Bournemouth

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Bournemouth is a large coastal resort town in the ceremonial county of Dorset, England. According to the 2001 Census the town has a population of 163,444, making it the largest settlement in Dorset. It is also the largest settlement between Southampton and Plymouth. With Poole and Christchurch, Bournemouth forms the South East Dorset conurbation, which has a total population of approximately 400,000.

Founded in 1810 by Lewis Tregonwell, Bournemouth’s growth accelerated with the arrival of the railway, becoming a recognised town in 1870. Historically part of Hampshire, it joined Dorset with the reorganisation of local government in 1974. Since 1997 the town has been administered by a unitary authority, meaning that it has autonomy from Dorset County Council. The local authority is Bournemouth Borough Council.

Bournemouth’s location on the south coast of England has made it a popular destination for tourists. The town is a regional centre of business, home of the Bournemouth International Centre and financial companies that include Liverpool Victoria and PruHealth.

In a 2007 survey by First Direct, Bournemouth was found to be the happiest place in the UK, with 82% of people questioned saying they were happy with their lives.

Bournemouth is located 105 miles (169 km) southwest of London. The urban geography of Bournemouth is complex: the town adjoins Poole in the west and Christchurch in the east to form the South East Dorset conurbation. The combined population is 383,713, and it is a retail and commercial centre. To the north west of Bournemouth is the small town of Wimborne and to the north east is the settlement of Ferndown. Bournemouth Airport lies to the north east, towards Hurn. The town is intersected by the A338 dual carriageway, known as the “Wessex Way”.

Although Bournemouth is on the coast, the centre of the town lies inland – the commercial and civil heart of the town being the Square. From the Square the Upper and Lower Pleasure Gardens descend to the seafront and the pier. Areas within Bournemouth include Bear Cross, Boscombe, Kinson, Pokesdown, Westbourne and Winton. Traditionally a large retirement town, Bournemouth (mostly the Northbourne, Southbourne and Tuckton areas of Bournemouth together with the Wallisdown, and Talbot Village areas of Poole) has seen massive growth in recent years, especially through the growth of students attending Bournemouth University and the large number of language schools teaching English as a foreign language.

Bournemouth is located directly to the east of the Jurassic Coast, a 95-mile (153 km) section of beautiful and largely unspoilt coastline recently designated a World Heritage Site. Apart from the beauty of much of the coastline, the Jurassic Coast provides a complete geological record of the Jurassic period and a rich fossil record. Bournemouth sea front overlooks Poole Bay and the Isle of Wight. Bournemouth also has 7 miles (11 km) of sandy beaches that run from Hengistbury Head in the east to Sandbanks, in Poole, in the west.

Because of the coastal processes that operate in Poole Bay, the area is often used for surfing. An artificial reef (Europe’s first) was expected to be installed at Boscombe, in Bournemouth, by October 2008, using large sand-filled geotextile bags. However, this deadline was not met, and the construction was actually finished at the end of October 2009. The Boscombe Reef was constructed as part of the larger Boscombe Spa Village development. Bournemouth also has several chines (e.g. Alum Chine) that lead down to the beaches and form a very attractive feature of the area. The beaches are subdivided by groynes.

Historically Bournemouth was part of Hampshire, with Poole just to the west of the border. At the time of the 1974 local government re-organisation, it was considered desirable that the whole of the Poole/Bournemouth urban area should be part of the same county. Bournemouth therefore became part of the non-metropolitan county of Dorset on 1 April 1974. On 1 April 1997, Bournemouth became a unitary authority, independent from Dorset County Council. For the purposes of the Lieutenancy it remains part of the ceremonial county of Dorset.

For local elections the district is divided into 18 wards, and the Bournemouth Borough Council is elected every four years. The Council elects the Mayor and Deputy Mayor annually. For 2009-2010, the Mayor of Bournemouth is Mrs. Beryl Baxter.

A statue near the seafront, of Lewis Tregonwell, the founder of the original settlement which became Bournemouth.

The Dorset and Hampshire region surrounding Bournemouth has been the site of human settlement for thousands of years. However, in 1800 the Bournemouth area was largely a remote and barren heathland. No one lived at the mouth of the Bourne River and the only regular visitors were a few fishermen, turf cutters and gangs of smugglers until the 16th century. During the Tudor period the area was used as a hunting estate, ‘Stourfield Chase’, but by the late 18th century only a few small parts of it were maintained, including several fields around the Bourne Stream and a cottage known as Decoy Pond House, which stood near where the Square is today.

