West Sussex County Council

This timeline documents the history of West Sussex County Council since its early beginning, up until the present day and looking towards the future. To share your stories or your journey, email making.history@westsussex.gov.uk

As an organisation, we are here to make a difference for our residents and our county. ;xNLx;;xNLx;West Sussex County Council is rich in its history, from its early beginnings in the late 1800s to the present day. The County and the residents living here have experienced some major changes as the years have passed. The timeline is split into four sections; 'The Residents of West Sussex', 'The History of our Council', 'The History of our County' and some 'Did you know?' facts, documenting the events that have happened in the past and present and looking ahead to what the future will hold.;xNLx;;xNLx;In addition, this timeline is to show the impact of our staff's work, show what good practice looks like and celebrate our successes.;xNLx;;xNLx;;xNLx;;xNLx;The background pictures on our timeline have been provided by the Oaks Community Photography Project.

1839-01-01 00:00:00

The early days of the West Sussex Police Force

Inevitably, an early concern of the West Sussex Quarter Sessions was the maintenance of public order and the suppression of crime. In 1839, justices of Quarter Sessions were empowered to form a police force in each county.

1848-02-14 15:56:35

Reeve Art School Opens at Lancing College

Lancing College was founded in 1848 by the Revd Nathaniel Woodard and the college has been a staple of the county ever since.

1850-10-01 00:00:00

Early Beginnings - from Norman times

Ever since man began to enjoy a settled way of life, some form of social and political organisation has been necessary at local level to maintain order and to enable the community to determine its future.

1865-05-04 07:43:30

Opening of Bognor Pier

Costing £5000 to construct and taking 18 months to complete, Bognor Regis pier was opened on 4th May 1865. The building of the pier was helped by local labour.

1868-02-15 07:06:29

Building of Lancing College Chapel

The building of the Lancing College Chapel was done so in Gothic style and the building dominates the landscape by the A27 road in Adur Valley.

1873-05-01 00:00:00

Arundel Cathedral Built

The Cathedral was founded by Henry 15th Duke of Norfolk, who had family ties to Arundel due to his family owning extensive estates in the surrounding area. The building was completed in 1873 with designs from Joseph Hansom.

1878-10-01 00:00:00

Frederick Knott was appointed Inspector of Weights and Measures

In 1878, Frederick Knott was appointed inspector of weights and measures for West Sussex, a post additional to his role as a police inspector. Knott's first annual report to the County Council gives us some insight into what he may have done on a typical day.

1879-12-31 19:50:40

Shipley Windmill...

was built in 1879 at a cost of £2,500. It closed to the public in 2009.

1887-01-01 00:00:00

Fontwell Park Racecourse is founded

Alfred Day founded Fontwell Park in 1887 as a man who trained horses at the Hermitage (by the Chichester to Arundel road).

1888-01-01 13:42:46

Local Government Act 1888

As the 19th Century advanced and cautious steps were taken towards the extension of democracy in national and local institutions, the fact that county government was in the hands of non-elected magistrates was increasingly seen to be an anomaly.

1889-01-01 00:00:00

West Sussex County Council is formed

The first council meeting was held on the 4th April 1889 with Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, 6th Duke of Richmond and Gordon taking on the role as Chairmen.

1889-01-01 03:51:09

The First 30 Years

During the first 30 years of the life of the County Council, late Victorian and Edwardian England gave way to the horrors of the First World War. From every town and village in West Sussex, men were called to the colours, many of them never to return.

1889-10-01 00:00:00

Volunteer Fire Brigades

The provision of fire fighting services was not among the duties of the new county council's when they were formed in 1889.

1889-12-01 10:59:39

The Lord-Lieutenant

The office of the Lord-Lieutenant is military in origin and dates from the reign of King Henry VIII, its holder being responsible for the maintenance of order and for all military measures necessary locally for defence.

