The History of Hotham Park
Sir Richard Hotham, who developed Bognor from an insignificant hamlet into a fashionable seaside resort, having come to the area to partake of the beneficial sea air, built Hotham Park House in 1792. In 1787 he laid the first foundation stone of this new seaside resort thereby becoming the founder of Bognor. He was only to live here for seven years before his death in 1799. The fine mansion was named The Lodge at that time and had its own private chapel. The clock tower is the only remaining part of Sir Richard’s chapel.
There have been a series of owners over the years, culminating with William Holland Ballett Fletcher who became another benefactor of the town by creating the legacy of the horticultural rich collection of trees, shrubs and ornamental plants that are seen in the park today. He moved into the house, then known as Bersted Lodge, in 1899 and immediately changed the name to Aldwick Manor as he had inherited the Lordship of the Manor of Aldwick. In 1906, he was Co-opted as Chairman of Bognor Urban District Council and in 1910 he became a County Alderman. He was a very private man and never consented to being interviewed about his life and work. His wife Agnes Fletcher became well known in her own right for her unusual interest in reptiles, amphibians and rodents.
William worked closely with Kew Gardens and at one period his plantings were compared with Kew as being an outstanding collection of species. We should remember that this was his garden and not the park we know today. The boating lake was his pond where he could be regularly seen standing at the side feeding his huge goldfish with bread. A cork oak he found at Goodwood is planted near the house to commemorate his wedding to Agnes.
In 1939 she died at the age of 84 and within 2 years William also died, aged 89. This ended the Fletcher association with the house that had lasted over eighty years, since his father took over the house and completing over 40 years for William. Their deaths finished the private ownership of the house and park we know today.
Following his death the house was leased to the Ministry of Pensions for the duration of the war. At the conclusion of the war it soon became obvious that no maintenance had been carried out, but it was still considered possible for the house to be used as a Museum, Restaurant, or community area for the town. Many letters appeared in the press about the use of the area but no plans materialised. However in May 1947 Captain Corbishley, Chairman of the Bognor Regis Council, opened the grounds as a park for the benefit of all.
The house continued to deteriorate and in 1976, 35 years after Fletcher’s death, there were plans to demolish it and leave just the clock tower standing. Thankfully this did not happen and the original clock tower still houses Hotham’s clock from 1794, made by John Thwaites of Clerkenwell. The climb to the top is approx 63 steps.
In 1977 Abraham Singer took a great interest in the house and purchased it. He was keen on its history and decided to restore it, both inside and out, whilst retaining the charm, character and features of the building. Subsequently the property was divided into several elegant apartments that are all privately occupied to this day.