Leading hotelier Michael Clinch rubbed shoulders with the stars - and has the autograph book to prove it.

As a boy growing up in post-war Worthing he used to wander around the town's Chatsworth Hotel searching for sporting and stage icons of the day.

Many top football and cricket teams of the late 1940s/early 50s stayed at the Steyne Gardens hotel, which has been run by his family since 1932.

Mr Clinch, pen in hand, got the autographs of them all, including top soccer sides Chelsea, Fulham, Barnsley, and Scottish outfit Hearts, plus cricket clubs Somerset and Hampshire and, some years later, the great Sussex team of the early 1960s led by Ted Dexter.

He was even given, and still cherishes, a leather lace-up football signed by the Chelsea side which reached the semi-final of the FA Cup in 1950.

It was presented to Mr Clinch by Blues' manager Billy Birrell, who also gave him the autograph book which today contains around 500 names such as famous actors and actresses Jack Hawkins, John Pertwee, Margaret Rutherford, Bill Fraser, Stratford John, Peggy Mount and Joyce Grenfell.

Most were delighted to sign, but a few, visiting Worthing for relaxation, did not want to be disturbed.

Mr Clinch, now 65, declined to name names but understood why a small minority declined.

He said: "When I was young I collected the autographs of all the famous folk that used to come and stay, as many as I could get.

"Whenever they appeared I shot up to them and said 'can I have your autograph?' I had a wonderful time.

"There were a few difficult ones who wanted to be treated as a guest and not interfered with, which I can understand.

"You try to look after them, give them space to relax, learn their lines or just rest in preparation for their next show at the Pavilion or Connaught theatres."

In an age before cheap air travel to foreign hotspots, the football teams used to visit Worthing to prepare for games against other London sides or Brighton and Hove Albion.

They trained on the sands, running up and down the shingle beach, and played golf on the Downs.

Mr Clinch is now preparing for the 200th anniversary of the historic terrace in which the Chatsworth is situated.

The building originally housed the Steyne Hotel, Worthingís first hotel, where many fashionable events of the Napoleonic and Victorian eras, including glittering balls and society dinners, were held.

The Steyne was purchased by the neighbouring Chatsworth in 1956, and Mr Clinch has invited the Duke of Richmond and Gordon to unveil a commemorative plaque to mark the bicentenary on Tuesday, February 27.