Saturday, June 16th 2018
We are spending three days in Bournemouth, or rather, in and around Bournemouth. We will be staying in a town to the east of Bournemouth called Southbourne and have taken a room in pub/hotel called the Spyglass and Kettle.
Inveterate public transport travellers that we are, we reached Bournemouth by train. The above view of the long station building was taken from the adjacent bus station. Here we took a bus to Southbourne to claim our room at the Spyglass and Kettle.
Having registered and settled into our room, we set out on the first of our ‘rambles of discovery’. Below is a Google My Maps map showing where we went and where I took photos today. If you click on it, you will see a live Google Map of the same area.
The extreme right (east) end of the track is at Southbourne where our hotel is pleasantly situated not far from the clifftop and views of the sea.
You might be tempted to think that the name Southbourne is of ancient origin, deriving perhaps from an Anglo-Saxon original referring to the river Bourne that gives Bournemouth its name. If so, you will be disappointed to learn that the name dates back no further than the Victorian era when this area, now a suburb of Bournemouth, was first developed. It has two sibling suburbs in Northbourne and Westbourne.
We walked from the hotel down to the cliff where I took a couple of sea views. The weather was alternately sunny and cloudy and the cloudy sky at the moment when I took these photos accounts for the somewhat bleak look. The beach here is far from the main town and was deserted.
If the beach was deserted, the sea was not. There were a couple of people kiteboarding in the stiff breeze.
We now caught a bus into Bournemouth and spent a little time renewing our acquaintance with this elegant town.
Bournemouth is known for its beautiful and well kept gardens. These were first laid out in the mid-Victorian period and are of sufficient quality and historic interest to have been collectively awarded a Grade II listing. Historic England’s listing entry provides a succinct history of the gardens. In this view of the Lower Gardens, we have a glimpse of the Bourne, open here but now culverted along much of its length.
Here we are looking along Gervis Place to the Grade I listed Church of St Peter. The church took 24 years to built, being completed in 1879. It was designed by George Edmund Street (1824-81), famous for designing the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, London.
Just on the left in Gervis Place is The Arcade, a Victorian covered shopping precinct built, with other adjoining properties in 1886-73 and Grade II listed.
The arcade is lit, as is usual in these structures, by daylight coming from the magnificent arched glass ceiling. There are also hanging lamps to add extra brightness when the sky is dull. I could imagine affluent Victorian ladies and gentlemen browsing the shop windows, comfortably protected from the weather. Today’s shoppers were just as active as I expect their Victorian forebears were.
We next decided to take a bus to Poole, which is at the left (west) end of the route on the map above. The map below shows where we wandered in Poole. (Not all the photos shown on the map appear in this blog post.)
The name of Poole means very much what it sounds as if it means. Some think that it derives from the Celtic pol and others from the Anglo-Saxon pol (or perhaps both). Either way, the name translates as ‘(place by a) pool’.
Looking at the top map, you can see that just to the south of Poole is Brownsea Island. It is owned by the National Trust and is mainly known as a place to visit to enjoy the views and see the wildlife. Its one claim to fame is that it was here in 1907 that Robert Baden-Powell held a camp for 20 boys to test his ideas about starting the Boy Scout movement. The camp was successful and the rest, as they say, is history. The name of the island, by the way, is said to derive from the Anglo-Saxon words Brunoc (a personal name) and eg, meaning ‘island’. No doubt in later times what had become a meaningless name was changed by popular etymology.
The railway reached the centre of Poole in 1872. To do so, it had to cross two major roads, Towngate Street and High Street. These days, Towngate Street passes over the railway line by means of a bridge. The High Street, on the other hand, has to make do with a level crossing and the above picturesque footbridge, was built in 1874, for pedestrians to cross while the level crossing gates are closed.
