Bournemouth is a large coastal resort town in the Borough of Bournemouth in Dorset, England. The town has a population of 163,444 according to the 2001 Census, making it the largest settlement in Dorset.
The town was founded by Lewis Tregonwell in 1810 and grew steadily and became a proper town in 1870, when the railway came. Bournemouth used to be part of Hampshire until the reorganisation of local government in 1974 and the associated border changes, and is now in Dorset. Since 1997 the town has been administered by a unitary authority, meaning that it has autonomy from Dorset County Council.
It is a popular tourist destination as it is situated on the south coast of England. The town is a regional centre of education and business, and forms the main part of the South East Dorset conurbation, with the adjoining town of Poole. It is also the largest town on the English south coast between Southampton and Plymouth. The town is notable as the home of the Bournemouth International Centre and is also home to several financial companies including JPMorgan Chase, Nationwide Building Society, Liverpool Victoria, Standard Life Healthcare and The Richmond Group. Some apparently Bournemouth-named organisations, such as Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, The Arts Institute at Bournemouth and Bournemouth University are actually located wholly or partly within Poole and Bournemouth International Airport is, in fact, located in the neighbouring borough of Christchurch, Dorset.
In a 2007 survey by First Direct Bank, Bournemouth was found to be the happiest place in Britain with 82% of people questioned saying they were happy with their life.
In late August 2008, it was published that the East Dorset conurbation (including Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch) is the safest place to live in England and Wales in terms of crime. Violent crimes are recorded as far below the national average.
Bournemouth is located southwest of London at . A roundabout at the end of the Wessex Way road called "County Gates" (but commonly known as Frizzell roundabout after the insurance brokers based there, now part of Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society) marks the historic border between Hampshire and Dorset, and also marks the border between Bournemouth and Poole. Historically Bournemouth was part of Hampshire, with Poole just to the west of the border. At the time of the 1974 local government re-organisation, it was considered desirable that the whole of the Poole/Bournemouth urban area should be part of the same county. Bournemouth therefore became part of the non-metropolitan county of Dorset on 1 April 1974. On 1 April 1997, Bournemouth became a unitary authority, independent from Dorset County Council. For the purposes of the Lieutenancy it remains part of the ceremonial county of Dorset.
The urban geography of Bournemouth is complex as the town merges with several other towns to form the South East Dorset conurbation, which has a combined population of 383,713, the whole area being sufficiently populous to be one of the major retail and commercial centres in the south of England. As such the town adjoins Poole in the west and Christchurch in the east. To the north west of Bournemouth is the small town of Wimborne and to the north east is the settlement of Ferndown. Bournemouth International Airport lies to the north east, towards Hurn. The town is intersected by the A338 dual carriageway, known as the "Wessex Way".
Although Bournemouth lies adjacent to the sea, the centre of the town lies inland - the commercial and civil heart of the town being The Square. From the Square the Upper and Lower Pleasure Gardens descend to the seafront and the pier. Areas within Bournemouth itself include Bear Cross, Boscombe, Kinson, Pokesdown and Westbourne. Traditionally a large retirement town, Bournemouth (mostly the Northbourne, Southbourne and Tuckton areas of Bournemouth together with the Wallisdown, and Talbot Village areas of Poole) have seen massive growth in recent years, especially through the growth of students attending Bournemouth University.
Bournemouth is located directly to the east of the Jurassic Coast, a section of beautiful and largely unspoilt coastline recently designated a World Heritage Site. Apart from the beauty of much of the coastline, the Jurassic Coast provides a complete geological record of the Jurassic period and a rich fossil record. Bournemouth sea front overlooks Poole Bay and the Isle of Wight. Bournemouth also has of sandy beaches that run from Hengistbury Head in the east to Sandbanks, in Poole, in the west.