With the exception of the estate, until 1802 most of the Bournemouth area was common land. The Christchurch Inclosures Act 1802 and the Inclosure Commissioners’ Award of 1805 transferred hundreds of acres into private ownership for the first time. In 1809, the Tapps Arms public house appeared on the heath. A few years later, in 1812, the first residents, retired army officer Lewis Tregonwell and his wife, moved into their new home built on land he had purchased from Sir George Ivison Tapps. Tregonwell began developing his land for holiday letting by building a series of sea villas. In association with Tapps, he planted hundreds of pine trees, providing a sheltered walk to the beach (later to become known as the ‘Invalids walk’). The town would ultimately grow up around its scattered pines. In 1832 when Tregonwell died, Bournemouth had grown into small community with a scattering of houses, villas and cottages.

Bournemouth Town Hall was built in the Victorian period, originally serving as a hotel for visitors to the town.

In 1835, after the death of Sir George Ivison Tapps, his son Sir George William Tapps-Gervis inherited his father’s estate. Bournemouth started to grow at a faster rate as George William started developing the seaside village into a resort similar to those that had already grown up along the south coast such as Weymouth and Brighton. In 1841, the town was visited by the physician and writer Augustus Granville. Granville was the author of The Spas of England, which described health resorts around the country. As a result of his visit, Dr Granville included a chapter on Bournemouth in the second edition of his book. The publication of the book, as well as the growth of visitors to the seaside seeking the medicinal use of the seawater and the fresh air of the pines, helped the town to grow and establish itself as an early tourist destination.

In the 1840s the fields south of the road crossing (later Bournemouth Square) were drained and laid out with shrubberies and walks. Many of these paths including the ‘Invalids walk’ remain in the town today; forming part of the Pleasure Gardens which extend for several miles along the Bourne stream. The Pleasure Gardens were originally a series of garden walks created in the fields of the owners of the Branksome Estate in the 1860s. In the early 1870s all the fields were leased to the Bournemouth Commissioners by the freeholders. Parliament approved the Bournemouth Improvement Act in 1856. Under the Act, a board of 13 Commissioners was established to build and organise the expanding infrastructure of the town, such as paving, sewers, drainage, street lighting and street cleaning.

During the late 19th century the town continued to develop. The Winter Gardens were finished in 1875 and the cast iron Bournemouth Pier was finished in 1880. The arrival of the railways allowed a massive growth of seaside and summer visits to the town, especially by visitors from the Midlands and London. In 1880 the town had a population of 17,000 people but by 1900, when railway connections were at their most developed to Bournemouth, the town’s population had risen to 60,000. It was also during this period that the town became a favourite location for visiting artists and writers. The town was improved greatly during this period through the efforts of Sir Merton Russell-Cotes, the town’s mayor and a local philanthropist. He helped establish the town’s first library and museum. The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum was housed in his mansion and after his death it was given to the town.

As Bournemouth’s growth increased in the early 20th century, the town centre spawned theatres, cafés, two art deco cinemas and more hotels. Other new buildings included the war memorial in 1921 and the Bournemouth Pavilion, the town’s concert hall and grand theatre, finished in 1925. The town escaped great damage during the Second World War but saw a period of decline as a seaside resort in the postwar era.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution stationed an inshore lifeboat at Bournemouth in 1965 but it was withdrawn in 1972. Coverage for the area has otherwise been provided from Poole Lifeboat Station.

In 1985, Bournemouth became the first town in the United Kingdom to introduce and use CCTV cameras for public street-based surveillance.

Bournemouth appears as Sandbourne in Thomas Hardy’s novels. Tess lived in Sandbourne with Alec d’Urberville, and the town also features in The Well-Beloved and Jude the Obscure. It is also mentioned in So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish, the fourth book of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. In James Herbert’s horror novel The Fog, the entire population of Bournemouth runs into the sea and drowns in a mass suicide. In Andy McDermott’s thriller The Secret of Excalibur, a car chase through the town centre and beach front leads to the destruction of the IMAX Cinema. It is also mentioned in Roald Dahl’s The Witches as the setting for the Hotel Magnificent.

J. R. R. Tolkien, the writer, spent 30 years taking holidays in Bournemouth, staying in the same room at the Hotel Miramar, with a second room to write in. He eventually retired to the area in the 1960s with his wife Edith, where they lived in a house on Lakeside Avenue, close to Branksome Chine. Tolkien died in September 1973 at his home in Bournemouth and was buried in Oxfordshire.

Mary Shelley, the writer and novelist is buried in St. Peter’s Church, her son Sir Percy having settled at Boscombe Manor. Also buried at St Peter’s is the heart of Mary’s husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, brought back from Italy, and her parents William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, their remains having been moved there from St Pancras Old Church.

