Statue back on show at Bognor Museum

Jason Passingham with the donated hay press
Jason Passingham with the donated hay press

A statue has been returned to public display in Bognor Regis after a decade.

The 4ft tall concrete figure is among the new exhibits at the town’s museum.

It used to be the centrepiece of the fountain at Marine Park Gardens until it was removed during renovation works. Arun District Council placed it into storage and it stayed there until the figure of a boy holding a fish was offered to Bognor Regis Local History Society. Its volunteers readily accepted it and have given it a prominent place in their revamped displays for the 2016 season.

Curator Chris Burstow said: “This is perhaps one of our most exciting exhibits. This has been in a shed for about ten years. So, we are sure that visitors will be delighted to be able to enjoy it once again and that it will bring back many happy memories.”

The gardens were 80 years old last July and the fountain has always been a focal point.

The museum in West Street re-opened last Saturday and closes again in late October.

Another talking point is sure to be a hay press donated by Chichester Museum.

“The press comes from the former Watneys Convalescent Home in Aldwick Road,” said Mr Burstow. “We have to admit items of agricultural use don’t feature heavily in this museum.”

It is unclear how the press came to be in the home of the former brewing company. It closed in 1978 after 27 years and is now the Royal Bay Residential Home.

The press was made by the Tyne Truck and Trolley Co and Mr Burstow has asked fellow local history fans in Gateshead to find out more about the equipment.

Other changes have been made to reflect the centenary of ‘The Day That Sussex Died’ in the first world war. This commemorates the Battle of Boar’s Head on June 30, 1916. Ten Bognor men died among a mass of county casualties.

Among them was Sergeant George May, 20, of Linden Road, whose life is detailed.

The second world war exhibits have also been improved. That display was of particular interest to one of the museum’s first visitors this year. Felpham Community College student Rebecca Gooider, 14, went with her grandmother, Lorraine Thrale, 54, to find out information for a project. Rebecca said: “It’s the first time I have been to the museum. Looking at the display felt like I was in the second world war.”

North Bersted resident Lorraine said: “I come down to the museum quite a lot. I find it fascinating and I can remember some of the items which are on display.”

The museum also has new display board games, a feature on the 80 years of Bognor Regis Horticultural Society and a panel about the town’s fire brigade. This includes a helmet reputed to have been dented during a fire at the railway station. A wall of some 40 photographs – more than before – brings the past of Bognor Regis to life far more than in the past and provides fascinating glimpses of life in times gone by. A gas light installed outside the entrance raises the museum’s profile.

Mr Burstow has paid tribute to two former chairman of the society, Eve May and Kay Fall, who passed away either side of Christmas.

The museum will also benefit from an updated research room.

It is open from 10am-4pm Tuesdays to Sundays and bank holidays.

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