Nostalgia: The changing face of our high streets

York Road, Bognor Regis, in the 1950s
York Road, Bognor Regis, in the 1950s

When looking for articles, 
I choose a subject for a variety of reasons.

This week I found an article 
I wrote at an important point 
in time.

A familiar view of the High Street

A familiar view of the High Street

Do you remember all the build-up to the Millennium, all the excitement and apprehension of this journey from the 1900s to the 2000s?

Suddenly we find that was 15 years ago. I wonder how things have changed and what we said at that time.

While Bognor’s history is not as long as many places, it does have a unique factor – an official birthday each January 18.

This is the date when Sir Richard Hotham laid the first foundation stone to this new resort in 1787, when he hoped to be able to develop a second Brighton, a place for royalty to visit, but this never materialised for him.

Still changing ' this picture of London Road, Bognor Regis, was  taken in 2001 ' and who knows how it might look in another 14 years' time?SUS-150201-125831001

Still changing ' this picture of London Road, Bognor Regis, was taken in 2001 ' and who knows how it might look in another 14 years' time?SUS-150201-125831001

The resort received the accolade of ‘Regis’ following 
the visit of King George V 
to recuperate; hence the town has been called Bognor Regis from 1929.

From the start of the 20th century, many areas of the town developed.

It is difficult to conceive that the extent of the town between 1880 and 1910 was within the boundary of Albert Road at 
the east and Waterloo Square in the west.

Imagine what the centre of the town must have looked like, before they built the Arcade in 1910, and commenced the London Road area, where places such as Staley’s could be found.

Queensway, built in 1960s, pictured last year

Queensway, built in 1960s, pictured last year

It changed to Bobby’s, then Seasons and is now Bon Marche.

The current London Road and High Street were originally lanes with small houses and gardens, where flowers and trees were eventually replaced by new constructions of shops and wide streets to encourage ‘the shopper’ into the town centre.

Since the foundation stone was laid, the town has developed and now includes shopping precincts and industry.

A pier and station were 
built, both of which have 
since suffered at the hands of the elements.

The population of the town has increased considerably from the small fishing village of the 1800s to being included in the statistics of the larger Arun District Council.

The villages of Pagham, Aldwick, Felpham, Middleton and Elmer have been developed so that they now form an integral part of the town, with no clear boundaries between each village, still retaining their own identity.

Following the first world war, the town began to expand, with the building of the current post office, which opened in 1926.

The current Town Hall, situated in Clarence Road, opened in 1929, and other properties began to emerge both within the town centre, and also there was an upsurge in housing estates around the outskirts, such as the Newtown estate in North Bersted.

Following the second world war, in line with national trends, more housing estates developed, as housing was much needed after the devastation caused by the war.

New areas were developed countrywide, as housing was at a premium in whichever area of the country you wanted to live.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the town continued to expand.

More Victorian buildings were demolished and the current Queensway area rose in the concrete style of the 1960s.

Since this time we have seen an upsurge in the building of retirement flats and homes.

During the 1980s, the national trend of large out-of-town shopping estates was encouraged, originally to provide more variety and a larger scope for shopping.

These types of development have in fact backfired to some extent, forcing the small shopkeepers of the 1970s to 
close down, as they were 
unable to competitively buy and sell goods for us, while at the same time retaining a modest profit margin.

During the 1990s, people 
have become much more concerned about their surroundings and heritage – with an increased awareness of what has gone, what remains, and how we should retain buildings for the future.

However, what of the future? In 2000 I asked questions such as how will this purpose-built seaside resort develop into the next century?

Will the aims and aspirations of Sir Richard Hotham be achieved, as the next century evolves? Shall we have a new range of entertainment facilities to encourage young families to come to the coast for their holidays?

Will the lure of holidays abroad continue, or will the changing climate encourage people to stay in this country?

Will we still have the large holiday centres, resting alongside the caravan sites around the area?

Will we have one or two piers, and what type of facilities will these offer in the year 2025, or later? Perhaps we shall have a marina with the associated yachts and housing, which will provide new employment opportunities for the residents.

Will the industrial side of the town have changed, maybe with an increase in the number of smaller organisations, taking over from the larger Lec Refrigeration-style employer?

We could of course become a distribution centre. As the use 
of the internet increases across all sectors, the need for distribution becomes paramount, with shops and retail outlets taking a back seat.

As recent as last month in the national press, there was mention made of a reducing need for travel agencies in the high street, as more and more people are obtaining their holidays from the internet.

Maybe we will have new businesses coming into the town, such as call centres to deal with IT services, or to deal with enquiries for products through the internet.

As technology improves, 
will we click on the internet 
to see our new world of historical sites, for example, ‘The Village of Felpham in 1990’, or the ‘Retirement Village of Middleton’?

Pagham could become a major housing estate, which provides accommodation for the workers in the new industries that will no doubt develop.

As working styles change, more people will work from home, which will change the style and need for transportation.

Finally we may see ‘The seaside resort of Bognor Regis’ on the net, themed into the style of the 1980s, where you can buy goods at 1980s prices and see how people dressed at the time! Interesting! What were you wearing in 1980?

Throughout this century as building fashions have changed, previously desirable properties have been classed as an eyesore by the next generation.

In 1925, a correspondent for the local paper commented that he was pleased to see the end of ‘The Cabbage Patch’ at the end of Lennox Street, on the seafront.

Today we have ‘The Cassino’ with flats above.

They had the Pavilion, and apparently ‘many townspeople swore they would never enter it’!

Today people tell me it was the greatest entertainment and social centre in the town.

It is interesting to consider whether people in the future will look at their homes and surroundings and believe that we have carefully considered their future in a manner suitable for 2030. Have we spoilt or enhanced their living conditions?

I asked in 2000 if we would 
still be reading a local weekly paper, or would be spending our time with the world of the internet, searching through the Observer online?

I know of people who 
now only read the Observer online, in places like Australia, as they keep up to date on their home town.

In the past 15 years we have seen many new developments in the area, and the new bypass for the town well on the way to completion, which I am sure, 
will create many comments in the future.

Hopefully the young people of today will have the opportunity, initiative and vision to develop their town, in a way that will then encourage others to remain in the locality.

Then, as the area develops, 
the children of the future will 
be in a position to enjoy this area, by the seaside.