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THIEVES KITCHEN - 10 WARWICK STREET 1808

Today it is known as the Vintner's, but too many of a certain age, it will always be remembered as the Thieves Kitchen. There was a transitional period where it became The Vintner's Parrot. This may have been a nod to its original title of the Vintners Arms. We’re not sure where the parrot fitted in.

The building that graces numbers 10 and 12 Warwick Street today, dates back to 1808 (with a rebuild in the 1830s) and is in fact made of two different properties. The right-hand side began life as Roberts Wine Merchants (pictured), and the left as Worthing & Sussex Bank, later Henty’s Bank. Although the bank had the greater frontage, Roberts extended much further back.

At the time this picture was taken, the taller bank building had become a department store and is just visible on the left side of the photograph.

An early picture of Roberts & Son showing Mr John Roberts centre, Mr Paine, a well known and respected man of Worthing on the left,  and  Mr Burchell on the right. The horses name isn't known!

A newspaper of the time reports Mr Roberts as "One of the kindest hearted and most successful of men. He would generously help fellow traders without security when he thought they deserved a leg up. His example was so high and his judgment so good, that he was never let down."

John Roberts lived at Tudor Lodge, since demolished to make room for the town hall. (Which was situated where the steps lead up to the present Guildbourne Centre at the time)

   

Viewed from the other direction we can clearly see the difference between the two buildings. We note that at this time the store 'Ryland' was a ladies fashion shop.

Roberts specialised in wine and spirits but realised a fuller potential by opening a bar out the back. This was accessed via the corner door where Warwick Road joined Marine Place. The Shop entrance was solely in Warwick Street.

We don't know at what date or which owner/landlord purchased the adjoining building, but it was eventually knocked through creating the building we know today. The name 'Thieves Kitchen' was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the local traders who used to meet up there and discuss business.

   

Down the side of the building in Marine Place we come across this rather unusual piece of architecture. We originally thought that perhaps it was a later edition and a bit of a folly. The plan below shows a simple gated entrance.

   

With special thanks to the the Jefferies family, it became clear that it was indeed an addition, but an early one. We can clearly see the legend 'The Vintners Arm's' above the double door.

The smaller more distant door was the entrance to the flat and rooms upstairs. The double door was for deliveries and dispatched, and the nearest door was the receipt office. We have to remember that Roberts handled large quantities of wine, often in barrels for bottling later.

 

 

   

Retreating further down Marine Place we can appreciate the full extent of the Roberts business. The smaller object just beyond the barrels in the foreground is a delivery tricycle.

   
THE SHOP AND INSIDE
 

 

The shop front in all its original glory. We know in recent memory that the company livery was racing green with gold lettering and there is no reason to suppose that it had been any different at the time of this picture.

   

A magnificent inside view of the shop showing a very wide selection of wines and spirits. I note that this was in the days when chairs were provided

Viewed from the other direction. Hanging from the ceiling are copper measuring jugs. The linoleum floor depicted the Roberts & Sons Trademark.

 

 THE VINTNER'S ARMS

   

At the time, the Vintners Arm's was only on the ground floor. The upper floor later became a 'Chop house' for dining.

Notice the lack of beer pumps, this could only mean that it came directly out of the tapped barrels behind the bar. Real Ale at its best.

 

   

There is no doubt from the pictures opposite that the Vintner's Arm's was far from the lap of luxury! It served a practical purpose with just the basic needs. we notice throughout the use of old barrels for chairs along with a few 'pew' type benches.

Upstairs: Still (I believe) in the Vintner's Arm's era, this room might have been the dining room or 'Chop House' as previously mentioned. The small barrel chair at the end of the table matches those in use downstairs. We know this became a bar much later. Note also what appears to be the use of natural light from above.


Just off the dining room above is this long, narrow room, most likely used for the local traders meetings as they retired to smoke after they had dined. Again we know that a bar was later installed but at the time no bar was present.

Three carved wooden monkey heads adorned the door mantle entrance echoing the saying,  'Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil'. I have it in my mind that this added to the traders meeting place nickname of the 'Thieves kitchen'.

Sadly on our most recent visit, and much to the annoyance of the present manager, the three heads have since disappeared. 

   
 

 

BEHIND THE SCENES
   

Entering the back door from the private car park we find the old disused kitchens. The shaped ceiling gives a clue to its age, as does this exposed beam.



