Bognor Regis is a seaside coastal resort located within West Sussex in the South of England and one of the oldest recorded Saxon place names in Sussex. In a document of 680AD it is referred to as Bucgan ora meaning Bucge's (a female Saxon name) shore, or landing place. In more recent times it was know as just ''Bognor'' and up until the 18th century, was just a fishing village and was also used by smugglers.
Sir Richard Hotham original founder of Bognor as a seaside resort
Bognor, latterly to be called Bognor Regis as it is now known, was first created as a seaside resort by of Sir Richard Hotham.
In the summer of 1784, a London Hatter, Sir Richard Hotham - (MP for Southwark at the time) decided to try the re-cuperative qualities of sea air and headed for this part of Sussex. He found that the climate of the south coast had many benefits. He was so taken with the area that, having retired from politics, he decided to build his own mansion here, named ''Bognor Lodge'' (now Hotham Park House) and dreamed of building a new fashionable seaside resort. It was Sir Richard Hotham (1722-1799) an English 18th century property develop/sir-richard-hotham-bognor-regiser who turned Bognor into a seaside resort.
Over time he bought up around 1600 acres of land and started to build large terraced houses to attract the wealthier visitor to his ''new'' seaside resort, and his ultimate goal was to attract the then King and/or Prince of Wales. Sir Richard Hotham died in Bognor in March 1799 and is buried at St. Mary Magdalene Church in South Bersted. Over the next hundred years or so, Bognor grew and tourism came to the town.
His house can still be seen today within the grounds of Hotham Park.
King George V
The Duke and Duchess of York visited the town in 1900 to open two convalescent homes in Clarence road. They returned in 1929 as King George V and Queen Mary, as Bognor was chosen as the favoured place for King George V to convalesce. He and the Queen stayed at Craigwell House (the private home of Sir Arthur du Cros) in Aldwick for four months. With the Kings health restored, his reign continued for a further seven years. The Royal Convalescence attracted the worlds press. A long line of Royal visitors came to Bognor - including the Kings three year old granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth.
The greatest accolade came in June 1929 when the King approved the suffix "Regis", and as a result, Bognor became known as ''Bognor Regis''. Bognor Regis has seen many changes during its history. Many of these changes were in the 1970’s when many old original buildings were demolished. It has to be said though, that in the early days of Bognor Regis (after the Kings visits) tourism really took off.
As a seaside resort it had the sun, the sea, the sand and, one of the best stretches of coastal sands around at that, as well as wonderful Victorian architecture adorning the seafront, culminating with the pier which once was the landing place for paddle steamers.
So, the rumor holds that, after being told he could recuperate in the seaside town of Bognor Regis, the king's last words were “Bugger Bognor.” In a private journal, the king's physician wrote that George V's last words were “God damn you.”)
Billy Butlin opened his Recreation Shelter in the town, on the corner of Lennox Street and the Esplanade. The following year he added a sea front zoo, then a fairground to his empire. Billy Butlin negotiated with the town council, and subsequently was able to move from his site in Lennox Street to a much larger site at the eastern end of the Esplanade, where Butlins resort (Bognor Regis) opened on the 2nd July 1960 and soon after was receiving 3,000 weekly campers. Bognor Regis is growing as it has always done. Butlins has always been one of the main investors in the town. In 2005 Butlins opened the ''Shoreline Hotel''. In August 2009 a further new hotel to be called the ''Spa Hotel'' opened.
For more information about the history of Bognor Regis, Sir Richard Hotham and heritage trails, visit the Bognor Regis Heritage Trails website.