The Haven, Worthing

The Location of the Haven

The blue plaque commemorating Oscar Wilde’s holiday in Worthing in 1894 during which The Importance of Being Earnest was written is regrettably affixed to the wrong part of the hideous modern building that stands on the site of the terrace where Wilde stayed. This was as the result of incorrect deductions made in 1994 when the blue plaque was commissioned.

“The Location of the Haven” – Appendix E in Oscar Wilde’s Scandalous Summer – is a slightly revised version of an article published in The Wildean, No. 39 in July 2011. Although this piece is too detailed for all but the most determined, it was important that the full evidence be set down in order that posterity should never be able to question where the Haven stood.

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A Speculative Reconstruction of the Haven

During preliminary discussions for an Oscar Wilde in Worthing festival that was planned for 2017 but had to be postponed, Antony Edmonds suggested to the festival’s director, Melody Bridges of Worthing World of Words (WOW), that it would be of much interest if an expert could be found to try to re-create the layout of the Haven, the house where Oscar Wilde and his family stayed in the summer of 1894, using the evidence of old photographs and references to the house in contemporary sources.

Melody contacted the distinguished buildings archaeologist Fred Aldsworth, who brought to the project not only a lifetime’s expertise but also immense energy and enthusiasm. The resulting article, which is illustrated with numerous architectural drawings, is published here for the first time.

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Notes on the Photographs at the Bottom of the Page

In the first and fourth of the photographs below, the Haven is the house between the two tall chimneys. By the time of the first photograph, which dates from the 1930s, the Haven had been renamed Esplanade House. By the time of the second, which dates from the 1940s, the Haven and the house next door together comprised the Esplanade Hotel – which eventually occupied the entire terrace, before being demolished in the late 1960s.

The other two photographs, both taken ten years or so after Oscar Wilde stayed in Worthing, show the section of Brighton Road where the Haven stood. The view on the right of the first row looks east, with the Haven on the right of the picture. The view on the left of the second row looks west, showing – on the left – the end of the most easterly of the four semi-detached houses that stood just east of the Haven. Viewers of these photographs can get their bearings from the fact that the lamp-post two-thirds from the left edge of the first of these two photographs is the same lamp-post as is just visible two-fifths from the left edge of the second.

Four shots showing the location of "The Haven" in The Esplanade, Worthing.