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The only way to get around at the beginning of the 19th century was on foot, on horseback, in a horse-drawn cart or coach. If you lived near the sea, a river or a canal, you could travel by boat. Over the next 100 years transport changed beyond recognition as trains appeared, then the bicycle and at the very end of the century the first motor cars.
Early Bournemouth was difficult to get to. But an important breakthrough came for the growing seaside community in 1840 when the daily horse-drawn coach service between Southampton and Weymouth was diverted to include Bournemouth on its route.
Before the arrival of the railway in 1848, coming to Torquay meant a very long and uncomfortable journey by stagecoach. Roads at that time were poor and a journey from London took about 17 hours. It was also very expensive. An alternative was to travel by coastal paddle steamer which travelled from London along the south coast. But this was costly and also a long journey. It could be very unpleasant in stormy weather.
An important person in Bournemouth's early transport history is Francis Graham. Some time around the 1830s and 1840s he acquired his first horse and carriage and set up a transport service between Hurn Court and Christchurch. There was still smuggling in the area in those days and Graham soon discovered he could make much more money by helping the smugglers. He would drive his horse and wagon to the beach in the middle of the night, returning later with a full load of brandy tubs smuggled across the Channel from France.
By 1851, the 33-year-old Graham and his growing family were living in Terrace Road in the centre of Bournemouth. Although a directory of 1854 gives his occupation as seedsman, when the town's first taxi stand appeared in the Square, Graham was among the horse-drawn carriage owners waiting to take visitors to their hotels. Along with other omnibus operators he could also be seen outside the railway stations at Hamworthy Junction and Christchurch Road (Holmsley) where they did a brisk trade in carrying visitors to Bournemouth.
Horse-drawn buses were the main means of transport in Torquay as in much of the country and were first seen in Torquay around 1859.
The bicycle was invented in 1839 but it wasn't until the1890s before the design of cycles made them suitable for everyday use. Early models included the 'boneshaker' and the 'penny-farthing' - which required considerable skill and courage to ride, not least because it was so hard to get on and off. One penny-farthing enthusiast was the Bournemouth journalist and football official William Pickford. Amazingly, he sometimes rode his cycle from Bournemouth to London to attend Football Association meetings!
When the first railways arrived in Dorset and Hampshire, Bournemouth was still only a small village and not important enough to have its own station. The nearest railway line opened in 1847 and ran between Southampton and Dorchester. It went via Ringwood and Wimborne and missed Bournemouth altogether. The nearest stations were ten miles away at Holmsley (then known as Christchurch Road) in the New Forest and at Hamworthy Junction, near Poole. People living in Bournemouth wanted to be able to use the new trainsand things improved a little in 1862, when a branch line from Ringwood to Christchurch was opened. But passengers heading for Bournemouth still had to change trains at Ringwood and then transfer to horse-drawn transport at Christchurch.
The coming of the railway to Torquay on 18th December 1848 was an important event in the development of the town. A rail journey from London to Exeter took about four and a half hours. So a new line to Torquay meant visits became much easier. Visitors were still just the rich however. Ordinary people had too little money and no paid holidays. For many the latter did not arrive until the 20th century.
At long last in 1870 Bournemouth acquired its own railway station following the extension of the Ringwood-Christchurch branch line. It was built on the east side of Holdenhurst Road (where the B&Q store is now) and it was not until 1885 that the present station was built on the other side. A second station opened near Westbourne in 1874, as an extension from Broadstone Junction to Poole and Bournemouth. Finally, 14 years later the South-Western Railway Company built the present direct line from Brockenhurst to Bournemouth and linked the two stations, then known as Bournemouth West and Bournemouth East. Additional stations were later opened at Pokesdown and Boscombe. The building of railway links made Bournemouth much easier to get to and more people began to visit the town.
The Bournemouth Commissioners opposed the idea of tram-cars for twenty years, claiming it would be unsuitable for the town and bad for trade. Instead it was Poole which paved the way for a local tramway system, with the area's first tram running from Poole station to the borough boundary at County Gates in April 1901. Bournemouth's first tramlines opened in July 1902 between the Lansdowne and Pokesdown. Other sections followed and the line was finally extended as far as Christchurch in 1905.
It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that the tram system was constructed in Torquay. The route was from Beacon Quay to Torre Station, to St Marychurch and Babbacombe on two lines in a circular route through Wellswood and Ellacombe to Torquay station. It took 18 months to build the system and many roads were closed for this work. Although local people used the trams, they were a particular attraction for visitors.
The trams used electricity supplied through a surface contact system. This meant the power was between the rails in the ground. Unfortunately this could be dangerous and horses were electrocuted and people were at risk too. So after a few years they changed to overhead power supplies. In 1934, the tram system was closed down, unable to compete with motor buses which have dominated local public transport to this day.
It was January 1900 when the very first motor cars appeared on the streets of Bournemouth. The very first car is believed to have been a Daimler, owned by brothers Albert and Thomas Charles Taylor. They kept a garage in Southcote Road, where they soon had a fleet of Daimlers. They also ran the first motor taxi service in Bournemouth.