The Cannon and the Black Hole

The Cannon Brewery, on the north side of Cook's Row
The Cannon Brewery, on the north side of Cook's Row

Most surviving photographs of Worthing from a century or more ago depict areas of the town of which its citizens could feel proud.

This can give the misleading impression that all the buildings were handsome, and that the streets were full of elegant ladies in long dresses.

Cook's Row in 1894, looking west from High Street

Cook's Row in 1894, looking west from High Street

In reality there were some very deprived areas in Worthing in those days. The closest of these to the heart of the town was a street called Cook’s Row, which was where Chatsworth Road now is. Or more or less, for, while the western end of Cook’s Row exactly followed the line of Chatsworth Road, its eastern end was more complicated.

The first photograph shows a view of Cook’s Row looking west from the High Street. The building at the end prevented the eastern half of Cook’s Row continuing in a straight line into the western half (which led into Chapel Road).

When these photographs were taken in 1894, therefore, the far end of Cook’s Row was reached by following the lane round to the right and then doing a U-turn past the Cannon Brewery, which is out of sight just to the right of the picture.

The photograph of the Cannon Brewery was taken from about half-way along Chatsworth Road, with the photographer facing north-east (the front of the Cannon Brewery stood at an angle to Cook’s Row).

By the end of the century this dilapidated little street was becoming an embarrassment to the town, and in 1894 the decision was taken to demolish nine of the houses. These were the houses on the left of the first picture, which are shown on the OS map of 1860-62 but are absent from the 1896 map.

After these houses had been demolished, the central section was reconfigured so that the street ran more directly to Chapel Road, although there still had to be a minor jink in the middle of the street where it had to go past the building at the end of the first picture. This jink was now left and then right, not right and then left, as had been the case with the earlier more major jink.

Meanwhile the brewery – also demolished in 1894 – was rebuilt as the Cannon Inn. This time the building faced due south.

The Cannon Inn later became a café. This closed in 1935, and in 1949 the building was bought by the Worthing Gazette, before being demolished 25 years later to make way for the present offices of the Worthing Herald.

During the first few decades of the 19th century there was another interesting building in Cook’s Row. This was the Black Hole, a small building that served as a lock-up where vagrants and wrong-doers were imprisoned.

When, in 1815, a generous resident presented the town with its first fire engine, this was kept alongside the vagrants in the Black Hole, which thereafter had the grand title ‘The Black Hole and Engine House’.

However, the Black Hole served these joint purposes for only 20 years. After Worthing’s first town hall opened at the top of South Street in 1835, Worthing’s prisoners and its fire engine were accommodated in the lower part of the new building.

The town commissioners – the town council of those days – had cause to regret these new arrangements, since the smell emanating from the rif-raff confined below the chamber was often so bad that it distracted them from their deliberations.

Buildings of Old Worthing, Part 10

by Antony Edmonds

adtedmonds@gmail.com