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Changing Times | Bognor’s most loved buildings and their history

Continuing on from last week’s Georgian and Regency styles, I thought I would review some of the other buildings in Bognor Regis from that era.

 

Again within the university buildings, there is yet another building from that time, St Michael’s.

 

This was part of a crescent, a style envied by Sir Richard Hotham and often found in places like Bath and Brighton.

 

However it was very unusual in a place like Bognor which was, according to one writer at the time of his arrival, ‘a smugglers’ haunt’.

 

St Michael’s itself has been altered a number of times over the years. Some changes were made during the Regency era, others in Victorian times when the building was converted for use as a school.

 

When the Earl of Arran lived there, he covered the grounds with beautiful flowers and fruit trees. He and his wife in the 1830s were known as ‘Lord and Lady Bountiful.’

 

The list of trees and shrubs was exhaustive and earned them the title of ‘the most unique garden in England.’

 

There were graperies, pineries and melon pits, all of which enabled them to produce luscious desserts for their royal house guests.

 

Today the wall for growing peaches still remains. It was known as the Whirly Wall, in the shape of the letter ‘S’.

 

Eventually they sold the house to the Duke of Richmond, who sold it on again to Canon Woodford in the 1850s .

 

This is when it became known as Saint Michaels, a small boarding school for girls, associated with Lancing College.

 

In Victorian times the 18 young ladies who attended the school had to provide their own silver fork and spoon, plus six napkins.

 

A small school there provided elementary education.

 

In return for doing the housework and for good conduct, girls were provided with a holiday. When they left, these girls would then receive a ‘suitable wardrobe.’

 

Eventually during the Second World War the school was closed and transferred to Burton Park, near Duncton. During the war Canadians were billeted to the building. Today it is part of the larger Chichester University complex.

 

Along High Street, between Lyon Street and Den Avenue, there are a number of small homes that at first glance don’t seem that special.

 

However they were constructed even before Sir Richard Hotham arrived in Bognor Regis to embark on his building programme.

 

When they were originally constructed, South View and Ross House would have been on the side of a small lane from South Bersted.

 

An extra floor was added, and the bay windows installed, at some point in the 18th century.

 

At the back there was a farmyard and outbuildings.

 

In the late 1950s, after being empty for a time, there were rumours that a developer might demolish and rebuild, but this did not occur.

 

In fact the outside was retained while the inside was updated.

 

In the 1970s I had friends living there, one at the rear in a flat over the original cow shed.

 

They were originally constructed with ‘Bognor Rocks,’ the local building material used in many buildings.

 

In the 1830s these buildings were used as a boarding school and later rooms were let out to holiday makers.

 

Across the town, near the sea, was a 2 ¾ acre field. On this area a number of houses were built, each with views of the sea.

 

This became known as Waterloo Square and was protected by a covenant to provide an uninterrupted view.

 

It was in the square that a number of buildings took shape, again using the Bognor Rocks, like so many others.

 

We can still see some of the balconies that were constructed in a way fashionable at the time.

 

It is interesting to read how influences from abroad crept into new constructions here in Bognor.

 

In High Street, at the junction with Lyon Street, is a pair of very impressive buildings.

 

They are known as Valhalla and Manora.

 

When they were constructed in 1820-25 they were considered to be excellent examples of what was being built in select seaside towns of the time.

 

As more and more people were spending holidays by the seaside, various buildings were being constructed for the use of holiday makers.

 

Next door, in Russell Place, the buildings were still being advertised in the 1870s town guidebooks as holiday accommodation.

 

Valhalla was bought in 1863 by a London trader, Frederick Dadswell.

 

he used to enjoy coming to Bognor on holiday, before eventually settling here.

 

His daughter married a local man and the family still occupy the premises.

 

It was actually Frederick who named the house Valhalla, by sticking a pin into a book on mythology.

 

Looking at the histories of these buildings I wonder how future residents and historians will view the constructions of today.

 

How do buildings get named?

 

Is it still a pin into a book, or is it due to a historical event or person?

 

In future will we know who lived in today’s homes?

 

Are there records kept of the names and occupations of owners and residences?

 

Will there be interesting stories of the occupiers of a certain house, or terrace?

 

Will people look back at our style of buildings with interest or just wonderment at their construction?

 

On the seafront there is a block of flats, which have arches on the exterior.

 

When I asked why, I was told it was to represent the bows used by Sir Richard Hotham on his archery grounds.

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