As we travel around town, there are many roads that seem to be used mainly for parking or as through roads without us paying attention to our surroundings, or even considering the area’s history.
One such is Sudley Road,, Bognor Regis, which runs along the back of Boots and is quite central when shopping.
The road was originally named to commemorate the 3rd Earl of Arran, Viscount Sudley of Gore, who for a number of years was a landowner in Bognor Regis.
The road was originally built through what was only a meadow in 1878. It contains a number of interesting and historical buildings.
If we start at the northern end of the road today we find the Music Recital Centre, previously a church run by the Christian Scientists, which was opened on June 23, 1957.
At this site in August, 1942, one of the major wartime bombings took place, and one house simply vanished into a huge crater.
The premises were specifically designed to fit into the area and were constructed from red Roman roof tiles from Bridgwater in Somerset.
The church contained many interesting features, which were a far cry from the previous site of the church in Argyle Circus, which they occupied from 1930.
This road was also known for the rear view of St John’s church, one of the most popular churches in the town. The Vicarage was situated in Sudley Road, and part of the flint wall from the church site can still be seen around the car park of Boots and WHSmith, which seems to be such a small reminder of such a prominent building in the town centre.
During the 1970s this church was demolished and replaced by the shops we know today.
On the east side of the road is Twyford’s, which from 1936 was a small private maternity hospital for a number of years.
Still on the east side we have the Bognor Club, which is certainly situated in a very historic building.
This building was erected in 1837 and was the Assembly Rooms for the town. The early short section of road was in reality to allow people to visit these premises.
By 1893 the general meeting of the Bognor Club stated that they were ‘able to report that they had negotiated the lease for the premises.’
The town council then occupied these premises for a number of years.
In 1886 the building underwent considerable alterations including the insertion of a small wrought-iron gallery which contained the word ‘love’ worked into the ironwork, for no known apparent reason.
During the 1950s there were numerous reports in the local press with regard to the ‘changing face’ of Sudley Road.
Much of this had resulted from the change of use of the good residential premises into office properties. However I was interested to read in one report that this road was now to be considered for ‘professional use’ and it was considered also to be one of the main bus routes, due to the fact that ‘12 buses per hour’ passed along the road.
The press reported that it would never be suitable for private residences again!
At a local tribunal in 1953 which was reporting on rent reductions they remarked that Sudley Road was a ‘most desirable road in the town for offices’.
The report said there was a good mix of professions with solicitors, turf commissioners, and other professional people.
During the 1960s there were also plans for the removal of some premises and the building of blocks of flats. However these were rejected at that time, for safety reasons and because of future town developments.
Further along the road there was another church, the United National Spiritualist Church that was built in 1961 and is still well used.
Previously this church had occupied a site in Argyle Circus, as did so many groups of this nature. The local church was founded in 1940 and was developed over the coming years, until finally they had a large-enough congregation and building fund to allow them to develop into these new premises, in the centre of the town.
The next prominent building is that of Bradlaw House.
It was originally called St David’s around 1905. This imposing building has been the home to a variety of trades and professions. By 1964 it was occupied by a dental surgeon and chartered accountant, with an office for an ordnance survey company. By 1972 a club had taken up residence, which of course remains to day
On the opposite side of the road there was a shop that for a number of years was a very popular store, that of Coplestone House. It was originally part of a regency terrace built in the 1820s by William Kimber Wonham, one of the town’s speculators.
It was built to match and fit in with the outward appearance of the Bognor Club. The Sudley Terrace facing into the High street was built in 1827 and by 1903 number four was the home of the Coplelstone Bakery.
Eventually the bakers left and the premises were taken over by Miss Lillian Unwin who opened a millinery and blouse shop. For a number of years it was possible to see her name depicted in tiles on the floor of the store entrance.
Eventually in 1946 the store was taken over by Bernard Lush, who with his wife was to develop the Coplestone House store.
They expanded into No. 3 and within the next ten years expanded even further when they had an extension built into Sudley Road. This store eventually sold fashion, sportswear, lingerie etc.
They also sold clothes specifically for teenagers. Over the years this store built an excellent reputation with its own clientele.
A number of people with whom I have discussed this store have vivid memories of their London fashions and the fact that it was quite a high-class shop for the town.
Another lady remembered having an account with the store. She did say that she could not afford to buy anything there, but she did have an account!
Next time you decide to park in Sudley Road, just take the time to have a look around at a road that has many interesting and historical connections.