The town was especially rich in literary associations during the late 19th century and earlier years of the 20th century. Oscar Wilde and Paul Verlaine both taught at Bournemouth preparatory schools. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and most of his novel Kidnapped from his house “Skerryvore” on the west cliff (now called Alum Chine Road). Count Vladimir Chertkov established a Tolstoyan publishing house with other Russian exiles in Iford Waterworks at Southbourne, and under the ‘Free Age Press’ imprint, published the first edition of several works by Tolstoy, however the author himself never visited the town.

Bournemouth is a tourist and regional centre for leisure, entertainment, culture and recreation. The award-winning Central Gardens are a separate major public park, leading for several miles down the valley of the River Bourne through the centre of the town to the sea (reaching the sea at Bournemouth Pier) and include the Pleasure Gardens and the area surrounding the Pavilion and the now closed IMAX Cinema.

Bournemouth also has a thriving watersports community with its beaches having suitable conditions for windsurfing and kitesurfing. On a windy day y one can see many kitesurfers and windsurfers out enjoying the waves all the way along the beach from Hengistbury Head to Sandbanks, and there are quite a few local schools for the beginner to learn either sport. There is a local kiteboarding club, Bournemouth Boarding, which is recognised by the BKSA.

The main shopping streets in the centre of town are just behind the seafront on either side of the River Bourne (also known as the Bourne Stream); footpaths lead down to the sea from the Square through the lower section of Bournemouth Central Gardens.

The shopping streets are mostly pedestrianised and lined with a wide range of boutiques, stores, jewellers and accessory shops. There are modern shopping malls, Victorian arcades (including the Victorian Arcade between Westover Road and Old Christchurch Road), and a large selection of bars, clubs and cafés. About a mile to the west of the town centre, in the district of Westbourne, there is a selection of designer clothing and interior design shops. About a mile to the east, in the district of Boscombe, there is another major shopping area including many antiques shops and a street market. North of the centre there is an out-of-town shopping complex called Castlepoint Shopping Centre with supermarkets, DIY stores and larger versions of high street shops. A new extension to Castlepoint, called Castlemore, is set just south west of the main complex, which features more large retail stores. Other supermarkets are located in the town centre (Asda and Co-op), Boscombe (Sainsbury’s) and between Westbourne and Upper Parkstone. A large Tesco Extra store is located in Castle Lane East.

Similarly to the rest of Dorset, Bournemouth’s economy is primarily in the service sector, which employed 93% of the workforce in 2007. This is 10% higher than the average employment in the service sector for Great Britain and the South West. The importance of the manufacturing sector has declined, and is predominantly based in neighbouring Poole, but still employs 3% of the workforce. Tourism is crucial to the economy of Bournemouth, generating £440 million a year and employing thousands of workers. Business tourism alone contributed £127 million in 2007, through delegates and business visitors attending venues such as the BIC and exhibitions in the town.

The following is a non-exhaustive list:

  • Palmair – Its head office is in the Space House in Bournemouth
  • JPMorgan Chase – Employs around 10,000 people
  • Portman Building Society – now part of Nationwide Building Society
  • Unisys group, the office for UISL
  • Parvalux – the UK’s largest fractional horsepower motor manufacturer has its headquarters in Wallisdown
  • Fitness First was started in Bournemouth and its headquarters are in the neighbouring town of Poole
  • McCarthy & Stone
  • Liverpool Victoria formerly Frizzell Insurance
  • RIAS Insurance company has its headquarters in Bournemouth
  • Bournemouth Borough Council is one of the largest employers in the area.
  • PruHealth has a large office in Bournemouth
  • Lloyds TSB Insurance has its call centre in Bournemouth, formerly Abbey Life
  • Imagine Publishing a modern consumer specialist magazine company is based on Richmond Hill

In April 2008, Bournemouth was announced to be the first ‘Fibrecity’ in the United Kingdom, with work starting in September to bring 100 Mbit Broadband internet access into homes and businesses within the town; running fibre optic cables through the sewers reduces the cost and disruption to road networks during cable laying. This is part of the National Government’s plans for everyone in the UK to have access to 100 Mbit Broadband by 2010. A trial to the proposed 100 Mbit is scheduled to begin at the end of March 2009, where 30 homes will be connected for free. As the trial continues, all businesses and homes within BH10 and BH11 are entitled to sign up for free. As of February 2010, Fibrecity is connecting 4,000 homes and businesses a month in Bournemouth to the network and it is hoped that the town will be fully connected by the end of 2010.

