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Changing Times | Town’s residents have always been good sports

During the recent sunny weather how many people have taken the time to consider some of the sports that are available for them to enjoy? I know of course that some are only available during the winter months.


This week, I thought I would take a very brief look at some of the clubs locally that offer sport, facilities and a social life and you may also be surprised to see how long many of them have existed.


There was a meeting of a cycling club held in 1879 and the meeting was held at No 2 Brunswick Terrace where they set their annual subscription at 3s 6d (17.5p) for the year, but this was to be payable in advance.


It was in May 1894 the Bognor and District Cycling Club was formed and now their meeting place was in the Sussex Hotel – today the William Hardwicke. The club colours at that time were yellow and black.


There were apparently 20 cyclists at the inaugural meeting and their plans were for a weekly cycle run.


According to the website history of the current Bognor Regis Cycling Club, their history began in 1936. Cyclists today are involved in time trials, road racing and track, cyclo-cross and mountain bike racing. All this is a long way from the original ‘weekly cycle run’.


As you can imagine, cricket also features quite largely in our sports history with two clubs being formed during 1885, one in Bognor and the other in Felpham. There is also the Pagham Cricket Club. Cricket Clubs and grounds were also quite instrumental in the formation of other sports clubs as they realised that their sites were unused for many months of the year.


Golf is another sport with quite a history in our area. Initially there was an announcement in the Observer on October 7, 1891, that there was to be a meeting held to form a golf club in the town. By 1892, there was a report in the Golf Journals that a ‘nine-hole golf course had been made near the town,’ and there ‘was a lady’s course’.


This club was situated on open farmland just south of Hillsboro Road. Their first clubhouse was situated in an area near Victoria Drive and its Linden Road junction. This club only existed for about a year and reported a deficit in its accounts.


Finally, on November 15, 1905, Bognor Golf Club was formed, and it operated from the meadows near the rife between Bognor and Felpham. The first course comprised nine holes and covered 40 acres of land.


Subscriptions were fixed at £2 2s 0d (£2.10) Play began on April 12, 1906, although the green was apparently ‘still in a rough condition’.


What about fishing and angling? The present club for fishermen was formed in 1912 when a small group of sea anglers formed an association to pursue their common interest and this continued until the First World War.


At the end of the war, they reformed and became known as the Bognor Amateur Angling Society and also encompassed freshwater activities. Today there is a flourishing membership with an age range from seven to more than 90 years of age. I am sure many of us have seen the pictures of the anglers fishing from the end of the pier.


One club I have read about but can find no real information – that is unless you know better – is the Bognor Regis Hockey Club. Also, there was a croquet club, which had six courts in 1912/13. Can you also imagine that there was a roller-skating group that was based around the pier – in 1901.


Rugby is, of course, well catered for and Bognor Rugby Football Club was formed in 1922 when it was known as the Bognor and Chichester Rugby Club with games being played in Fish Lane, and in Felpham near the George Inn. This continued until the Second World War.


Interestingly, it was the cricket club who helped to regenerate the rugby when they realised that, to utilise their ground year-round, the inclusion of rugby could help.


In 1965/66, matches started and by 1967 there were enough players for numerous teams. It was in 1992 that Arun District Council offered specific locations for activities and the ground at Hampshire Avenue was offered to Bognor Rugby Club.


What about tennis? It is believed that the club was started around 1903. However, it was possible to play tennis in the 1880s with the Bognor Lawn Tennis Club at their first site, which was in a meadow at the side of Church Path, where today we have St Mary’s School.


A report from 1887 records the comments of an American visitor who wrote that he had seen ‘young men swaggered about in shorts and white flannels or knickerbockers, held up by a silk handkerchief around the waist, like a bullfighter and worse a rather jaunty little cap pulled down over one ear. The girls wore woollen dresses or thin white muslin gowns’. The dress has changed considerably, but the enjoyment of the sport has not.


By 1908 the tennis club had moved to premises in Upper Bognor Road, where they remained until 1912. Around this time another club was formed in Nyewood Lane and was known as the Nyewood Tennis Club.


These clubs amalgamated in 1912 and became known as the Bognor Lawn Tennis Club. In one of the 1912 holiday guides there is a report about the lawn tennis club and records there were ‘fortnightly American tournaments’ held locally.


There is also the Bognor Regis Bowls Club who have also continued to thrive this year.


Two of the most interesting facts to emerge is the involvement of cricket in the formation of many of our clubs today. Also the names of founder members and those involved in the early days seems to read like a ‘who’s who’ in the town, as councillors and those involved in building the town were also involved in building clubs and societies.

Posted in Lifestyle.