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Supporting refugees, hosting royalty and inspiring playwrights: Worthing's unique heritage remembered

Released: Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Relatives of Spanish children who were given a safe haven in Worthing fleeing the horrors of war attended the unveiling of a series of commemorative blue plaques in Worthing.

The daughter of one of the children evacuated from the Spanish Civil War in 1937 and welcomed to the town, Sasha Coe, said:

“I wish my mother was alive to see this today. This is a really important day to remember our history and the local people who welcomed the refugees to the town.”

Known as the 1937 Basque refugees, after the region in Northern Spain from which they fled, the group of 60 children lived in Beach House on Brighton Road to escape the Spanish Civil War. They were cared for by local people who provided clothes and helped cater for their needs. At that time the house was owned by the borough council and lent free of charge.

In 1937, more than 4,000 children arrived in the UK to escape the bombing and starvation in the Basque region. At the time it was the biggest-ever single influx of refugees into the country.

The plaque was one of three which was unveiled at Beach House this week, after they were restored by Worthing Borough Council in a partnership project with the Worthing Society.

In addition to remembering the child refugees, the plaques also mark the visit of King Edward VII and residency of playwright Edward Knoblock in the landmark Regency building.

Councillor Paul Baker, the Mayor of Worthing, and Councillor Kevin Jenkins, Worthing Borough Council's Executive Member for Regeneration, joined local residents, members of the Worthing Society and Council officers for the re-dedication and plaque unveiling.

This was followed by a reception hosted in Beach House, now converted into flats, hosted by Barry and Mascha Richards, who have been residents in the house for 26 years.

Cllr Jenkins said:

“It's been a real pleasure to re-dedicate three of the blue plaques, recognising not only the history of this house but the history of Worthing. It's wholly appropriate that as a community we record and celebrate our history. It gives us a sense of place and wellbeing and I hope people will come along and enjoy the plaques.”

Susan Belton, Chairman of the Worthing Society, said:

“I'm delighted to be here today to take part in this re-dedication. The blue plaque trail, which was instigated by our society, is a very visual way of representing our history and shines a spotlight on Worthing's unique character. They also help to tie in our architectural history with our social history to make it more relevant and tangible for the younger generation, showcasing our role in helping refugees, as well as in royal history and hosting a playwright of international renown.”

Meirian Jump was one of the relatives who attended the unveiling. Her grandmother, Cayetana Lozano Díaz, was one of the 125 young women who came over from Spain to help look after the children. Her grandfather worked for a local paper at the time and met his future wife when he reported on the refugees' arrival.

Meirian said:

“My parents came to the original unveiling of the plaques and now I'm here today. My grandmother met my grandfather here in Worthing, so this is a very special occasion for me. It's really nice to be in the building where my grandmother was a young woman when she first came to the UK."

The plaques are part of a wider programme of tourism projects promoting Worthing's heritage for the benefit of residents and visitors.

Photo: A close up of the Beach House plaque dedicated to the Basque children

PR19-020 - A close up of the Beach House plaque dedicated to the Basque children

Photo: Councillor Paul Baker, Mayor of Worthing, unveiling the Edward VII plaque

PR19-020 - Councillor Paul Baker, Mayor of Worthing, unveiling the Edward VII plaque

Photo: Carmen Kilner, Secretary of the Basque Children's Association, unveiling the Beach House plaque

PR19-020 - Carmen Kilner, Secretary of the Basque Children's Association, unveiling the Beach House plaque

Photo: Susan Belton, Worthing Society Chairman, unveils the Edward Knoblock plaque

PR19-020 - Susan Belton, Worthing Society Chairman, unveils the Edward Knoblock plaque

Photo: Councillor Paul Baker, Mayor of Worthing, gives the welcome address

PR19-020 - Councillor Paul Baker, Mayor of Worthing, gives the welcome address

Photo: A group photo taken on the balcony of Beach House

PR19-020 - A group photo taken on the balcony of Beach House

Notes:

Beach House will celebrate its 200th birthday next year. It was built in 1820 and designed by John Biagio Rebecca, the architect responsible for St Paul's Church and Castle Goring.

The Council is running a number of projects in partnership with the Worthing Society to protect the town's heritage. These include work to protect the heritage buildings on Bedford Row, improvising the visibility of the RNLI memorial Stone from the footpath south of Denton Gardens, and refurbishing of some of the town's most prestigious Blue Plaques.

The two other blue plaques commemorate:

Edward Knoblock (1874-1945) a New Yorker by birth with German heritage, was a renowned playwright in his day on both sides of the Atlantic. Knoblock was the first American to establish an international reputation with his play Kismet which became a sensation in 1911. During WW1 Knoblock became a British subject, a Captain the Army and served in the Secret Service Bureau. Knoblock owned and restored Beach House between 1917 -1923

King Edward VII who during his brief reign (1901-1910) visited Beach House no less than six times to stay with his good friend Sir Edmund Loder. His regular appearances in Worthing led to the affectionate nickname from townspeople of Teddy. A big fan of Worthing Pier, King Edward could often be found reading his newspaper and was even known to join in with a game of deck quoits.

(PR19-020)

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