Because of the coastal processes that operate in Poole Bay, the area is often used for surfing. An artificial reef (Europe's first) is expected to be installed at Boscombe, in Bournemouth, by October 2008, using large sand-filled geotextile bags. The reef is being constructed as part of the larger Boscombe Spa Village development. Bournemouth also has several chines (e.g. Alum Chine) that lead down to the beaches and form a very attractive feature of the area. The beaches are subdivided by groynes.
The Dorset and Hampshire region surrounding Bournemouth has been the site of human settlement for thousands of years. However in 1800 the Bournemouth area, was largely a remote and barren heathland. No-one lived at mouth of the Bourne River and the only regular visitors were a few fishermen, turf cutters and gangs of smugglers until the 16th century. During the Tudor period the area was used as a hunting estate, 'Stourfield Chase', but by the late 18th century only a few small parts of it were maintained, including several fields around the Bourne Stream and a cottage known as Decoy Pond House, which stood near where The Square is today.
With the exception of the estate, until 1802 most of the Bournemouth area was common land. The Christchurch Inclosures Act 1802 and the Inclosure Commissioners' Award of 1805 transferred hundreds of acres into private ownership for the first time. In 1809, the Tapps Arms public house appeared on the heath. A few years later, in 1812, the first residents, retired army officer Lewis Tregonwell and his wife, moved into their new home built on land he had purchased from Sir George Ivison Tapps. Tregonwell began developing his land for holiday letting by building a series of sea villas. In association with Tapps, he planted hundreds of Pine trees, providing a sheltered walk to the beach (later to become known as the 'Invalids walk'). The town would ultimately grow up around its scattered pines. In 1832 when Tregonwell died, Bournemouth had grown into small community with a scattering of houses, villas and cottages.
In 1835, after the death of Sir George Ivison Tapps, his son Sir George William Tapps-Gervis inherited his father's estate. Bournemouth started to grow at a faster rate as George William started developing the seaside village into a resort similar to those that had already grown up along the south coast such as Weymouth and Brighton. In 1841, the town was visited by the physician and writer Augustus Granville. Granville was the author of The Spas of England, which described health resorts around the country. As a result of his visit, Dr Granville included a chapter on Bournemouth in the second edition of his book. The publication of the book, as well as the growth of visitors to the seaside seeking the medicinal use of the seawater and the fresh air of the pines, helped the town to grow and establish itself as an early tourist destination.
In the 1840s the fields south of the road crossing (later Bournemouth Square) were drained and laid out with shrubberies and walks. Many of these paths including the 'Invalids walk' remain in the town today; forming part of the Pleasure Gardens which extend for several miles along the Bourne stream. The Pleasure Gardens were originally a series of garden walks created in the fields of the owners of the Branksome Estate in the 1860s. In the early 1870s all the fields were leased to the Bournemouth Commissioners by the freeholders. Parliament approved the Bournemouth Improvement Act in 1856. Under the Act, a board of 13 Commissioners was established to build and organise the expanding infrastructure of the town, such as paving, sewers, drainage, street lighting and street cleaning.
During the late 19th century the town continued to develop. The Winter Gardens were finished in 1875 and the cast iron Bournemouth pier was finished in 1880. The arrival of the railways allowed a massive growth of seaside and summer visits to the town, especially by visitors from the Midlands and London. In 1880 the town had a population of 17,000 people but by 1900, when railway connections were at their most developed to Bournemouth, the town's population had risen to 60,000. It was also during this period that the town became a favourite location for visiting artists and writers including Mary Shelley. The town was improved greatly during this period through the efforts of Sir Merton Russell-Cotes, the town's Mayor and a local philanthropist. He helped establish the town's first library and museum. The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum was housed in his mansion and after his death it was given to the town.
As Bournemouth's growth increased in the early 20th century, the town centre spawned theatres, cafés, two art deco cinemas and more hotels. Other new buildings included the War Memorial in 1921 and the Bournemouth Pavilion, the towns concert hall and grand theatre finished in 1925. The town escaped great damage during the Second World War but saw a period of decline as a seaside resort in the post war era.
