In 1982 Mr John Rank approached Bognor Regis Lions Club with a request to develop the old barn and farmyard on Aldwick Road as a community centre. The site, sold for development, is now known as Aldwick Felds. He obtained outline planning permission for a centre before selling the rest of the land. He wanted to have the centre named in honour of his late father, Rowland Rank – brother of the more widely known J Arther Rank.
Consultations were held with local authorities, service clubs and other interested bodies and an outline scheme was put to John Rank and his late mother, Margaret, which met with their approval.
The Club then took on what has been it’s biggest project to date, having to raise £250,000 to carry out the conversion. A fund-raising campaign was begun, a separate Charitable Trust registered and the late Lavinai, Duchess of Norfolk agreed to be the Patron, having known Rowland Rank in his lifetime. West Sussex County Council Social Services expressed interest and agreed to take a block booking f the new centre as a “drop in “centre for the elderly. (There was no comparable centre in Bognor Regis at the time nor was one then contemplated). St John Ambulance was looking for a new headquarters and also agreed to take a block booking, The financial contributions from these two organisations tipped the balance in the fundraising and in 1986 Alex Sayers and Partners were engaged to see to the work..
The Centre opened it’s doors in December 1988 and on January 11th 1989 Lavinia, Duchess of Norfolk performed the official opening ceremony along with John Rank, his brother and sister and their spouses. (Sadly Mrs. Margaret had died in the meantime).
John Rank granted the Trust a 99 year lease on the premises and the rent is a specimen white gardenia, paid at 11am on July 11th every three years – the time and date being that of the death of Rowland Rank. The next payment will be in 2013 when Trustees, who are all members of the Lions Club, will call on one of the Rank family for that purpose and to present a report on the Trust’s activities over light refreshments. Rowland Rank was very fond of the farm of which the Centre is the last vestige, particularly before World War II and he was well known in those days for the horses he bred there.
Over the past 22 years the Centre has proved to be a wonderful facility for the town but sadly, due to present cut-backs, West Sussex County Council Social Services have withdrawn their support and use of the Centre with the subsequent loss of our main source of income. The Trustees are now looking for businesses or organisations to fill the shortfall.
For more information, please visit http://www.rowlandrank.com/