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Changing Time’s | Colourful past reflects fashions of the times

I THOUGHT we should look at fashionable buildings, but what is fashionable? According to the dictionary, it is conforming to fashion or being in vogue.


According to Gerard Young, the local historian, he reported in 1959 that he felt ‘fashion in architecture was affected by the temperature of the times’. Therefore, as you walk around the town and look at the wide range of colour schemes and styles that are visible, we should perhaps consider the past to see what their fashions were and ask whether in fact the residents of the time liked them or not.


I wonder how the fishermen and locals in the 1790s felt about the construction of the new large buildings for Sir Richard Hotham, along the road we now refer to as the Upper Bognor Road – buildings which for years contained students as they were part of the West Sussex Institute of Higher Education complex. Did the residents really like the new constructions, which were designed to bring outsiders into the area? Did they really believe it was for the good of the locality?


I would think the residents of what was then a small fishing village would be very nervous of the influx of the new moneyed people, using the area for only their leisure. Now, part of this area is the University of Chichester campus, but many of the buildings have been sold off and transformed into flats.


Each era has made its mark on the development of the town and there are areas where specific developments have left quite an impression.
Such areas are still to be seen in sections of Victoria Drive, The Steyne and Waterloo Square, where there are constructions that were erected in a range of styles, over a number of decades which ably demonstrate the changing fashions.


What about the New Town Estate, North Bersted, which was built in a distinctive style in the 1930s and where the estate still exists without change and is viewed as a desirable part of the town?
Compare this with the construction of the Aldwick Bay Estate which was specifically constructed for the rich to enjoy as their seaside retreat and where part of the advertising included reference to Goodwood races, hunting on the Downs – all seen as rich men’s pastimes of their era.


For years, homes were built on either side of long streets or roads, with back entrances. These areas allowed you to walk or drive along their length from one end to the other. Today, we have blocks of flats without parking spaces, many ‘complexes’ which are constructed on the site of maybe one or two homes. Their postal addresses contain words like ‘court’ which can denote a small area with many buildings around a central area.


We have on the perimeter of the town a range of estates that have all been built in the 21st century, but which come from a variety of modernist styles.


Areas, which are so distinctive as to have been provided with affectionate nicknames, to denote their appearance, e.g. ‘Legoland’, ‘bungalow estates’.


I wonder how many people in the past have viewed their constructions as being the ‘current fashion’. Let us, therefore, view some of the ‘new fashions’ of their time. Look at London Road, which still contains bow fronted windows, such as above Dorothy Perkins and then the bland appearance of WH Smith or New Look.


However, if we look at today’s New Look there is a tendency to find this an agreeable building of the 1930s. It was constructed for Marks and Spencer in 1936.
Other factors through the years have placed their mark on fashion, one such being that of external building/paint colours. Many of the earlier buildings have retained their brick facades or the white, cream or bland colour schemes.


In fact, in many areas of the UK there are council policies in place, which restrict the painting of buildings in certain colours or shades. Recently, I was told of a house owner who had been told that the colour of his house was not in keeping with the neighbourhood. The requested colour was a pastel shade.


Sometimes, a person can have an individual stamp of fashion and for many here in Bognor Regis it was a local sign writer who made his mark with his bright colour. This included in the past trades like Sarnies in London Road, Clock Walk and Eddies newsagents in Lyon Street among others.


I can remember seeing a television holiday programme, which commenced with various views of houses and shops with a very definite colour scheme on their buildings, and the introduction referred to the ‘fashionable seaside resort’. No, it was not Bognor Regis but perhaps we should view this in the same way as people in the past that took time to advertise their town as being fashionable.


One of our major fashionable constructions is the Skyline at Butlin’s where, of course, people hold many views, for and against, but compare these with the arrival of the railway carriages at Pagham and Felpham.


I wonder what people thought of these as they arrived to ‘clutter the seafront’ and no doubt they were referred to as ‘destroying the view’.
I am not endeavouring to be for or against the colours that were being used around the town, but I can imagine some of the comments, and can think of those passed to me recently. However, we are just transient in this town and historians will be the decision-makers on the current styles. Just as we all have our views on what has gone before with areas built since the 1790s, where each era has a style of its own to be viewed by people with their own individual opinion.


I shall finish this week with another quote from Gerard Young, when he remarked that ‘towns have personalities that are detected by the visitor, but remain unknown to the resident. This personality of character makes its mark on the stranger chiefly by outward appearances; the shape of the streets; the colour of the buildings; the harmony of the town’s setting in a landscape; the blend of architectural styles, the differences in comparison with other towns’.

Posted in Lifestyle.