1890-12-31 00:00:00

The County Council Improves Schools

In 1890, it was decided nationally that better secondary and especially technical education should be provided by the county councils. Secondary education existed only at public schools and at the grammar schools in Midhurst, Horsham and Steyning. The fees were beyond the reach of manual workers, and although there were a few scholarships from the elementary schools, it was clear that many more children had the ability to benefit from further education.

1893-01-27 07:43:30

Typhoid Epidemic strikes Worthing

1893 was known as the 'fever year' in Worthing as they were hit by a typhoid epidemic.

1893-09-01 15:32:09


famous for writing 'The War of the Worlds' spent some of his childhood at Uppark in the county between 1890 and 1893!

1895-01-01 00:00:00

The Health of the County

From the beginning the County Council was keen to tackle the care of the mentally ill within the county. The old Sussex county asylum at Haywards Heath was no longer suitable and it was clear that West Sussex would now have to make its own arrangements.

1895-10-01 00:00:00

Roads in West Sussex

An early priority for the newly formed County Council was to tackle the problem of the county's roads. Sussex roads always had a notorious reputation, especially those in the Weald, where the deep clay made the roads impassable for much of the years. In the early 18th century, the King of Spain took 6 hours to cover the last 9 miles to Petworth House!

1896-11-01 03:06:07

First Moving Picture

William Dickson was the first person to create a moving picture - in black and white. The first film was made in Worthing and shown at the Pier Pavilion in Worthing to mark this.

1897-12-01 00:00:00

Chichester to Selsey Railway opens

Opened in 1897 it ran from its own station in Chichester to Selsey known locally known as the 'Selsey Tram'.

1900-01-01 00:00:00

Arundel Castle

The castle has been passed through many royal hands during its time. It was one of the first English country houses to be fitted with electric lighting, fire fighting equipment, service lifts and central heating.

1902-02-01 00:00:00

Midwives Act 1902

A special committee was set up by the County Council to carry out the general supervision of midwives, the investigation of charges of malpractice, negligence and misconduct, the suspension of any midwives carrying infections, the reporting to the Central Midwives Board of any midwife convicted of an offence, the keeping of a roll of midwives and the arranging of disinfection facilities.

1902-12-31 21:00:40

Christ's Hospital...

although established in 1552, it moved to its present location in West Sussex in 1902.

1903-05-01 15:21:32

Edward 5th Earl Winterton

With the passing of Charles Henry 6th Duke of Richmond and Gordon, a new Chairman was needed. Edward 5th Earl Winterton took over the role in 1903 until 1907.

1904-01-01 00:00:00

Motor Car Act came into force

The Motor Car Act 1903 came into force on 1st January 1904, this important piece of legislation required all cars to be registered and licensed, to carry number plates and warning devices and to be lit up at night.

1905-10-01 00:00:00

Helping the Poor and Unemployed

In 1905, the council set up a committee to co-ordinate relief measures for the unemployed.

1907-01-01 03:39:39

Bosham Sailing Club

In 1907, Bosham Sailing Club was founded and is the oldest sailing club in Chichester Harbour. Its clubhouse is the 'Old Mill' that sits on Bosham Quay and includes a terrace overlooking the picturesque harbour.

1907-05-01 05:05:48

Charles Henry 7th Duke of Richmond and Gordon

Having taken over as Chairman in 1907, Charles Henry 7th Duke of Richmond and Gordon remained as chairman for 10 years.

1908-10-01 00:00:00

Responsibility for Children's Health

In 1908 the Education Committee had begun to take on responsibility for children's health following parliamentary legislation, and inspections of school children revealed that 90% were well-nourished, with satisfactory clothing and footwear.

1910-02-23 03:10:37

District and Borough Councils - What's the difference?

A borough council is usually granted a particular Royal Charter that establishes a mayor.

1911-06-01 00:00:00

First County Medical Officer is appointed

New legislation in 1909 required the county council to appoint the first County Medical Officer of Health. Dr A G R Cameron was appointed in June 1911 and the Health department of the county council was formed.

1914-07-28 00:00:00

The Great War in West Sussex

The effects of the Great War were vast in not only West Sussex but the country as a whole. One of the most documented effects of the war was rationing. Two thirds of the country's food came from overseas, so the war would have disastrous effects on how much food could get here with war happening at sea.

