The building on which we focus this month stood at 65 Marine Parade, immediately to the east of Augusta Place.
It was erected soon after Nelson’s great naval victory over the French at Trafalgar in 1805, and was originally called Trafalgar House.
Later, following Princess Augusta’s stay there in 1829–30, it was renamed Augusta House in her honour.
In 1893 it became the Stanhoe Hall boarding establishment, and from around 1901 was known as the Stanhoe Hotel.
A misleading caption
In his indispensable 1945 book ‘Glimpses of Old Worthing’, Henfrey Smail, Worthing’s greatest historian, writes that part of Augusta House was at some point demolished, and that the surviving half became the Stanhoe Hotel.
However, this assertion, which I have repeated more than once in my own writings about Worthing, is incorrect.
The error almost certainly arose because of the misleading caption on the 1861 engraving reproduced at the bottom of page 50 – for the building in the middle of the picture is not Augusta House but Augusta Terrace, formerly Trafalgar Terrace.
Anyone looking at this engraving – and supposing, entirely reasonably, that the building in the centre was Augusta House – would have no alternative but to assume that the eastern side had been demolished at some point before it became the Stanhoe Hotel.
In reality, however, Augusta House is the building on the right of the picture; and it never had more than a three-window-wide façade.
The small house to the east of Augusta House was older than its neighbour.
Originally known as Lelliot’s Cottage, it became Trafalgar Cottage after 1805 and Augusta Cottage after 1830.
Princess Augusta (1768-1840), who stayed at Trafalgar House from November, 1829 until February or March, 1830, was the sixth of the 15 children of George III.
Although she never married, Augusta was, according to her governess, Miss Planta, “the handsomest of all the [six] princesses”.
She was not the first member of the royal family to stay in Worthing.
Her youngest sister, Princess Amelia, had spent four months in Worthing in 1798, and her niece, Princess Charlotte, had stayed for part of the summer of 1807.
On the evening of Princess Augusta’s arrival, the town was illuminated in her honour, as it had been 22 years earlier for Princess Charlotte.
The Spectator published a light-hearted account of the town’s tribute to its new royal visitor in its issue of November 14, 1829. (I have modernised the punctuation to make the report easier to follow.)
“WORTHING – This is a very delightful little watering-place, which in the beginning of November is generally dull and empty; but at present one circumstance especially has induced many families to take houses here, and every day adds to their number.
“The one especial circumstance to which we ascribe this unwonted resort [unusual number of visitors] is a visit from Royalty, the Princess Augusta Sophia having taken up her abode at Worthing, and thereby conferred on it a point of genuine English attraction that even Brighton cannot boast – Brighton, which still looks and longs with an exceeding anxiety for the King [George IV, who had often stayed in Brighton when he was Prince Regent, but now had other commitments].
“The Princess Augusta Sophia arrived on Monday [9 November]; and the collective wisdom of Worthing had previously met and decided that the event would be most fitly honoured – and the attachment of the inhabitants to her Royal Highness and the House of Brunswick best set forth – by an illumination.
“The High Constable, Mr. Thomas Palmer, a glazier, (nothing loth), issued his mandate, and Worthing was illuminated.
“To particularise would be both difficult and perhaps invidious, for many who wished to display their sentiments in transparencies and lamps were disappointed, and obliged to substitute what is vulgarly called ‘lamination muttons, forty to the pound’ [candles made of mutton fat] – but which, when well and judiciously distributed, give a very decent albeit a transient light.
“The hotels, both Parsons’ and the Steyne; the libraries, both Mrs. Stafford’s and Miss Carter’s; the vapour-baths and shops all shone out on this interesting occasion for the credit of Worthing; and the evening passed without an accident, save the singeing of some few petticoats by the fireworks that were thrown among the too happy country girls.”
In ‘Glimpses of Old Worthing’, Henfrey Smail tells us that on her arrival the princess was greeted by the town band, which was headed by the ubiquitous Thomas Palmer.
Smail adds that at the Chapel of Ease – now St Paul’s Centre – three pews were upholstered in red cloth for the use of the princess during her stay; and that when she went to church she was attended by two footmen in powdered wigs and scarlet livery.
The town beadle, Samuel Toler, was instructed to be on permanent duty near Trafalgar House, and the town commissioners had two new lamp-posts with large lamps specially erected nearby for the princess’s convenience and security.
A letter from Worthing
In the letter reproduced below, written by Princess Augusta from Worthing on December 22, 1829, the princess wrote of herself in the third person, as was the royal way.
According to Henfrey Smail, the letter was written to the wife of Rev John Penfold, vicar of Steyning, whose sister, Mary Powell, reader to Princess Augusta’s mother Queen Charlotte, had just died.
In her letter, Princess Augusta says that she feels “great regret at the loss”, while considering it “a blessed release to the individual who has suffered so much, so long and so patiently”.
Mary Powell had asked that her bible should be given to Princess Augusta after her death, and the princess graciously tells Mrs Penfold that “nothing could be more gratifying to her feelings than this old friend having thought her worthy of possessing her bible”.
Princess Augusta ends by expressing the hope that when Mrs Penfold returns to Sussex she will call on her at Worthing and bring the bible with her – “as it will enhance its value coming from the hands of one as dear to Mrs Powell as she knows her niece was to her”.
