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People & personalities in Bournemouth - in alphabetical order
Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898) was one of the most talented and controversial artists of the late Victorian era. He was associated with Art Nouveau but much of his work was thought too rude to be accepted by many people of strict Victorian upbringing.
Beardsley came to Bournemouth in July 1896, staying first at a hotel overlooking Boscombe Pier. He was only 24 but seriously ill with tuberculosis. His early days in Bournemouth were quite productive and he published a volume of his work called Fifty Drawings. Sadly, Beardsley's health deteriorated and towards the end of 1896 he described himself as "an agonized wreck of depression, a poor shadow of the gay rococo thing" he had previously been.
He moved to a guest house known as Muriel (also called Cheam House), which stood just off Bournemouth Square and was demolished as recently as 1995. By now he felt the "mere physical exertion" of picking up a pen but he did manage a few illustrations during his ten weeks at Muriel. He was also received into the Roman Catholic Church there on 31 March 1897, describing it as "a moment of profound joy, of gratitude and emotion". Soon after this he moved to London and then to France, where he died a year later at the young age of 26.
Rev Alexander Morden Bennett (about 1810-1880) the first Vicar of Bournemouth, was a man of great vision and drive and one of the most influential figures in the town's early history. His first priority after taking up his post in 1945 was to establish a church school. He believed that Bournemouth would become a large and important town and organised the expansion of St Peter's Church in stages between 1856 and 1879. He died in January 1880 just one month after the building was completed.
Chang (1846-1893) was a popular character in Victorian Bournemouth. He was known as the 'Chinese giant' and weighed 26 stones and was 8 feet tall. Chang Woo Gow was born in Foochow, China and was used to being the centre of attention. His height had caused a sensation at the court of the Chinese Emperor when he was still in his teens. By the age of 19 he was in great demand on the international show circuit and he toured the world for 25 years. He came to Bournemouth in 1890 because he was thought to be suffering from tuberculosis. He was invited to functions and mayoral receptions, where his appearance in colourful Chinese costume made him a great attraction.
Chang married an Australian woman and they had two sons, but they were not tall like their father. Chang and his wife bought a house called 'Moyuen' in Southcote Road, where they opened a Chinese tea-room. Chang's time in Bournemouth was a happy one but also tragically short. In 1893 his wife fell ill and died. Chang was devastated, unable even to speak of her without tears. He died 4 months later the victim of a broken heart. He was buried in Bournemouth Cemetery.
Christopher Crabbe Creeke (1820-86) was the first Surveyor of the Bournemouth Commissioners and played a major role in the development and laying out of the town in its early years of rapid growth. Creeke's full title was 'Surveyor and Inspector of Nuisances' and he held it from 1856-79. He was also an architect in private practice and designed several important buildings, including two wings of the Royal Bath Hotel and the reconstructed Boscombe Manor, as well as the Central Pleasure Gardens.
Benjamin Ferrey (1810-1880) the Christchurch architect, had recently opened a practice in London when he was asked to prepare plans for the 'marine village of Bourne'. His drawings are the earliest pictures of Bournemouth in existence, although not all his schemes came to fruition.
John Galsworthy (1867-1933), the novelist and author of The Forsythe Saga, became a pupil at Saugeen Primary School for Boys at 30 Derby Road, Bournemouth, when he was 9 and spent 5 years there. He also sang in the choir at nearby St Swithun's Church.
Sir Dan Godfrey (1868-1939) became Bournemouth's first Musical Director in 1893 and went on to turn the town into a world force in the performance of English classical music. At the age of 24, Godfrey formed a band of 30 musicians. Dressed in blue and gold uniforms and pillbox hats the band made its debut in the newly built Winter Gardens and played to 10,000 people on the first day alone. Under Sir Dan's leadership, Bournemouth became the first town in Britain to have a municipal orchestra. The orchestra changed its name to the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra and later the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Many famous composers came to conduct their own music such as Sir Edward Elgar, Jean Sibelius and Gustav Holst. Dan Godfrey was knighted in 1922. He died in July 1939 and is buried in St Peter's churchyard.
Isaac Gulliver (1745-1822) is known as the 'king of the smugglers'. He lived for some years at Kinson, from where he controlled a smuggling empire that covered the whole of Dorset and much of the New Forest. Huge quantities of brandy, gin, wine, tea, tobacco and other goods were smuggled across the sea and brought ashore at Bournemouth. Large gangs would assemble to unload the ships and carry the cargoes to inland towns and cities. In 1804 it was estimated that 80,000 gallons (364,000 litres) of brandy were landed on the beach between Sandbanks and Hengistbury Head each year. Thanks to smuggling and his natural talent for making money, Gulliver died a very rich man.
