Bognor Regis Pier’s 150th birthday is a special celebration

HUNDREDS of voices sang Happy Birthday Dear Bognor Pier to celebrate its 150th anniversary.

At least 200 well-wishers packed the promenade in front of the historic landmark to surround Bognor Regis Concert Band’s 30 members as they played at 2pm at the exact moment of the 1865 opening.

Union flags were waved by 150 of the singers in another nod to that original Victorian ceremony. Among those at the unique celebration was Annie McMullan, nine, of Bognor.

She said: “I come down to the arcade on the pier with my dad quite often. We sometimes go for a walk along the pier and I feel sick when I look down through the planks to the sea.”

Georgina Connolly, 31, of Bognor, was another flag waver. She said: “I grew up here and I have taken part in some Birdmen events. The pier is very special to the town. It’s been here for generations. It’s the place people know of when they talk about Bognor.”

The day was arranged by Bognor Pier Trust and the Friends of Bognor Regis Pier. Thousands of people enjoyed a dry day of sunshine and light cloud unlike the wet opening.

Paul Wells, the trust’s chairman, said: “People have really engaged with today. There’s been a lot of support for what we are doing. That community aspect is really important to the bid we will be putting in to the Heritage Enterprise Fund in August.”

The trust is seeking £5m to restore and improve the current Grade II-listed structure after it has taken over the pier from its owner, John Ayers.

Friends’ chairman Jan Malpas said: “Today has been absolutely fantastic. It shows we can make the pier’s restoration happen.”

The celebrations included an east-west swim around the pier in about 15 minutes by four Bognor Regis Swimming Club members - Felix Boote-Cooke, 12, and Nathan Cowell, Imogen Ede and Josh Hockey, all 14.

Felix said: “The current was really strong, pushing us away from the pier, and it was impossible to get too close to the pier because of the fishing lines.”

Another key part of the day was the opening of The Pier Point after its free restoration by builders. It hosted 54 photo competition entries, some 20 historic pics and work by children organised by Val Souchet.

Patrick Crowe, 90, came from Oakham to his home town for the occasion,

He said: “The pier brings back a lot of memories to me.”