Bournemouth in Dorset, is a cosmopolitan seaside resort on the south coast of England. It has many enormous natural advantages and attracts over five million visitors every year, not only in the summer months, but throughout the winter as well. The town faces south and has a sunny climate. It has seven miles of golden sandy beaches, backed by a promenade stretching from Sandbanks to Hengistbury Head. Behind the Esplanade, there are steep cliffs which provide a magnificent background and from the top, there are spectacular views over to the Isle of Wight.
Bournemouth is the largest town in Dorset, with a population exceeding 185,000, but until the early 19th century, the location where Bournemouth is now situated, was wild moorland. In 1810, Lewis Tregonwell, built a holiday home there, part of which is still incorporated into the Royal Exeter Hotel. Consequently, there are very few buildings in Bournemouth over one hundred years old, but, of course, many prominent Victorian ones.
Bournemouth Pier has been an important part of the development of Bournemouth as a town. Before the arrival of the railways, the quickest and cheapest way for visitors to reach a coastal resort, was by boat. The first pier was constructed of wood and opened in 1861, but had to close in 1876, after being attacked by beetles and damaged by storms. In 1871, there were popular paddle steamer trips from the pier to the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth. The world famous Paddle Steamer Waverley, has recreated some of these cruises from Bournemouth Pier, in September 2015. The pier, for many years, was a major visitor attraction, with household names from the stage and television performing at the Pier Theatre. However, in 2014 it closed and was converted to an indoor activity centre, Rock Reef, with a climbing wall and a Zip Wire, which takes the thrill seeker from the end of the pier, over the sea and onto the beach.
For those who enjoy less adventurous pursuits, Bournemouth has attractive gardens close to Pier Approach. The River Bourne, from which the town’s name is derived, runs through the gardens, near the Pavilion. The gardens were laid out in the 1870s. There is a traditional bandstand, which dates from 1933. Since 1998, there has been a helium-filled balloon in the gardens which takes twenty-eight passengers, 492 feet in the air, to gain spectacular views over the gardens and seafront.
Bournemouth, as well as being a major holiday destination, is also a commercial centre. The Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) is a conference and exhibition centre overlooking the sea, at which all of the three major political parties have held their conferences. Bournemouth has a university, an international airport – Bournemouth Airport, theatres, cinemas and a lively night life, as well as its own symphony orchestra – The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.
AFC Bournemouth, the local football club, known as “The Cherries”, currently competes in the FA Premier League.
Bournemouth formed part of the novelist, Thomas Hardy’s “Wessex” and was called, ‘Sandbourne’ in his novels, including ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, where he described the town as follows:-
‘This fashionable watering-place, with its eastern and its western stations, its piers, its groves of pines, its promenades, and its covered gardens, was, to Angel Clare, like a fairy place suddenly created by the stroke of a wand, and allowed to get a little dusty’.
Bournemouth has many other literary associations. Robert Louis Stevenson, who lived at Skerryvore, Alum Chine, Westbourne, wrote, ‘The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ and ‘Kidnapped’ whilst there. The house was destroyed by enemy bombing in 1940. Mary Shelley, author of ‘Frankenstein’, is buried in St. Peter’s Churchyard.