This beautiful and imposing façade belongs to a house called Beech Hurst. It was built in 1798 for Samuel Rolles, a merchant who had made his fortune in Newfoundland. The original owners and their descendants are long gone and the house is today used for offices. For more details of the history of this handsome Grade II* listed building, see Historic England’s listing and this post on the Poole High Street Project blog.
We always keep an eye open for old Burton’s shops. I think this is as much out of nostalgia as architectural interest! In Weston super Mare, I wrote about Burton’s as follows:
The men’s tailoring company, Burton’s, was founded in 1903 and became a household name as a supplier of modestly priced men’s clothing. During its heyday, the company opened many stores of characteristic design all over Britain. Most of these have been repurposed but are immediately recognizable. The Burton name continues in business under different owners.
As is usual with Burton’s stores, this one has a dedication plaque at ground level on the façade. This reads as follows: ‘THIS STONE LAID BY RAYMOND MONTAGUE BURTON 1938’. This would be the Raymond Montague Burton (1885-1952) who founded the company.
This once pretty house and shop, now spoiled by a vulgar modern shop front, I believe dates back at least to the 18th century. The earliest reference to it that I have found is in Dorset Life where it is described as a ‘well established’ stationer’s business in 1805, suggesting an origin in the previous century. It is now an army surplus store with living accommodation above.
This very fine Grade II* listed building is Poole’s Guildhall. It was built in 1761 (restored 1994) when the upper floor served as offices for the town council and the arcade on the ground floor provided shelter for the market. Since those days it has been used for many different purposes (see the Wikipedia entry on Poole) and is now used as a Register Office.
This picturesque building is even older than the Guildhall. The plaque on the wall (dated to 1904) tells us that ‘These almshouses first built in the time of Henry V and long the property of St George’s Guild passed to the Crown in 1547 and were purchased for the Corporation in 1550. They have been devoted to the use of the Poor for 500 years.’
Enquiring a little further, however. we find that this is not quite accurate. A succinct entry on Historic England’s Website reads as follows: ‘This building in Church Street dates from the early 15th century and was originally a Priest’s house. It was reportedly built by the Guild of St George for the 4 priests saying masses at the old Church of St James. It has been used as almshouses since 1586 when it was taken over by the Corporation. In 1904 it was restored and a timber projecting upper storey was removed.’ Notwithstanding the radical alteration noted, the building has been deemed worthy of a Grade II listing.
I have not been able to find any information about St George’s Guild. Perhaps it ceased to exist in 1547 when Henry VIII dissolved the religious houses and took possession of their assets and when the Crown apparently acquired this property which it later sold, as it did others, to fund the King’s various wars. It is not to be confused with the still extant Guild of St George which was founded in 1871 by John Ruskin.
This handsome dwelling is interesting in its own right but it is also of historical significance. From the late 17th to mid-19th centuries, Poole was one of the busiest ports in England, with trade links to America and throughout Europe. One Isaac Lester, a wealthy merchant trading with Newfoundland (like Samuel Rolles mentioned above), commissioned this house in the latter half of the 18th century, no doubt intending to impress with his wealth. After Isaac’s death in 1776, the house was occupied by his brother Benjamin who was to become mayor and Member of Parliament for Poole. Today, the Grade II* listed house is an hotel under the name of Hôtel du Vin.
Wherever goods are landed from foreign ports there will be the Crown’s customs collecting taxes and duty. The Custom House shown above was Poole’s second. It was built in 1781 and continued in operation until it closed in 1883. The Grade II* listed building today houses a restaurant.
This view from what is now a thoroughfare called The Quay shows a view of Poole harbour, quiet now compared with the hustle and bustle of its heyday as a trading port. Tied up along the moorings are pleasure craft and a few service vessels.
The area around ports and docks is usually crowded with pubs, some ancient and some not so ancient. As ports decline, so does trade, and many of the pubs that were once busy places of refuge and entertainment have either found a new purpose in life or have simply closed. The Swan Inn, dating from Victorian times, is one such. It has closed and its future is uncertain though I believe that it has been saved from demolition. The handsome tile work was supplied by Carter’s Tiles, later called Poole Pottery, whose premises were just next door to the pub. The tile works has also closed and its site is to be ‘developed’.
