Seafront schemes are still awaited

Civic dignataries and local history society members with the wreaths at Sir Richard Hotham's grave SUS-150119-090121001

Civic dignataries and local history society members with the wreaths at Sir Richard Hotham's grave SUS-150119-090121001

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AN ANNUAL ceremony to honour the founder of Bognor Regis was told more needed to be made of the town’s seafront.

The wreath laying at the grave of Sir Richard Hotham on Sunday marked the day in 1787 when he laid the first brick of the resort which grew into the modern town.

Greg Burt, the chairman of Bognor Regis Local History Society, said: “I wonder what Sir Richard would be thinking of the town in 2015?

“I think he would be pleasantly pleased half the relief road is open and that Marks & Spencer, with other stores, is coming back to the north of the town and, on reflection, the precinct is looking really good and worth the effort.

“But, perhaps, he would be sad we are still not making enough of the seafront, given it was the sea that encouraged him to think Bognor could be more than a fishing village and led him to come here.”

Mr Burt said it was a shame that, up to 50 years after post-war regeneration schemes were first discussed, nothing had happened.

“Hopefully, Sir Richard’s legacy will inspire something to happen in the future,” he said.

Four wreaths were laid on Sir Richard’s grave at St Mary Magdalene Church in South Bersted. Their foliage was gathered from Hotham Park.

Arun District Council vice-chairman Stephen Haymes said it was his third time at the ceremony.

“At the moment, we are going through the consultation period of what the people of Bognor would like to see in Bognor,” he said.

Nick Gibb, the MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, praised the society’s work with the town’s museum.

“It’s important we try to preserve as much of our history and heritage as we can. The Sixties were an awful period for that, not just in Bognor but throughout the country.

“Bognor did quite well compared to many other towns. It’s a wonderful town. We have a lot to be proud of.”

Some 25 people gathered around Sir Richard’s grave. They were told by the Rev Tim Crook, the vicar of St Mary’s, that Sir Richard was buried in a recycled grave just as Jesus had been. The church was proud to be his burial site

The wreath ceremony has been running for some 50 years.

It was started by the late journalist and local historian Gerard Young, carried on by the Friends of Hotham Park House and taken on by the history group about 30 years ago.