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Home <> Lifestory Library <> Pick of The Week <> Butterflies and the first electric lamppost

  Contributor: Norman WarrenView/Add comments

This article was first published in the West Sussex Gazette on April 17th 1997.

A former Worthing resident remembers the first electric street lamp to be erected in the town, and recalls bee orchids and wild thyme growing in profusion on the Downs.

Now living in Emsworth, Mr Norman Warren, whose longevity extends to 95 years, wrote to me enclosing an old picture postcard from early this century, a communication he received through the post way back in August 1912 when holidaying at the Mill Cottage, Findon. Posted by his cousin Leslie who lived at Broadwater, correspondence on the reverse refers to a walk across the Downs to get together.

Downland beauty: So many different wild flowers grew freely in the meadow turf and numerous butterflies winged silently in the air, before the ravages of mankind changed our environment forever.

Norman told me, 'We were to meet for the afternoon and he was to have tea with us before I would have accompanied him part of his way home across the Downs. We would have been walking on short turf, grazed by sheep and wild thyme surrounded by hare-bells, bee orchids and totty grass. We were both keen on collecting butterflies and would see a great variety of these beauties, some of which would be put to sleep in a tin containing crushed laurel leaves, afterwards to be pinned to a cork board! Something we should now be ashamed of.'

Referring to where he sojourned with his family, Norman added, 'I believe the Mill Cottage is still used, on the Downs just outside the village and in the shadow of Cissbury.'

The view on the postcard itself is of South Street, Worthing looking north towards the old town hall.

Bygone Worthing: South Street looking north towards the old town hall very early this century when motorised transport was not yet available. Note the lampposts of the period from which the first electric arc lamps were suspended.

'The postcard is interesting in showing a tall street lamp suspending an arc lamp,' said Norman, 'I remember being shown the first so-called half watt incandescent lamp (wire filament) in Chapel Road, the type then being installed throughout the town.'

'I was 11 years old and was then Master N. Woolgar, the surname of my foster parents, but two years later when the first world war broke out, we had to register, and I deemed it prudent to revert to my real name then in order to avoid awkward explanations about my birth certificate.'

Thankyou Norman for sharing with us such an interesting tale of wild flowers and butterflies in abundance before the encroachment of electricity altered our daily lives, and the effects of producing it damaged the natural environment to such an extent that you are fortunate in having experienced sights and smells that we never shall.

This article was first published in the West Sussex Gazette on April 17th 1997.

Findon farmer: About to work the land near Cissbury, just after the turn of the century when horses were still the main source of power.

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