A stroll through the history of The Royal Arcade, Worthing

Nestled in the heart of Worthing, the Royal Arcade stands as a testament to the town's rich history and enduring charm. Join us on a journey through the ages as we explore the captivating history of Worthing's beloved, but overlooked, Royal Arcade.

A Glimpse into the Past:

We begin the story around 1748 when it is believed the 'Sea House Inn' was built about a hundred yards or so South of where The Royal Arcade is now.

"It would have been a simple wooden structure with a pitched tar roof - nothing built there was ever seen as permanent. In 1762, Thomas Wicks, a local victualler, took over the cottage and named it 'Sea House'. It later became the Sea House Inn, supplying refreshment to weary fishermen as they returned with their catches day and night" Credit Worthing Pubs

The advancing sea meant that the Inn had to be abandoned and a new Sea House Inn was built (circa 1772) on the site which is now the South entrance to the arcade.

Circa 1785 - The Sea House Inn is the larger building on the right. Credit Worthing Pubs

Circa 1826, the Sea House Inn was demolished and replaced with the splendid 'Sea House Hotel' designed by noted architect, John Biagio Rebecca.

In 1831 Worthing was featured in a satirical piece by noted playwright, John Poole. Poole lived in London and hated street musicians with such venom that he sought out a town that was dull and quiet to escape to. He found that solace in Worthing when he stayed at the Sea House Hotel!

Worthing had a resurgence in the following decades when it was discovered by other Londoners culminating in a stay by Queen Adelaide's for two weeks in 1849. Shortly thereafter, the hotel was renamed the 'Royal Hotel'. 

In the summer of 1862, Marie Amelie Therese, Queen of France, stayed at the hotel, with her entourage of 86, for six weeks.

On Friday, 24 May 1901 the Royal Hotel suffered almost total destruction when it caught fire. A telegraph was sent to the Volunteer Fire Brigade in Brighton and they arrived within 50 minutes. Brighton's Railway Brigade were also contacted and their engine arrived by train 20 minutes later at Worthing station, where it was 'horsed' to the fire. However, despite these valiant efforts, and those of the locals, the hotel was lost.  

 Two fireman survey the damage after the fire. Credit Bygone Worthing & Alf Regis

Credit Bygone Worthing & Alf Regis

The site remained a burnt out shell for over 20 years before it was replaced by The Arcade in 1925.

The Arcade, Worthing. General view looking north west across Marine Parade to the Arcade, with South Street on the right. To the left of the Arcade entrance is Barnes Tea Rooms, to the right Pollards, then Maynards selling 'Chocolates and Toffees', then the Marine Cafe and Restaurant. Pollards interior is still being installed and there is no glass in their windows. Copy of a photograph probably taken shortly after the Arcade opened in 1925. Walter Gardiner Photography Collection, archive number AR468.

 A similar image taken a few months later. Credit Bygone Worthing and Alf Regis


Originally conceived as a bustling marketplace, the arcade quickly became a focal point for locals to gather, socialize, and indulge in the unique atmosphere of the town.

Architectural Elegance:

One cannot discuss the Royal Arcade without acknowledging its architectural splendour. From the moment you walk through the North or South entrance you are transported to a bygone era. The arcade's Edwardian influence reflects the architectural trends of its time.

Edwardian arcades often feature tall, narrow passageways. Their architecture reflects the verticality of the period, with Gothic arches and church-like lancet windows on the upper floor. These elongated spaces create an intimate and unique shopping experience.

Changing Faces:

As the decades passed, the Royal Arcade adapted to the evolving needs of the community. It has housed an array of businesses, ranging from stoic individuals, traditional boutiques and family-run shops to modern cafes and contemporary art galleries. Each tenant has left a unique imprint on the arcade, contributing to its eclectic personality.

