by Ruth Lawrence
Goring-by-Sea, a Borough of Worthing, holds some hidden gems as Ruth Lawrence discovered when she visited the expansive beach and some unique church paintings
Although Goring dates back to Anglo Saxon times, it was only incorporated into the Borough of Worthing in 1927; it has however retained its own character and is now one of the most popular residential areas in Worthing.
The 19th century brought the railway and an extended name of Goring-by-Sea to distinguish it from Goring-on-Thames; the name succinctly describes the town’s ideal location right on the south coast with miles of shingle beach to enjoy.
One of Goring’s most astonishing features is in the English Martyrs Catholic Church. It contains the world’s only hand-painted reproduction of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling painted at 2/3 size to Michelangelo’s original. Local artist Gary Bevans had been to Rome on a pilgrimage when he was 33 and, on his return, and after discussions with Bishop Cormac, his request to reproduce the world famous ceiling was granted. Taking 5½ years to complete, the trained sign writer and artist spent evenings and weekends meticulously copying not only the complex Biblical scenes and figures but also the entire architectural background. The overall effect is breathtaking and Gary deservedly received a special medal from the late Pope John Paul II for his work. Visitors can view the ceiling from April 1st when it opens again to the public and take advantage of the fact that this ceiling is 30ft nearer the ground than the original so that every detail of the 3500sq ft work can be enjoyed.
Just a few streets away, St Mary’s Church boasts a stunning mural of its own, painted in the early 1950’s by a German Jewish émigré artist called Hans Feibusch. After the war, he became known to Bishop George Bell of Chichester who believed that modern artists should portray the images of faith in a new style. Feibusch offered his services as thanks for his welcome in England and his work appears in many churches and secular buildings. The mural is painted in beautifully muted tones and represents the light of Christ in Heaven on a pale blue background; there are also sketches of the work in the choir vestry and it is open for visitors to view it during the day.
The town has a unique natural splendour which dates from the 19th century; namely the best-known avenue of Holm oaks in the country, gracing Ilex Way with a magnificent evergreen display all year round. The oaks escaped being felled in the 1980’s and even won the support of the Queen Mother who was related to the original builder of Goring Hall, David Lyon.
Literary fans will be pleased to discover that Goring was briefly home to one of Britain’s greatest writers of the English countryside, Richard Jefferies who spent his final year in Sea View, a house just off Sea Lane. Twelve years later, the writer W.H. Hudson came to stay at Sea View as Jefferies had been one of his heroes; during his stay he glimpsed an apparition in the churchyard which he claimed to bear a remarkable resemblance to Jefferies. Sea View is now known as Jefferies House and the cul-de-sac in which it stands as Jefferies Lane.
Goring’s flat beach was a favourite place for smugglers and one summer night in 1720, two hundred men armed with guns, swords and blunderbusses assembled on the beach. A large quantity of brandy came to shore and was swiftly loaded onto horses before a customs officer arrived on the scene and bravely challenged the smugglers. These days the shore is a dog walkers’ paradise and jet skiers and paddle boarders skim the waves while families enjoy the sunshine and expansive beach. There is also a wonderful wide greensward by the beach where people can picnic, have barbeques, play cricket, football and frisbee. Goring is a surprising and well-loved town, quiet enough to feel restful but close enough to the facilities of Worthing to cater for every need.
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