Bognor Regis museum opens inside former pub

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Visitors to the new museum in Bognor Regis will be able to drink in the town’s past.

The attraction has been opened in a one-time pub to provide an improved and unusual setting in which to tell the history of the town and its people.

Town resident Jenny Jones who bought the former Berkeley Arms for £270,000 and donated it to Bognor Regis Local History Society who welcomed the museum’s arrival.

“It’s looking good,” she said. “I wish the local history society all the best. They have done a terrific job.

“It fulfils what I expected it to do. It’s a worthwhile addition to the town.

“I am glad they have kept the pub’s bar. Everyone who knew the pub – and I used to come in here for lunch – will still recognise it if they come in.

The first members of the public were welcomed to the West Street museum on Sunday. It will be open 10am-4pm Tuesdays to Sundays, and bank holiday Mondays, until October.

They stepped into the past to be greeted by a modern, airy and bright interior created by the town’s local history society members with displays about all aspects of Bognor’s past decades.

Well-known names such as Sir Richard Hotham and Mary Wheatland were joined by those which are familiar to only a few – such as potter Frederick Masters.

Businesses like WJ Wade and Cleeves are represented along with Southdown buses with models of the former bus station and the Esplanade Theatre adding further interest.

One room of the museum has been devoted to the radio collection of the late Ron Simpson. Another room has become a resource centre complete with internet connections with additional space for events.

More finishing touches – including nine display cases – will be added before the new setting is complete.

Many of the displays have been transferred from the smaller, previous museum on the High Street.

But the five-times-larger interior of the building enables them to be seen in more comfort.

Dozens of volunteers helped to create the museum so that it was ready for Saturday’s opening ceremony.

Mrs Jones was joined by the museum’s curator, David Jennings, in cutting a ribbon across the front door of its cream and green fascia.

Mr Jennings paid tribute to Mrs Jones and said the society had spent tens of thousands of pounds bringing the building up to date.

Sandra Daniells, Bognor’s town mayor, said: “It’s fantastic to see this building as it is now.

“I came here soon after the local history society had the building and I found it hard to see how it could be transformed into a museum.”