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Former Worthing Library, Museum and Art Gallery

A Grade II Listed Building in Worthing, West Sussex

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Latitude: 50.8142 / 50°48'51"N

Longitude: -0.3717 / 0°22'18"W

OS Eastings: 514807

OS Northings: 102891

OS Grid: TQ148028

Mapcode National: GBR HMH.W9L

Mapcode Global: FRA B63Y.90J

Entry Name: Former Worthing Library, Museum and Art Gallery

Listing Date: 17 March 2016

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1429753

Location: Worthing, West Sussex, BN11

County: West Sussex

District: Worthing

Electoral Ward/Division: Central

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Worthing

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Sussex

Church of England Parish: Worthing Holy Trinity with Christ Church

Church of England Diocese: Chichester

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Former Worthing library, museum and art gallery, by the architects Crouch, Butler and Savage, the library funded by Andrew Carnegie, opened on 14th December 1908.


Purpose-built library, museum and art gallery, 1908, by Crouch, Butler and Savage, the library in part funded by Andrew Carnegie.

MATERIALS: the main elevations are in red brick in English bond and ashlar, with Portland stone and rubbed brick dressings, slate roofs and oak joinery, fixtures and fittings.

PLAN: originally 'U'-shaped with the principal elevation facing east, now rectangular in plan, with a later C20 northern extension. The building is laid out with the former library to the south and the museum and art gallery to the north, each with a separate entrance and internal plan. The smaller scale and simpler decoration in the library suggest primacy for the museum which was intended for display.

The library appears to have had an open ground floor space divided by open arcaded bays and two principal first floor library rooms, the larger room-top lit. The museum and art gallery had an entrance hall and a separate room in the space now occupied by the foyer, with the principal museum room and top-lit gallery on the first floor, with a later third gallery added to the north-east c1960.

EXTERIOR: the main range is of two storeys and symmetrical in five main bays arranged 3:1:4:1:3, with three bay returns, in Edwardian Baroque manner. On the south return the library continues in five irregular bays; on the north return the main gallery continues in four bays, with a further three-bay extension beyond.

The front range is executed in high quality red brick with window surrounds in flush rubbed brick and with ashlar quoins, cill band, and deep modillion cornice. The entrance bays, in ashlar, break forward slightly and have giant order rusticated pilasters each supporting an open pediment, also with a modillion cornice. Originally identical, the museum has a semicircular Ionic portico; circa 1960 the portico was removed from the library entrance, where only the pilasters remain, supporting a shallow cornice. Each has a segmental arched doorcase within an eared architrave and a pair of oak doors, panelled below and glazed above, beneath a segmental fanlight. The first floor has a six-over-six pane sash within an eared architrave, and within the pediment is an oculus beneath a swagged garland. Sash windows are slightly recessed with heavy moulded glazing bars in early C18 manner, in six-over-nine panes on the ground floor, where they have shallow stone aprons and pronounced keystones, and predominantly six-over-six on the first floor. Oculi flanking the entrance bays have moulded stone architraves beneath richly carved foliate swags. Centrally placed on the roof is an open-sided Tuscan lantern with a domed roof surmounted by an ornate weather vane.

The south return is in three symmetrical bays with narrower outer sashes. The reference library is set back slightly. Outer bays have narrow first floor sash windows,and an entrance in the western bay has a part-glazed door of three-over-two panes over two moulded panels, beneath a swept canopy. The ground floor has tripartite sash windows, while on the blank upper floor the bays are indicated by stone swags.

The north return is in three sections. The main range is in three equal bays; the main gallery is slightly set back and in a more utilitarian red brick. In four bays, with full height buttress pilasters, it has tall ground floor blind arcades with tripartite windows, and a blind upper floor. Beyond it is a later C20 wing in buff and red brick with flush red brick round arched blind arcades. It has two tripartite windows and a stone doorcase beneath an overlight and shallow canopy in the left hand bay. The rear elevation, extended to infill the void, has an entrance beneath a splayed canopy leading to a small garden.

INTERIOR: the entrance lobby to the former LIBRARY has a moulded ceiling, with a pulvinated oak leaf frieze and a terrazzo floor. Mounted on the wall is a bronze commemorative panel with a richly moulded cartouche. The inner hall is defined by wide segmental-arched openings with eared architraves, moulded pilasters and cornices; a similar regime articulates the ground floor space to the rear, which is subdivided by later or temporary partitions to create the current education room and stores. Later interventions, when the library was enlarged, enclosing the space between the wings, have shallower mouldings.