On this visit we did not come near to exhausting all the treasures of Poole and the above are just a few of the sights that attracted my attention. Perhaps we will return and discover more in due course.
Sunday, June 17th 2019
This is the Spyglass and Kettle pub/hotel in Southbourne where we are staying. Would I recommend this establishment and would I stay here again? I think the answer to both questions is ‘yes’. Though the accommodations are not luxurious they are comfortable enough for a short stay. In these days of electronic devices, hotels often don’t supply enough conveniently positioned power points. This was the case here. Our bedroom did have power points but they were awkwardly placed. However, as we long ago provided ourselves with a couple of extra long USB cables, we managed to arrange matters to our satisfaction.
As you can see, when we started out this morning, the sun was shining but later the clouds gathered and made it a grey day though, happily, it did not rain.
The above map shows where we went today: Swanage. Click for a live Google Map of the area. We travelled by bus and a notable feature of the journey is that the bus drives onto a ferry to cross the mouth of Poole Harbour. Bus passengers remain in their seats for the crossing.
The name of Swanage is a little odd at first sight. Could it have anything to do with swans? There is a clue in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 877 where it appears as Swanawic. The Anglo-Saxon word wic can have several meanings, including ‘hamlet’, ‘farm’ and ‘dwelling’. That leaves us with swan. This is ambiguous because the meaning depends on whether the ‘a’ is short or long and none of our sources indicate which it is here. If the ‘a’ is short, then the word means what it appears to mean, that is, ‘swan’, and the name perhaps indicates a farm where swans were raised. If the ‘a’ is long, however, the word means a ‘herd (of pigs)’ or, possibly ‘herdsman’. In the latter case, the name might indicate a farm where livestock was raised and, since swan (with a long ‘a’) often meant ‘a herd of pigs’, Swanage might originally have been a pig farm. There is now no possibility of resolving the uncertainty.
As yesterday, and again just for fun, here is a map of our ramble in Swanage.
This time, just the photos included in this post are shown on the map but unfortunately they are not clickable. If you click on the map you will see a Google map of Swanage.
As mentioned above, we travelled to Swanage by bus. Swanage does have a railway station and train services but these are no longer run by National Rail. The railway reached Swanage in 1885 but, by then operated by British Rail, finally closed in 1972.
The line reopened in 1979 as a heritage railway run by Swanage Railway. Stations along the route have been restored and vintage locomotives and rolling stock have been brought back into service. The railway has proved popular both with locals and as a tourist attraction. We did not ride the trains today but it is on our list for another visit!
Swanage seems a quiet town (compared with, say, Southend or Brighton) bur quite pleasant. The shops were quite busy despite it being Sunday and there were plenty of people that I would identify as being visitors like ourselves.
This house at number 45 in the High Street caught my attention with its decorative façade. It bears a date of 1898 and its blue and white pargetting suggests that it was built as the home of a well-to-do citizen of the town. Today it offers accommodation to walkers and backpackers under the name of Swanage Auberge. More than that I cannot say as I have not found any references to it.
This building, also in the High Street, does have a reference and an impeccable one: a Historic England Grade II listing. It dates to 1896 but I am not sure what its original purpose was though today it provides retail accommodation. My photo doesn’t give it due justice and there is a better one by Colin West here.
This building nestling shyly between larger neighbours was obviously a mission hall of some sort but what was its history? Today it bears the name of the Salvation Army but that organization did not build it. The hall was originally built in 1872 as an independent Christian mission hall by the group that was to become part of the United Reformed Church a century later. When the hall become redundant after 1887 it was first leased and then sold to the Salvation Army who own it still.
