The hidden history of Bognor Regis

If you are seeking something alternative, educational and fun, with or without the kids, in Bognor Regis, check out the Bognor Regis Heritage Trails. With these six unique walks you can enjoy learning more about the stories that lie behind what turned a little fishing hamlet on the south coast of England into the thriving seaside resort that it is today.

When most visitors think of Bognor Regis they imagine a trip to the seaside, encompassing the attractive beaches, the pier, the amusements and Butlins. But there’s actually so much more to discover and enjoy when you’re in this special part of West Sussex. Not only are we able to boast record breaking hours of sunshine – which of course mean some wonderful days to be had on the beach – but Bognor Regis is steeped in history, too.

It all began with one man, wealthy entrepreneur Richard Hotham, over 200 years ago. He decided that the beautiful and sleepy fishing village of Bognor should become a retreat for the upper classes, who wanted to get away from the masses who were flocking from London to Brighton for their holidays. It’s from this dream that Bognor Regis was born and grew to become the tourist seaside destination that it is today.

The heritage trails, which are run by The Bognor Regis Heritage Partnership Board, stretch across the whole town, capturing the history and heritage of Bognor Regis.

They are:

Hotham Park, Bognor Regis by Peter Flude
Hotham Park, Bognor Regis by Peter Flude

The Hotham Park Tree Trail and the Seafront ‘Fun and Facts’ Trail are specifically suited to families with young children, while the three-mile Bognor Regis Blue Plaque Trail celebrates people and events that have either lived in or influenced the town.

For example, while holidaying in Bognor in 1923 James Joyce wrote part of his novel Finnegans Wake. William Blake was a local resident and famously wrote his words about England’s green and pleasant land (today part of the hymn Jerusalem) while taking in the beauty of the nearby village of Felpham. Both have blue plaques installed to commemorate their presence in the area.

William Blakes Cottage Bognor Regis
William Blake’s cottage, Felpham

The Richard Hotham trail reveals the buildings that Sir Richard Hotham was instrumental in creating. The trail covers Chapel House (now Hotham Park House), its clock tower and estate. With the building of Hothamton Crescent, Sir Richard Hotham’s aim was to attract royalty to the town, the then King George III or his son the Prince Regent, to increase its status. Royalty did indeed visit his bathing resort in September 1796, when the then Prince of Wales visited Dome House. The Prince Regent’s daughter Charlotte was a summer visitor at Dome House from 1808 to 1811. King George V famously came in 1929 to recuperate from a serious illness and granted to the town the name Regis.

Starting from the pier and heading west, the Bognor Regis Pier and Western Bognor Regis trail covers even more of the town’s history and development, ending at Marine Park Gardens and the remains of the Mulberry Harbour section from World War 2.

Ranging from under a mile to three miles, the six trails are suitable for the whole family. So, on a day when you feel like doing something a bit different, pick a trail and learn more about our historic town.

Marine Park Gardens, Bognor Regis. 20th June 2022. Peter Flude
Marine Park Gardens, Bognor Regis by Peter Flude

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