 

   

This section forward from the old kitchen may have been the old dining room before upstairs was opened up. There is no doubt from the beams and the original colouring (age) that this was part and parcel of the earlier life.

Through the doorway ahead lies the modern day stainless steel kitchen which was where the Vintner's Arms bar was possibly situated. Sadly nothing of that remains.

   

Another view of the same room. The lower walls are all brick faced but probably had wooden

 panelling.

   

There is a maze of corridors behind the scenes and you quickly get disorientated. The first and second pictures above originally had doorways into the ladies and gents toilets. The third picture shows a white panel in the wall which is removable and is referred to as the 'drop hole' it comes out somewhere in the cellars, but we're not telling, its a secret.

   

Something else you'll no longer see, The Minstrel Bar. This sign may have greeted many a visitor in the 70s and 80s but the door it rests above is no longer in public use.

   
THE CELLARS
   
The first view that greets you as you enter the cellar.
The wooden hatch at the bottom leads nowhere, it's there to cushion
the barrels as they roll down the ramp (Seen leaning in the right of the picture)
A view from the other end. yes, that arch is incredibly low.
We don't know if the original floor was lower or if it was always this way?
   
Attempting to guide you around the labyrinth of tunnels is a
near impossibility, so we're not going to try. Suffice to say, those not lit by electricity are surplus to the pubs requirements.
In its day as Roberts Wine Merchants every inch was used.
   
   
   
   
   
   
The beer cellar today, but a few years ago it had a different use.
see below . . .
   

Wine being bottled. The man standing at the back sampling the goods is Thomas Jefferies who was the manager and lived above the 'shop' from 1925 to 1947.

Roberts and Son no longer exist. They grew to have around 40 outlets in Sussex and Surrey with local headquarters and warehouses situated in Ivy Arch Road. As with many business, streamlining often takes place, and in 1983, the then parent company, Saccone and Speed, closed the Ivy Arch part of the business. Off licences were then sold with many adopting the Thresher's name - The name Robert's and Son, being lost forever..

The Thieves kitchen was sold in 1977 to
St George's Taverns Ltd, it is now owned by
Green king.

 

   
Tucked along one wall is a small niche with a lintel above resembling
a blocked up fireplace, which in itself would be out of place this low in a cellar.
This of course adds to the ever-lasting rumour of a secret tunnel running under Warwick Street. The current landlord assures us that an experiment involving him and the landlord of the Warwick Arm's across the road, have been able to hear each other shouting through.
Jimmy & Colin from Worthing pubs remain sceptical.
(but we're happy to be proved wrong!)
   
A Store room today, but back in the day it held something a little more expensive. Cases of Dewar's Whiskey, White label (also Dewar's) and Old Rarity. An unopened bottle of Old rarity sold in 2006 for £240. Not forgets the Champagne of course - my how Worthing must have indulged!
 

 

 

 

 
   
THE WESLEYAN METHODIST CHAPEL
   

Not many pubs can lay claim to having their own Chapel and it is unlikely that those who use the Vintners function room are aware of its history.
The dominate Neoclassical building designed by Charles Hide, with its gently tapering windows, was built in 1840 as Worthing's first Wesleyan Methodist Chapel. The smaller white building on its right was the Sunday School. The Chapel replaced an earlier building, the Providence Chapel of 1822 which still stands today in Marine Place. (The Place Youth Club.)

The Chapel ceased functioning around the early 1900s when a new Chapel was built next to Steyne gardens. From this point on it became known locally as Bedford Hall and was used for meetings and auctions.

Going up a disused staircase off the function room we discover the upper floor which has been left derelict for many years and is in a poor cosmetic state. It is difficult to pin down when it was last used but it was possibly for commercial purposes judging by the stud walls and separate toilets.

   
   

Every here and there hints of its past life emerge. Rob Gascoigne, our guide, pointed out these ceiling mouldings. Sadly little of these details remain and will probably be covered up to preserve them as repair is impracticable at present.

   
   

The odd structure above one of the tapering windows (Above right) is shown here in detail. Two (possibly three) metal brackets extend outward. The inside of the clamp had a curved or rounded feature that implies that something like a rope could have passed through it. The smooth surface would prevent chafing. As far as we are aware, the chapel didn't have bells?

If you know anything about this or the Chapel itself we would love to know.

jimmy@worthingpubs.com