The Institute rose from the ashes of the Arundel Savings Bank, which was built in 1847 on the site of two former Tarrant Street cottages.
Getting Arundel folk to save their Friday pay did not yield dividends. Was that because one of the town’s most popular pubs, The Eagle, was right across the road? We will never know.
In 1897, the country was preparing to celebrate 60 years of Queen Victoria on the throne. What better way to commemorate this achievement than a building named after her? (Because no one else, at all, anywhere in the Commonwealth thought of that.)
The Victoria Institute has been at the heart of our community ever since. Affectionately known throughout town as The Vic, she (for, she is a she) is the grande dame of Tarrant Street. If the sun shines just right on her formal Grade II listed façade, you can catch a cheeky glint in her windows. The Vic really has seen it all.
In her early years, The Vic was an institute to ‘better working folk’, with newspapers laid on tables in the reading room and a communal laundry washroom.
By 1912, we know there was a public bathhouse at the back of the building, and from 1925 she housed the shiny new County Library Service.
It wasn’t long before the reading room made way for pool tables, bars and dancing. Not for the first (and, not for the last) time, The Vic was reborn for her community.
In the 1950s, members enjoyed weekly events in what is now The Red Room, then a bar and dance hall.
The top floor, currently home to artist Frances Knight, was a snooker room. Fun had firmly taken up residence, broadening minds and brightening lives in a different way.
Sadly, after the 1960s other venues in town eclipsed The Vic’s popularity and despite receiving Grade II listed status for her façade in 1970, behind the scenes, she began to feel her age. It happens to the best of us.
With a little (for which read, a lot) of help from her friends, The Vic is now ready to face the future.
In 2014, a dedicated group of volunteers, The Friends of The Vic, set up a Limited Company and successfully applied for funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and both West Sussex and Arun District Councils.
When The Friends of The Vic achieved charity status in 2016, there was no stopping them. In 2018, at just 121 years old, The Vic had her first facelift. The following year, her interior was repainted and, drum roll please, the central heating system was rebooted.
Although a little rough around some of her edges, The Vic is once more a much-loved hub for world-class arts and inclusive community activities.