Worthing Museum and Art Gallery

Worthing’s Museum and Art Gallery is located in the centre of the town, next to the Town Hall on Chapel Road and just a short walk from the Montague and Warwick Street shopping areas. It is operated by the Leisure and Cultural services department of Worthing Borough Council, entry is free and it is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am-5pm. Having first opened in 1908, Worthing Museum and Art Gallery has just recently celebrated its centenary. The elegant Edwardian building houses the largest museum in West Sussex. With thousands of artifacts and objects in its collection, it is able to make a large number display of local and national interest.

The museum has over a thousand dolls that range in date from the late eighteenth century to the 1980s. As well as dolls from famous makers, there are unusual examples such as the peddler doll that has a head made from a pickled apple and a fertility doll that is reputed to have helped an Eliza Westwood to have thirteen children in the nineteenth century. The growing collection of toys includes bears of all shapes and sizes and all sorts of Victorian toys as well as jigsaw puzzles, board and card games. A recent bequest of the Colin Mears Collection of children's books and associated material documents the history of 20th Century Childhood.

There is an excellent display of Worthing’s geological past and how the local chalk downs, Wealden clays and sandstones were formed. The fossil collection includes those that are typical of the chalk hills of the South Downs as well as the tusk and tooth of a woolly mammoth and remains of an Iguanadon. The displays take us through the archaeology of the area with finds from the oldest flint mines in the country (New Stone Age), Bronze Age, Roman and Saxon times. Amongst them are the remains of an Anglo-Saxon long boat that once ferried up to four passengers at a time across the river Arun, an ancient Egyptian glass vase with a Greek inscription, found at the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Highdown and as well as many Roman coins, the Patching hoard of gold coins.

The more recent past of life on the South Downs and the development of Worthing as a popular seaside resort over the last two hundred years or so is represented in a number of displays. There are typical scenes of a Downland kitchen, a Victorian nursery and bathing in the sea as well as a large collection of objects and photographs.

The costume and textile collections date from the 17th century until present day. The diverse costume collection comes from all over Britain and covers a whole range of types of clothing for different occasions. The textiles cover all aspects of needlework, domestic furnishings and pictures in wools and silks.

Upstairs, the collection of fine art not only covers local artists and those linked to Sussex, but also works representing a wide range of styles which includes Bianca (1869), a painting by William Holman Hunt who was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Exhibitions and themed displays of the museum's own collections are frequently held in the Norwood Gallery. The current display celebrates the Museums centenary. Here and downstairs there are many examples of decorative art such as glass and ceramics which include local pottery and souvenir pieces.

To finish the tour of the museum, there is a Sculpture Garden at the back of the building where interesting sculpture exhibitions are held three times a year.