Barton-on-Sea’s Indian Memorial: The 2022 July anniversary

Princess Sophia in her nursing uniform

The annual gathering for a ceremony at Barton-on-Sea’s Indian Memorial is on Sunday 10 July at 2pm.

This will be 105th anniversary of the dedication in 1917.

During the First World War the clifftop Barton Court Hotel was turned into a depot for injured Indian troops to convalesce. The row of shop is all that remains of the hotel.

The memorial is on the road junction opposite.

Depot nursing staff included Queen Victoria’s goddaughter Princess Sophia Duleep Singh who at the time was best known for her active support for the Suffragette movement.

Sepoy Khudadad Khan was patient at Barton when it was announced that he was to be the first Indian recipient of the Victoria Cross.

Princess Sophia depicted on a 2018 postage stamp

Obelisk and shops at Barton-on-Sea

Barton Court before the memorial was erected. The frontage which has become shops is to the right.
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Shelley 200: Poet’s heart at Boscombe

Boscombe Manor in Shelley Park with theatre (left)

This month sees the two hundredth anniversary of Percy B Shelley’s death off the coast of Italy.

It is difficult to say when the exact anniversary is. Shelley died in a storm late on the night of Monday 8 July but his body was not discovered on Viareggio beach until Wednesday 17 July. News reached London on his 30th birthday Sunday 4 August.

The body had been buried in quicklime on the beach with the spot marked with a gnarled pine root. Cremation on Viareggio beach did not take place until Thursday 15 August when incense was added to the flames to reduce any smell along with salt and red wine.

Afterwards the ashes were placed in the British Consul’s wine cellar for several months until burial near to John Keats in Rome’s Non-Catholic Cemetery for Foreigners on 23 January 1823. Shelley was much taken with the location where he had buried his son William and mentions it in his Adonais. An Elegy on the Death of John Keats, written in 1821.

An anniversary ceremony is being held there at 9.30am on 8 July.

But not all the remains of PB Shelley are in Rome. Shelley’s heart was snatched from the flames on the beach to eventually be placed at Boscombe Manor before its very final resting place in the churchyard of St Peter’s Church in nearby Bournemouth. The town, like Viareggio and Rome’s cemetery, is known for its pines.

Waiting at their Casa Magni house in Lerici for Shelley to arrive on the night of his drowning in July 1822 and days after was Mary Shelley and their two year old son Percy.

Thirty years later Percy was living in Boscombe Manor with his wife Jane who was devoted to the memory of her father-in-law PB Shelley.

The house had been bought in 1851 as final home for the poet’s widow Mary Shelley but the writer died just just two months before a planned move from her Chester Square home in London.

Percy and Jane, who were present at the death, brought Mary’s body back to Bournemouth for burial in St Peter’s churchyard since she had in about 1844 relinquished the booked plot next to her husband in Rome. Her belongings were moved to Boscombe Manor (now Shelley Park) where Percy and Jane were living. There they discovered the heart wrapped in silk inside a copy of Adonais.

The dusty object was placed in an urn and kept in alcove called the Sanctum with a red lamp always burning. In the same room were Mary’s numerous documents which now form the Shelley Collection at Oxford’s Bodleian Library.

Also at Boscombe were locks of hair cut from Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary’s mother, and Shelley.

Visitors included Edward Trelawny who had arranged Shelley’s cremation and taken what he claimed to be the heart from the dying flames. At Boscombe he enjoyed plays in Sir Percy’s theatre attached to the house.

The heart remained in the Sanctum until its burial with the body of Shelley’s son Sir Percy in the family tomb in December 1889.

Poet Shelley never knew Boscombe or Bournemouth in life but he may have been aware of the area as an early girlfriend, Harriet Grove, told Percy that Bournemouth had ‘a pretty sea view’. In 1810 she visited with the town’s ‘founder’ Lewis Tregonwell to see the site of his planned house, now the Royal Exeter Hotel.

Between Boscombe Chine and coming level with Browning Avenue, the coast path is on former Shelley land as it passes above Honeycombe Chine, through Boscombe Cliff Gardens given by Lady Shelley, and past Shelley Park where the manor house survives as a medical centre.

The Coach House at 21 Percy Road is the former stables.

In the 19th century Boscombe Manor (or Shelley Park) was set among pines, heather and extensive sand dunes.

