Sun sets on Bognor Regis sculpture

The end of the sun sculpture in Bognor Regis town centre. Photograph by Graeme Hutson
The end of the sun sculpture in Bognor Regis town centre. Photograph by Graeme Hutson

WORKMEN ensured the sun has set on the sculpture in Bognor Regis town centre.

They dismantled the controversial piece of public art at the junction of the London Road precinct and the High Street.

The final act in the 2.5 ton object’s eight years of standing in the prominent location came at about 4.30pm on Monday.

Eight hours of work by Coastal Transport Site Services led to the copper piece with a gold leaf finish being placed on to the High Street pavement in the darkness and the rain.

A handful of spectators watched the moment. One of them was Alan Rees, of The Esplanade.

The 75-year-old said: “I was never appreciative of the sculpture. I never thought it was very appropriate. it seemed out of keeping.

“I thought it cost an awful lot of money for something which I’m sure the majority of people didn’t understand or appreciate.”

But another of those present, Graeme Hutson, of Brooksmead, Bognor, said: “I really liked the statue and am sorry to see it go.”

The sculpture’s story began in 2006 with a quest to provide public art in the town centre for the first time since 1897.

A £28,000 grant from the Arts Council covered its costs and enabled sculptor Pete Codling to be given the go-ahead for his suggestion.

He wanted to symoblise Bognor’s reputation as the sunniest town in mainland Britain as well as paying tribute to the Saxon queen, Bucgren, who founded the original fishing village on the present town’s site, and pagan worship of the sun.

He created the 7m high sculpture topped by a dramatic 1.5m-wide hemisphere.

It faced southwards to greet shoppers as they entered the town centre from The Arcade and to capture the sun for most of the day. But the installation attracted criticism before it was officially unveiled in March 2008.

Mr Codling was present on the big day as he was at Monday’s end. He said: “I’m sad it hasn’t stayed where it is. It’s a site specific sculpture and I spent over three years on it.

“I did an awful lot of community work with schools and groups and made 24 maquettes before the final design was chosen.

“But, unfortunately, with the downturn in the economy, the council was not able to afford the maintenance of it. So, it started looking quite shabby quite quickly.

“Without that maintenance, people didn’t like it.”

The Arts Council grant for the sculpture was awarded to Arun District Council. It handed responsibility for the artwork to Bognor Regis Town Council.

The town council decided against working on the sculpture because of the several thousands of pounds it would cost.

It looked at other potential sites in the town for the sculpture but Mr Codling said the cost was ‘prohibitive’.

The sculpture has instead been transported by Coastal Transport Site Services to its new home at the University of Portsmouth’s Ravelin Park site in the city.

“The university are happy to restore the sculpture and to maintain it,” he said.

The sculpture’s removal is being funded as part of the High Street works which West Sussex County is due to start.

The scheme’s £450,000 cost comes from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund.