Early maps show a small lane called Sheepwash Lane, which contained a sheep dip. Some of the land belonged to Harry Collyer of South Bersted, but by 1886 the area was being shown as Dung Cart Lane. By 1904 a further map shows the road as Cemetery Road.
Even as late as 1924 there are still discussions on the name for this road, but in 1924 there is a newspaper report explaining the change to Hawthorn Road, as a name more becoming to a new modern Bognor – less vulgar, apparently. On some of the early maps it clearly shows the Sheepwash Barn, which was situated next to the Convent.
In 1888 on September 14, Servite life was established when Louise Raucheaueger, Superior of a congregation of teaching sisters in London, arrived in Bognor. This was to precede the building of a nunnery in Hawthorn Road.
Many local people can remember this construction, as it was not closed and demolished until the 1970s. The main cemetery between Hawthorn Road and Town Cross Avenue was planned in 1875 and finally opened 1887.
The reason for the nuns’ departure was the change from the quiet isolation of the fields in the 1880s into the major built-up area of the 1970s. The Servite Convent finally closed its doors in 1975 to make way for a new housing development. Today this area is known as Servite Close. When the convent closed, a number of the nuns had been there for more than 50 years, and it must have been difficult for them to leave the confines of the convent after such a long period.
Maps from 1912 show that for a number of years there was also the Bognor Isolation Hospital, and this was shown in Bognor Directories from 1916 to 1928. I have received a number of comments regarding the site of this hospital, ie it was in the region of Hillsboro Road and Parklands. This is incorrect, however on the bus trip, numerous people confirmed its existence.
The Wheatsheaf public house moved from West Street and objections to its arrival were very vocal. A Mr Chamberlain’s remarked that ‘the vicinity did not require a public house’, as it was entirely residential – not quite sure why this was a reason for objection – however it appeared from the report that the majority of the land had a covenant imposed on it, so that only private dwellings could be built. Also, of course, a public house would apparently ‘decrease materially the value of all the houses in the immediate neighbourhood’. Some other objections included remarks that because ‘it was situated by a blind avenue, ladies would not like having to pass a public house’. Remember, this is 1930!
One little-known fact today is the existence of a boys’ home in the town. Known as the Bognor Boys’ Home for Waifs and Strays, it was in existence from 1890 until 1907. Its opening was recorded in the Bersted parish magazine in April 1890, as follows – ‘on Easter Monday there will be declared open by Mrs Fletcher, of Bersted Lodge, a new home for orphan and homeless boys’.
It was intended for boys aged nine to 13 where they were to be clothed, fed and taught, and given a useful occupation. Ultimately these boys could be drafted to the Jersey Home for Working Lads in London, from where they could obtain employment. These buildings were situated in the vicinity of today’s Indian restaurant and the new homes in Fletcher Way, off Hawthorn Road. I very often receive requests for information on this home from people tracing their family history. However, I do not have any photos or detailed information on this premise.
With the arrival of a new century – 1900 – the Bognor Football Club was becoming quite a feature of the town. One of the major changes for the club – new premises – this time in Nyewood Lane, a turning off Hawthorn Road. However according to the local paper it was to some a retrograde step, as they felt ‘it takes a lot of interest to entice people to go to such an out-of-the-way place’! Within 12 months the financial report was advising the club committee that they had had to spend £6 15s 0d to make a path to the Nyewood Lane site. Difficult to imagine the area to be so ‘out-of-the’way’?
Looking through the history of the road, I found it interesting to read about the laundries that occupied numerous sites near the cemetery. One was Mrs Verion’s laundry which became the better-known White Knight Laundry prior to closure in 1993. Originally known as the Rock Laundry when it was established in 1880, eventually in 1896, following a possible merger with the Bognor and Bersted Laundry of Essex Road, it became known as the Bognor and Bersted Verion Steam Laundry Company. Across the road in premises until recently occupied by Mulberry Press there was another laundry, that of Simmonds Model Laundry. We tend to forget the number of these establishments that were required by organisations and people prior to the arrival of washing machines for ordinary homes. They also provided employment to a large number of local people. Do you have any memories?
Over the years there have been some interesting memories in the local papers. One such article reported, in 1957 that a resident recalled the early days when there was a ‘golf course stretching from Linden Road to the Convent, and a black-bearded man who lived in a thatched cottage on a triangle of ground by the cricket field’. A section of Linden Road from Victoria Drive to Hawthorn Road was constructed in the 1920s and 1930s and the houses remain much the same today, residential premises with their enclosed front and back gardens.
Another report in 1957 remembered when ‘gypsies camped near Gravits Lane and Hawthorn Road’. The report continued that the area was used ‘by courting couples and Gravits Lane was often called Lovers’ Walk’.
Today we tend to think of the road as a thoroughfare containing homes. There has been a great mixture of premises, including schools, garages and shops. Can you remember Olby’s, which had numerous shops around the town in addition to its main shop in the High Street? The High Street shop eventually closed in 1982, but continued in Hawthorn Road, until ultimately the premises closed and were demolished and a Co-op supermarket was built. In 2007 the Co-op was demolished to allow flats to be built with a small Co-op shop beneath.
During 2004 there were major changes with the construction and opening of the Mayfield doctors’ surgery, and new homes opposite.
This article is meant only as a taster for a much more detailed history in the future of one of our main arterial roads in the town.
:: If you have any memories, or pictures please email me via firstname.lastname@example.org and thank you for any assistance you can provide.