Worthing's 'Doctor Who of time travel' takes people back to see how the town looked in the early 1900s

​​Around 250 old photos of Worthing took people back in time to the early 1900s as Indigo Bistro & Bar hosted All Aboard the C1850 Time Machine with a two-course lunch.

Guests were treated to a talk and slideshow created by Ian Richardson, with stops including Steyne Gardens, The Broadway, Warnes Hotel, the Kursaal / Dome Cinema, South Street, Montague Street, Warwick Street and the old town hall.

Described as Worthing's Doctor Who of time travel, Ian has possibly the largest collection of photographs of Worthing and surrounding areas in the country.

He runs two groups at East Worthing Community Centre, the Surfleet Historic Worthing & District Group and the Surfleet Transport 5021 Group. Over 25 years, he has amassed a personal collection of literature and hundreds of photographs covering Worthing and the surrounding district.

Ian was born in Worthing and the Surfleet name comes from a bookshop he used to visit as a child. Photographer Eric Surfleet, a bus enthusiast and local historian, ran the bookshop in South Street, Lancing, with the telephone number Lancing 5021.

Ian said: "People so enjoyed the camaraderie at the shop over the years that after it closed, I thought it would be a lovely idea to name my groups after it."

The talk at Indigo, in the Ardington Hotel, was a pilot project, an hour-long slide show with pre-recorded information about the history of Worthing.

Ian said: "It was an experiment. I have been doing live talks for years but this one had a time limit of an hour so the aim was to provide a package that can then be used elsewhere, at nursing homes for example.

"My intention is to focus on the nine villages that make up Worthing, so this can be kept for future generations to enjoy, and not just the pictures, the background of them. I want to encourage people to find out about and understand the history of the area."

The slideshow opened with a view of Liverpool Gardens from the early 19th century, showing fields sandwiched between buildings running up to the Worthing Chapel of Ease, now The Venue.

A number of theatres were featured, including the Old Theatre, in Ann Street, opened by Thomas Trotter in 1807. Ian showed play bills, which gave an insight into the productions, and a picture of a bust of Shakespeare, which sat at the top of the theatre but was lost when the theatre closed down in 1953.

Ian said: "Lots of Ann Street was lost at the coming of the Guildbourne Centre and, unfortunately, the history of Ann Street and South Place was completely destroyed by the build that was done in the mid-1960s."

In the same road, which was named after the wife of Edward Ogle, who financed the theatre, stood the first Worthing Dispensary, before it moved to Chapel Road, and the police station, which was besieged by the Skeleton Army during the riots of 1884.

There was also the entrance to Worthing Market, which opened in 1820 and had a pump in the middle.

Ian said: "Every morning at 9 o'clock, the town crier used to announce the various sales that were taking place in the market. Butchers came from many villages, including Thakeham and West Chiltington, fishmongers, greengrocers, fruiterers, poulterers came from Findon and Bramber, and you could buy china and crockery."

There were photographs of Warwick Street and High Street, including Searle's Garage, with the iconic gasometer behind, on the site now occupied by Waitrose.

There were pictures of Splash Point with the waves crashing up, which Ian said indicated the reason for the name. "It was a place where people went to watch the waves and the storms," he pointed out.

Two of the early libraries were shown, the Colonnade library, where Colonnade House is now, and Stafford's, the remnants of which are used by Stagecoach as offices.

Ian said: "It was a very impressive building and, surprisingly, the ground floor is still in existence. The area is called Library Place and that reflects the history going back to 1780 and one of the first libraries in Worthing.

"Those who could read could enjoy the books in the library but there was also music, games, sales, lotteries, and in 1798, we had our first post office, which actually operated from the library."

There was a picture of the Royal Hotel, at the bottom of South Street, which was built in 1829 and welcomed Queen Adelaide as a guest in 1849. She occupied 40 rooms and after her visit, it became the Royal Sea House Hotel.

There were several pictures of the Rivoli Cinema, in Chapel Road, including the fire that devastated the building in January 1960.

Ian said: “The Rivoli Cinema opened in 1923 with a resident orchestra and its own restaurant. Very different to many other cinemas, it had an open roof to let fresh air in. Its capacity seating wise was 1,680, so imagine all those smokers in those days, it would be a fog.

"It had a dome on its roof, which was quite a landmark, really, and could be seen from a long way away. It had a manual hand pump, manual pipe organ, but sadly this was destroyed by fire on January 19, 1960.

"The global ball was taken down in 1965 and the building itself was demolished in 1984.”

A dramatic picture of a biplane flying over Worthing in 1911 captured the time when The Kursaal was being built by Carl Seebold, with its skating rink and electric theatre. You can see the frame of the iconic dome for which the Dome Cinema is now famous far and wide.

The Surfleet Historic Worthing & District Group meets at East Worthing Community Centre, in Pages Lane, on the third Monday of the month from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. For more details, email [email protected]