Today, looking at Station Road in Bognor Regis, it only appears to be a small section of road that joins others together, being at the end of London Road, before it turns right down to the library.
It is between London Road and Linden Road and it would almost appear to be an afterthought. However, it certainly contains interesting historic buildings, trades and shops.
Like all good roads, it contains a public house, namely The Station, first opened in 1871 as The Terminus within seven years of the station being opened. It was originally owned by Arundel brewers Lambert & Norris, who would have been delighted at the possibility of selling their wares further afield, especially in a seaside resort that was beginning to develop. It is believed a local architect, Arthur Smith, who designed the station, also designed the Victoria Hotel in Aldwick Road.
In the Bognor Guide of 1899 is an advertisement for the Stanley Commercial & Temperance Family Hotel, which can be clearly seen in many 1902 scenes of the railway station fire debris. These premises are now known as Commercial House and occupied by a Chinese doctor and Domino’s Pizza.
At the beginning of the 1900s, Station Road would have been a rather quiet residential area, which very soon developed into a very busy and noisy thoroughfare.
The use of the railway station was to increase quite dramatically with the introduction of public holidays and the increased trade created by the London Sunday School groups and general day-trippers arriving in the town.
By 1910, there was much speculation in the local paper with regard to the increasing ‘nuisance’ being caused by these large groups of day-trippers.
By 1906, another trader, F & E Woods, who were carmen and contractors, were advertising they removed household items, but were also suppliers of chalk, manure, coal and coke alongside their business of supplying road and path making materials, such as flint, beach gravel, sea sand etc.
Theirs would have been a busy and growing business as the town was developing and expanding into the surrounding countryside.
Because of the small size of the town and length of the road, the majority of businesses only advertised in the 1916 guide as being in Station Road without any indication of which number they occupied. We are, therefore, unable to specifically place them.
In 1911, Reynolds and Company expanded by building its imposing Depository and its advertisements announced the ‘Furniture Depository has been specially built for the storage of furniture on the cubicle system, with electric lift to all floors, is lighted by electricity, and heated by a system of low pressure hot water apparatus’.
This would obviously be needed for the increasing number of people coming to the area who required the safe retention of their house contents. Note that an extra floor has been added to the original building.
On the corner of Station Road and London Road we today have a 1930s building which has been an estate agents for many years, currently Clarke’s. However, before then, this was the home of Bognor’s first police station. When this flint built property was demolished a number of railway cottages were also knocked down to be replaced by the ‘modern 1930s’ construction. We can still see today these ten properties with accommodation.
It has always been possible for residents to purchase the majority of their needs in Station Road with a supply of groceries, dairy, confectionary, newsagents and tobacconists.
One of the most memorable shops was Money’s Dairy that was recorded in the 1916 Town Guide as Central Farm Dairy. In 1932, its advertising proudly stated ‘We served the King’ and continued ‘Let us serve you’.
This would have been during King George V’s stay at Craigweil in 1929. The shop continued for many years until later into the 20th century, with its distinctive smell of home-made pies, buns and cooked foods.
It has been replaced by Tesco, which continues to offer many of the provisions supplied in this street over the years.
If we take the time to stop and look above the shop fronts it is evident that many of the facades have remained, as they were first built, and this provides us with a glimpse of a bygone age. By 1962, there was a definite revival taking place in the town and the Civic Trust, which at that time was run by the Bognor Regis Society had a pilot scheme. Its brief was to regenerate the area of Station Road principally with repainting but with a certain amount of detailed alterations to be made to the various premises.
One of the Station Road shopkeepers involved reported ‘he had been surprised at the financial saving he had gained through taking part in the scheme’. His shop front was refurbished at about half the price it had cost when previously decorated. The scheme included the removal of large amounts of clutter and a variety of advertising boards were also to be removed.
The aim of the work was to provide Station Road with ‘colour, harmony, attractiveness and tidiness to an area that was becoming drab and uninviting’. It was the first Civic Trust scheme to be carried out in the town and this joint initiative was watched across the county.
The town architect at the time provided a view of Station Road when he said: “Station Road presented many problems, because one side of the road has a completely different character from the other.
“The west side is made up of a group of buildings, each one being completely different from its neighbour and having no sort of harmony or co-ordination at all. On the east, we have mainly a later type of development, a flat line forming a roof profile rather than an undulating line as on the opposite side. It will need a considerable amount of careful thought to bring harmony and continuity to the street.”