Where is Aldwick? To many it seems to be an area which is between Bognor Regis and Pagham, with slightly blurred edges. The reason for this comment is that sometime addresses on the boundaries are noted as Bognor Regis, Rose Green or Pagham.
However, for some, the inclusion of Aldwick into their address is quite important. I came across various histories of the area, which informed me that the parish of Aldwick had been created as recently as 1985.
Its history was originally within the parish of Pagham where it had nestled since the Middle Ages. It was principally farmland with farmhouses and cottages for the various farm workers. The main farms were situated at Aldwick Willowhale and Grange Farm.
Originally known as Aldewycke, it was a tithing of Pagham and it would seem to have been the administrative centre of the Canterbury estates around the 14th century. Part of the land was sold to Sir Richard Hotham in 1789.
With his arrival into the nearby area of Bognor, wealthy persons started to arrive and prosperous merchants began to build their own seaside homes. Six such houses were built along the coastline between the area now known as West Park and Barrack Lane.
In this area around the 1800s there was a military barracks built, almost facing today’s pond, and was one of the defence points against the threatened invasions by the French under Napoleon.
At this time, Aldwick farm was separate from the manor. The Manor was bought by John Fletcher in 1835 and passed to his son, William HB Fletcher, in 1899. The area contained many fine houses and cottages. There was an iron chapel, inn, grocer, coastguard station, the beginnings of a postal service and, by 1896, a small school.
According to the 1807 Origin & Description of Bognor ,the area was once known as Aldwick Green and was noted as “the vicinity of this village to Bognor, and its pleasing situation on the seashore, tempt some visitors to reside in it during the summer, in preference to any other spot in this district”.
As the area expanded from the 1920s, it became known primarily as a residential area with, for example, Aldwick Place, having been the estate of Baron Grant, who had died in 1899. The Baron became notable for his ability to lend money, property speculations and company promotions.
During his residency, he entertained lavishly and became the deputy lieutenant of Tower Hamlets and was also elected MP for Kidderminster.
Other notable people in the area were William Fletcher, who purchased several parcels of land and, latterly, Roland Rank, who purchased a large area of farmland, just north of Fish Lane.
The sales particulars for Aldwick Place in the 1930s remarked that it was situated in a “premier residential position with direct frontage to the beach immediately west of Bognor”. The sales particulars continue with the information that “Aldwick is a favoured coastal village immediately west of Bognor Regis on a delightful stretch of the Sussex coast surrounded by beautiful countryside”.
Other visitations took place in 1929 when King George V arrived to convalesce in the parish of Pagham at Craigweil House. Of course, ultimately, Bognor became known as Bognor Regis and in 1933 extended its boundaries to take in the 1,800 areas of Pagham, Aldwick, Bersted and Felpham.
With the increasing need for housing, smaller properties were constructed in the Rose Green area. One of the features of these homes, around this time, was that all newly constructed homes had large gardens and were fenced in on all their boundaries.
Later, this was to be changed, to allow for a more open impression to the estates. Many of the houses were built into self-contained estates and this became a feature of Aldwick, with many having their own shops and facilities and also a residents’ association.
Aldwick has recorded numerous important events, other than the visit of the King in 1929. For example, the well known house – Paradise in Dark Lane – was destroyed by fire in 1909.
It had been built in 1802 for Sir Thomas Brooke Pechell and was seen as a construction that typified the penchant for the picturesque which was fashionable at that time.
Referring back to the 1807 guide, the report on Sir Thomas Pechell’s home remarks that it stood “on a delightful eminence, commanding a variegated and extensive prospect, and at whose foot the sea breaks with unavailing rage, you discover, hanging over the beach, a thatched cottage, more remarkable for its simplicity than for its architectural ornaments”.
Another well recorded event was the wrecking of the 96-ton French brig, Carnot, which was stranded on Aldwick beach in December, 1912. The vessel carried a cargo of 110 barrels of herrings and 160 tons of cement. It is still possible to see remains of this cement off Dark Lane.
Education also forms a part of the Aldwick story with the beautiful building of Craigweil Lodge being renamed Martineau House when it was used as a seaside school from 1955 by a trust set up in Birmingham for sending disadvantage children to the seaside.
What a different world it would have been for these children – Birmingham to the seaside! The school finally closed in 1987. Aldwick Place was also involved in education when for a time it was used as a boys’ preparatory school around 1914. There was also the Dr Barnardo’s home for boys on the area now known as St Margaret’s Close and finally there was Sefter School – a school that still holds so many memories for people in this district.
Aldwick does have a rich history and the original local historian of the area was Lindsay Fleming, who lived at Aldwick Grange, from where, in 1949/50, he produced his History of Pagham of three volumes. He died in 1966, aged just 64.
He left an invaluable document providing detailed historical information on Pagham, Aldwick, Rose Green and Bognor Regis.
More recently, the book, The Paradise Rocks, by Michael Alford, has been published, which paints an incredible view of the area in the 1930s while encompassing the surrounding area from the perspective of a child.