The Maybridge Estate

Worthing, through the 1920s-1930s, had been rebuilt from a small, rather sleepy seaside town into an edgy, modern town. Today, in the early years of the 21st century, the town’s most iconic buildings are still from that period; the Art Deco frontage of the Connaught, the massive streamlined building on Stoke Abbot Road and the stylish civic Assembly Hall opposite, the interior flourishes of the monumental Town Hall, the Moderne pier cutting it’s way to sea and the landmark buildings along the seafront, from the Rowing Club at Splash Point to the stylish captain’s house at Marine Gardens.

In 1946, everything changed. The Maybridge Estate, built to the west of the town, provided nearly 500 homes for returning servicemen and for the workers at the Inland revenue, being moved out of London into an ex-service hospital nearby. Planned by Charles Cowles-Voysey (something of a social visionary, he also designed Kingsley Hall in London with monastic cells for charity volunteers to live in) the estate has the best buildings in Worthing but has never had the recognition it deserves. It did early on, with buildings being copied for the Olympic Exhibition in 1948 and visited by the royal family, but Worthing has never understood the architectural gem it has.

Of course, this was the fate of most of the post-war council estates. Immediately after the war there was an optimism, but that soon sunk back into traditional views of class. Even when I grew up in the 1970s-1980s in Maybridge, the estate had a tough reputation in a firmly middle class town. Undeserved; we had good solid houses with Crittal windows and outdoor coal-sheds, decent sized gardens and green hedges, playing fields and open space aplenty (although the short-sighted council have slowly filled these in and fenced them off). Stoutly working class neighbours kept us children in check, and swept pavements and polished their doorsteps. I grew up in a house with a black and white telly, a coal fire and an immersion heater for hot water. I never felt badly done by – I had space and streets and friends, a battered Boy’s Club behind my house, and could ride my secondhand bike to the edge of the estate and still find a cornfield and a stream full of leaches and sticklebacks. My wife, the same age as me, lived in well heeled Goring, with MTV, foreign holidays and an early computer. I prefer my childhood.

And that’s because Maybridge was well planned. Cowles-Voysey anticipated a mix of residents living alongside each other, building everything from flats to small bungalows for older residents and lacing them together with green spaces and grass verges. Most of the estate is made up of red brick semi-detacheds, built by prisoners-of-war working for 46.5 hours a week. The first people moved in in 1947; Mr & Mrs Stillwell and their three children were welcomed by the Mayor of Worthing, old man Bentall.

The most long-term residents we knew, two generations living side by side, a dustman and a dinnerlady with an old, old Sussex name, only left when they won the Lottery. My dad still lives there. In many ways, I still do too.

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9 thoughts on “The Maybridge Estate

  1. What a brilliant article. I lived in Maybridge for twenty five years on and off and have many great memories. Still feel at home there and was a great privilege to represent the area on the Council 10 years ago. Similar memories to you Dan….the river swing, the boys club, wandering to John Selden school, playing rounders on the green in the Square and so on.

  2. I’m delivering a lecture at Uni on the UK post war welfare state and came across your interesting article on the Maybridge Estate.
    I agree; its an unheralded cultural gem -much vandalised by the council in their building over precious green spaces (The Avenue for example ) but as an Ex-Quadrant and Selden school boy I still think the original design was brilliant.

  3. I grew up in Brighton for some of my childhood in what is now (allegedly) much favoured Hanover area I would have loved the the open space that the ‘estates’ offered ….nice post brought back memories

  4. i am from maybridge crescent my perent was mr and mrs crowley i had happy memourise of living there i lived there for 21 yrs then lived there for 4 yrs then moved away big mistake i wished i was back there now but i did have a happy child hood there it is funny not many people have a bus stop out side your house

  5. top article dan as like you I lived down the road next to the club, and have loads of memories of this estate, good on ya great reading!

  6. exellent article dan i lived at 41 maybridge square for over 20 years with my brother and 2 sisters, kids today havent lived ,and i think we had much more repect for our parents than todays generation of youngsters .

    1. It was a great place to live and we had a lucky childhood. Well – I say lucky, but our parents or grandparents had fought hard in the Second World War and voted for Attlee to make it happen! I don’t think young people today are any worse than we were, and I am working with lots of them across the country at the moment. They live in a different world, with no free universities, higher unemployment, no council housing to support them as they start a family and little prospect of a career in the future – but are still trying their hardest.

  7. I am very curious of this Maybridge. Many years ago without knowing this place existed I named my band Maybridge. Strange don’t you say? I’d like more history on the name of possible. Please find me on Facebook @ Brian Eckel

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