Sir Percy Shelley, son of the poet Percy and writer Mary, was born 200 years ago today.
His second name is Florence because Mary Shelley gave birth to her son in Florence.
Exactly thirty years later ‘young Percy’ bought the clifftop Boscombe Manor, now also called Shelley Park, for his long widowed mother.
It was to be the alternative to moving to the Riviera or enjoying the pines near Pisa remembered by Mary.
Mary knew of Boscombe, on the edge of Bournemouth, but never saw its clifftop pines because rebuilding work took so long that she died in 1851 just before her move from London.
Her body was brought to Bournemouth for burial in the churchyard of St Peter’s by Percy and his wife Jane.
Percy’s Boscombe estate embraced the cliffs including Honeycombe Chine which was then known as Shelley Chine and had a summer house used by Lady Shelley.
The couple attached a theatre to their house and staged plays in which they took part. Percy also painted the scenery to include a view of his father and mother’s last shared home Casa Magni in seaside Lerici. PB Shelley sailed from there in 1822 and was drowned.
His cremation was on Viareggio beach. His heart said to be snatched from the flames was kept by Jane in a vase at the Boscombe house until eventually being placed in the Shelley tomb.
The house, east of Boscombe Pier, is now Shelley Manor Medical Centre but its theatre has been revived with a programme of performances. The Shelley Theatre cafe (open Mon-Fri 10.30am-3.30pm) is a good place to visit when walking the coast path.
Brexit is said to be the biggest constitutional crisis since 1940. That year the Labour Party Conference which confirmed the Churchill coalition in power was held at The Pavilion on the east side of the Lower Gardens entrance.
The drama of that occasion was preceded by a meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee in the basement of the Highcliff Hotel where Clement Attlee triggered Neville Chamberlain giving way to Winston Churchill as prime minister.
In 1994 John Major stood on Highcliff Hotel steps to welcome the Ulster Loyalist ceasefire. Over dinner there in 2006 John McCain told David Cameron of his intention to run for President of the United States.
The Highcliff Hotel, at the top of the West Cliff path, is the Liberal Democrat HQ this weekend.
The Liberals can also claim an old link with the town. William Gladstone spent his last days at the top of Bath Hill. His choir seat in St Peter’s Church is marked with a plaque.
Expect some good pictures of Poole Bay on the TV news.
An Artist’s View of Jurassic Dorset is a charming book looking at the Dorset coast from Lyme Regis to Sandbanks Ferry.
Each of the thirty poster style paintings by Richard Watkin is accompanied by a description of the scene and a section of large scale Victorian OS map.
With Sandbanks Ferry he recalls the many crossings with his children always running up the steps of the open top bus for a good view during the crossing.
Although the book ends at Sandbanks it is exciting to find that elsewhere Richard Watkin does continue along the Bournemouth Coast Path although this time the views of Bournemouth Pier, Poole Bay cliffs and beyond are available through his l0vely postcards.
One depicts the mysterious 250 year old Black House on the sandspit opposite Mudeford and another shows the low cliff at Avon Beach where the line of trees gives a hint of the Cote d’Azur.
Some of these views also appear on next year’s Watkin Art calendar.
One looks forward to his take one day on Highcliffe Castle and Beckton Bunny.
An Artist’s View of Jurassic Dorset by Richard Watkin (£17.50) and his postcards (set of 6 £5.75) are available from www.watkinart.co.uk
The coast path between Chewton Bunny and Barton-on-Sea has been in daily use by walkers for many years.
Indeed some might say that it should have been claimed as a public right of way since the cliff has been walked for more than twenty years as many can witness.
This weekend the New Milton Advertiser reports on the growing concern of local residents at news that the path is to be closed and cut off by locked gates at each end. This will cause walkers to take a long inland detour.
The change will come as a surprise to walkers passing along the coast path having come on maybe from the SW Coast Path and heading for the Solent Way.
However, those using the Exploring the Bournemouth Coast Path guide will find that the official route does go inland. This is because when the guide was devised in 1985 the land owner, Hoburne Naish holiday park, was unwilling to agree that the popular cliff route was a permissive path.
It is a surprise that Natural England now proposes to avoid the cliff top in its new coastal path plan. Whilst the crumbling cliff may suggest that the line of path is liable to change there is provision in the Natural England guidelines for ‘roll back’ as cliffs erode or slip.
