Sometimes when we are talking about bygone Bognor, people ask what was there before, or what is there now. So this week I thought we could have a look at Then and Now pictures of the town.
In 1867, Bognor’s first police station was built on the corner of Station Road and London Road for Sussex Police. A solid-looking flint and brick building which could be seen by everyone walking up London Road towards Station Road. Prior to this Bognor had been served by a policeman operating from a cottage in North Bersted. There was also a constable appointed by the Town Commissioners in a lock-up in Bedford Street.
This was to remain the police station for Bognor for the next 75 years until in 1938 a new one was opened, in front of today’s police station in London Road. This second station, which was only operational for 39 years, was demolished in 1977, to be replaced by today’s station which was being constructed behind while the older building was still operational.
The current station cost £629,000 when it was official opened by the Duchess of Norfolk on January 19, 1978. This new station also contained living accommodation for single officers.
Today’s police use CCTV rather than the high-visibility police station in the town centre. Next to the first police station was Albany House, which was demolished in 1930 to enable the building of the Odeon Cinema at the beginning of the cinema boom.
The current view of Clarkes shows a building on the site of the police station, constructed in 1938. The police station was demolished along with a row of railway cottages and was replaced by shops and flats above, as one building. Clarkes is the latest of a number of estate agents to have served the local area from these premises which for a number of years was a tobacconist I frequented. The original cinema building still exists, but like so many old picture houses it is now used as a bingo hall and shops. Both can still be seen to the right of the estate agents.
The modern image shows an area that has not changed considerably and it is still a through road, possibly considered by residents to be part of London Road. Station Road became part of a one-way system in 1966. While the road itself is still clearly recognisable, the business trading there has changed significantly, featuring several take-away restaurants, employment agencies or electrical good shops, a long way from the original traders in this area. An architect once expressed the view Station Road presents many problems because ‘one side of the road has a completely different character from the other.’ He concluded ‘it would need a considerable amount of careful thought to bring harmony and continuity to the street’. The lefthand side features original residences changed to shop use, while on the right is a parade of shops built in 1938 as mentioned previously, when the police station and railway cottages were demolished.
There are times when a premise seems to transcend time and this is the case for the Alexandra. Originally built as two flint and Bognor rock cottages situated in cornfields, one cottage became known as the Alexandra Tavern, adjacent to a bakery which was probably built c1860.
This was just before a time of expansion as the pending railway station became a reality in 1865. In this picture the Alexandra Tavern is highly visible with its name emblazoned across the building and also advertising Chichester Fine Ales and Stout. It was owned at this time by the Turner family who were well-known Bognor brewers. Mr F Byerley owned the bakery and confectionery next door. By the open front door it could be Mr Byerley himself in the long white apron.
An impressive-looking public house which was built c1830 and referred to as a post house in the Pigot’s Directory of 1839. It was also described as a wine cellar and was owned by James Smith when it was attached to York House on the corner of the High Street and York Road. The green tiles were a distinctive feature of the Portsmouth Brickwoods Brewery Group.
To the left of the inn we can see the original doorway into Barclays Bank. To the right we can catch a glimpse of the arcade, which was constructed in 1902. The ornate covered way with its shops beneath was constructed by local builder William Tate, in the grounds of York House. The arcade was built at a time when it was a relatively-new fashion from France to have covered walkways for shopping. We can also see the 1930s Belisha beacon and crossing in front of the arcade. There were shops at the entrance of the arcade, facing the High Street, one of which belonged to Reynolds, although not a member of the main trading family in the town.
In 1984 the York Inn was sold to a property developer and eventually a West Sussex company, the Body Shop, was expanding and took over the York Inn, and as its own livery was green it was able to retain the original tilework for its frontage to remind us of the heritage of this building. The Body Shop is now no longer in our High Street.
The arcade still exists, with a wide range of shops underneath the original ornate covering. One of these is Mobility and Comfort, a new service on the High Street dealing in wheelchairs and mobility scooters, a service not available, even a few short years ago, to those less able, of any age group.
We can see the crossing has been removed along with the Belisha beacon and replaced by double yellow lines for parking restrictions and also a blue directional sign indicating restricted access to a pedestrianised London Road. Bench seating is now placed at intervals along the street for the benefit of shoppers. To the left we can see an insignificant door into the Barclays Bank premises. Bicycle racks are also positioned around the town, something that would have been highly used in the past, but which are now offered as an enticement to decrease car use.
If you want to see more images of the town over the years, you could join me at West Meads Hall on Thursday, October 31 at 7.30. I will be showing slides of the town, while raising money for the town’s seafront lights. You have to purchase your ticket for £6 from Heygates Paper Exchange at 67 High Street, Bognor Regis prior. Entry is by pre-purchased ticket only, as this includes a buffet during the interval.