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Changing Times | Roundabouts are about history and traffic

Weekly we review people, places, and buildings but this week I thought we could look at another of our town features – I thought we could take a look at roundabouts. Yes, that’s right, roundabouts.


You may think this is a strange subject, but when I started looking into roundabouts I found them quite interesting – so I hope you do as well. There are numerous pages on the subject on the internet, if you have time.


We all know what they are. They can cause confusion at a place where there had been an easy road junction; Americans didn’t have them; no one is really interested; get a life; I can hear you all passing these comments!


When did they start? Well, there is an early record of one in America in 1904 in New York City which became known as the Columbus Circle, designed by William Phelps Eno. These were known as circles or rotaries.


By 1906, Eugene Henard, an architect in Paris, proposed a ‘one-way circulation around a central island’ and there was another in 1907 in the Place de l’Etoile which became known as the first French Gyratory. Ultimately, these ‘traffic circles’ fell out of favour in the USA and were replaced by signals at intersections.


It was not until the 1920s that they seemed to have arrived in the UK, although there are other reports which talk of the main upsurge of interest in the UK arriving around the 1950s. Australia also introduced this type of road usage facility in the 1950s following the emigration of British traffic engineers.


A modern report talks about the expansion of the use of these roundabouts, as they were beginning to be called, into France around the 1970s. In the mid-1990s there were about 15,000 roundabouts. This is just the tip of the iceberg on this subject. Now we have learnt a bit about their history, we will take a look at some of them here in Bognor Regis.


One of the major roundabouts in the town must be the large attractive one at the junction of Shripney Road, Chichester Road and the Upper Bognor Road.


Originally built in the 1970s and containing a number of trees, this has been greatly enhanced in recent years by the work of the town council’s Town Force as they carefully attend the boats with their flowers and took the town to success in In Bloom competitions.


If you take the time to look, you will be surprised how many different styles there are. A number contain flowers such as at Orchard Road and also outside Butlin’s.


On some of the small estates there are only white circles with a number of arrows, or regretfully someone thought the small island at the junction of Linden Road and Victoria Drive could be changed from flowers to a covering of bricks. It is so easy to enhance these traffic islands with both elements, as shown in Aldwick with the island at the junction of the Lower Bognor Road and Aldwick Road.


One area of the town has had a number of aids to traffic. The small roundabout outside Hotham Park and the university buildings was known as the Triangle and had a small area of trees, complete with a rustic seat. In the 1950s, traffic lights were installed.


Today, we have the small roundabout to aid the increasing amount of traffic. However, these islands now have to cope with such a large number of vehicles and those of an increasing size, sometimes in very small roads. While we may feel that roundabouts are a hindrance when driving they can also greatly enhance our time in the car with their very colourful appearance. The boats on our largest roundabout prove this.


Sadly, those outside our area can provide a very drab entrance to the town. Modern sponsorship provides much of the cash for this facility alongside the care and attention of those attending our roads.


If you feel a roundabout near you is worthy of a mention, let me know. If you have more information let me know, and if you are interested why not join the Roundabouts of Britain website. Have a bit of fun with this lighter look at our roadways.


Continuing this theme, we will have a quick look at our street furniture. Very often, the public service organisations would place items like gratings and manhole covers around our streets to allow access to their particular service. These were very often inscribed with the name of the organisation or used as a style of advertisement for the company involved. In some cases today, these items are the only sign that the companies ever existed.


What about the manhole cover? These would have been manufactured for builders, as a means of recognition by the company. This particular cover is one of a number in Hawthorn Road and proclaims that ‘HW Seymour, Bognor’ was responsible for work in this particular area. There was HW and J Seymour, father and son in the family business.


How many people would understand the letters today or the use of this particular piece of metalwork, pictured above? They belonged of course to the Bognor Regis Urban District Council. This metal item was in fact the cover for the water stopcock that would have been situated outside all homes, and was used to cut off the water supply. Today, these have been removed or covered by Tarmac pavements, so not many remain, except on private property. They could only be opened by use of the special key, held by the water companies.


A final reminder of the past was situated in a previous home of mine in Bognor Regis, and gave a clue to yet another great architect of the town – W Tate. He was not only involved in housing developments but also many of the great constructions in the town including The Arcade and many of the seafront constructions.


His name also appeared on some of the railings that were for many years along the seafront.

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