By an odd coincidence, the developer who demolished Warwick house and built on its grounds between 1896 and 1909 was, like Edward Ogle, the great Worthing entrepreneur of a century earlier (who had lived in the house from 1801 until his death in 1819), an ambitious and determined incomer from the north of England.
His name was Ephraim Kellett.
Kellett (1846-1932) came from the village of Wyke, south of Bradford, where he had been born, as indeed were four of his and his wife Nancy’s five children – Harriett (later to marry Edmund Ivens), who was born in 1871; Amon (incorrectly “Amos” or “Arnon” in some records), who was born in 1873, and Olive and Thomas – presumably twins – who were born in 1878.
Soon after the birth of the twins, the Kellett family began the long and circuitous journey southwards that finally brought them to Worthing. Ephraim evidently went wherever the best work and the most interesting projects took him.
The 1881 census tells us that in that year the Kelletts were living in Stourbridge in Worcestershire. Half-a-dozen years later they were in Swansea, where their fifth and final child, Mabel, was born in 1887 (some records have 1888).
In 1891 the family was in Barnes in Middlesex. And then, a few years later, they arrived in Worthing.
According to an informative letter from Edward Kellett, Ephraim’s grandson and Thomas’s son, which was published in the Brighton Evening Argus on December 11, 2002, it was the Worthing typhoid epidemic of 1893 that first brought a Kellett to the town.
This was Ephraim’s brother, Abram (1842-1918), who was a civil engineer and building contractor.
Abram won the contract to build a new water main in the High Street after the epidemic, and it was he who alerted his brother to the fact that Warwick House and its grounds were on the market.
Abram seems to have had some involvement in the large development project that followed, but he himself always lived in Ealing, West London.
Ephraim and his family must have arrived in Worthing no later than 1896, for it was in that year that Warwick House was demolished; and by 1901 he had built the house in Warwick Gardens – a new “Warwick House” – where he lived for many years.
But his home village of Wyke was not forgotten. Edward Kellett points out in his letter in the Argus that Wyke Avenue, one of the streets in the new development, was named after the village from which the Kelletts came.
Hotel and restaurant
Ephraim Kellett was clearly a man who believed in keeping his business activities in the family, as much of the rest of this article will demonstrate.
Only one part of the new Broadway building – either residential or retail – is listed as operational in Kelly’s 1902 directory, which would have recorded the situation late the previous year
This was the Broadway Restaurant and Temperance Hotel, “proprietress Miss Munro”.
This establishment occupied the section of the building just to the right of the entrance to today’s Broadway Mansions – so the restaurant was in No. 6, The Broadway, where Whyte Weddings now trades, and the hotel rooms were on the floors above.
The Temperance Hotel was therefore a modest establishment, no more than a guest-house.
The Miss Munro who managed the restaurant was Mary Munro, who in the 1901 census is listed as “a boarder” in Ephraim’s household at the new Warwick House.
She was already 32 years old, quite old to be unmarried in those days.
Whether she was already Amon Kellett’s betrothed when she began boarding with the Kelletts – or they fell in love only after she came to lodge there – Amon and Mary were married in 1902.
The following year later Mary gave birth to their first child, John, who died within six months or so.
The Temperance Hotel survived for only a few years, and soon all its rooms served instead as the accommodation for Amon and Mary and their family.
Prior to their marriage, Amon had worked as a foreman for his father’s building firm, but after his marriage he abandoned this in favour of the gentler occupation of baker and confectioner, which is given as his occupation in the 1911 census.
By that time Amon and Mary had two living children, Donald (aged 5) and Gordon (aged 1), both of whom seem to have remained in the area all their lives, dying in Worthing in 1967 and 1979 respectively.
The household in the accommodation above the Broadway Restaurant in 1911 also included Gertrude Chailton, a children’s nurse, and Maggie Boyle, a general servant.
Amon died in 1922, ten years before his father, at the early age of 49. Mary survived him by over 30 years, dying in 1953 at the age of 85.
I am aware of only one Kellett who lives in Worthing today, Abram’s great-grand-daughter Judith, who, when she retired here three years ago, did not initially know of the family connection with the town, although has subsequently researched it.
But perhaps there are direct descendants also of Ephraim Kellett still in the area?
Ivens & Kellett
For half a century – from 1901 or 1902 till about 1950 – the most important retail operation on the ground floor of the block was the grocer’s shop at 8-9, The Broadway.
This, helpfully for attracting trade, was prominent for anyone approaching Worthing from the east.
The original partners in the grocery business were Ephraim Kellett himself and his son-in-law, Edmund Ivens.
For some reason Ivens – who was born in Maidstone in 1869 and had married Ephraim’s daughter Harriett in 1897 – did not remain long in the business, the partnership being officially dissolved on March 25, 1904.
The existing trading name – Ivens & Kellett – was retained, however, and, Ephraim’s younger son Thomas replaced his brother-in-law as the proprietor and manager of the business.
The “s” that was added to the “Kellett” in the firm’s name by the time the photograph on the cover page was taken was, incidentally, probably a plural rather than a possessive.
