Shelley Legacies launch

Dr David Coates opens the Shelley Legacies Heritage Day

A hundred and thirty-five people gathered at Shelley Park in Boscombe on Saturday for the launch of a Shelley research project.

Shelley Legacies, headed by Dr David Coates of the University of Warwick, seeks to understand the connection between Sir Percy Florence who lived in the cliff top mansion and the Bournemouth area.

Guest speaker was Lord Abinger, Shelley family descendant and Keats-Shelley Memorial Association committee member, who spoke about his ancestor Floss. She was brought up at the house and lived there with her own children.

He also showed pictures of objects once there including a travelling writing desk where Shelley’s heart was said to have been kept.

In an interview filmed at Oxford, Dr Stephen Hebron of the Bodleian Library spoke about caring for and writing about the Shelley Collection which was once stored at Boscombe.

The day conference, sponsored by the University of Warwick, took place in the building’s Shelley Theatre where Sir Percy staged plays which he had written. He also painted the scenery acted.

The main drop scene depicted Casa Magni in Lerici which was the last home of Sir Percy’s father, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. It is claimed that the house at Boscombe was built to resemble Casa Magni on the Italian coast.

Themes for research, as well as the literary connections and Percy’s walking routes, are expected to include the Shelley family’s Boscombe estate which ran to the cliff and embraced Honeycombe Chine and Boscombe Cliff Gardens. Sir Percy was instrumental in the building of Boscombe Pier. Lady Shelley ‘drove the first pile’ in 1887.

Sir Percy had bought Boscombe Cottage, as Shelley Park was then called, in 1849 to be a home for his mother Mary Shelley. But she died before the massive rebuilding was completed. Dr Coates suggests that one research team should investigate claims that Mary visited Boscombe before her death.

Her body was brought to Bournemouth to be buried in St Peter’s churchyard in Bournemouth where she lies alongside her mother Mary Wollstonecraft who never saw Boscombe.

The heart of Mary’s husband was also buried there after being kept at Boscombe.

The bicentenary of Percy Bysshe’s cremation on the beach in Viareggio near Lerici is in 2022.

The day conference ended with Bournemouth Little Theatre Club members staging the first reading for 150 years of a play written by Sir Percy.

The Shelley Theatre’s bar & cafe is open for coffee and lunchtime specials Mon-Fri 10.30am-3.30pm. Follow the path from the clifftop and enter from the north side of the building.

Boscombe Manor with the attached theatre on the left

John Keats died in 1821 and Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned in 1822
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Shelley Legacies Heritage Day at Shelley Park

The University of Warwick is staging a Shelley heritage day at Shelley Park and inviting participation.

The Boscombe clifftop and Honeycombe Chine were part of the Boscombe Manor estate. Poet PB Shelley’s daughter-in-law had her summerhouse by the chine and supported the building of Boscombe Pier which opened in 1888.

Today the house’s theatre cafe is a drop in for coast path walkers.

The heritage day on Saturday 29 February will be in the Shelley Park house where PB Shelley’s son Sir Percy Shelley lived having intended his mother Mary Shelley to join him and his wife Jane.

Warwick University fellow Dr David Coates, the project organiser, will talk about the house and its theatre. The day will climax with the reading of one of Sir Percy’s plays 150 years after its Boscombe performance.

Dr Stephen Hebron, Bodleian Library special projects curator and Keats author, will be talking about the Library’s Shelley papers once at the Boscombe house.

Lord Abinger, a descendant of Lady Shelley’s family, will also speak.

His grandfather inherited Shelley Park and lived there for eight years. The present Lord Abinger’s father, the 8th Baron and chairman of the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association, visited in 1979 when the contents of Shelley’s last home in Lerici moved to the building for a short-lived stay.

More details here with booking at the bottom of the page.

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Alan Cobham’s legacy goes to US

Falaise on Bournemouth’s West Cliff

The news at the start of this Christmas holiday is that the government is allowing Cobham to being taken over by a US firm Advent International.

Lady Cobham is opposed to this with the family claiming that the announcement was slipped out last night after Parliament had risen for the Christmas recess.

Cobham defence company was founded by her father-in-law Sir Alan Cobham who lived at Falaise on Bournemouth’s West Cliff.

So coast path walkers might look left at Falaise, built in 1913, as they walk between Middle Chine and Durley Chine this Christmas. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra once played in the garden.

The aviation pioneer was knighted in 1926 after flying from Australia to land on the River Thames in front of the Houses of Parliament.

He founded his company to develop air to air refuelling in 1934 and the company name can still be seen at Hurn Airport, now better known as Bournemouth Airport.

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No cliff lift!

Engineers at viewpoint above cliff lift in 2016

The Bournemouth Civic Society’s latest newsletter reports that the East Cliff’s cliff lift will not be restored and reopened.

“It is virtually impossible for the former East Cliff Lift to be reinstated…” says the newsletter. The decision is described as “a huge disappointment”.

The lift has not operated since it was damaged by a sudden cliff fall in 2016.

The Civic Society’s website carries regular updates on planning applications and pending changes to the town as well as newsletters.

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Hengistbury Head carols at St Nicholas’s

Warren Hill on Hengistbury Head

The Hengistbury Head Nautical Carol Service will be at St Nicholas Church on Monday 16 December at 7pm.

At this gathering of coastal lovers expect a nautical version of the Twelve Days of Christmas devised by some of the Watchkeepers who volunteer on the Head.

Churches dedicated to Nicholas are often found near the coast or a river as he is patron of sailors and this church is near both.

The Purbeck stone St Nicholas Church Hengistbury Head was completed as recently as 1971.

If you going to the service and expect to find enough mince pies to enjoy afterwards please RSVP to [email protected]

Watching from the former coastguard lookout on Warren Hill covers Bournemouth Pier in Poole Bay to Barton-on-Sea in Christchurch Bay.

So all those who enjoy the Bournemouth Coast Path and the Christchurch Coastal Path will be welcome at St Nicholas Church on 16 December.

St Nicholas Hengistbury Head on the corner of Southbourne Coast Road and Broadway
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Sir Percy Shellley’s 200th birthday

Sir Percy Shelley

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.

Shelley Park with the theatre to the left of the house.
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Lib Dem ‘Brexit conference’ on coast path

Bournemouth International Centre on the West Cliff next to the coast path

This weekend the Brexit crisis focus is moving from Westminster and Brussels to the Bournemouth International Centre beside the coast path.

The Liberal Democrat party conference is at Bournemouth’s BIC from Saturday 14 September to the following Tuesday.

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.

Highcliff Hotel
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Richard Watkin’s Dorset coast views

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

Richard Watkin’s Bournemouth Coast Path and Christchurch Coastal Path postcards
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New Milton Advertiser report 9 August

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.

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Sandbanks Ferry: No service for a month

Sandbanks Ferry is out of action and no service is expected until Monday 12 August at the earliest.

This surprise news follows a difficult winter for people living on the Isle of Purbeck when the annual November closure lasted into Christmas.

Walkers completing the Dorset Coast Path at Shell Bay will need to return to Swanage by bus and reach Sandbanks via Wareham.

Sandbanks Ferry is the vital link between the Isle of Purbeck and Poole’s coastline which joins Bournemouth at Durley Dene Chine.

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