Monday, 2 January 2012

Go Wilde in Lancing

When I learnt that Lancing isn't a town at all, but is in fact a village (it claims to be the largest village in England) everything I thought was a bit odd and maybe even a little eerie about the place suddenly made sense.
     Lancing has a bottomless pond. It has a large and bleak looking retirement home where the residents are lined up in a row of wheelchairs in the front window to stare at the main road ahead for eternity. It has several good charity shops. It's the place where Black Beauty author Anna Sewell lived and where Oscar Wilde's famous lover, Lord Alfred (Bosie) Douglas died.* What I most like about Lancing (apart from the retro children's paradise Brooklands Park aka Diddlyland) is its coastal cycle path.
Leaving behind the relative metropolis of Worthing, Lancing's seafront cycle route is a place where time stands still. It stirs memories of a 1970s childhood, roaming free, scrubbing around in dirt, skipping on concrete and spending every spare moment outdoors under grey skies. It's a place I love and return to when I need to escape people and feel the wind in my hair. I cycle past the Widewater Lagoon nature reserve and on to the wannabe bohemian nesting ground of Shoreham-by-Sea for a cup of tea.
*Wilde's working title for The Importance of Being Earnest was Lady Lancing.

7 comments:

  1. Was Lady Lancing a nickname for Bosie?!

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  2. Not sure. Oscar Wilde was a frequent summertime visitor to Worthing, so I imagine he also knew Lancing well. The area would've been heaving with fashionable types back then! I think Lord Alfred Douglas lived in Lancing for the last twenty or so years of his life, long after Wilde had died.

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  3. I think you will find Cranleigh in Surrey is the largest and longest village in England. Good article.

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  4. Thanks for letting me know. Just Googled and found that Cottingham, Wombourne and others also claim to be the largest village in England! Wikipedia says the title is disputed as there is no standard definition of a village. Hats off to Cranleigh though, and I'll make it clear that it's a claim in the text above.

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  5. koolworthing says
    Bosie hated worthing & made wilde relocate them both to brighton ?possibly to the metropole? one year when they were staying here... (from Ellmans biog. of wilde)

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  6. Interesting. Reportedly Wilde had a number of liaisons with local young men while staying in Worthing including Alphonse Conway, a newspaper boy who later fled the town when news of his relationship with Wilde became a local scandal. Maybe this is one of the reasons Bosie hated Worthing? Though I'm sure that then as now the bright lights of Brighton had their charms over our sleepier (but lovelier) town.

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  7. Gosh, I want to go for a cycle there now- great pics!

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