About Heene Cemetery

Heene – before the expansion of Worthing 1830

Old cottages on a dirt road, Heene Road, in Worthing.

The village of Hene

The village of Hene is recorded in the Domesday book, and the word in Anglo-Saxon may indicate that it began on a high point above sea level, currently 35 feet.

No medieval buildings survive, the oldest cottages in Heene Road date from c1700.

During Elizabethan times, the area had 60 households with common land (known as salt grasses) and orchards. At the same time farming methods changed, and the Lords of the Manor began to enclose the lands for greater profit, destroying houses as they did so.  The dispossessed residents built hovels in an area called Rough lands, near where the Brunswick Inn was. This area later became Rowlands Road.

The population never recovered, and in 1801 there were 16 households with a population of 101 residents.

In 1830 William Westbrook Richardson owned the Manor of Heene, and sold a large part of it for residential development to a business syndicate, The Heene Estate Land Company, which then sold it in 1864 to West Worthing Investment Co. Ltd., with a condition laid down relating to the construction of a new church.

By 1866 there were Venetian Gothic swimming baths with an assembly room north of Heene Terrace, and by the following year another terrace east of the hotel. The baths and assembly room were demolished in 1973.

Consecration and first burials

Copy of old map of Michaels Road


The Consecration of the partly completed church, together with that of the Burial ground in St Michael’s Road, was performed by the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Durnford, on September 29th 1873 during the reign of Queen Victoria.

“The Petition for Consecration was presented to the Bishop who delivered it to the Registrar to read aloud.”

After the ceremony there was a public breakfast at 3pm at the Assembly Rooms, West Worthing, the catering being done by Mr Gifford of the West Worthing Hotel. The same evening a full choral service was held at St Botolph’s and the Rev. A.M. Lucklock M.A. of Jesus College, Cambridge preached the sermon.

The first two burials in Heene of an 11year old boy Arthur William Harding and a 64 year old woman Ann Blann took place in late 1873. Unfortunately, no records have been found of where they are buried. Eight further burials took place in 1874 one of which was of Cyrus Alexander Elliott of Elm Villa, Broadwater 64 years old, who had been a prominent member of the syndicate that purchased the lands of Heene for redevelopment.

His polished marble tomb stands proud at the edge of what would have been the original path linking the entrance and exit gates along the East Wall. Opposite his tomb is the path leading to the West Wall and where the 5th burial memorial of a 3-week-old baby Frederick George Smith is placed.

Heene Cemetery was closed for burials by order of the Queen on 21st December 1977.


By clearing years of bramble growth and self-seeded saplings we have liberated much of the old meadowland that existed in years gone by.

A large variety of grasses revealed themselves over the last two years and we have been rewarded with a kaleidoscope of butterflies and a whisper of moths.

Various grasshoppers, crickets and strange looking insects have emerged as we work.

Pink flowers on tall green stems at the base of a tree.

Spring flowers

The spring flowers including primroses, cowslips, and celandine, have given us great joy to spy on each visit, followed later in the year by ox-eye daisies, birds-foot trefoil, meadow buttercup, viper’s bugloss, common vetch, clovers and toadflax.

The list of flowers and grasses is growing each year.

Foxes have been established in the cemetery for many years and there are two particular areas we are leaving to bramble cover at present whilst they get used to us working there. Should a family member need to reach their grave in that area we will clear it to create access.

We have introduced two bee hives which have produced excellent clear light honey, and a pair of rescued hedgehogs were established late this summer.


There are 8 Commonwealth War graves and many family memorials to ‘war dead’ and retired military personnel.

Whilst clearing years of bramble growth we have uncovered many differently designed marble headstones and tombs. Many of the sandstone headstones have weathered badly and the inscriptions are difficult to read or totally obliterated.

a picture of a corroded copper tomb in a graveyard

Vandalism and theft

The number of vandalised and time eroded headstones that have fallen and broken is disappointing but does give character to the area.

A sad discovery is the disappearance of an Art Nouveau copper plated inscription on a tomb. The transcriptions register gives details of this monument but it is no longer there.

Whilst sieving topsoil built up over years of neglect, we have found pieces of ceramic flowers and collected them together. Last year we were providing an open day tour and a couple wanted to see their family grave in the South West area. This area had not been cleared as it is habitat for our resident foxes and other wildlife, but a small clearing of this part revealed:-

A cluster of pink ceramic roses

Ceramic flowers

An exciting find was a whole ceramic flower cross on a double grave nearby and we can only assume the broken pieces that have been collected also belong to this grave.

This vase of ceramic flowers was found on 1st October 2019 in the North West area whilst a volunteer was clearing brambles to reach a couple of small sycamore trees we wanted to remove.

These items are now in the tender care of St. Botolph’s Church.