Sir Henry Irving (1838-1905) was a famous Victorian actor and the first actor to be given a knighthood in 1895. Irving was a close friend of Annie and Merton Russell-Cotes and came to the Royal Bath Hotel on many occasions and even planted trees in the garden. After his death in 1905, his belongings were sold at auction and Sir Merton was able to buy many souvenirs of his friend which he used to set up his 'Irving Museum' in East Cliff Hall. The museum is still there today.
Lucy Kemp-Welch (1869-1958) is one of England's foremost painters of horses, and is fondly remembered as the illustrator of the 1915 edition of Anna Sewell's 'Black Beauty'. Lucy Kemp-Welch was born in Poole where her father was a solicitor in the firm of Watt and Kemp-Welch. The family moved to Bournemouth shortly afterwards, where it was noticed the young Lucy was very fond of animals. She loved the New Forest and this is where a lot of her inspiration came from. Lucy's father did not think it right that women should have careers but her artistic talents were encouraged by her mother and eventually in 1892 Lucy went to the Herkomer School of Art in Bushey, Hertfordshire.
One of her paintings, now in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, 'Horses Bathing in the Sea' was inspired by a visit to Parkstone. Lucy painted many large canvases, but her smallest painting is the size of a postage stamp and is in the Queen's Dolls' House in Windsor Castle. See her picture Foam Horses
Lillie Langtry (1853 - 1929) the mistress of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII ) lived in the town. He had the Langtry Manor Hotel in Derby Road built for her in 1877. With its red bricks and roof tiles, the romantic retreat on the East Cliff was originally known as the Red House and was Lillie's home for several years. The house is now a hotel and restaurant with portraits of Edward and the "Jersey Lily" looking down on diners, while high on the wall in the dining room is a tiny hatch from where the Prince of Wales could inspect his guests before joining them for dinner. Embossed into the dining room fireplace are Lillie's initials, E.L.L.
Guglielmo Marconi (1874 - 1937) the radio pioneer involved Bournemouth in his experiments in 1898. Four months after setting up the world's first permanent wireless transmitter on the Isle of Wight, Marconi established a second station at the Madeira Hotel on Bournemouth's West Cliff with the intention of transmitting between the two. The Madeira radio station was short-lived because Marconi fell out with the management and moved his equipment to a nearby house known as Sandhills. Here he used a 125-foot mast to exchange messages with the island station and vessels in Poole Bay and the Solent. Sandhills also had the honour of receiving the world's first paid radiogram, transmitted from the Isle of Wight on June 3, 1898. The following September Marconi moved his operation to the Haven Hotel at Sandbanks, Poole. In 1901 he sent the first trans-Atlantic radio message from Cornwall to Newfoundland.
Queen Sophia Wilhelmina of Sweden (1836 -1913) made several visits to Bournemouth, the first in January 1881 to help her recovery after years of illness. In the 19th century many royal visitors came to Bournemouth, sometimes for their health, King Oscar II, Elisabeth Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Empress Eugenie of France. Queen Sophia returned in May 1881 with her husband, King Oscar II of Sweden and Norway, who laid the foundation stone of the Monte Dore Hotel, now Bournemouth Town Hall. Queen Sophia Wilhelmina stayed in Bournemouth again for several weeks in 1888 and attended the wedding of her second son who was married at St Stephen's Church.
Sir Merton (1835 - 1921)and Lady Annie Russell-Cotes (1835 -1920), married in 1860, had a great influence on the development of Victorian and Edwardian Bournemouth. Like many others, Sir Merton first came to Bournemouth because of his health. He arrived with his wife in 1876 and soon after bought the Bath Hotel. They quickly enlarged the hotel and renamed it the 'Royal Bath Hotel' because the Prince of Wales had stayed there in 1856.
Merton was elected to the Board of Commissioners in 1883 and fought hard to enhance the town's reputation as a health resort. He called for a direct railway link from Brockenhurst to Bournemouth to avoid having to change trains at Ringwood. He also campaigned for an Undercliff Drive to enable invalids to take a carriage drive beside the sea. He became Mayor in 1894 and when Undercliff Drive opened in 1907, he and Annie were granted the Freedom of the Borough in 1908. He received a knighthood the following year.
