The Bognor Regis Blue Plaque Trail
The Bognor Regis Blue Plaque Trail celebrates people and events that have either lived in or influenced the seaside town of Bognor Regis. The trail is focussed primarily on Blue Plaques but also includes memorial plaques and stones. The trail commences at Bognor Regis Pier, then heading west to Marine Park Gardens, then back through the town to Hotham Park Gardens and ending at Dome House.
This is the longest of the Heritage Trails and visitors should allow at least two hours to complete the trail.
Parking: Regis Centre
Walk the Trail
Distance: 3 miles
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours
HMS St Barbara; Memorial Stone
At the front of the pier, a plaque commemorates the role of the pier in WW2 when the pier was named HMS St Barbara for gunnery training with anti aircraft guns. During the war part of the pier sub-structure was cut, and a rope bridge built to connect the gun emplacement at the seaward end to the landward end. The rebuilding of this section after the war is thought to have been a cause of weakness in the pier’s structure due to low quality steel available after the war. Storms in 1965, 1999, and 2008 resulted in the loss of major parts of the seaward end of the pier.
Sir W E ‘Billy’ Butlin 1899 -1980
From the pier, head east for a couple of metres and cross the road at the pelican crossing. Continue east and the second road on your left is Lennox Street. It is at this location where Sir Billy Butlin established his Butlin’s Recreation Shelter in 1931, an amusement arcade with dodgems, children’s rides, and the largest display of slot machines on the coast at that time.
Butlin’s moved their amusements and built the holiday camp at the eastern end of the Esplanade in 1960 and had some 30,000 visitors that season.
Memorial Drinking Fountain – Charles Osborn
Head up Lennox street and turn left at the junction with the High Street where you will see a drinking fountain erected in 1866. The fountain celebrates Charles Osborn as ‘the oldest member of the medical profession in Bognor’.
The Steyne – Memorial Drinking Fountain
Walk past the Methodist Church and continue along West Street. The third street on your left is The Steyne. Stroll though
the gardens and at the seaward end of the Steyne is a drinking fountain, originally located on the promenade almost opposite to its current location; the drinking fountain commemorated the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. Also in The Steyne is a memorial plaque for Amnesty International. The plaque was installed at the southern end of The Steyne on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights in 1998.
Joseph Witham 1832 – 1901
Retrace your steps up The Steyne turning left into West Street taking the second turn on your left, and continue down West Street in the direction of the seafront. On the left you will find the Bognor Regis Museum.
Opposite the museum at high level above a shop is a Blue Plaque for Joseph Witham. Joseph Witham was born at the house, he became a marine artist and from 1874 he became known for his paintings of ships. Some of his work can be seen at the National Maritime Museum.
Frank L’Alouette 1901 – 1968
Next door to Joseph Witham’s plaque is a new Blue Plaque commemorating Frank L’Alouette. He was a War Office sanctioned official photographer during World War 2, recording memories of Bognor Regis and the district during the war. A collection of 391 photos taken by him can be seen on the West Sussex Past Pictures website. The plaque commemorates the location of his photographic shop in the town
Tony Hancock 1924 – 1968
Situated at the bottom of West Street is the Royal Norfolk Hotel. Famous guests have included the exiled Emperor Napoleon III in 1872, Queen Alexandra and her sister Empress Maud of Russia.
On the entrance gate to the hotel is a blue plaque to commemorate the time that Tony Hancock spent at the hotel while filming “The Punch & Judy Man” his last film in 1962.
Martin Venables 1901 – 1990
From the hotel, cross the road at the pedestrian crossing and head west on the promenade. Just in front of Rock Gardens is a new Blue Plaque celebrating the life of Martin Venables, an eminent local geologist. He studied the rocks of Bognor Regis and discovered and named a number of Sussex fossils, Bognoria, Aldwickia, Portnallia and well as a genus Venablesi.
John Cyril Hawes 1857 – 1956
Return from Rock Gardens to Aldwick Road and turn left where you will find the outstanding White Tower. It was built in 1898 by John Cyril Hawes, a renowned architect and builder of churches in Australia and the Bahamas. He also became a Franciscan monk. The White Tower is one of the most iconic and unusual buildings in Bognor Regis.
The listed building was the most recent to receive Blue Plaque status in 2018. The timing of the plaque was arranged to coincide with a visit to the house by followers of John Hawes from Australia. The White Tower was designed and built as a summer house for Mr Hawes and his two brothers and contains many of the original features. Not only is the size of the four-storey building impressive but also the artistic features such as the animals supporting the hood over the front door add to its amazing character.
Although relatively unknown in the UK, John Hawes is well recognised in Australia where he designed 44 churches and priest houses in Western Australia although not all were built.
