Southwick archives opened and 20 historic objects put on display for first time

The Southwick Society’s new season of exhibitions at Manor Cottage Heritage Centre opens with a fascinating delve into the archives.

Manor Cottage, in Southwick Street, just north of Southwick Square, is open every Saturday, 10.30am to 12.30pm, from May 25 to September 7.

The ceremonial trowel and mallet used to lay the foundation stone at the council flats in Fishersgate

The ceremonial trowel and mallet used to lay the foundation stone at the council flats in Fishersgate

Three exhibitions are planned this season, with the first being 20 Objects from the Southwick Archive.

Nigel Divers, secretary, said: “The society’s archive collection includes many pictures, maps, documents and other objects relating to the history of Southwick.

“Unfortunately, we do not have room for them all to be on display at the same time. So, we have taken 20 objects which have not been exhibited before to form a new exhibition. Each tells a separate story about the town and will be shown with a description and other information.”

See the ceremonial trowel used by Bill Lewis, the chairman of Southwick Council in 1958, to lay the foundation stone at a new block of council flats in Fishersgate.

A paper bag from World's Stores in Albion Street

A paper bag from World's Stores in Albion Street

This marked the start of the major redevelopment of Southwick and Fishersgate, a scheme that was proportionate to the size of the town and one of largest in the country.

Nigel explained: “Large numbers of old houses in Fishersgate and along Albion Street were demolished and replaced with new houses and flats, practically all of the town south of the railway was redeveloped.

“In addition to new housing, the Southwick Square shopping centre was built to replace the shops that once lined Albion Street.”

Another exhibit is a large brass plaque commemorating the gift of a chimming town clock, placed in the tower of Southwick Town Hall, in Albion Street, in 1906. This was a symbol of civic pride for the newly-created Southwick Urban District Council.

Nigel said: “The clock is still there but alas the chimes were silenced long ago, as local residents complained about the noise.”

A cast iron street sign for Norfolk Terrace serves as a reminder of one of the many groups of small houses built in the 19th century, as Southwick expanded rapidly from a tiny farming village of 100 people into a new town.

This short stretch of two-storey houses faced the coast road near The Schooner pub but they were demolished during the 1960s as part of the redevelopment.

Nigel said: “This exhibit will also recall one the families who once lived there. Charles Bennett was the son of a farm labourer, Daniel Bennett, who moved from Eartham, near Chichester, to Southwick in the 1860s. Ultimately, Charles and his family established a builders merchants in the town.”

Other exhibits relate to the first power station in Southwick, one of the former shops in Albion Street and life in wartime Southwick.

The 20 Objects from the Southwick Archive exhibition is open until June 29. Admission is free but donations are requested.

The exhibition programme continues with A Brief History of Champion House from July 6 to 27, and Historic Buildings Around the Green, from August 3 to September 7.

Visit southwicksociety.btck.co.uk for more information.