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Call to return town portrait

This portrait of Sir Richard Hotham could be coming home into the hands of Bognor Regis councillors.


The oil painting, which depicts the town’s founder, is among the assets in the town hall being talked about by councillors.


Initial discussions between Arun and Bognor Regis councils have taken place ahead of today’s 90th anniversary of the town formally gaining its royal accolade. The potential transfer of Bognor Regis Town Hall, including the portrait, was an item on the agenda.


Town mayor Cllr Phil Woodall, pictured right, was among those present for the first session since the Lib Dems took charge of both local authorities in May’s local elections.


He said before the meeting: “I am all for the town hall coming back to the town.


“I have always been for it since I became a councillor four years ago.


“I can see how the town council can make use of it and my view is that we can make money from it.


“It is the central part of the town – and I feel the town should have its own town hall. I didn’t even know the painting of Sir Richard was owned by Arun until it was raised as part of the debate.”


The portrait of Sir Richard Hotham was transferred from the abolished Bognor Urban District Council in 1974 when Arun was formed.


One of its inscriptions states: ‘Presented to the Bognor Regis Urban District Council by John Fleming Esq in 1972’.


The original inscription states the painting was completed in 1796 by W Dudman and was purchased in 1919 from the estate of Sir Richard’s godson.


It says: ‘Sir Richard Hotham KT MP, merchant of London, founder of Bognor, which he transformed from a fishing village into a fashionable resort. Born in 1723. Died 1799’.


It has hung in the left stairwell between the ground and first floors of the town hall for decades.


In 2015, the then Conservative-controlled Arun allowed the Bognor Regis Heritage Partnership Board to clean and restore the painting but refused to transfer it.


As reported, town councillors this month unanimously agreed to start a dialogue with Arun about the potential transfer of the town hall for a £1 fee.


“Hopefully, the town council will have a more positive relationship with the new Arun than we did before,” said Cllr Woodall.


“If the transfer of the town hall happens, it will be popular. There’s no way of knowing how the talks will go and I don’t know how soon the transfer will happen. It would be nice to see it happen within this four-year administration.”


As well as the town hall, the town councillors also wanted the liaison talks with Arun to include the transfer of Hotham Park, its concessions and town centre car parks as well as the promenade.

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