William Fletcher 1852 – 1941 Marine Park Gardens
Continue west along Aldwick Road and turn left into Victoria Road. At the seafront turn right onto Park Road and continue along the promenade. Marine Park Gardens are on your right. The new Blue Plaque dedicated
to William Fletcher is located on the pavilion. The council purchased the site of the gardens during a sale of William Fletcher’s land in 1926. William Fletcher opened Marine Park Gardens on 23 July 1935. William Fletcher is remembered for his interest in trees and the development and planting of Hotham Park Gardens in conjunction with Kew Gardens.
In addition to the Blue Plaque is a Memorial Plaque to J & L Black.
Victor Lorenzo Whitechurch 1868 – 1933
From Marine Park Gardens retrace your steps back along Park Road towards Victoria Road. From the promenade if the tide is low looking west you can see the remains of a Mulberry Harbour section from World War 2. On your right as you approach Victoria Road are the beautiful buildings of Marine Parade, characteristic of old Bognor.
Continue up Victoria Road and on your right is a Blue plaque to Victor Lorenzo Whitechurch, author and creator of the railway detective Thorpe Hazell.
Continue up Victoria Road and turn right into Cavendish Road. At the end of the road turn left into Argyle Road and follow it round to Canada Grove. Half way along Canada Grove is a new Blue Plaque, which celebrates meetings at the Lodge since 1878.
The Picturedrome – Building Plaque
At the end of Canada Grove is The Picturedrome. The plaque celebrates the purchase of the cinema by Bognor Regis Town Council in 2010. Built in 1886 as the New Assembly Rooms, the building became a cinema in 1919.
The Railway Station – 2 Building Plaques
Opposite the Picturedrome is Bognor Regis Railway Station. There are two Blue Plaques celebrating the opening of the station in 1864, which had a major influence on the town’s growth as a seaside resort, and the construction of the new Station building in 1902. The Station was awarded Grade II listing in 1994..
Wades Clock Plaque
From the Station, walk down Station Road towards the town centre and down London Road the main pedestrian shopping precinct in the town. At the end of London Road directly opposite you is The Arcade. Just two minutes from the Arcade along the High Street heading west is a plaque celebrating the original clock of Wades the Jewellers. The replacement clock which is similar to the original is located above the Your Move Estate Agency.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828 – 1882
At the end of the Arcade, turn left into Belmont Street and on your left is a plaque to Dante Gabriel Rossetti the founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement in 1848. A poet and painter, Rossetti worked at a studio in what were thought to be stables for the building Bognor Lodge. Turn round and head a few metres back past the arcade, a Memorial Plaque to James W. C. Fegan can be found. James Fegan was the founder of Fegans home for Boys.
James Joyce 1882 – 1941
On the opposite side of the Clarence Road is a Blue Plaque to James Joyce the author. While holidaying in Bognor in 1923, he wrote part of his novel Finnegans Wake.
Henry Leopold Guermonprez 1858 – 1924
Return to Belmont Street and continue eastwards, turn right at the junction with Albert Road. At the junction with Walton Road is St Joseph’s. The Blue Plaque can be seen at the first floor level and celebrates Henry Guermonprez, a self taught natural historian. He collected and recorded the flora and wildlife of West Sussex. Part of his collection can now be seen at the Portsmouth City Museum
Sir Richard Hotham 1722 – 1799
Continue back up Belmont Road to the High Street and turn right. Follow the road to the entrance to Hotham Park Gardens opposite Gloucester Road. Stroll up the path and opposite the bandstand is Hotham Park House, the home of Sir Richard Hotham. The plaque is dedicated to Sir Richard Hotham who was the founder of modern day Bognor Regis as a seaside resort. In 1787 he initiated the building of a holiday resort for the gentry, which he named Hothamton.
William Roy Macklin
Continue along the path through the park and exit at gates of the short-term car park. Cross the Upper Bognor Road and enter the Chichester University Bognor Regis Campus at Gate A. On your left is Dome House, the only Grade 1 listed building in Bognor Regis. Dome House was build by Sir Richard Hotham in 1797 and was the centre piece of Hothamton Crescent with Mordington House on the left and St Michael’s House on the right. Dome House was designed to attract royalty to his newly created resort of Hothamton.
Notable visitors included Lady Jersey, Princess Charlotte and the then Prince of Wales (the future King Geoge IV). The Green Plaque celebrates Roy Macklin who was the first Principal of the College that became the Bognor Regis Training College after World War 2.
End of the Trail
This ends the Bognor Regis Blue Plaque Trail and visitors can return to the Regis Centre Car Park by either walking back down Gloucester Road to the seafront or strolling back through Hotham Park.
New Blue Plaques will be added to the trail over time and this version is up to date as of March 2019.
There are further interesting Blue Plaques in the neighbouring parishes of Felpham and Aldwick notably William Blake and William Hayley who resided in Felpham. Further information on these can be found in Sylvia Endacott’s study referred to below.
Thanks go to Sylvia Endacott of the Bognor Regis Local History Society for her work on the White Tower and also her 2016 study of Blue Plaques of the town “Words in Stone and Steel – Blue Plaques, Memorial and Foundation Stones around Bognor Regis”