This walk has been created by Bournemouth walking guide Hattie Miles, who is a photographer, writer and local historian who, for the past two years, has run Bournemouth’s popular guided walkingtalks tours. For 24 years she worked on the town’s daily newspaper and her walks aim to share her enthusiasm for the area and tell some of the history and hidden stories of this popular tourist destination.
Hattie starting wearing Hotter shoes for her photographic work, a job that often required her to be on her feet all day. They were not only comfortable, but supported her feet well. Now she also wears them for her guided walks.
We hope you enjoy this self-guided walk and would love to hear what you think about it and see your photos – just send them through to us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Hattie says: “Be prepared! This town centre walk is on pavements and paved pathways. It includes some slopes and a few steps with a good rail. I recommend wearing comfortable shoes and dressing appropriately for the weather.
It’s a really straight-forward walk and anyone unhappy with steps could avoid them by not walking right up to the Shelley and Tregonwell graves. You get a view of them from the pathway below. I hope you enjoy this walk.” Hattie Miles <walkingtalks.wordpress.com>
Bournemouth is a thriving seaside tourist destination situated on the South Coast of Dorset. Seeing it today, it’s hard to believe that a little more than 200 years ago the area was an uninhabited heathland between the ancient towns of Poole to the West and Christchurch to the East. In 1810 the Captain of the Dorset Yeomanry Lewis Tregonwell and his wife Henrietta visited. They were staying in nearby Christchurch and loved the sea views, from the mouth of the Bourne stream, so much that they bought land and set about building their dream-house. The couple moved into their home in 1812 (now the Royal Exeter Hotel). From this beginning grew the town of Bournemouth.
Our walk begins in Old Christchurch Road outside the Hotter store, BH1 1DS.
Discover shoes to fall in love with, perfect for a walking tour of Bournemouth at the lovely Hotter store, where Alise and the team will be delighted to give you a warm welcome.
Opposite the Hotter store is the big department store House of Fraser … unremarkable until you look up above ground level where you will discover that it is a rather splendid Art Deco building with some interesting sun motifs.
Now walk up the hill and look for a blue plaque on the left, opposite an arcade. This marks the site of “Ashley Cottages”, thatched houses built in 1812. They were demolished to make way for Bournemouth’s first Town Hall in 1875.
Cross the precinct and walk into the Gervis Arcade. Built in 1866 by Henry Joy, a carpenter by trade, from Chalbury near Wimborne, this shopping arcade still thrives. You’ll find a blue plaque, set high up above the entrance. It tells you that the arcade was originally built as two rows of shops with the glazed roof added in 1872. On your right, the façade of the jewelers shop still has the polished brass base advertising the original cigar importing business of Edward Offer and Co Ltd. You can also see the name ‘Offers’ on the pavement immediately outside the front door. Their business opened here in 1871 and flourished for more than a hundred years, closing around 1979. It evokes a time when cigar smoking was encouraged as a sign of wealth and distinction.
Don’t miss the two little faces looking out above the shop’s windows.
Look across at Waterstone Book Shop’s frontage. It has large windows with brass handles that used to open up for display of the grocers on sale there.
If you nip into the Essentials shop you’ll find at the back of the store a beautiful stained glass window depicting a woman holding a bowl of fruit and little further along you come to Charles Fox & Son’s jewelers which opened its doors in 1876. Stand back and admire the gold leaf signage. The central part of it is original.
Walk out of the arcade and cross the pelican crossing, then turn immediately left and walk up the street towards the church. If you look up to your left you’ll see 1887 in art nouveau lettering next to the 1950’s Beales building.
The original Beales department store was founded in 1881 by John Elmes Beale who came from Weymouth. On May 25th 1943, the Beales store took a direct hit in an air raid. The bomb hit a gas main and the building was burnt to the ground. The existing store was built to replace it. In 1885 Beales was one of the first stores in England to have a live Father Christmas.
From here you get a good view of the St Peter’s Church spire which stretches 202 feet into the sky.
Cross at the zebra crossing and walk through the covered wooden gateway into the churchyard and go immediately to your right.
You will find two rather neglected looking graves. On the left is Dan Godfrey’s grave. In 1893 Godfrey founded the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra as a band of 30 wind players and a drummer. Gradually he added musicians until he had a full symphony orchestra. They specialised in British music and early guest conductors included Edward Elgar and Gustav Holst. When Godfrey retired in 1934 he had conducted more than 2,000 symphony concerts. In 1954 the orchestra was re-named the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and then in 1961 principal conductor Constantin Silvestri was appointed. His grave is on the right of Godfrey’s. It was he who raised the standard and prestige of the orchestra to one on international repute.
Sadly in 1979 the orchestra relocated from Bournemouth to Poole and now it is based at the town’s Lighthouse Centre for the Arts.
St Peter’s Church is one of the three churches that form the Town Centre Parish – you can see the Parish Cross. The church was built over a period of 25 years from 1854. If you have time it is well worth going inside to see the Edward Byrne Jones stained glass windows and frescoes by Clayton and Bell. If you’re lucky you may hear the 1914 Harrison organ being played or a peel from the eight bells, which are hung for full circle English style change ringing.