1915-06-18 00:00:00

Racecourses in West Sussex

In addition to the nationally known racecourses at Goodwood and Fontwell, the chalk downland of West Sussex provides ideal conditions for the training of racehorses.

1916-04-01 00:00:00

Purchase of Wren House (Edes House)

Following the appointment of Samuel Thormely as Clerk in 1913, new office accommodation was sought in Chichester and in 1916, Wren House, West Street, Chichester was purchased for the sum of £5,500.

1916-10-01 00:00:00

Collecting the Licence Duties

County Council's were required to collect various duties on licences.

1918-03-01 00:00:00

The new Education Act 1918

In 1918 the new Education Act raised the school leaving age to 14. This was not well received by the County Council who stated that the proposal was "impractical and undesirable."

1919-02-13 00:00:00

Libraries Act in West Sussex

Public libraries had their beginnings with the passing of the first Public Libraries Act in 1850, but this did not apply to county councils and it was not until 1919 that a new Act was passed which gave, for the first time, authority to the county councils to run a rural library service.

1919-10-01 00:00:00

The First Women Elected to the County Council

Women first made their appearance in the Council Chamber in 1919.

1919-12-31 00:00:00

The end of the first World War

In its first thirty years of life, the County Council had established itself with its own Clerk and offices in Chichester and had made a start on the development of a number of what were to become major activities.

1920-10-17 02:49:54

£39 was the average...

yearly wage you could expect to earn in the county around World War One. This works out at 75p per week.

1922-01-01 00:00:00

The County Council and Agriculture

Returning ex-servicemen longed for a bit of England to call their own. Prime Minister Lloyd George had promised them homes fit for heroes and many of them sought these homes in Sussex. County Councils were encouraged to provide small holdings where ex-servicemen could settle and support themselves and their families with small-scale farming activities.

1923-06-01 00:00:00

Rebuild of the Norfolk Bridge at Shoreham

With the First World War over, the plan to rebuild the Norfolk Bridge at Shoreham was given the go-ahead at an estimated cost of £45,000 and the new bridge was open to traffic in 1923.

1925-10-01 00:00:00

Growth of Private Flying

In the late 1920's, with the growth of private flying, a young man called Ronald Waters heard of some land for sale between the racecourse at Gatwick and the Village of Lowfield Heath, which he thought would be ideal for an aerodrome.

1928-01-01 00:00:00

Motor Power comes to the Fire Brigade

After the end of the First World War, fire brigades took an increasing interest in motor power. Burgess Hill and Mid Sussex volunteer fire brigade bought a motor car to tow its steam engine, Chichester and Horsham bought motor fire engines and others soon followed.

1929-01-01 00:00:00

What about the Workers?

Membership to NALGO (National and Local Government Officers), increased from 79 in 1929 to 440 in 1955 and 90% of County Hall staff were members.

1929-10-01 00:00:00

George V came to Bognor

King George V came to Craigwell House at Aldwick to convalesce after an illness in 1929 and he was visited by his grandchildren including the princess Elizabeth, the future Queen, who made sandcastles on the beach.

1930-06-25 10:26:32

New estates created

The building of new estates begun in the 1930s - particularly around Bognor Regis.

1931-12-01 00:00:00

West Sussex launches Better Health Campaign

After 1929, the county council took on vaccination officers, health rapidly becoming one of the council's major concerns. In 1931, the county council went on the offensive with a major drive towards preventative medicine. The council began giving talks to mothers and children and paid schools to distribute copies of a journal called "better health."

1933-03-01 00:00:00

WSCC take over the Poor Law and tackles unemployment

The problem of unemployment in the late 1930's was considered sufficiently serious for the council to set up a special committee on unemployment in March 1933. A list of types of employment available for those out of work was drawn up and included agricultural work in the Arun valley, local authority building projects, sea defence works and the extension of electricity supplies to rural areas.

West Sussex County Council

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