Plaque for historic lifesaver Mary Wheatland unveiled on Bognor Pier

Mary saved 30 lives and is often referred to as the "Grace Darling of Bognor Regis"

The Bognor Regis Heritage and Arts Partnership has unveiled a blue plaque for Mary Wheatland, a historic lifesaver who is often referred to as the "Grace Darling of Bognor Regis".

The Bognor Pier plaque was presented at 11am today and commemorates Mary's achievements, such as her 1879 Vellum testimonial and later a bronze medal in 1903 for her lifesaving exploits. Attending the event alongside the town mayor was local historian Sylvia Endacott and John Wilson, Assistant Secretary of the Royal Humane Society. 

The trio were joined by generations of Mary Wheatland's family who were also keen to celebrate her achievements. Mary's lifesaving escapades began when she moved to Bognor and taught herself to swim before moving on to operate bathing machines in front of the Beach Hotel. 

Mary is responsible for saving over 30 lives, including a man who she rushed in the sea fully dressed to rescue, leading her to gain another medal from the Royal Humane Society.

Before the plaque was revealed, historian Sylvia Endacott showed off the original vellum testimonial which she had been gifted by Mary's granddaughter.

The blue plaque reads: "Bathing machine proprietor, Saved 30 lives, Awarded the Royal Humane Society, Testimonial on Vellum and later the Bronze Medal" alongside Mary's birth and death date, 1835-1924. 

The Royal Humane Society's John Wilson called it an "honour" to meet Mary's family members. 

He added, "It is fantastic to see one of the early Vellum awards in such great condition."

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