West Bersted plans are simply old news

Under construction
Under construction

At the moment there is much talk and interest around the town regarding the new estates that are beginning to be developed and which will be surveyed daily by people travelling to and from Chichester on their way to work or to shop. So this week I thought we could take a look at a previous ‘new estate’ also in North Bersted.

In this instance we can thank GA Neal and Sons for the provision of a wide range of very interesting information from when the company started to develop the area now known as the Newtown Estate in North Bersted. The estate was comprised of Central Avenue, South Way, Central Drive, Newton Avenue and Greencourt Drive. If you are not quite sure of the area, then perhaps the photo showing the Fish Bar at North Bersted, with the sign ‘Royal Parade 1932’, the original estate office, which is quite prominent, will help you pinpoint it as the road bears to the right at North Bersted.

The developer very kindly produced a booklet, to be available for the benefit of all potential customers, as he quoted ‘for a new property in a very desirable area’. We should first try to envisage the area, not as we know it today, but as an undeveloped open area of Bognor Regis, whose population was then 13,500. The foreword reports ‘a township has sprung up consisting of houses of which the most fastidious might well be proud, a town which has its own shopping centre’. It continues ‘The Newtown Estate is within the boundary of Bognor Regis. That name alone speaks volumes, as it tells of happy days spent lounging in the 
sunshine or bathing in the clean sparkling surf’.

Again we should compare the buildings of today, whereby planners fit a large number of homes into what seems to be a small piece of land. Mr Neal decided ‘an average of ten homes to the acre’ would be constructed, each house with a gate into the back garden to ‘enable tradesmen and others to reach the back door, without having to go through the front gate.’

Advertising within the 1930s had to encompass a different range of facilities to those of today; hence they were in the position to announce that main drainage was completed and homes were connected to the Bognor Regis main sewers free of cost. The new homeowners were also advised they would be able to partake of gas and main water supplies, in addition to electric lights, and these services were also to be supplied free of charge.

It would appear the layout of the site was being considered very much with the new residents in mind. The homes were to contain a range of special features including large bay windows which it stated added ‘attractiveness and providing more light’, and thus continued it would be ‘a house into which your furniture seems to fit easily’. Like today’s advertising brochures the homes were filled with ‘modern’ furniture to encourage the purchaser with promises of the ability in one of the small bedrooms to ‘accommodate a full-size single bed and a dressing table, leaving ample room for moving around in the rooms’.

As a last incentive, the brochure explained ‘everything possible was done to make the estate the best in the district and nothing was to be spared to satisfy the needs of each and every purchaser’.

Can you imagine the excitement of housewives in the early 1930s as they purchased a home which had a new kitchen, filled with modern conveniences such as ‘a sink fitted in the corner leaving room for a draining board’, plus ‘a larder which is large in size and well ventilated. The whole of the kitchen is tiled half way up the wall with a black and white capping’. Another incentive was the provision of a sunken bath, very novel in 1936.

Once the euphoria of this home had sunk in then of course there was the question of price and could people really afford a house of their own? Again I would remind you we are talking about the 1930s when house purchase was definitely not the priority it is today, plus the earnings available were not sufficient to allow everyone to purchase. However, again Mr. Neal was helpful and provided the information needed to make a decision on what manner of payment could be used. Price, of course, was important and many were quoted as reasonable, ranging from £540 to the quite expensive £675 house.

Can you believe some of the deposits were £25 and repayments were to be 15s 6d per week (about 75p)? However, if you were in a position to have a cash sale, then at the signing of the formal contract a ten per cent deposit was required, the balance to be paid on completion of the property.

For the benefit of those who had not been in a position to purchase a house before, the booklet provided more interesting and very useful information, including the note that rates worked out about 4s 0d per week. In addition, they had to incur the cost of gas at 4s 6d per 1,000 feet, and electricity at just over 1d per unit.

Additional local town information was also available which advised that both the Southdown Motor Services Co Ltd and the Aldershot and District Traction Co Ltd passed the estate regularly at 15-minute intervals. The railway service was also stated to be the most convenient and tickets cost 8s 5d single to London, with a return ticket at 16s 10d.

As I mentioned before, the developer took into account all facets of life of the new owners, including the social side with the provision of the Newtown Social Club. The original club was to comprise an area for tea and coffee and they also had a ‘registered bar’. There was a billiards room, with three full-sized tables, a large ballroom with a fine Canadian maple floor, and a room ‘specially set apart for the ladies’. This area was closed and eventually became a furniture store for Lewis & Company. The building has long since been demolished and replaced in 1987 by Olivia Court. Another asset planned was inclusion of two hard tennis courts and a putting green.

To complete the package, GA Neal produced a postcard, which proclaimed alongside the view of the beach, ‘Bognor Regis for Health’. Within the card was a small flap to be lifted which displayed 12 small pull-out pictures showing the internal and external appearance of this estate. Quite a novel way to advertise a housing estate.

Recently I was able to obtain more information about a house on the estate. The house was situated in a ‘new road to be known as Bedford Avenue’, which included a statement from September, 1932 which showed the house had cost £470 and in addition two gas points had cost 15/- (75p) each, the outside WC £5, garage £13, greenhouse £12, the veranda £12.

Two other facts also came to light; when I asked why Central Avenue is so wide, it appears it was originally planned that this should be the main road to Chichester, however this did not occur.

I was also told that when the houses were available for rent, they cost 15/- per week. However, locally the rate was 12/6d and as a result many of these houses were empty when the second world war arrived. The government therefore took over many of the houses to be used by of troops.

We should now be collecting our items of local history memorabilia for the future, – articles, information and sales particulars and, of course, taking pictures so that in the future someone can write about the ‘new estate’ at North Bersted developed from 2013.