guise in 2008

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Final orders were called in 2017 and after two previous development bids were refused, it was third time lucky in March 2020, when planning permission was granted.

The fireplace at The Wheatsheaf pub. Picture: Jean Kirk

The pub had seen many changes over the years, having been built around 1835. In its most recent history, it went from green to red to green again in just a few years.

At one time, it was a big part of the music scene in Worthing, although the pub fell foul of the environmental protection team, leading to a three-year saga surrounding late-night noise disturbance, with complaints from residents of Ambrose Place stretching back to 2008.

The Wheatsheaf had a bit of a transformation in 2012 when Mike Shiel took it over. Red at the time, it was relatively small but traditional, with a soft carpet and a choice of comfortable seating, perfect for relaxing. Staff were friendly and efficient, offering pub lunches in a warm and inviting setting.

But tough trading conditions in the town centre and personal reasons contributed to Mr Shiel's decision to put the Wheatsheaf up for sale just 18 months after he took it over.

And there it was gone. Picture: Jean Kirk

In June 2013, Mr Shiel said: "Business is difficult in town. There’s not enough people coming into the town now and it doesn’t offer enough for the over-30s.

“We wanted it for the older market but from our point of view, it is too much work for very little return. Youngsters don’t go to town these days, and go to Brighton instead.”

The temporary closure of Portland House, next door to the Wheatsheaf, had hit lunch trade hard but Mr Shiel felt a new buyer would be able to focus more time on the project and build on its 'good foundations'.

He said: “It’s turned round recently. It’s clean, tidy and presentable now. This isn’t a doom and gloom pub closure and I don’t think it will be long before a buyer is found.”

Sadly, the next two sets of owners did not have much luck either and the doors were closed to customers in 2017. The Wheatsheaf is just one of several pubs to close its doors in recent years. Others include The Clifton Arms, The Jolly Brewers, The Dolphin and The Sir Timothy Shelley.