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Changing Times | Vanished terrace became seafront car park

Occasionally, just one picture can start you off on a trail for information and answers, and one such was a view that is no longer with us, but which presents the viewer with such a different perspective of The Esplanade.


Therefore, we shall look at the area between York Road and Clarence Road, which once consisted of open meadows and today is the site of the Regis Centre’s car park.


This area sported a terrace befitting any seaside resort, that of Colebrook Terrace. Construction began on September 24, 1824, at a time when there was much development being achieved throughout the town. Lady Colebrook, whose family had represented Arundel in Parliament, laid the foundation stone.


A press report of the time remarked ‘it is anticipated by the ensuing year many first rate residences will be completed for the reception of the distinguished visitors to this delightful watering place’.


The crescent, that contained four stucco-fronted buildings, was named after Sir Edward Colebrook, Baronet, of Barn Rocks, Aldwick. It was originally named New Crescent and over 300 men worked on the major construction.


The designer of the terrace was Samuel Beazeley Jnr, who also built the Theatre Royal in Dublin, and was also responsible for the remodelling of the Drury Lane Theatre, the Royal Lyceum and the façade of the Adelphi in London.


By 1828, all the buildings in Colebrook Terrace were owned by Andrew Sorrell. The terrace consisted of such memorable buildings as Highbury, Canonbury, Colebrook, Eversley, Clarence Hotel and The Pennington Hotel, and we shall turn our attention to these individually. If we have a look at the 1881 Census we find reference to some of these buildings. For example, Highbury House is recorded with Mr Tyler, coachman, his wife and their two children.


Charles Barlow is shown as the owner of Highbury with his wife and two children. Julia Lawford is shown as the owner of Canonbury House. Colebrook House’s occupants were George Fishbourne, a Baptist minister and his wife, their children and their domestic servant. This terrace of buildings continued for many years as private residences and, therefore, very little reference is made to them during this period.


Starting at the west end we first come to Highbury House, No 1 Colebrook Terrace. In a 1923 town guide it was advertised as a board residence, which was ‘working towards Christian Temperance Principles’. The proprietress was a Miss Mable, and the terms at this time were 2 to 3 guineas per week (£2.10-3.15).


Late in 1930, Highbury House was advertised as under the new management of Mr and Mrs Leslie Mable. The advert went on to say they offered separate tables, midday dinner, liberal and varied menus, with electric light being provided throughout at no extra cost.


Highbury House also became well known as the Highbury Tea Gardens with their sunken tea garden, which could cater for up to 1,500 people with a covered area where ‘thousands’ of children and others could ‘come again’, according to the advertisement. Another advertisement declared it provided ‘cold luncheons with 500 seats under cover, plain teas in three large shelters also meat teas’.


Next was Canonbury, also No 1 Colebrook Terrace, which was a boarding establishment in 1933. Its telephone number was 1000, and you could send telegrams to “grams: Canonbury House, Bognor” a far cry from today’s emails. Interestingly, it also advertised the advantage of electric light, with terms from 2 guineas to 8/6d (£2.10-42.5p) per day, with children being received as ‘a pleasure’.


Then came Colebrook School at No 2 Colebrook Terrace, which was established in 1886 as a boarding school for boys, by William Grice. He was the chairman of Bognor Urban District Council at that time, having been a teacher at a school later named Northcliffe on Upper Bognor Road. He also was to lay the foundation stone of the town hall in 1932.


One particular advertisement before the First World War provides a different insight, by explaining the accommodation allowed for 30 boarders, 30 day pupils and that the inclusive fees ranged from 30 to 40 guineas (£31.50-£42) per annum. The aim was to provide a good sound commercial education with successful pupils achieving success at the College of Preceptors, Cambridge and civil service examinations. The school eventually moved to the corner of Annadale Avenue and finally to Neville Road where it closed in the early 1960s.


Next came Eversley School for Girls at No 3 whose advertising announced it accepted girls who were the daughters of ‘trade’ families, which was quite unusual at that time. In 1907, this school had as its principal Miss Keed and a ‘residential staff of English and foreign mistresses and visiting professors’ who assisted. Their aims were to provide high class ‘modern education for girls’, combined with ‘careful training and the comforts of home life’.


The final pair of buildings were shown as No 4 Colebrook Terrace of the Royal Clarence Hotel and the Pennington Hotel. Miss Elmslie ran the Royal Clarence Hotel from 1905 to 1928 exclusively for children accompanied by their nurse, or nannies. By 1934, the hotel was advertised as the Hotel Clarence and commented that it was the ‘Bognor Regis leading family hotel’.


The hotel extolled the virtues of hot and cold water in rooms and that some rooms even had gas fires. The Clarence Hotel had 40 bedrooms and separate tables were provided, if required.


They had their own car park, and as considered themselves to be ‘centrally placed’ so visitors were able to partake in a variety of activities and amusements.


In a 1907 town guide, the final property Pennington House had an interesting advert. Mr H Newnham Travers would receive the ‘sons of gentlemen’ and his aim was to ‘prepare them for the public schools and the navy’.

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