John Rank’s address to those present at the opening of The Rowland Rank Centre Wednesday 11th January 1989

Your Grace, Lady Felicity, Chair of District Council, Chair of Parish Council, the [Project] Chair and Pride of his, and all other ladies and gentlemen who have helped on the project.

We all have ideas and plans, and I often think we need to be careful before putting them into effect. To make sure the plan is viable and practicable, and that we are dogged enough to face the delays and unexpected events on the way. It can be a game of snakes and ladders, two up and four down!

In this regard, I do want to praise the Lions. Their first action was to check the viability of the scheme, and to investigate the real need. Then they saw it through, despite the many disappointments and setbacks on the way.

English people fear change. Every day we read in the press some new idea is being fought. If it is a good one, and it goes through, we forget there was ever a time it did not exist. Here, we had a few neighbours who were full of fear, and voiced their concern for some months in the local papers. I think already they are pleasantly surprised and we must all hope this continues. On an off day, I hope they will remember to be pleased that the site is not a fire station as was at one time suggested.

My grandfather, Joseph Rank, was the first of the family to visit this District. He rented the original old Aldwick Place, at the turn of the century, and brought his large family for a holiday.

It was very natural Rowland Rank should remember this when he convalesced on the beach here after being gassed in the 1914 war. He bought Aldwick Place but before building the new house drove along the coast from Kent, and discovered this was the only spot on the sea to have trees. He then proceeded to add a few thousand more!

The visit of King George V let out the secret of the good climate and this combined with the very high taxation from 1945 meant this area had to change and become very built up. I felt we the family should do something for Aldwick and should commemorate my father. What better than a meeting place, for he, like my mother, loved people.

If you live in a small house there comes a moment when you have to give a party and I’m very glad a wedding reception has already been booked for this August. The day centre for the elderly is a most splendid idea of the Lions, serving a very real need, and I am so grateful that it found favour with West Sussex County Council who have been most generous. We have with us their representative Lady Felicity Longmoor, and other councillors, and officials showing the new spirit of private and public cooperation. I am very glad too that the project commended itself to the Rank Foundation and it is good to have my cousin Major Cowen with us today.

I do want to pay praise to Alex Sayer and Partners [Construction Project Consultants], and Middleton Builders. I am truly delighted at the high standard of all their men. There is something very satisfactory about the conversion of an old building to a new use, and particularly so when it is a local landmark. I think all the men took an interest in bringing this barn to life. It was a challenge and it is a visible continuity with the past.

My mother [Margaret Rank] gave support and took a great interest in this project, so after her death last February I was very delighted that the Lions suggested this room should be named the Margaret Rank Hall. My father had given Dr. Barnardo’s Margaret House by the duck pond which gave many boys happiness until it was closed and sold. Now only Margaret Close commemorates the site so to have this hall named after her gives great pleasure to the family.

With the Bernardo’s experience, and another, I felt it best to retain a very slim hold here. It also keeps the family connection and interest. I shall not be breathing down the necks of the Lions they might roar at me!

The rent is one specimen gardenia every three years starting this year and I hope the Lions have already reserved Tuesday July 11th at 11:00 AM. I shall expect their call on me. My father’s favourite flower was a gardenia. He had a greenhouse for them. I am not suggesting the Lions need do that but I hope they will not find it difficult to obtain this flower at that time of the year. This will give an occasion to discuss progress and of course I’m available if they have problems at other times.

I saw Mr Boyt’s [Dennis F. Boyt L.V.O. R.I.B.A. Chartered Architect] excellent plans but even so the reality is much nicer than I anticipated and it gives me real pride to see the building. Already it has a pleasant atmosphere and I hope all who work here, or enjoy its facilities, will be happy and it will give good service to the community.

I have enormous pleasure to declare the Rowland Rank Centre fully open.

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