J.R.R. Tolkien, the writer, spent 30 years taking holidays in Bournemouth, staying in the same room at the Hotel Miramar, with a second room to write in. He eventually retired to the area in the 1960s with his wife Edith. Tolkien died in September 1973 at his home in Bournemouth and was buried in Oxfordshire.
Mary Shelley, the writer and novelist is buried in St. Peter's Church, her son Sir Percy having settled at Boscombe Manor. Also buried at St Peter's is the heart of Mary's husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, brought back from Italy, and her parents William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, their remains having been moved there from St Pancras Old Church.
The town was especially rich in literary associations during the late nineteenth century and earlier years of the twentieth century. Oscar Wilde and Paul Verlaine both taught at Bournemouth preparatory schools. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote most of his novel Kidnapped from his house "Skerryvore" on the west cliff. Popular local legend also notes that the existence of a small Russian colony at Southbourne meant that several well-known Russian authors passed through the town, notably Tolstoy.
Bournemouth is a tourist and regional centre for leisure, entertainment, culture and recreation. The award winning Central Gardens are a separate major public park, leading for several miles down the valley of the River Bourne through the centre of the town to the sea (reaching the sea at Bournemouth Pier) and include the Pleasure Gardens and the area surrounding the Pavilion and the IMAX Cinema. Bournemouth is renowned for its aged population, hence its nickname "God's Waiting Room".
The Bournemouth International Centre (BIC), is a popular venue for the conferences of the major political parties. The centre hosted the Labour Party conference in 2003 and 2007, the Conservative Party conference in 2006, and the Liberal Democrat conference in 2008. In addition, the Lib Dems have booked the centre for their 2009 conference. The BIC also hosts theatrical productions and musical concerts.
The Russell-Cotes Museum is located just to the east of the Central Gardens near the Pavilion Theatre and next to the Royal Bath Hotel. The museum includes many fine mostly 19th century paintings and the family collections acquired when travelling e.g. in Japan and Russia. It was Sir Merton Russell Cotes, one of Bournemouth's most prominent Victorians, who successfully campaigned to have a promenade built; it runs continuously along the Bournemouth and Poole shoreline.
The Royal Bath Hotel, located near the sea and just to the east of the Central Gardens, has attracted many important visitors over the years, including Oscar Wilde, H. G. Wells, Richard Harris, Sir Thomas Beecham, Shirley Bassey, and prime ministers Lord Beaconsfield (who stayed for three months to help his gout), Gladstone, Asquith and Lloyd George. Royal guests have been Edward VII and Edward VIII when each was the Prince of Wales, George VI when he was the Duke of York, Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands , Empress Eugenie of France and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe before his European Travel ban.
The town has a professional football club, AFC Bournemouth, who play in League Two, and Bournemouth F.C. who play in the Wessex League Premier Division. AFC Bournemouth play at the Fitness First Stadium near Boscombe in Kings' Park, east of the town centre. Bournemouth Gasworks Athletic F.C. were a non-league side much closer to the town centre, though lacked support and went bankrupt.
The Westover and Bournemouth Rowing Club is the town's coastal rowing club situated on the West Beach next to the Oceanarium. The oldest club in Bournemouth, it competes in regattas organsied by the Hants and Dorset Amateur Rowing Association that take place on the South Coast of England between May and September. Bournemouth Rugby Club, who compete in the South West Division One, has its home at the Bournemouth Sports Club located next to Bournemouth Airport. The Bournemouth Cricket Club, also situated next to the airport is one of Dorset's largest cricket clubs. Their 1st team play in the Southern Premier League.
Recently, the Bournemouth International Centre has become a venue for a round of the Premier League Darts Championship organised by the Professional Darts Corporation. It was rated as one of the favourites to become the new host for the PDC World Championships as the last site, Circus Tavern, could not hold the growing numbers of fans.
