Bournemouth history

A History of Bournemouth...

Before Bournemouth was a haven for tourists, the district between Poole and Christchurch was a vast wild heathland, known as Bourne Heath, which extended as far as Dorchester. This vastly unpopulated land was the perfect haunt for smugglers who shipped in stolen goods from around the country and further afield.

So great had smuggling been on the South Coast in the eighteenth century that in the 1720’s a petition was delivered to the House of Commons in London. The petition asked those in charge to put a stop to the illegal goods run that threatened the livelihoods of local manufacturers and businesses in Poole and Christchurch. Despite the locals’ actions, the underground business continued to thrive along the coastline, even creating local names out of association, such as Smuggler’s Cove, also known as Lulworth Cove.

One notorious smuggler, who operated between Poole and Lyme Regis, was called Isaac Gulliver, also known as ‘The King of the Smugglers.’ Together with his gang of smugglers, Gulliver smuggled huge quantities of tea, lace and gin into the country, making his mark in the history books.

A number smuggling haunts remain in the area to this day, including St Peter’s Finger, the Inn at Lytchett, which is known to be a place where smuggler’s hid from the law as they transported their stolen goods into the depths of the country. Countless other buildings may have been used to stash smuggler’s loot; even church towers in Christchurch and Poole were once used to stockpile illicit cargoes. 

Bournemouth town is situated on the curve of a large bay that stretches from Hengistbury Head in the east, to Poole Harbour in the west; a distance of fourteen miles in total. The area was unpopulated until a man named Tregonwell built a house near the shore in 1812. Tregonwell had often visited the coast with his wife, and it was due to their love of the being beside the shore that they decided to settle in Bournemouth indefinitely. 

Although Tregonwell is widely considered the first inhabitant of Bournemouth, it was a man named Sir George Ivison Tapps-Gervis who wanted to make Bournemouth into a seaside holiday resort, similar to Weymouth. Tapps-Gervis built the first village in Bournemouth, the Westover Villas, in 1837; two years after he had inherited his father’s fortune and Bournemouth Estate. The visionary died in 1844, just as Bournemouth was becoming one of the most popular seaside resorts in England. He never lived to see his full dream realised.

During the nineteenth century, other seaside resorts were being constructed, including Brighton and Bognor Regis. The sudden development of such places was largely due to the fact that holidays were becoming a popular notion amongst rich city dwellers. These holiday makers were predominantly the upper and middle classes, who visited the coast for its fresh sea air and picturesque landscape. In the nineteenth century it was also a well-known fact that fresh air could help to cure the sick and sooth their ailments, particularly chest complaints like tuberculosis, and so Bournemouth not only become associated with holidays, but with health and vitality too. Finally, society had realised that living in smoggy, factory infested cities was bad for people’s health. This opinion that was largely influenced by a well-known physician called Augustus Bozzi Granville, the author of a book entitled The Spas of England (1841). In the second edition of his book, Granville included a chapter meriting Bournemouth and its healthy air. This was enough to increase the tourist count tenfold, as people from all over the country visited the Bournemouth for its sea breezes. 

With a steady supply of tourists and money, Bournemouth gradually came into being. Soon villages appeared that became linked with stage coach routes and in 1851 the first few shops were constructed in Commercial Road. Over the next thirty or forty years the existing villages grew, and in 1881 the population reached 16,859. Over the years new amenities were introduced to the town including a police force, churches, post office, eateries, Bournemouth pier, even more shops, and hotels, one of the first being the Bath Hotel which was opened in 1838, now known as the Royal Bath Hotel

The town of Bournemouth had been born.

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