According to Edward Kellett’s letter in the Argus in 2002, “Edmund’s distant relation, James Kellett, and his brother-in-law, F C Childs, also became partners, so the family firm of Ivens, Kelletts and Childs was formed.”
This was during the second decade of the century, and the James Kellet in question was almost certainly Abram Kellett’s youngest son – and thus a nephew of Ephraim’s – who was born in 1885, and so was the right age to join the family firm.
The Childs must have been Frederick James Childs – who had married Edmund Ivens’s younger sister Kate in 1905 – rather than, as Edward Kellett suggests in his letter, “F. C. Childs”, since “F. C.” was Frederick Cyril, Frederick’s eldest son, who was born only in 1906.
Since Edmund and Kate Ivens had both been born in Maidstone – and both were associated with the grocer’s shop and with that end of the building – it is plausible to suggest that that was the reason the accommodation at the eastern end was named Kent Mansions when it was given its “mansions” name just before the Great War.
From the early Ivens & Kellett days, the firm had been a wholesaler as well as a retailer – and indeed the words “Wholesale Grocers” can be seen on the side of one of the waggons on the postcard on the cover page.
A former corn merchant’s premises next to Broadwater Bridge was the firm’s main warehouse, and there was another warehouse at Fareham in Hampshire.
The firm also ran a second grocer’s shop at 81 Rowlands Road.
Chalmers and Whittington
Two other notable early businesses at the Broadway were Chalmers the chemist at No. 3, and Whittington the bootmaker at No. 4.
John Chalmers (1855-1915), who was originally based in Newport in Shropshire, moved to Worthing in 1904, where he took over a shop unit that had briefly been occupied by Mary Swinton, a “trained monthly nurse”.
This curious job description referred to a woman who looked after other women’s children for a short period after birth, although the training referred to in the job description was usually brief and sometimes perfunctory.
After John Chalmers died in 1915, Ivens, Kelletts & Childs themselves took over the chemist’s shop at No. 3 for a few years.
The longest-lived business in the Broadway was that of Frederick Whittington, the bootmaker (1866-1940), and his successors.
Whittington was the first occupant of No. 4 in 1902, and it is likely that he continued to run the business until his death in 1940.
Either way, after Frederick’s death the business continued to trade under the Whittington name until at least the mid-seventies, and probably until the shop was taken over in 1988 by GeeJay Shoes (who only recently vacated the premises).
The Ramsden mystery
No. 7, The Broadway has almost always been occupied by stationers or newsagents; and indeed today Broadway News trades there.
The most celebrated of the occupants of No. 7 was the Ramsden family firm, which set up shop there in either 1902 or 1909. (We will explain the uncertainty about the date in a moment.)
By 1919 the Ramsdens also had a branch at 31 Station Road, Worthing, and about 1922 the main shop relocated from the Broadway to 11 Chapel Road, where the firm traded as Ramsden’s Library until 1957.
The Ramsdens, like the Kelletts, were from Yorkshire, in this case from Wortley – once a separate township, but today a district of Leeds – and it was there that Henry (1846/7-1924), the father, and his sons, James (1873-?) and William (1876-1947) were all born.
After Henry retired, the firm became Ramsden Brothers, one of the most familiar business names in Worthing during the first half of the twentieth century.
Among other things, Ramsden Brothers were keen “vanity publishers” of postcards. Their practice was to ask genuine publishers – most famously the French firm of Lévy Sons & Co – to customise cards with a credit that suggested that Ramsdens were either the sole or the joint publisher.
The credit they requested was, however, surprisingly modest. Sometimes the name “Ramsden Brothers” appears in full, but more often just the initials R. B. W. – the “W” stood for Worthing – with no shop address given.
As already indicated, it is not certain when the Ramsdens first occupied No. 7, The Broadway – and indeed there is something of a mystery about this, which Geoffrey Godden addresses in his book, ‘Collecting Picture Postcards’.
Between 1902 and 1909 the directories list a stationer at No. 7 by the name of J. Armsden.
Geoffrey writes in his book that his initial view was that this was a misprint, the first two letters of the Ramsden surname having been transposed – but he then describes how he subsequently came across a report in a local newspaper in which the shop’s proprietor was referred to as James Armsden.
In spite of this discovery, Geoffrey was not fully persuaded.
It is, after all, a remarkable coincidence that people with almost identical surnames should have succeeded each other in the same business at the same address – and indeed there is a further coincidence in the fact that the mysterious Armsden had the same first name as the elder of the two Ramsden brothers.
It would of course be very odd if James Ramsden did indeed initially do business in Worthing under an alias; but perhaps there was some reason for this.
Certainly a search of old census records offers no James Armsden who could be our man. This, however, is not conclusive proof that James Armsden of Worthing never existed, since a surprisingly large number of people never turn up in census records.
• The paperback editions of Antony Edmonds’s three books are on sale in the reception area of the Herald & Gazette office in Cannon House, Chatsworth Road, Worthing, at the following special prices: ‘Worthing: The Postcard Collection’ (RRP £14.99), £11.50;‘Jane Austen’s Worthing’ (RRP £12.99), £10.50; and ‘Oscar Wilde’s Scandalous Summer’ (RRP £9.99), £8.50.