Bournemouth’s road network is focused on a few main roads in and out of the town centre. The principal route into the town centre is the A338 dual carriageway, which joins the A31, itself the major trunk road in central Southern England, connecting to the M27 at Southampton. From here the M3 leads to London, and fast access may also be gained via the A34 to the M4 north of Newbury, Berkshire.

Bournemouth is well served by the rail network with two stations in the town, Bournemouth railway station and Pokesdown railway station to the east. Parts of western Bournemouth can also be reached from Branksome station. Bournemouth railway station is located some way from the town centre, due to the town’s early leaders not wishing to have a railway station within the town boundary, which extended 1-mile (1.6 km) from the pier. However, the station is now well within the town, as the town has grown significantly since its founding. The station was originally called Bournemouth East with a second station, Bournemouth West serving the west of the town in Queen’s Road.

South West Trains operates a comprehensive service to London Waterloo with a journey time of 1 hour 50 minutes. This line also serves Southampton, Winchester and Basingstoke to the east, and Poole, Wareham, Dorchester and Weymouth to the west. CrossCountry trains serve destinations to the north with direct trains to Reading, Oxford, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Manchester. The North West, Yorkshire, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow can be reached by changing at Reading or Birmingham. West Coastway Line services are available by changing at Southampton Central. The Sussex coastal towns of Chichester, Worthing, Hove and Brighton are served and trains continue to Gatwick Airport and London Victoria.

Besides its main line railway connections, Bournemouth is also the site of three funicular railways, the East Cliff Railway, West Cliff Railway and Fisherman’s Walk Cliff Railway. These are all owned and operated by Bournemouth Borough Council, and each serves to link the seaside promenade with the cliff top, at various points along the seafront.

Bournemouth Airport, in Hurn on the periphery of Bournemouth is a short journey from the town centre enabling passengers and freight to be flown directly to destinations in the UK and Europe. Taxis going to Bournemouth are available at the taxi stand on the airport and can transport one to the town centre in about 20–30 minutes. An hourly bus service also connects the airport with the town centre, travel interchange and also operates along the major hotel routes. Aer Lingus Regional, Ryanair, EasyJet, Blue Islands and Thomson Airways provide scheduled services to destinations throughout Europe.

Bournemouth has two universities: Bournemouth University and The Arts University Bournemouth both of which are located across the boundary in neighbouring Poole.[113] Bournemouth University is one of the largest universities in the South of England. Known as Bournemouth Polytechnic between 1990 and 1992, it has its roots in the former Dorset Institute of Higher Education. The Arts University Bournemouth specialises in arts, design, media and performance degree courses.

The town has several notable examples of Victorian church architecture. These include St. Peter’s Church, which was the first to be built in the town in 1855 (later being rebuilt by George Edmund Street in 1879), and St Stephen’s Church, which was designed for services under the influence of the Oxford Movement and was finished in 1898. St Stephen’s Church was the place of the marriage between Ebba Munck af Fulkila and Prince Oscar of Sweden in 1888. Another is St Augustin’s church, Wimborne Road, which Henry Twells commissioned; he was ‘priest-in-charge’ there until 1900. Also included is the Richmond Hill St Andrew’s Church, part of the United Reformed Church. The church was built in 1865 and enlarged in 1891. Another town centre church, St. Andrew’s on Exeter Road, has now become a popular entertainment venue. There are many Evangelical churches, both established and free churches, some with large congregations, and they have a long tradition of mutual co-operation in Christian activities.

The town is also home to a large Jewish community with three synagogues. Chabad-Lubavitch of Bournemouth is a branch of the worldwide movement. The Bournemouth Reform Synagogue, formerly known as Bournemouth New Synagogue, is a Reform Jewish synagogue with over 700 members. There is also the architecturally notable Bournemouth Hebrew Congregation. The Islamic community in the town is served by Bournemouth Islamic Centre in St Stephen’s Road, also a mosque and the Winton Mosque. Humanists and atheists in Bournemouth are supported by the Dorset Humanists, affiliated to the British Humanist Association, who meet at the Moordown Community Centre.

The word ‘Bournemouth’ is often used loosely to describe the South East Dorset conurbation, which also contains the neighbouring towns of Poole, Christchurch, Wimborne Minster, Verwood, Ringwood and New Milton. As a result, “Bournemouth” is used in the following terms:

  • Although it has a significant presence in Bournemouth town centre, Bournemouth University’s main campus is located in Poole, on the boundary with Bournemouth
  • Bournemouth Airport is located near Hurn in the borough of Christchurch, and was originally named RAF Hurn
  • “Bournemouth Bay” is sometimes used for Poole Bay
  • The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra is now based in Poole

Bournemouth is twinned with Netanya, Israel; and Lucerne, Switzerland.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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