Local Quaker History

Until the mid-18th century coastal Worthing was really no more than a fishing hamlet.   Even the fishermen probably preferred to live a few miles inland, away from the risks of foreign invasion and periodic incursions by pirates.   There is therefore little mention of Worthing as such in the earlier periods of the Quaker movement from the 1650s.   The inland settlements which today form part of Worthing borough, such as Broadwater, Tarring, and Durrington, would have been within a day’s ride of places where the earliest Quakers in Southern England are known to have lived or met – Angmering, Arundel, Shoreham, Steyning, and Brighthelmstone (Brighton) .   It is said that William Penn came ashore at Worthing on his return from America in October 1684, continuing his journey from there over land to his house at Warminghurst. 

Worthing itself remained very small and relatively insignificant until around 1800 when sea bathing had become fashionable.   The first known reference to Worthing in Quaker business was a minute in 1901 recording a proposal by Lewes & Chichester Monthly Meeting that a meeting be held there for “our Friends at Worthing who are so seldom able to meet in any of our Meetings for Worship”.   With this prompting, some occasional meetings for worship were held in Worthing over the next few years, but seem to have lapsed by 1909 until after the end of the First World War.

From 1919 meetings were held regularly at the music studio of Alice Dennis in Liverpool Terrace.   The meeting was granted “allowed status” in 1923, and became a Preparative Meeting (formally recognised as a local Quaker meeting) in 1929.   After Alice Dennis left Worthing, the meeting continued in alternative premises until in 1945 funds were provided to enable it to acquire a house in Downview Road.    There the meeting was based until its move in 1957 to the present meeting house at 34 Mill Road.