Riverside history thoughtfully restored in flint and good taste

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May 23, 2013 by Whispering Smith

Published in the Littlehampton Gazette on May 16th 2013

NOT EVERYONE likes the Jane Wood, Heatherwick designed, East Beach Café. Locally referred as The Rusty Bucket, a sobriquet originally coined, I believe, by an acquaintance of mine, and usually delivered in a tone that is either friendly or dark depending on the individual’s point of view. I am ambivalent about the steel building as I have no love for and little understanding of modern architecture with my likes and dislikes firmly rooted in the past. It is a functional and pleasant place for an evening meal, afternoon coffee or somewhere on a sunny day to buy a real dairy ice cream. I have grown quite fond of the bench though and find many of the dedications and floral tributes strangely moving. The shelters, a misnomer if ever there was one, are something else and although I have no fond memories of the old shelters littered with their disgusting detritus and pervading stench of urine it would be nice to have a wall to hide behind on a wet and windy winter’s day. Last week I extended my daily walk along the prom and the river to beyond the RNLI Station and on to the footbridge in order to take in Ms Wood’s latest project, the conversion into dwellings of the old Duke and Okenden buildings which, until very recently, were home to a successful automotive repair shop – now in smaller premises next door. I was very pleasantly surprised. The old flint building which looked at one time as if it was about collapse into the river – and I suspect some wished it had – is well on the way to completion with all of the main flint facades still in place or carefully and thoughtfully renovated with flint encased blocks which, when pointed, are almost indiscernible from the original. Even the wrought iron window frames have been restored and the building will retain an Ockenden identification stone. Great to see such a respectful and worthwhile undertaking. When completed and situated as it is with the attractive Arun View and the newly renovated Steam Packet close by this will indeed be a handsome little corner of LA. Pity about the proposals for the West Bank though, its super store, retirement homes, marina, casino and giant Ferris wheel… I’m only kidding, right?

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