Walk past the church and up the steps to the memorial set just up to the right. This is the vault of the Shelley family, Mary Shelley, who wrote the Gothic novel ‘Frankenstein’ and her learned parents, the feminist author Mary Wollstonecraft and journalist and political philosopher William Godwin. None of the three ever lived in Bournemouth, but it was Mary’s request that she should be buried there and that her parents should be moved from their resting place at St Pancras in London to be with her. The whole family comes together as her son Percy Florence Shelley, whose home Shelley Manor was just up the road in Boscombe, is also buried here and also the heart of Mary’s husband, the poet Percy Byshe Shelley. He was drowned off the coast of Italy in 1822. It is said that his heart was retrieved from the embers of his funeral pyre and brought back to England and given to his son who had them interred in the family vault.
Walk a little further up the steps and you will find the resting place of Lewis Tregonwell’s family. Lewis Tregonwell is considered to be the founder of Bournemouth. It seems incredible when we think of current property prices that Tregonwell bought 8.5 acres of land in what is now the town centre for just £179 – 11shillings. The Tregonwells moved into their new house in 1812.
When he died in 1832, Tregonwell was originally buried at Anderson Town in North Dorset where he was Squire, but his widow had has remains transferred here.
Now walk back down the steps, past the church and go out through the main churchyard entrance. Turn right and walk round the corner. Just before the zebra crossing look up to your right. You’ll find a blue plaque for Mary Shelley and her family beside the now bricked up old pedestrian entrance to the churchyard.
Cross at the zebra crossing and continue a little way further along the road until you come to the Burlington arcade on your left. Walk through the arcade. You will come to an interesting café. Giggi’s the Italian Gelateria is owned by Luigi ‘Giggi’ Bray who was brought up in Alezio in Southern Italy. Giggi’s mum’s gelatos were the talk of the town, and now he’s brought her secret recipes to Bournemouth. It’s well worth stopping here and sampling the goods – the range of delicious flavours is mouthwatering, and the ice creams are all made by Giggi on the premises.
At the end of the arcade you will turn left into Old Christchurch Road, but do look to your right at the parade of shops on the left. Look above street level to see the magnificent Victorian buildings clearly showing the date 1893.
Continue down the hill and turn right into Yelverton Road. To your right is Granville Place. Venture a few steps along and you will come to Bourne Engraving. This tiny shop, probably Bournemouth’s smallest, is situated under the staircase of what used to be the boarding house used by the Theatre Royal (a little further along Yelverton Road). The cupboard under the stairs was converted first into an outside facing dustbin and bicycle store, then as an 8-track tapes shop c1968, before being taken over in 1976 by the present owner Nigel Hedges for his engraving business. There is no loo, so Mr Hedges has to close and pop to the nearby department store to use theirs should he need to spend a penny! Amongst celebrity customers are Bear Grylls and Michael Ball.
Walk back to Yelverton Road, cross the road and continue along. On your left, beside the entrance to the casino is a blue plaque with information about the building’s history. It started life as The Theatre Royal in 1882. Since then it has been used variously as a theatre, the town hall, a wartime services club, a Bingo Hall, night club and now it houses the casino.
Walk to the end of the road and you come to Richmond Hill where there are various interesting buildings and blue plaques. Cross the road for the best views of the art deco Daily Echo building. Opened as a state of the art newspaper office and print centre, in January 1934, it has a striking facade (the paper was actually founded in 1900). Reporters and photographers still work from the offices, but the presses printed their last copies in the early 1990s. The press hall was later converted into a restaurant ‘The Print Room’ (1997).
Look up the hill to your left and you will see a large modern building which is the administration centre of Nationwide Building Society. Behind it stands Walton House, built c1861 by newsagent William Henry Smith as his retirement home. He lived there until his death in 1865. He, of course, founded the famous stationary company WH Smith. The house is named after his father Henry Walton Smith. You can just see it through the trees on the north side of St Stephen’s Road. I’ve included a photograph of it so show you what it looks like close-up and the blue plaque which is beside its front door.
On the opposite corner is Granville Chambers, built as a temperance hotel in 1891, but converted into offices in the 1930’s. Note the lion’s heads and eagles on this distinctive building.
You are standing beside the Royal Norfolk Hotel, which was built as two large villas in the 1840s. There’s also a blue plaque on Bournemouth’s CatholicChurch of the Sacred Heart to philanthropist, novelist and biographer Lady Georgiana Fullerton (1812-1885) who worshipped at the church and founded the local Catholic primary school St Walburga’s.
Walk on down the hill until you reach the NPC car park sign. Peer behind the sign and find another blue plaque marking the site of the birthplace at 2 Richmond Terrace, of composer Hubert Parry (1848 – 1918). He put music to William Blake’s “And Did Those Feet In Ancient Times” thus creating “Jerusalem”, and also wrote the music for the hymn “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” and the Coronation Anthem “I Was Glad”, which was sung at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011. You may have spotted his mother’s grave at St Peter’s.
Now turn left into Post Office Road. About half way along on your left is the old Post Office, now Pizza Express, which still has a magnificent Lion and Unicorn coat of arms over the doorway. You will also walk past Lord Sandwich, which was one of the England’s first take-away sandwich shops, opening in the mid 1980s. At the end of the street on the right is a ‘Lush’ store. The ‘Lush’ cosmetics company was founded just up the road in Poole, in 1995, by hair expert Mark Constantine and beauty therapist Liz Weir. It’s become an international success.
Now you are back in Old Christchurch Road go up the hill and the Hotter store is just a little way up on your left. Incidentally, the Hotter shoe company was founded by Stewart Houlgrave, whose parents, Thomas and Harriet, started up a slipper factory in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, in 1959. Now there are more than a million customers who wear the super comfortable Hotter footwear.
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This season a group of local Bournemouth bloggers joined Hattie for this guided walk, in their favourite Hotter shoes.