Another sort of retreat from the world, though not a religious one, is the Red Lion pub. The bulky shape and relatively low profile suggests to me that this is quite an old building, but I have not managed to find out much about it. Though it has not itself been granted listed status by Historic England, the latter’s listing for the house next door to it on the right, number 65, reads as follows: ‘Continuous with the Red Lion Inn, probably originally one building. Probably early C18.’ The length of the pub building suggests to me that there might originally have been another house between number 65 and the pub that the latter at some point absorbed, though that is just speculation on my part.
Swanage Town Hall was built in 1882-3 by local contractor and businessman, George Burt (1816-94), of whom we shall hear again below. He used his wealth to improve the town and the Town Hall was intended as a symbol of civic pride. What may not be realized at first sight is that the centre part of the frontage was not built from scratch but came from elsewhere. It came in fact from London where it had been constructed in 1670 as part of the Mercers’ Hall. The final result was not to everyone’s taste but the building is certainly a striking addition to the town. (A more detailed history can be found on this Swanage Council page.)
We continued along the High Street which had become a hill. As we climbed it, this somewhat eccentric building came into sight. It looked like a manor house with pretentions to being a castle. On reaching it, we discovered that it was an hotel and decided to go inside for a cup of tea.
Called Purbeck House, it was originally built in 1875 as a private dwelling for his own use by George Burt, whom we mentioned above. The name comes from the Purbeck peninsula on which Swanage stands, locally called ‘Purbeck Island’ though it is in fact not detached from the mainland. The design proved controversial but we can agree that it is possessed of ‘an interesting quirkiness’, as this article in Dorset Life expresses it.
We were shown into the residents’ lounge. What would once have been two rooms were now joined by an archway. The decor was quietly elegant as I imagine it would have been in Burt’s day.
Modern radiators provide heating now but in Burt’s day the fireplace still reined supreme. This one is decorated with mouldings and is flanked by sculptured figures.
Colourful tiles decorated the inner sides of the fireplace.
As we left, I noticed this reminder of the Victorian era in which the house was first occupied and how the two populations – the owners on one hand and the servants and tradespeople on the other – led separate lives and were confined to separate zones of the house. To some extent, this regime still endures now that the house is an hotel: the rooms frequented by guests are kept separate form the rooms used by hotel staff.
This interestingly rounded complex of shops and flats, named Albion Place, stands at the junction of Institute Road and the High Street. The plaque between two windows on the second floor testifies to a date of 1896 making this a landmark of Victorian Swanage.
I photographed this substantial building though I know next to nothing about it. It appealed to me in its elegant and almost fortress-like solidity. I am guessing that it is Victorian, though I have no date for it, and I think that it may be built of the local stone called Purbeck Marble. It currently houses retail units on the ground floor and apartments above. The developers have called it the Trocadero, which was the name of a restaurant that once inhabited part of the building but has now disappeared.
Before catching the bus back to base, we took a stroll in the park called The Downs, a large grassy area that overlooks the sea. (You can see where it is on the ramble map – bottom right.)
On this brief visit we discovered a few of Swanage’s treasures but I am sure many still remain for future explorations.
Monday, June 18th 2019
This is our last day in the Bournemouth area and we must return to London. We already have our tickets and as our train departs around lunchtime, we can spend a little time in Bournemouth before leaving.
We had no specific plans as to where to go or what to see and just wandered as fancy took us. The map below shows where we went. Quite by chance our path was almost a straight line from where we alighted from the bus in Gervis Place (having travelled from our hotel in Southbourne) to the pier where I took my last photos of the trip.
Our path took us through the beautiful park known as Lower Gardens, to the beach and then onto the pier. There is nothing much to say about this so I will simply show you the photos without any comments. The sky was alternately sunny and cloudy which has affected the lighting of the photos accordingly.
After this enjoyable stroll, we had to take a bus to the railway station to catch our train back to London. This had been a short break on the coast but an enjoyable one. All being well, it will not be our last visit to this pleasant corner of Dorset.