Hotham statue could be given pride of place

editorial image

Town mayor Cllr Jim Brooks has called for a statue of the founder of Bognor Regis to take centre stage in the town.

Cllr Brooks said the tribute to Sir Richard Hotham should oust the controversial sun sculpture at the junction of the London Road precinct and the High Street.

“A nice full size bronze statue of St Richard Hotham sited in our town centre, perhaps raising his hat to us all, is in my opinion long overdue.

“I would gladly join others in raising money to make this happen.

“So, let’s move the so-called sun sculpture to more suitable surroundings and give pride of place to a statue of Sir Richard and add some class to our town centre,” he said.

Cllr Brooks made his plea at the annual wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the day when Sir Richard laid the first stone of the seaside resort which began Bognor. That took place 225 years ago last Wednesday.

“I believe Sir Richard was not just a ‘man with a plan’ but a showman who would not have been adverse to using publicity stunts or attractions to promote his vision.

“If he was here today, I’m sure he’d have a Bognor website, be on Facebook, and be Twittering and emailing like mad,” said Cllr Brooks.

The only mention of Sir Richard in the town centre is The Hatter’s Inn in the Queensway which pays tribute to his profession.

Sir Richard, who was also an MP, is said to have come across a small fishing village on a riding trip once and decided it had the potential as a resort to rival Brighton.

He bought some land for £200 at the age of 62 and raised more than £100,000 for development. He succeeded in creating some fine buildings, of which a few remain, but his dream failed to become a reality.

Hotham Park is the one legacy of his time with which most people are familiar.

The two schoolchildren who laid the wreath from the park’s foliage on Sir Richard’s grave were well aware of the open space.

South Bersted CofE Primary School pupils Iona Airzee and Malachi Grant, both eight, frequently visit the park.

Malachi said: “I know Sir Richard created the park. I like everything about the park.”

Iona said: “I like feeding the squirrels in the park. They come right up to you to take the food and then run away.”

The ceremony at St Mary Magdalene Church was organised by Bognor Regis Local History Society. Some 30 people attended.

They were told by the Rev Tim Crook, of the church, about Sir Richard’s time before he came to Bognor.

He lived in Merton Place, now Merton High Street, in South West London a few hundred yards from Mr Crook’s birthplace and was a contemporary of anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce.