In the shop of the Russell-Cotes Museum, there were several books I found very interesting. I also discovered one titled Bournemouth's Founders and Famous Visitors, written by Andrew Norman. Of course I immediately thought of Tolkien, and after checking that a chapter about him was indeed featured in the book, I just HAD to buy it :-)
The book has twenty-nine chapters, every single one about a person or a couple connected to Bournemouth. It starts with Sir George Ivison Tapps, a lord who was the first to acquire land and established an estate here - this was the beginning of the town of Bournemouth. Before his arrival in the region, there had only been a huge area of wilderness, sand and bush with a few huts of local people and mainly smugglers travelling through. The last chapter is the one about J.R.R. Tolkien which relates his connection to the town and also the story of his house and the postcard that was discovered there. Unfortunately I discovered a few mistakes that reveal that the author doesn't know that much about Tolkien and his writings, but the great pictures do compensate that a little. The author also mentions that there are now many Tolkien Societies around the world - as I am a member of the German Tolkien Society, I of course like this comment very much :-)
Other famous people mentioned in the book are Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, W.H. Smith, son of the founder of the British newsagent, Charles Darwin, Lucy Kemp-Welch, the painter, Thomas Hardy, the Dorset author, Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish author, Sir Winston Churchill, and another one of my favourite authors, D.H. Lawrence.
I found it very interesting to read what each of these famous people had to do with Bournemouth - some things were very surprising, some funny, some rather sad...
Apart from these famous ones, there are many others connected to Bournemouth and involved in local history. Although their names were unknown to me, it was interesting to read about them and I learnt about some remarkable life stories and interesting biographies.
There are also many pictures accompanying the different chapters.
Although the single chapters concentrate on the people who "made" Bournemouth, the book as a whole narrates the story of Bournemouth. All the chapters make a bigger picture, and it is very interesting to see how the town developed over the decades and centuries, how a small village developed into a fashionable resort and then the holiday town it is today.
If you are interested in local history, I really recommend this book to you - I enjoyed reading very much, although in the beginning I had only bought it to add another piece to my Tolkien collection :-)
Reading the book Bournemouth's Founders and Famous Visitors, I was surprised to find out about so many writers having a connection to the town. I had never heard about this before I read the book. I think it is a pity that the Bournemouth executives don't try to make more of this literary heritage!
Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, is buried in St Peter's Church in Bournemouth. In 1849, her son bought an estate in Boscombe, very close to Bournemouth, to provide a place for his mother and wive where they could enjoy the good climate and improve their health. Unfortunately, Mary Shelley died before she could move to the estate, but before her death pronounced the wish to be buried in Bournemouth together with her father and her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, the famous fighter for women's rights. Her parents were indeed deterred and re-buried in Bournemouth. The heart of Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley's husband, was already buried there (his body was buried in Rome because he died in Italy).
Thomas Hardy spent a few days in Bournemouth in 1875, before he moved to nearby Swanage. He wrote a beautiful and sad poem while staying in Bournemouth, called We Sat at the Window. His fictional town of Sandbourne, featuring in Tess of the D'Urberville and two more of his novels, was based on Bournemouth.
Robert Louis Stevenson came to Bournemouth in 1884, together with his wife Fanny and stayed for three years. He chose Bournemouth as a place to live because he suffered from consumption, and Bournemouth was one of the best places to be treated at the time. They moved to a house near Alum Chine, which Stevenson called Skerryvore after a lighthouse in Scotland. He wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde while staying there, as well as several other novels and plays. He also visited Thomas Hardy in his home in Dorchester.
Flora Thompson, author of Lark Rise to Candleford, moved to a village near Bournemouth in 1903. She often visited Skerryvore, now long empty and left, and thought about Robert Louis Steventon whom she admired. She often lent books from Bournemouth Library and educated herself, and also attended meetings of the Women's Suffrage Movement. She left Bournemouth in 1916 when her husband was appointed sub-postmaster in a town in Hampshire.
D.H. Lawrence, who is most famous for Lady Chatterley's Lover and Women in Love, came to Bournemouth because of illness, as did so many others. He suffered from pneumonia and arrived in Bournemouth in January 1912, to stay for about a month. It is difficult to say if he liked it or not, because in some letters he praises the place and writes about its great qualities, while in others he grumbles and curses it. He liked the sea very much, though.
My first afternoon in Bournemouth was very sunny and warm. Everything looked bright and golden. The sunshine, the sea, and the palm trees... I just couldn't help it - it reminded me of Australia so much!
Another factor supporting this was the design of the town - straight streets, lots of roundabouts, and many white buildings from the 19th century and younger. In addition, although apart from the palm trees the vegetation is of course not tropical, Bournemouth is a very green place with many trees.
It was just very similar to Australian towns. I never had this feeling anywhere else in the UK, and I think it is because Bournemouth is such a young town in relation to the other ones, and was indeed constructed in the same period as were most towns in Australia. Another reason was of course the glorious weather, the atmosphere of summer and holidays, the beach activities and smiling faces :-)
I tried to capture some "Australian" impressions of the town in my pictures, but I am not sure if I succeeded.
Always leave something for the next visit! These are the things I didn't do in Bournemouth so far and that I want to do when going back:
St Peter's Church - I don't know how I managed to miss this! Not only is it the most important church in Bournemouth, it is also where Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley are buried. If I am in Bournemouth again one day, I'll definitely go there and pay my respects.
Brownsea Island - another thing I heard about too late and did not manage to fit in, but that is absolutely on my agenda for a future visit. Brownsea Island is a small wildlife place where you can do walks and see red squirrels and many other animals. It is managed by the national trust.
Poole - I would really like to see more of Poole, too
Dorset Cruises - I saw a brochure of this and it looks lovely. There are different ones, I especially like the one to Swanage, along the coast and Old Harry Rocks.
Bournemouth's tourist information centre is located in a small, ugly building and does not look very inviting, but I still recommend a visit there if you are staying in the area for longer. The staff I met were very, very friendly and answered all of my questions. You can get a map of the town centre for free, or, if you need a larger map that also includes some of the surroundings, you can buy one for two pounds or so. I was happy they had those maps for a small price because I wanted to walk to Tolkien's house in Poole and also to a restaurant at the outskirts and was in need of a good map.
The tourist information also sells a few books, post cards and souvenirs, but there was nothing that caught my interest.
Address: Westover Road
Directions: At the edge of the gardens, between the Square and the cinemas
The best way to get around in Bournemouth is by bus. We got a week pass ticket and rode as often and as many times as we wanted. It took us around Bournemouth and surrounding areas. It can be a little complicated if you are not familiar with the area, but a good experience for sightseeing if you are on it for a long period of time. Just ask the bus driver and they will help but the best way is to plan your trip on their website and know where you are going ahead of time. £14 or so for a 7 day pass. Was a great deal!
Red busses get you around further (Poole and further)
The town's life blood these days is tourism and the TIC in the town centre offers all sorts of tourist services. Friendly local staff can assist with accommodation bookings, theatre tickets, public transport advice and timetables as well as general info on things to do in the area.
The centre is located on Westover Road just beside the Pavillion Theatre and the Lower Gardens. For website click HERE or phone 0845 051 1700.
Favorite thing: Bournemouth completely dispels the belief that Britain isn't blessed with the finest looking ladies. One stroll through the town and you are sure to know what I mean. Gorgeous! Must be something they put in the water!
Bournemouth is "the " town for poeple studying English! There are about 40 language schools here!
There are parties here every weekend! And in summer it's crowded!
Walk along the long sandy beach during sunset!
Just down from the seafront is a park with a stream running through it called Lower gardens. There's a bandstand here which plays show's on summer Sunday afternoon's. Lot's of people sit here in deck chairs in good weather, & you can occasionally see grey squirrels. I have already mentioned the Bournemouth Eye in one of my earlier report's. There's a mini golf area here, where you can also play table tennis.
There's an art gallery by a bird aviery. Some of the painting's are really good, they show the Hampshire & Dorset scenary & all are for sale. There's many decorative flower beds in Lower Gardens.
Fondest memory: Until the early 1800's the Bournemouth area was heathland, with a warren of pathways & streams, the only known inhabitants were cows & maybe a few gypsies (like me).
If you don't fancy walking up the cliff paths, you can take the easy way out and ride up on the funicular. I think it cost about 80pence for a few seconds.
But beware, I don't think they operate out of season.
Favorite thing: Everyone must experience the full english breakfast which is served in most restaurants and cafes in Bournemouth.
The New Forest lies just east of Bournemouth. It's a beautiful aeria where wild horses live!
Hire a bike in any of the towns and ride through the forest! It's beautiful!!