Friday, June 24th 2016
We have reached the end of our trip to Dorchester and must now return to London. However, we are not going straight back but will break our journey in Bournemouth where we shall meet a friend and pay a joint visit to a famous house, now a fine museum.
Having packed our bags and checked out of the hotel (an operation performed these days by simply dropping your electronic door keys into a receptacle on the way out), we entered Dorchester South Railway Station for the last time on this trip.
We disembarked at Bournemouth station and met our friend. We then took a bus to the Russell-Cotes House. This is perched on a rise overlooking the sea and with a view of Bournemouth pier in the distance. This, incidentally, is the third pier on that site, replacing those of 1856 and 1867. Designed by Eugenius Birch, it opened in August 1880. It was thus already in existence when the Russell-Cotes House was built. The path shown above is quite busy in fine weather as it runs down to the broad sandy beach. It also leads to the public entrance to the Russell-Cotes House.
We had visited the house on three previous occasions, for example in August 2013 (see Bournemouth and the Russell-Cotes Museum), and from the blog post about that visit I take the following brief history of the house:
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.
The public entrance leads straight into the gardens in which the house is set. These gardens are beautiful and worth visiting in their own right. From here you have a good view of the exterior of the house in all its glory.
A path leads to the public entrance. I believe this would have been the ‘side entrance’, leading to the lower regions of the house where the servants worked. Today it accommodates the reception and a display of information about the house and its history.
From the reception area you move up into the the residential part of the house to begin your exploration proper.
Here you find what is prosaically called the main hall and stairs, though it is not like any hallway I have seen in other buildings. Designed to impress visitors, it is full of works of art and even includes a ‘water feature’.
Everywhere you look, there are decorative features, such as ornaments and stained glass windows.
Sculptures abound and the above is just a small sample of what is to be found there.
On this level we find the Dining Room, obviously intended for entertaining guests also meant to impress. It contains some of the house’s finest works of art.
The art collection is so large that a special gallery was built to house much of it. Here, one can spend many hours viewing paintings and sculptures of a range of periods and by many different artists.
A major piece is the sculpture entitled The Reception, by an unknown artist of the late Victorian or early Edwardian period. The subject, in an elaborate ball gown, carries her dance card in one hand, ready to join the dancing.
A relatively modest, though beautifully styled, staircase leads to the upper level.
The upper landing is designed to act as a light well allowing daylight to illuminate the hallway below. Here, as everywhere else, there are as many works of art, paintings and sculptures, as can be fitted into the available space.
This is a view from the landing down into the main hall. At bottom centre of the image can be seen part of the water feature mentioned above.
This room, luxuriously appointed, is called the Boudoir, and would have been a private salon or drawing room for the lady of the house.
This view from an upper window takes in part of the gardens, the beach and Bournemouth Pier, not to mention the sea and the sky.
It would take many visits, and hundreds of photos, to exhaust the treasures of the Russell-Cotes House. The above are no more than a brief sample of what is to be found there. Not surprisingly the house has received a Grade II* listing.
Having bade farewell to our friend, we had a brief look around Bournemouth but soon had to make our way to the railway station to board our train for London.
On this note of beauty and fascination ended our visit to Dorchester and its area, at least for now.