Robert Smith is one of the most famous names to come out of Sussex and arguably Crawley’s most renowned export. Robert has been a member of alternative rock band The Cure since 1978, of which he was one of the founding members.
Nor is he the only rock legend to live within the borders of Sussex. Keith Richards, David Gilmour and Roger Daltrey are among other rock music heavyweights who have lived or continue to live in Sussex – all the makings of an impressive Sussex supergroup.
While a selection of celebrities have since left Sussex to enjoy life elsewhere, Robert Smith is not one of them and maintains a home in the county to this day. Let’s go back to where it all started.
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Robert Smith was born in Blackpool in April 1959. When he was three his family moved to Horley in neighboring Surrey before moving again to Pound Hill, Crawley when he was six.
Stories from his childhood have been shared by many people online. Some remember Robert getting his hair cut at the hairdressers during the Pound Hill shopping parade, while others remember his time playing for Grattons Park United at Three Bridges.
Smith came from a particularly musical family as his father James was an avid singer while his mother Mary played the piano. Robert is the third of four children and, together with his younger sister, took piano lessons as a child, before focusing more on the guitar as his sister’s fingers were too small to play it herself.
Robert was educated in Crawley from St Francis’ Junior School. He then attended Notre Dame Middle School and St Wilfrid’s Comprehensive School.
It was at Notre Dame Middle School that the founding members of The Cure: Smith, Lol Tolhurst and Michael Dempsey met and became friends. They performed a one-time gig together in 1973 before Malice, an early iteration of The Cure, began performing in 1976 while at St Wilfrid’s – Dempsey would later leave the band along with Matthew Hartley and Simon Gallup.
Their early years were spent rehearsing in the hall of St Edward’s Church in Crawley and in Robert Smith’s garden in Pound Hill where his father had built a studio, and they performed covers of famous artists. Lol Tolhurst performed the band’s first official gig as a Malice gig at St Wilfrid’s School on 20 December 1976, which resulted in Smith being expelled from the school for apparently causing a riot, although an acoustic set had taken place several days earlier at Worth Abbey.
In 1977 they changed their name to Easy Cure and in May of the same year they began performing at The Rocket (now known as The Railway), a pub in Crawley town centre. In July 1977 a recording of them performing a free concert at Crawley’s Queen Square was made with footage still available online.
The band began recording and releasing demos in 1977 and 1978, when they shortened their name to The Cure. The rest, as they say, is history.
Robert Smith was the only lasting member throughout the band’s history with The Cure who released 13 albums and toured the world in the 45 years that followed. While they traveled and performed everywhere, building a notable following in Japan, Smith retained his Sussex roots.
In August 1988 he married Mary Theresa Poole at Worth Abbey, a Roman Catholic monastery near Turners Hill, just outside Crawley. The couple are childless but have 25 nieces and nephews.
Apart from her marriage, Smith has also continued to spend time in Sussex over the years. While he barely returned to Crawley, other than to spend time with his parents who had continued to live there, it was at Bognor that he spent considerable time.
Smith is believed to have lived for a time on the Aldwick Bay Estate, a private estate where a number of stars previously resided, including Lady Diana’s father. Today he lives near the estate and continues to perform, with a new album by The Cure eagerly awaited by many.
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