The shopping streets are mostly pedestrianised and lined with a wide range of boutiques, stores, jewellers and accessory shops. There are major stores (Beales, Dingles, Debenhams, Marks and Spencer, BHS), modern shopping malls, Victorian arcades (including the Victorian Arcade between Westover Road and Old Christchurch Road), and a large selection of bars, clubs and cafés. About a mile to the west of the town centre, in the district of Westbourne, there is a selection of designer clothes and interior design shops. About a mile to the east, in the district of Boscombe, there is another major shopping area including many antiques shops and a street market. North of the centre there is a new out-of-town shopping complex called Castlepoint with supermarkets, DIY stores and larger versions of high street shops. A new extension to Castlepoint, called Castlemore, is set just South West of the main complex, which features more large retail stores. Other supermarkets are located in the town centre (ASDA and Co-Op), Boscombe (Sainsbury's) and between Westbourne and Upper Parkstone. A large Tesco Extra store is located at the end of Castle Lane East, 2 miles east of Castlepoint.
Bournemouth University is one of the five largest universities in the South of England. The main campus is however in neighbouring Poole. Affiliated to the university, The Arts Institute at Bournemouth, also officially in Poole, specialises in arts, design and media degree courses. Bournemouth is also a major centre for the teaching of English and has numerous English language schools. Many thousands of foreign students are attracted to the town every year, an important form of invisible trade.
This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Bournemouth and Poole at current basic prices published (pp. 240-253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.
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Many well-known global businesses were started in the Bournemouth area and many have later chosen to relocate their headquarters to Bournemouth because of the relatively low prices in comparison with London.
The following is a non-exhaustive list:
In April 2008 Bournemouth was announced to be the first 'Fibrecity' in the UK with work starting in September to bring 100Mbit broadband internet access into homes and businesses within the town by running fibre optic cables through the sewers for quick and low cost installation, saving on the usual cost and disruption of digging up the roads to lay cables.
Local buses are provided mainly by two companies, Wilts & Dorset, the former National Bus Company subsidiary, and Transdev Yellow Buses, the former Bournemouth Council owned company and successors to Bournemouth Corporation Transport, who began operating trams in 1902.
Bournemouth is well served by the rail network with two stations in the town, Bournemouth railway station and Pokesdown railway station to the east. Parts of western Bournemouth can also be reached from Branksome station. Bournemouth station is located some way from the town centre, due to the town's early leaders not wishing to have a station within the town boundary, which extended from the pier. However, the station is now well within the town, as the town has grown significantly since its founding. The station was originally ¨Bournemouth East¨ with a second station, Bournemouth West, serving the west of the town in Queens Road. South West Trains operates a comprehensive service to London Waterloo with a journey time of 1 hour 50 minutes. This line also serves Southampton, Winchester and Basingstoke to the East, and Poole, Wareham, Dorchester and Weymouth to the west. CrossCountry trains serve destinations to the north with direct trains to Reading, Oxford, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Manchester and the Northwest, Yorkshire, Newcastle, and Edinburgh and Glasgow. West Coastway Line services are available by changing at Southampton Central. The Sussex Coastal towns of Chichester, Worthing, Hove and Brighton are served and trains continue to Gatwick Airport and London Victoria.
The Bournemouth area has long been a place where many unusual species of animals and plants can be found. Brownsea island, in nearby Poole Harbour, is one of the few places in the south where the red squirrel still remains, and the ant Formica pratensis had its last stronghold in the area, although it is now thought to be extinct on the mainland. Although described by Farren White as "the common wood ant of Bournemouth" in the mid-19th century, the noted entomologist Horace Donisthorpe found only one colony of true pratensis out of hundreds of F. rufa nests there in 1906. In recent times the last known two colonies disappeared in the 1980s, making this ant the only ant species thought to have become extinct in Great Britain. It does, however, still survive on cliff-top locations in the Channel Islands. The rare narrow-headed ant also used to exist in Bournemouth, although it has died out in the area.