This last section seems to indicate that Mrs Penfold was, in fact Mary Powell’s niece rather than her sister-in-law; but the relationships are not totally clear.
By the 1870s, the name Augusta House seems to some extent to have fallen out of use, for in Worthing directories of the 1870s and 1880s the building is listed simply as 65 Marine Parade or, before the street renumbering of 1880, 36 Marine Parade.
Like so many other buildings on Worthing seafront, it was by now a lodging-house.
From about 1879 till 1890, this was run by Mrs Harrison, and then for two or three years by the Misses Burton.
Then the building was acquired by Mrs Thimm, who refurbished it comprehensively and opened it in the summer of 1893 as a “high class boarding establishment” called Stanhoe Hall.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the Thimm family owned a house in north London called Stanhoe Lodge.
Located in Southern Road, Fortis Green, it was a substantial dwelling, with three reception rooms, two of which were 27 feet in length (though only 13 feet wide).
In 1889, Franz Thimm died at Stanhoe Lodge, and the following year his eldest son, also Franz, was married in Rangoon in Burma.
The younger Franz was a commander in the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, and would have had no use for a large house in north London, which, as was generally the way in those days, was probably inherited by him rather than his mother.
It seems likely therefore that Stanhoe Lodge was sold after the death of the elder Franz; and that his widow was the Mrs Thimm who opened a boarding-house in Worthing with a name that echoed the name of her old home in London.
Stanhoe Lodge in Fortis Green was itself probably named after a fine Queen Anne house called Stanhoe Hall, situated in the small Norfolk village of Stanhoe; and the exact replication of its name in the Worthing boarding-house suggests that Mrs Thimm must have been aware of this.
Taste and refinement
A guide to Worthing published in 1895 under the title ‘A Descriptive Account of Worthing’ included what we would now call an “advertorial” about Stanhoe Hall, illustrated with the attractive engraving seen above.
The engraving demonstrates that the building was bigger than it looked from the front, extending some way down Augusta Place.
The rooms were large, too. The article tells us that the dining-room on the ground floor had a capacity of 36, and that the drawing-room – which, as often in substantial 19th-century houses, was on the first floor – was a “spacious apartment”.
The advertorial also takes pains to stress the high quality of the furnishings and fitments at Stanhoe Hall.
“Excellent taste and refinement” were “noticeable in every room”, and “valuable oil paintings and other works of art” were on display in the halls, corridors and landings.
The drawing room contained a “new Erard grand piano”, and the billiard-room “an entirely new full-sized table, by Hennig Brothers”.
Thoughtful provisions were made for guests with particular requirements: “Mrs Thimm makes a special feature of Saturday to Monday accommodation, quite unique in the high-class boarding-house arrangements.”
Quite why a weekend break should have been a rarity in high-class boarding houses is puzzling.
Nonetheless Mrs Thimm evidently saw herself as a trail-blazer in this respect.
Another considerate touch was that “a special breakfast” was served “to enable gentlemen to reach London early” – there being a train from Worthing that made it possible for visitors to arrive “in town” by nine o’clock.
After the Thimms
Mrs Thimm seems to have retired or died around 1899, for the management of the boarding establishment was taken over about then by Horace Thimm, who was presumably her son; and it was he that renamed Stanhoe Hall the Stanhoe Hotel.
Horace remained at the Stanhoe till around 1906; and then over the next three decades the hotel went through a number of owners: A. H. Stocker; Mrs Ross; George L. Polsen; and the Misses F. and P. Frankham.
Finally, just before the Second World War, Edlins Ltd bought both the hotel and Augusta Cottage to its east, and the cottage finally became part of the hotel.
However, the new enlarged hotel did not last long, for it was knocked down in 1948.
By 1961, all the old houses between Augusta Place and Montague Place had been demolished, with the exception of the two Montpelier Houses at the end of Montague Place, which survived until 1974.
For many years, most of this empty land was used as an open-air car park.
The bowling alley was built at the start of the 1970s, and around 1980 the new Augusta House block went up on the site of Augusta House and Augusta Cottage.
For the benefit of those with a detailed interest in long-ago Worthing, I add a few notes about the locations mentioned in the final sentence of the Spectator report of November 14, 1829.
In 1829, Worthing’s largest hotel, the Sea House (later the Royal) – which was situated at the sea-end of South Street, where the Royal Arcade now stands – was sometimes known as Parsons’ Hotel, after its then proprietor.
The Steyne Hotel is now the southern end of the Chatsworth Hotel.
The building where Mrs Stafford’s library was located – just to the east of the Dome – is today reduced to a single storey and houses the bus office.
Miss Carter’s library opened in 1812 at what at that time was 12 Warwick Street (now, after re-numbering, No. 25). Today, the building is the Warwick Arms.
In the early 1830s, Carter’s Library moved across the road to Stanford’s Cottage (now Pizza Express), which under successive owners was the premises of Worthing’s main library until the start of the 20th century.
Miss Carter’s library had superseded Spooner’s Library in the Colonnade, almost certainly the library patronised by Jane Austen during her stay in 1805.
After Mrs Spooner died around 1826, Mr Brewer took over the library for a few years, but it closed at about the same time as Carter’s opened.
• Antony Edmonds is the author of ‘Jane Austen’s Worthing: The Real Sanditon’.