When the subject of shopping arcades is raised we tend to think of the large shopping complexes of today, on the outskirts of towns.
We have of course our very own shopping arcade in the High Street, and it is difficult to imagine this area of the town without it.
Arcades were first developed by the Parisians in the 1800s and eventually came to London in 1817. This style of shopping was to move the retail trade from market stalls into more sophisticated surroundings, as a national trend developed, with increases in wealth and shopping requirements.
These shopping arcades were increasingly adopted as an essential feature of many High Streets, and, therefore, it was not unexpected that in 1901 William Tate, a local builder, was to become involved in the building of such a development in the town.
It was built in the grounds of York House, which was situated on the corner of York Road, where today we The T Bone restaurant. When the arcade was constructed, the builders incorporated the Regency house into the east side of the Arcade.
This new building was obviously to change the aspect of the High Street, especially when we understand that it was to pass through a private garden, and eventually through to the seafront with the final building by William Tate being the Kursaal.
By 1910, local guide books were to describe the Arcade as a ‘very tasteful and useful structure lined with high class shops’. The Arcade was to remain in the Tate family until the 1960s when it was sold to a property investment company. Recently, it has been purchased by Arun District Council.
Within 12 months, a bank was built on the remaining area of York House and grounds. The General Post Office was to occupy part of the western side of the Arcade, once occupied by the Blueprint Business Centre.
It is now a 4Sight Vision Support charity shop and here the Post Office remained until it moved to new premises in 1926, in the High Street, until latterly when it moved into WH Smith in the London Road precinct.
The local press in 1903 were advising Bognor residents that the Arcade was ‘assuming a thoroughly business like appearance for the season, with the majority of shops being occupied’.
There was a Commissioner on duty at the entrance to the Arcade, resplendent in his gold braided uniform – and he was to be seen holding open the doors of carriages for the gentry. Around this time he was also to be seen over Christmas as Father Christmas and was remembered for the bran tub that was at the entrance of the Arcade, for the children.
Queen Mary who was resident at Craigweil with King George V in 1929 visited numerous shops in the town, including the Arcade, where she purchased a number of articles for a doll’s house from Toyland.
This particular shop was opened in 1902 and was operated by Miss Margaret Hunt and her sister. It remained open until 1977 and it finally closed because of changing trends and an increasing number of larger toy outlets providing a larger range of goods.
In 1930 on November 5 there was a serious fire which apparently started in the British Legion Club on the upper floor.
This was to cause extensive damage with 14 shops and all the offices being completely destroyed. This resulted in restoration being carried out which cost in the region of £25,000.
In 1985, a national publication became available providing a history of arcades from 1817 to 1939 in which the Bognor Regis Arcade was described as of ‘Edwardian seaside architecture, of single storey structure with glass gable ends’.
The High street entrance was noted as being ‘between corner turrets of twin three storey blocks, built of brick and timber with tiled spires and finials’.
Looking at the occupants of the Arcade shops over the years numerous well-known names are mentioned, including a Mr AE Reynolds who was a gentlemen’s hatter, tailor and hosiery. The lease for this shop had been with his branch of the Reynolds family from its opening in 1902 until 1969.
Another interesting shop was owned by Mrs S Piper from 1902 to 1939 who was the local agent for Goss china.
She also had another shop in the High Street, and advertised that it ‘sold an assortment of shapes and models,’ this referred to the various designs of china that were available.
How many town residents, visitors and crested china collectors have pieces of crested china, which have a notation on the base “Made for S Piper Bognor? One such piece that I have is a commemorative cup and plate especially made, depicting Craigweil House.
As the years progress there have been a variety of owners within the Arcade mainly to reflect the various times and styles of the relevant period.
We seem currently to have emerged from a period of change and empty shops into the modern Vapour Evolution and an increased number of food environments than before.
We have the arrival of the Turkish Restaurant, Foodelicious, Rainbow, The Sweet Jar, Howards and Warrens Bakery near the High Street. entrance to make today’s Arcade more of a food destination than ever before.