Bygone Businesses (a sample)

Circa  Name Description
1900-1940s Genty Sullivan (nee Bacon)  Flower Seller
1925- Barnes Tea Room Cafe
1926-1970s Walter Gardiner  Photography
1960-1994 Silk Shop Dressmakers
1969 Temperance Permanent Building Society
1940-1960s Mitchell’s Tea Room Restaurant / Bakery
Maidmont Coiffures
1950-1960s Caribbean Cafe Cafe
Maynards Sweet Shop
Arcade Cafe Cafe
Annabelle Coats Costumes
1970-1980 McGregors Schoolwear Clothing
1970- Goldilocks  Hairdressers
1980-1990's Rathbone Law Jewellers
1980-2000’s Old Nicks Burger Machine Restaurant 
Spiral Jewellers
Solorama Tanning Salon
Simpson Health Foods Health Foods
Enchanted Wedding Supplier
Artists Artshop & Gallery Arts and Crafts
De-Ponte Cafe
Ginger Pickles Baby Clothing
Top Drawers Lingerie
Pier 2 Computers & IT
Madisons Cafe
Zen Acupuncture Massage Therapists
Saturday 3pm Ltd Toys and Games
- 2023 Burger Mee Take Away
Cherry Bliss Boutique
Vanilla Clothing Shop
MotherRucker Baby & Nursery
Amalia Gift Shop
Glow-up Beauty Salon
Cloud Gallery Art Gallery

Notable Moments:

Throughout its history, the Royal Arcade has been a silent witness to numerous significant moments. From hosting community events to weathering economic downturns, the arcade has stood resilient, becoming a symbol of stability and continuity for Worthing residents.

Genty Sullivan selling flowers outside the temporary arcade in 1901. Credit Bygone Worthing and Alf Regis.

"This is my now famous great grandmother - I think the photo has become iconic of early 20th century Worthing. I doubt that she would have believed that 100 years later she was still being talked about. 

She had a hard life with 6 children to bring up on her own after my great grandfather died aged 41. Originally from Hastings, via Brighton, she married Timothy Sullivan (a travelling knife sharpener) and moved to a boarding house in market street with by then 6 children.

Credit Bygone Worthing and Alf Regis

She was the first flower seller in Worthing and moved to Portland Road after Timothy's death in 1957. She is buried in Durrington Cemetery and according to reports her funeral brought the town to a halt with policeman saluting the hearse as it passed"  Jayne Ross


An image of the aftermath of a gas explosion on the corner of Montague and South Street that occurred in Jan 1950 and sadly killed a passer-by.  

The Royal Arcade Today:

In the present day, the Royal Arcade continues to thrive as a dynamic and cherished part of Worthing's cultural landscape. With a careful blend of old-world charm and contemporary allure, the arcade beckons visitors to explore its diverse offerings and relish in its timeless ambiance.

 Circa Name Description
2022 Arcade Fish Restaurant Restaurant and Take away
1999 Richard John Hair & Beauty Salon
2012 Munch Coffee, Bar & Kitchen
2023 Keep Boutique Ladies Fashion
We have Sound Musical Instruments
Wheelers Clock and Watch Specialists
Pendulum Mens Fashion
Blue Flame Vision Jewellery - Gifts - Glasses
Fred Olsen Cruise Line
2022 Gigglewick Gallery Art and Eclectic Gifts
Heart of Glass Tattoo Artists

Preserving the Legacy:

The Royal Arcade is home to a valuable community of small independent businesses that need your ongoing support. 

Spending money at small independent shops helps circulate funds within the local economy, contributing to growth and sustainability. These shops often serve as community hubs, fostering a sense of belonging and social interaction.

Independent shops often offer unique, hand crafted or locally sourced products providing a distinct shopping experience.

Small businesses are significant job creators and often employ a major proportion of the local population.

Independent shops often reflect the local culture and heritage, preserving traditions and promoting diversity.

Supporting independent businesses, like those in The Royal Arcade, helps maintain a vibrant and economically sustainable community for us all to enjoy. 

Help put the Royal Arcade on the Map

Many visitors to Worthing rely on Google or Trip Advisor to search for places to eat, shop or be entertained. Please, help us by visiting the Royal Arcade and leaving a review on Google and/or Trip Advisor.


As we conclude our stroll through history, it's evident that the Royal Arcade is not just a structure; it's a living testament to Worthing's enduring spirit. With its rich history, architectural beauty, and cultural significance, the Royal Arcade stands as a symbol of the town's past, present, and future. So, the next time you find yourself in Worthing, take a moment to step into the Royal Arcade and become part of its storied legacy.

NB - This page is constantly under review and will be updated as I gather more information. I have made every effort to provide credit for images and narrative. A special thanks to everyone on Bygone Worthing - Facebook. Please contact me if you have any additions or comments. steve@gigglewick.co.uk.