Surprise find brings Bognor pier items back to town

Gary Holden with one of the smaller legal documents
Gary Holden with one of the smaller legal documents

HISTORIC legal documents about Bognor Regis Pier have been returned to the town.

The treasure trove of important transactions in the pier’s early days were discovered by accident by builder Gary Holden.

The fan of old books and maps was staggered when he realised the significance of the 15 pieces of paperwork he had accidentally uncovered.

Gary, 60, of Felpham, said: “I couldn’t believe it when I saw what the documents were about.

“It’s probably the best thing I have ever found. I’ve come across some good stuff but nothing like this.”

His family have lived in Bognor since 1840 and would have seen the pier being built in 1865.

Gary came across the collection at a recent Sunday car boot sale at Roundstone Garden Centre in Angmeering.

He said: “They were about 20 people in front of me at the stall. They bought a lot of other stuff and left this.

“It was rolled up and I saw the parchment and bought the collection for £5 without knowing what it contained.

“It wasn’t until I got back to my car that I started reading through the documents.”

He has still to fully absorb the copperplate legal jargon which was so painstakingly written in most of them..

Among the information are two mortgage debentures, an abstract of title, the sale of land below the low water mark by the Victorian equivalent of the Crown Estate for £21 to the pier company and a Bill of Complaint by the Rev Thomas Morrell Gilbert and Mary Price, a widow, against the Bognor Promenade Pier Company.

Also included is the sale of the pier in 1908 by Bognor Urban District Council, signed by well-known dignitary of the time William Fletcher, for 10s 6d (52.5p).

That document, along with some others, is adorned by seals and legal stamps. Many have watermarks embedded within the material which is in good condition.

All this makes Gary believe his surprise haul is genuine. He intends to keep it at home with his other buys but is willing to allow interested groups to look at it.

He is also happy for Bognor Regis Local History Society to have copies to display in the town museum.

Bognor Pier Trust chairman Paul Wells said: “It’s fantastic that, with all the research which has gone into the pier, new material like this appears.

“It’s unbelievable that the information still keeps being uncovered.”

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