If agreement could be made between New Forest District Council, Hampshire County Council, Natural England and Hoburne Naish there could be benefit for everyone.
Walkers, including local people, could enjoy the direct route along the cliff whilst the holiday park’s cafe pub, in an 18th-century farm building, could be open as a welcome refreshment stop on the long distance coast path in all seasons.
Hoburne Naish (pronounced ‘nash’) had been a cliff top farm for about five hundred years until bought John Burry in 1920. His family’s holiday business developed from two tin huts, one used by a shepherd, rented out in the summer holidays. Film director Ken Russell spent childhood holidays there when the holiday homes included railway carriages and single decker buses.
Admiral William Cornwallis gave his fortune, house and name to a dynasty which included royalty and Churchill.
On Friday 5 July the seaside village of Milford-on-Sea will be marking the 200th anniversary of his death with a church service, window unveiling and Trafalgar news re-enactment.
Admiral Cornwallis’s tomb is near the church’s vestry door.
He is honoured for thwarting Napoleon’s invasion, saving Nelson’s life and playing a decisive role at the Battle of Trafalgar.
He settled at Milford’s Newlands Manor in 1800.
During the 1801 Christmas morning sermon, the church congregation saw through the north windows that Newlands was on fire and one by one people left until the vicar paused to ask where everyone had gone.
The admiral oversaw rebuilding in the gothic style and invited Captain John Whitby, fresh from taking news of Nelson’s death to Emma Hamilton, to live at Newlands and bring his family.
Soon after arriving Whitby died leaving his wife Mary Anne who eventually cared for the admiral. The mansion was inherited by Whitby’s daughter Theresa who married Richard West.
Their son Colonel William Cornwallis-West entertained the Prince of Wales, the Kaiser and Lillie Langtry who were all friends of his wife Patsy. Their son George shocked society by marrying Winston Churchill’s widowed mother whilst the daughters became the Princess of Pless and the Duchess of Westminster. The house is now apartments.
There will be celebrations on the green in Milford on Friday afternoon 5 July when a specially composed sea shanty called Billy Blue after Cornwallis’s nickname will be sung.
The Duke of Gloucester is visiting Highcliffe Castle on Thursday morning 30 May.
His Royal Highness, an architect, has paid several visits to Highcliffe Castle and has long taken an interest in its restoration.
Afterwards the Duke will be on the Christchurch Coastal Path when he opens the restored zig-zag link from the Castle grounds to the cliffs and beach. The ceremony is expected to take place at about 11.15am.
Council has now finalised its arrangements for the opening of our path. It will be opened on 30th May by Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester. The Duke will start by attending a private function in the Castle; he will then walk to the top of the Path to perform the opening ceremony. Timings depend on how long he stays in the Castle but it is anticipated that he will open the path at 11.15 -11.30.
The retaining walls of the zig-zag are clad in reclaimed planks from Bournemouth sea defences.
Highcliffe Castle is preparing to welcome the Duke of Gloucester who will re-open the zig-zag, a vital part of the Christchurch Coastal Path, and open part of the castle never seen before.
HRH is due to visit on Thursday 30 May and as an architect he will probably appreciate the spectacular work revealed since his last visit in 2008.
Two floors of the Penleaze building are now open. This eastern wing is named after Dr James Penleaze who bought ‘High Cliff’ in 1799 having found a fortune in a hat box.
The downstairs rooms have been filled with fascinating information boards containing new research on the many past owners.
Upstairs a bedroom contains original furniture from the castle which has returned on temporary loan from the Victoria & Albert Museum. It is also possible to enjoy the view from the Chinese bedroom.
The kitchen in the basement displays a recipe for Eel Soup. An unexpected find is the kitchen well which had been covered and forgotten after mains water was installed. You can again look down into the well and still see water.
The library now has its walls covered in pictures recording the ongoing restoration work.
In the Octagon Room, just inside the front door, there are more clear information displays listing such tenants as William Cavendish-Bentinck (1900) and Lord Rothermere (1910-1912).
The Tea Rooms accessed from the grounds has been under a new contract since 2017. Its best dish is probably Dorset Rarebit £5.75 but you may have to ask for it as the main menu is not displayed at the counter.
Highcliffe Castle is open 10am to 5pm; admission £7. The coast path runs through the grounds.