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Changing Times | A historical tour of Bognor Regis’ best sites

AS WE head towards autumn, we could perhaps think of taking a stroll around the town, at the same time keeping fit for the winter months.


For this stroll we should start in the Place Street Maur des Fosses.


This area was constructed following the re-development of York Road into the new Regis Centre, which was opened in1980, alongside the flats of Mountbatten Court.


From here we should walk towards the Town Hall, passing one of Arun District Council’s blue plaques on our left.


This indicates the premises where Dante Gabriel Rosetti worked in 1875 in the stable of his home.


Our next major construction of course is that of the Town Hall, which was opened in 1929, after the closure of their building in High Street.


This was one of a number of developments in the town, around the time that King George V was here to recuperate. It was felt that the town was in need of a Town Hall.


It is interesting to see the number of different stones that were incorporated into this building to act as a memorial to the builder, architect and council representatives of the time.


This is also where two new blue plaques were recently unveiled.


Now we continue inland, along Clarence Road, passing the Roman Catholic Church that was opened in 1882 by a group of Monks.


This massive construction would, at that time have been very imposing in such a small seaside resort that was still only slowly developing.


Previously, there had only been a small meeting area near West Street to accommodate the Catholics in the town.


Turning left, we will now stroll along High Street, which contains a variety of buildings constructed at varying times in the town’s development.


Next we arrive at our recent post office building, which was, in fact, opened in 1926 after having a variety of previous sites throughout the town centre.


Walking further along High Street, on the opposite side, we see the Lock Centre. It is quite difficult to realise that this was originally the town’s Fire Station, built in 1899, as shown on the top of the building.


Next door we have the William Hardwick, which was opened in 1810 as The New Inn and eventually was changed to The Sussex Inn.


It was built to accommodate the coach drivers and horses that travelled down from London and through Bognor Regis on their way to Portsmouth. The name of William Hardwick commemorates the name of the original builder of the New Inn. He is buried in South Bersted churchyard.


Opposite the William Hardwick we have a public house, originally a private house, constructed in 1870. Over a number of years the front rooms were to become used as a restaurant, however it was not until 1947 that it became a public house known to many people as the Orlando.


For a short number of years it became The Hogshead, before being​ renovated and renamed The Beach House, then renamed to Ocean’s. It is now renamed again, to The Punch and Judy. I wonder what the next name will be?


Further along the road we find Cubitt & West estate agents. If you take time to look you can still see a number of original green glazed tiles that formed the outline of the public house, The York Inn, built as a post house in the 1830s.


Next, of course, we find the impressive arcade, which was commenced in 1901 by William Tate, a Bognor Regis builder.


At one time, one of the shops in the arcade was Timothy Whites, but as the town centre was developing, they were able to buy new premises opposite at a cost of £17,000.


This site is now Santander but was originally the United Reform Church. They sold the church and site, as it was becoming quite noisy for parishioners to worship quietly.


On the corner, next to the arcade, we now have T Bone Burger. This building has been home to a wide variety of businesses.


During the 1880s, York House occupied it and the arcade was built in its grounds.


The businesses in this corner premises have included a bank, job centre, Burger King and today’s T-bone Burgers, a far cry from its original use as a private residence.


Across York Road we have another impressive building – if we take the time to look – recently that of Staffurth and Bray.


For years, E. Lawrence Wood, who was a publisher of books and postcards, occupied this site. This was also another post office site as well as a general store.


If we look across the road, we have two solicitors, which was the site of Bognor Motors and originally a Wesleyan Chapel.


Further along, we had the very popular Torbay Fisheries, replaced by the recently closed Portman Building Society.


Continuing along this side of the road we come to the car park for Morrisons.


For many, this will always hold memories of the Southdown bus depot, with its distinctive Art Deco frontage.


However, before 1929, the Town Hall occupied this side before it moved to the present site.


How many people can remember a restaurant in this area which I think was very well used and much loved by Bognorians? Of course, it is that of the Polly Anne restaurant.


Although there have been quite a number of restaurants and cafés in the town, it is usually the name of the Polly Anne that evokes the most memories.


Next to this was the imposing wall of the Merchant Taylors convalescent home, which was eventually demolished in the 1950s in preparation for the construction of the new impressive Queensway and Fitzleet House.


Well, this was the view in the 1960s when it was reported that the town was forward thinking by constructing these two major developments in the area.


If you want to learn more about the history and heritage of our town visit: https:bognorregistrails, and view the six trails.


You could also visit the museum, library, Regis Centre or Town Hall to collect the various copies of these trails, which direct you around various aspects of our rich heritage.

Posted in Lifestyle.