A NEW Sir Richard Hotham is needed to inspire Bognor Regis for the future, those marking his foundation of the town were told.
Some 40 people gathered at Sir Richard’s grave on Saturday for the annual ceremony to lay floral tributes to mark the start of his work to create a new seaside resort.
That was on January 18, 1787. The work of the businessman and MP still resound today as the debate rages about Bognor’s future.
Town mayor Paul Wells said: “It would be interesting today to hear the views of Sir Richard about the regeneration plans and what his thoughts are about how we take things forward.
“Sir Richard’s legacy still exists and we have still got some wonderful buildings he produced for us in the 1700s.
“We should be grateful to him. Hopefully, the town is seen as a seaside resort rather than a town by the sea.”
Cllr Terence Chapman told those present around Sir Richard’s recently cleaned headstone: “Sir Richard’s legacy to Bognor, and then Bognor Regis as it became, is still as sharp today as it was then. Is Bognor a seaside town or a town by the sea?
“That is the sort of debate that will lead Bognor and its residents to some conclusion as to what they want it to be in 10-30 years’ time.
“Sir Richard would have obviously approved of the fact we have that opportunity. I hope everybody in Bognor has the opportunity to participate in that debate about being a seaside resort or a town by the sea.”
The service in St Mary Magdalene Church’s graveyard was organised by Bognor Regis Local History Society. Its chairman, Greg Burt, said it was an important occasion.
“I don’t believe we should forget the past. If we don’t know where we have come from, how do we know where we are going to?
“We have this occasion every January so we can reflect on Sir Richard’s legacy and get some inspiration that we can have some of the vision he had. It would be good to have that about how we want the town to look in the future.”
The service was led by the vicar of St Mary, the Rev Tim Crook. He compared Sir Richard to Amy Wilson Carmichael who is celebrated by the Church of England on the day. Both had built chapels to celebrate their faith, he said.
Several floral tributes made from foliage in Hotham Park were laid on the grave.