Worthing's Horror Connection

Lady Colin Campbell, Jamaican born socialite, writer and tv personality has just featured in an ITV show about the trials and tribulations of refurbishing Castle Goring, on the outskirts of Worthing.

There were some moving scenes as the stress of the multi million pound project began to show and social media delighted in some of the more ‘dramatic’ moments. It made for fantastic tv!

The castle has, as you would expect, a fascinating history as our friend Chris Hare, local historian and author explains;

Sir Bysshe Shelley (father of the poet) had built Castle Goring in 1797 at the cost of £90,000, which in today’s money would equate to about £10m. It was designed by John Rebecca, regarded as one of the most eminent and respected architects of his day. Castle Goring’s most striking feature is that the northern elevation is built with flints in the neo-gothic style, while the southern elevation is built of Worthing yellow brick in the classical Palladian style.

Today it is one of only three Grade 1 listed buildings in the borough of Worthing and regarded as being of national importance.

Percy Bysshe Shelley is today remembered as the romantic poet who drowned in a lake in Italy having been led astray by the headstrong and self-destructive Lord Byron. He is also remembered for having married Mary Godwin, the daughter of the political radical, William Godwin and his wife, Mary Wollstonecraft, who is generally considered to be the founder of modern feminism. Mary Shelley – as she became – went on to write Frankenstein and other, less well known novels that dealt with issues of power and gender.

Sir Timothy Shelley inherited Castle Goring on the death of his father in 1815, but he had little love for the ‘house with two faces’ and chose instead to live at the other Shelley mansion – Field Place near Horsham. Despite being an absentee landlord, Sir Timothy was appointed this first chairman of the Worthing Town Commissioners (the forerunner of the present council) and is remembered today in the ‘Sir Timothy Shelley’ pub in Chapel Road. Sir Timothy’s eldest son, Percy, seems to have enjoyed staying at Castle Goring – perhaps its tospsy-turvey gothic / classical mix appealed to his wild nature?

The young poet had his first works published by a printer in Warwick Street in Worthing.

Percy Bysshe was totally opposed to all the old order of government, in his poem ‘The Mask of Anarchy’ he railed against the ‘rotten system’ and all the people, like his father who supported it.

The political poet died before his thirtieth birthday but his father lived to be 90, only dying in 1844. As an old man, Sir Timothy lived to see the Swing Riots, when hungry and unemployed farm labourers roamed the countryside in gangs demanding redress.

Rioters at Horsham forced old Sir Timothy and other landowners to accompany them to Horsham church where the rioters leaders, masked or with blackened faces, demanded that Sir Timothy and his fellow landowners meet their demands or perish. Anarchy had indeed come to rural Sussex.

In 1800 over four centuries of tradition came to an end when the Shelley’s sold nearby Michelgrove to the wealthy Walker family of Liverpool, whose money had made as trading merchants. Castle Goring had been completed two years earlier, so perhaps the family thought that two mansions was excessive? Eventually the Walkers, overspending and profligate, were forced to sell to the Duke of Norfolk, who seems to have taken some delight in having Michelgroe demolished. Today all that survives are the lodge gate houses (today much extended and converted for modern use), a section of crenelated wall and the old stable yard.

Lady C’s tenure is just the latest chapter in the history of this beautiful, fascinating local property and thanks to ITV, we have been able to see it in all its stately, if somewhat distressed glory.

With thanks to local historian and author Chris Hare for this information.

Missed the show? Catch it on ITV Catchup until the end of September.

Frankenstein Image Credit

Castle Goring Back Entrance Credit

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