Stone stairs with a slender steel balustrade of alternating balusters and open panels with scissor bracing and a central rosette, and ramped, moulded timber rails lead to the former Reference Library and Reading Room (Sussex Room) on the first floor. The names of the rooms are just legible above the doorways. The Reference Library to the rear is a top-lit space in five bays, divided by a Tuscan screen at each end. Blind walls suggest that it was lined with bookcases. It has a glazed segmental roof of robust moulded ribs and glazing bars supported on moulded pilasters. The doorcase has a tall entablature, on which the name of the room is inscribed. The former Sussex Room, in the front range of the building, has a coved ceiling and moulded cornice, an oak segmental arched doorcase with an eared architrave and oak, part-glazed doors. Walls are lined in glass-fronted oak bookcases and cupboards.

The MUSEUM and ART GALLERY, which was designed for display, was more lavishly fitted out, in the Tuscan order on the ground floor and Ionic order on the first floor. The entrance and stair hall and former ground floor room, now one space, is lined with Tuscan pilasters and has deep moulded cornices. Stairs similar to those in the library rise to a gallery occupying the front range, articulated by Ionic screens. A moulded oak doorcase with an eared architrave and a pair of panelled doors leads to the main gallery space to the rear. It is top-lit, with a coved ceiling and flat glazed section, with moulded ribs supported on shallow pilasters which are partly concealed by museum fittings*. Beyond it the museum has been extended and houses the Norwood Gallery which was refurbished in postmodernist manner in the 1990s*.

Throughout the building oak doors have bronze and brass door furniture including brass plates bearing the Borough crest depicting three silver mackerel and a horn of plenty.

* Later C20 and C21 fixtures and fittings and interior decorative schemes, lifts, disabled access, services and plant are not of special interest are excluded from the listing.

* Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that these aforementioned features are not of special architectural or historic interest.


Worthing library, museum and art gallery, designed by the architects Crouch, Butler and Savage, the library funded by Andrew Carnegie, opened on 14th December 1908.

The Libraries Act of 1850 gave local corporations the power to raise funding for the development of libraries although only 125 were built between 1850 and 1887, the imposed penny rate often limiting the means of poorer local authorities to build libraries. However Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887 prompted a wave of celebratory libraries, while the Libraries Act of 1892 gave greater freedom to local authorities to raise funds. In parallel, support emerged from wealthy benefactors such as Andrew Carnegie, who believed in education for all via access to free libraries, such that the number of libraries expanded rapidly in the late C19 and early C20.

Museums and art galleries were also assisted by an Act in 1845 which allowed local authorities to levy a rate to build them. Similarly, funding and land was often provided by local benefactors, providing a cultural focus for art and literature within a town, and a point of civic pride. Whilst often housed in separate buildings, in some cases regional galleries were built in conjunction with a public library, such as the Harris Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, Lancashire1882-93 (Grade I) and the Beaney Institute, Canterbury, Kent 1897 (Grade II).

In the Georgian period Worthing developed from a fishing village into a fashionable seaside resort, assisted by a visit from Princess Amelia, the youngest daughter of George III. With the establishment of a turnpike to the north, and the creation of Chapel Road in 1805-6, the town began to expand, and like many small towns in the early C19, it had a reading room. In the 1870s a new library was built, but in 1890 Worthing was granted Borough status, providing a further catalyst for civic development. A public lending library was first established in 1896 in Rowland’s Road, transferring to the newly acquired Richmond House, Chapel Road the following year, with a reference library added in 1898.

In 1902, despite the existence of a public library, Marian Frost, assistant librarian and curator of a nascent town museum collection, persuaded Andrew Carnegie to fund a new library. The first Mayor of Worthing, Alfred Cortis, anonymously donated a substantial sum to fund a museum and art gallery, and the completed building, a combined library, museum and art gallery, opened in 1908, replacing the previous library. The space occupied by the library became part of the museum in 1975, when a new library, designed by Frank Morris, was built adjacent to it in Richmond Road.

During the course of the C20 the area become the civic centre of the town, with the addition of law courts and clinics, the Town Hall and Assembly rooms, 1935 (Grade II).

The Birmingham based practice of Crouch, Butler and Savage, designed a number of libraries, including the Public Library, Malvern, Worcestershire, 1905-6, Rawtenstall Public Library, Lancashire, 1906, and the District Public Library, Wednesbury, Sandwell, West Midlands of 1907, all listed at Grade II, as well as Birmingham Gaiety Concert Hall and numerous schools, chapels, warehouses and private house in the Birmingham area.

Reasons for Listing

Former Worthing library, museum and art gallery, 1908 by the architects Crouch, Butler and Savage, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: an imposing symmetrically-composed civic building, executed to a high standard in good quality materials in a revivalist Baroque manner;
* Interior interest: a paired library and museum and art gallery, each with a top-lit reading room or gallery, the use of the former library rooms indicated on the doorcases;
* Fixtures and fittings: classically informed interior spaces with oak joinery, the door furniture bearing the Borough crest;
* Historic interest: a Carnegie funded library, but unusually replacing an existing library, at the instigation of the librarian and museum curator Marian Frost;
* Group value: the earliest of a strong group of civic buildings and an expression of civic pride.

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