SIX WREATHS were laid to honour the foundation of modern Bognor Regis.
The simple ceremony at the grave of Sir Richard Hotham yesterday marked the 231st anniversary of his start of the seaside town.
Sir Richard’s vision for what was then a fishing village of some 300 inhabitants was compared at the graveside occasion at St Mary Magdalene Church in Bersted Street with the ongoing projects to regenerate the town.
Bognor Regis Local History Society chairman Greg Burt said: “There is an ongoing discussion on social media and in the newspapers about the consultation for the regeneration plans that Arun District Council and others are trying to improve the town with.
“Some people say there has been no consultation. Others say that, even if there has been consultation, that no-one listens to the results.
“No-one likes change. We naturally all fear change because it’s uncertain and we like our comfort zone.
“This makes me think of when Sir Richard Hotham came down and found the fishermen here, and the smugglers who were also supposed to be here on the windswept coast.
“I wonder if he consulted them and if, he did, what people would have said about his ideas. Would they have said they didn’t want them?
“If they had happened, would he have carried on anyway or would have walked away and gone somewhere else?
“If he had done that, we would not have had the town we have today.”
Sir Richard was originally a hatter in London and became involved in the East India Company of traders.
He used his wealth for property speculation in Merton, South London, and became an MP.
He ventured on to the south coast, found the climate did him good and decided to rebuild a farmhouse into the now demolished Bognor Lodge.
He went on to develop plots of land to cash in on the fashion for bathing resorts and buildings like Hotham Park House in Hotham Park and The Dome on the University of Chichester’s campus are among the survivors from his era.
The foliage for the wreaths for Sir Richard’s grave came from Hotham Park.
They were laid by Mr Burt, Hotham Park Heritage Trust chairman Rosemary Warren and four pupils from nearby South Bersted CoE Primary School – Finley Wyatt, Evie Tinker and Lacey Strudwick, all aged ten, and Patryk Lickowski, 11.
Finley said: “I go into Hotham Park to walk my nan’s dog. I like hearing the bells in the clock tower ring. I know park was Sir Richard’s garden and he lived in the house, which is now flats.”
The Rev Tim Crook, the vicar of St Mary’s, led the ceremony. He said: “This is a good occasion to honour Sir Richard’s memory and also to celebrate the 231 years of the beautiful, sunny town of Bognor Regis.”