The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum was originally built by Merton Russell-Cotes as a birthday present for his wife and called East Cliff Hall. It was highly decorated in the style of the day and a place where they could show off the paintings, objects and many beautiful things they had purchased during their travels abroad. At the grand opening of the Undercliff Drive in 1907 it was announced that Annie and Merton wanted to give their home and many of their objects to the people of Bournemouth. 'Probably no-one has done more to enhance the prosperity of Bournemouth than Russell-Cotes,' commented the Bournemouth Observer newspaper at the time. Sir Merton and Lady Russell-Cotes were great benefactors and supported many charitable causes in the town. They died in 1921 and 1920 respectively.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 - 1822), the great poet who tragically drowned in a boating accident in Italy in 1822 aged 27, has a strong family association with Bournemouth. Although the poet himself never lived in the town the connection began in 1849 when his son Sir Percy Florence Shelley bought an isolated house and some heathland at Boscombe. He had the house greatly altered and extended and in 1873 renamed it Boscombe Manor.
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797 - 1851) was Sir Percy's mother. She was the author of the novel Frankenstein. Percy hoped she would join him and his wife at Boscombe but she was unable to do so and died in London in 1851. Their home became a great centre for culture, drama and literature, attracting many famous people of the time. The couple even had a 300-seat theatre built which survives to this day at Shelley Park. Lady Shelley also had a room devoted to her father-in-law's relics, including two of the poet's manuscripts, items which were in his pockets when he died, and his heart, which was snatched from his body as it lay on his funeral pyre in Italy. Sir Percy and Lady Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and other family members are buried in a large family vault in St Peter's churchyard, Bournemouth.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 -1894), best known as the author of 'Kidnapped' and 'Treasure Island' is one of several greater writers associated with Bournemouth. Treasure Island was published in 1883 and it was in August the following year that Stevenson arrived in Bournemouth. Stevenson had tuberculosis and was attracted by the town's reputation as a health resort.
The Stevenson family stayed at four different addresses in the area, the fourth being a house called Skerryvore, near Alum Chine Road in Westbourne. Originally called Sea View it was renamed after the Skerryvore Lighthouse, built by the family firm off the coast of Argyll.
It was at Skerryvore that, to use his own words, Stevenson lived "like a weevil in a biscuit". In other words, despite his poor health, he dug himself in and bored away at his work, pouring words on to the page day after day, month after month. He found Bournemouth's heaths and pine woods inspiring and the landscape reminded him of his native Scotland. 'Kidnapped' and 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' were among several works written at Skerryvore.
Stevenson left Skerryvore in August 1887, never to return. He finally settled in Samoa in the South Seas, where he died in 1894 at the age of 44. Skerryvore itself was badly damaged by German bombs in 1940 and later demolished, despite appeals for its restoration as a building of historic interest. Instead Stevenson's time at Bournemouth is commemorated by the small public garden on the site, which features a model of the Skerryvore lighthouse.
Georgina (d.1870) and Marianne Talbot were sisters and the founders of Talbot Village. They made a big difference to the lives of people living in the area. Georgina in particular was shocked at the poverty she saw among working families when they moved from London in 1842. She bought 465 acres of land from the Lord of the Manor, Sir George Gervis and used it to create a self-supporting village for unemployed workers prepared to maintain themselves and their families by their own efforts.
Talbot Village included six farms and 16 detached cottages, each with an acre of land, a pigsty and a well. She also allowed public access to Talbot Woods, which continues to this day. In 1862 Georgina had seven almshouses built for elderly and infirm people and also a village school. Georgina did not live to see the completion of St Mark's Church but Marianne ensured that the church was finished and carried on her sister's good work.
Captain Lewis D G Tregonwell (1758-1832) is known as 'the founder of Bournemouth'. Tregonwell was a friend of the Prince Regent (later King George IV). The Tregonwells lived at Cranborne, a small Dorset town about 20 miles from Bournemouth, but Captain Tregonwell knew Bourne Heath well because he had led clifftop patrols by soldiers of the Dorset Yeomanry during the French Revolutionary Wars, between 1796 and 1802
After building their seaside mansion between 1810 and 1812, Tregonwell and his family divided their time equally between Cranborne and "Bourne". Captain Tregonwell died in 1832 and was buried at Winterborne Anderson but in 1846 his widow Henrietta had his remains transferred to a vault in St Peter's Churchyard at Bournemouth. Henrietta died a few weeks later but the family's association continued for many years through their sons
St Barbe Tregonwell, who lived there until his death in 1859, and John Tregonwell (1811-1885), who was one of the Bournemouth Commissioners from 1856-67.