Worthing's 'battleaxe' conservationist Pat Baring honoured with blue plaque
A 'battleaxe' conservationist who founded what is now the Worthing Society has been honoured with a blue plaque at her former home.
Pat Baring was a thorn in the side of Worthing's planning department, campaigning to preserve the town's historic buildings throughout the sixties and seventies and playing a major role in saving Beach House an Marine Parade and Bedford Row.
Her dogged determination was best remembered when she staged a sit-in by a Victorian lamppost in Farncombe Road to prevent it being demolished.
She founded the Worthing Civic Society in 1973 to drum up support for her cause - and more than four decades later, its offspring, The Worthing Society, organised a blue plaque for her which was unveiled outside her home in Church Walk, Worthing, yesterday.
Susan Belton, chairman of the Worthing Society, praised her predecessor's 'magnificent contribution to Worthing' and said 'she wished she had known her'.
She said: "I think 2018 is a very apt year to remember Mrs Baring. It is a year when we celebrate the suffragette movement, and what women have achieved in the last century since getting the right to vote.
"From what I have learned about her, her character, strength, and courage in standing up to the planning department and councillors of the day, Mrs Baring was very much in that mould."
The mayor of Worthing, Paul Baker, pulled the cord to unveil the plaque. He said he was still at school when Mrs Baring 'was at the height of her powers', but recalled reading about her exploits in the local press.
He said: "I can best describe her as Marmite: loved by many, not liked by some, but everybody that remembers her and dealt with her wouldn't question her tenacious attitude and her passion for Worthing, its buildings and the conservation she was a tremendous force for, which will never be forgotten."
Gesturing at the lamppost she saved a few yards away, he said: "I can almost see her there now, waving her stick in total approval of what is happening in Worthing today."
James Thomas, 84, and his wife Barbara Ann, 77, are Mrs Baring's nephew and niece-in-law, who were 'absolutely delighted' to attend after being tracked down by the society.
He remembered his aunt fondly, but admitted she was seen as a 'bit of a battleaxe, even within her own family'. He said she had always been a single-minded woman, moving to the United States of America for a spell when she was working in HR as a personnel director and marrying an American man before moving to London, and eventually Worthing.
Robert Harris, 63, and his wife Stella, 57, are the current owners of Mrs Baring's house, having bought it five years after she died in 1982, aged 87, and restored it to her exacting standards.
Stella said: "Her ghost is probably here, but I don't think she would object to anything we have done."