The theatre added by the Shelleys, and now restored and reopened with a cafe, had a drop scene depicting Casa Magni in Lerici.

The Bournemouth Coast Path’s winter route (used when Mudeford Ferry is not running) passes round the back of Christchurch Priory. Immediately inside the entrance on the right is the Shelley Memorial of white marble depicting Mary Shelley holding the poet’s drowned body as if just washed ashore. The work is by Henry Weekes.

This seems a long way from Boscombe but in 1854 Boscombe was in Christchurch parish.

Sir Percy Shelley, son of the poet
PB Shelley (right) with a scallop shell and John Keats depicted in Keats Shelley bicentenary poster

Map of the Shelley family’s Boscombe estate in 1872. Honeycombe Chine can be seen (left).
Shelley memorial in Christchurch Priory (Picture: Tim Willasey-Wilsey The Victorian Web)
The Shelley tomb in St Peter’s Bournemouth churchyard holds Shelley’s heart along with his wife Mary Shelley, son Percy and daughter-in-law Jane. Also interred are Mary’s mother Mary Wollstonecraft and her husband William Godwin.
Casa Magni at Lerici
Shelley’s cremation on Viareggio beach
Lerici this summer
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Highcliffe Castle to Chewton Bunny

Highcliffe Castle from Christchurch Coastal Path

Wednesday was the hottest day this week but the coast at Highcliffe remained pleasant and uncrowded.

Highcliffe Castle is open to the public Sunday to Thursday. The castle’s tea room with outdoor seating is open daily 10am to 4pm.

Coast path at Highcliffe Castle
Isle of Wight from the path at Highcliffe Castle. This is the vista enjoyed from the mansion for over 150 years.
Path east from Castle is near the bottom of the cliff before returning to the clifftop above Chewton Bunny.
Christchurch Bay looking west from Highcliffe during the afternoon
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Mr Justice Maxell centenary

Cover of the first edition.

An important feature of Branksome Chine was the sea-view Branksome Tower Hotel on the eastern bank.

It was built in 1858 as a private house and became a hotel in 1892.

The many famous guests included the prolific author Edgar Wallace who set part of his novel Mr Justice Maxell there. It has never been out of print since its publication a century ago.

Wallace made this ‘solid mansion’ in Westminster Road again a residence. The other location used is Tangier which he also knew well.

In the thriller his main character Timothy Anderson keeps watch in the Branksome Towers garden on the east side of the chine where the author places is a disused well.

The clock which strikes midnight and one o’clock from ‘a distant church’ must belong to St Ambrose, at the top of the chine, in West Cliff Road.

The ‘Parade Drug Store’ is probably Westbourne’s dispensing chemists Taylor’s at 103 Poole Road. It was established in 1893 and had its own distinctive lamp post with a red light outside. Since 2010 the chemist’s, now called Vantage Pharmacy, has been at number 95.

A lodging ‘Vermont House’ is in Western Avenue. The concert featured probably takes place at the Winter Gardens in Bournemouth.

The Banksome Tower Hotel, later known as Branksome Towers and demolished in 1973, was advertised as ‘the only Bournemouth hotel with grounds extending to the seashore’ and ‘on its own cliffs in 9 acres of magnificent grounds’. (The hotel was of course not in Bournemouth but within the Borough of Poole which embraced Branksome and Branksome Dene Chines.)

Mr Justice Maxell was republished as Take-a-Chance Anderson but is again available under the original title.

The hotel also featured in the author’s Vote For Tony Newton story published in a magazine in 1923 which was a preview of his The Brigand novel in 1927.

Today’s cover.
Branksome Tower Hotel terrace
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Canford Cliffs flowers

Today was surprisingly misty with spots of rain this morning. But the new growth by the Canford Cliffs path was bright.

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Savoy rebranded as The Nici

The Savoy, now The Nici, seen from the coast path

The Savoy Hotel on Bournemouth’s West Cliff has been refurbished and rebranded as The Nici.

Past guests at the old Savoy include the American monk, mystic and author Thomas Merton (1915-1968) who got to know the clifftop well.

As a teenage schoolboy about to leave his English school for Cambridge he spent the two month 1932 summer holiday at ‘a big, dreary hotel in Bournemouth, standing on top of a cliff and facing the sea with a battery of white iron balconies, painted silver’.

