Saturday, August 31st 2013
For today’s trip we are meeting friends and taking the train to Bournemouth. This pleasant seaside town is worth visiting on its own account and we have already done so – see the account of our time there in Bournemouth 2009. This time, however, we have a specific goal in view, namely to visit the Russell-Cotes Museum.
The museum resides in East Cliff Hall, a house built by Sir Merton Russell-Cotes and his wife. Work began in 1897 and the first phase was completed by 1901. Sir Merton presented the house to his wife, Lady Annie, on July 15th of that year – the year of the death of Queen Victoria and the end of the Victorian era – as a birthday gift.
The house, designed by John Frederick Fogerty, is a remarkable creation. It is a home but it is also an art gallery and an exhibit in its own right. The Russell-Cotes travelled widely and this is reflected in the decor and the ornaments and art works in the house. Sir Merton was a fan of actor Sir Henry Irving and there are artefacts in the house concerning the theatre and the life and career of Irving.
Unfortunately, we chose to make the trip on the very weekend when this year’s Bournemouth Air Show was being held. This meant that trains were packed and so were the streets of Bournemouth. This made me a little anxious about getting seats on the train on the return journey and we therefore made sure to leave early in order to get ahead of the crowds.
We took a bus from the station and as we approached the house, we saw that it was girt about with scaffolding. Repair and maintenance are of course necessary, and so we must not grumble if on this visit the appearance of the building was spoilt. Next time we come, it will no doubt be revealed in all its glory.
Access to the visitor’s entrance to East Cliff Hall is from a pedestrian pathway leading down to the beach. As luck would have it, the museum stands right in the best area for viewing the aeroplanes and the beach was already packed with spectators. Many spectators had taken up position on this path and we had to find a way through them to the gate.
There was a whole flotilla of ships out in the bay, no doubt consisting of both official craft connected with the air show and private vessels of people who preferred to watch from the water. For my part, I was hoping that once we were in the house the din from low-flying aircraft would be less troublesome.
Visitors enter through the garden, which is a very pleasant way to see the house from close up. We soon discovered that the air show had done us a favour in one sense: the crowds were intent on watching the planes and there were very few people visiting the house.
The gardens are also an integral part of the overall scheme and should be visited as well. Rather than lay out my photos of the house and the garden with comments, I am presenting them as a slide show. To see this, click on the bust of Sir Henry Irving below.