His companions were his maternal grandparents and brother John Paul. His father painter Owen Merton had died the previous year.

Two years before his death Thomas Merton wrote: ‘I suppose I am the same person as the eighteen-year-old riding back alone into Bournemouth on a bus out of the New Forest, where I had camped a couple of days and nights.’

His influential autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain, published in 1948, remains in print having sold over a million copies and appearing in fifteen languages.

The Nici is behind West Cliff Green and close to the Highcliff Hotel which can also claim famous guests who enjoyed the sea view.

The Savoy with its new name is maybe no longer dreary but fortunately some familiar architectural features have been retained.

The familiar balcony ironwork is repainted.
The coast path in front of The Nici.
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Blessing of the Waters at Mudeford

Sunday being Rogation Sunday, four days before Ascension Day, it was time for the annual Blessing of the Waters at Mudeford Quay.

Rogation is a time for walking the fields and blessing the coming crops. But on the coast the harvest to come is salmon so every year the priest from All Saints Mudeford comes down to Mudeford Quay to be rowed out into the Christchurch Harbour entrance in a salmon punt.

The priest has a lobster pot for a seat but, having been rowed into the Run, stands for prayers and the traditional casting of silver cross into the water.

Hymn tunes were played by a band and sea scouts were present on land and the Mudeford lifeboat in the harbour entrance.

The cross is retrieved for use again.

Once the first salmon caught was given to the Prior of Christchurch.

The punt and lifeboat in the Run
Holding the cross
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Hurst Castle on international danger list

Hurst Castle is reached by a spit from Milford-on-Sea

Hurst Castle is one of the world’s 25 most significant heritage sites in need of immediate attention says the World Monuments Watch.

The 2022 World Monuments Watch calls attention to Hurst Castle as a warning about the future fate of coastal heritage places.

A year ago a section of the eastern battery collapsed leaving castle open to the sea until emergency repairs took place.

‘The long-term survival of Hurst Castle depends on the ability to protect it from the action of the sea, made ever harder by sea level rise and more frequent storm surges,’ says the report.

‘The heavy nineteenth-century batteries sit on a relatively shallow foundation of brick upon concrete. Typically covered by shingle, the foundation is easily undercut once exposed to waves, which can occur when heavy storms wash away massive quantities of protecting shingle.’

The Tudor castle, in the care of English Heritage and the only European structure listed, joins buildings in Beirut and Benghazi on the list.

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Old Harry and coast path on Country Life cover?

This week’s Country Life has a superb cover picture of Old Harry Rocks.

It is an image of ‘This sceptre’s isle’.

The point is named after the 15th-century Poole pirate Harry Paye although also known as Handfast Point.

Numerous ships have foundered off Old Harry including the Spanish galleon San Salvadore -part of the scattered armada which had threatened Elizabeth I.

Here the Dorset coast path has a fine view of the Bournemouth Coast Path.

Studland, Shell Bay and the entire Poole Bay can be seen as well as Poole bound ships often moving rapidly between small craft. The Isle of Wight over to the east is a continuation of this chalk ridge of Purbeck Hills.

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New Hythe Ferry book

A new book on the Hythe Ferry pier railway will be of interest to those who walk the coast path.

Continue east beyond the Bournemouth Coast Path and all it embraces and after Milford-on-Sea you find yourself on the Solent Way. The ferry is the vital link across Southampton Water.

The landing on the far side is at Town Quay in Southampton where the route continues past Ocean Village and over The Itchen Bridge to Netley Abbey.

Alan Titheridge’s book The Heartbeat of Hythe is a hundred pages plus on the narrow gauge railway which takes you out from land to the vessel at the end of the pier more than a quarter of a mile long.

Fellow historian and local resident Dan Snow is just one of many who have expressed concern about the future of the ferry which has been in doubt. This book includes a brief history of the crucial and delightful crossing.

Hythe has the oldest pier railway and Alan is the only person who could have written such a thorough study with so many photographs old, rare and new.

Hythe Ferry operates daily at least every hour. Tickets are £6.50 single; £7.50 return.

The Heartbeat of Hythe: The story of the Hythe Pier Railway by Alan Titheridge is published by Ceratopia Books (£9.99).

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