What we now know as central Bournemouth barely existed at the start of the 19th century.
When retired army officer Lewis Tregonwell visited in 1810, he found only a bridge crossing a small stream at the head of an unspoilt valley. An inn had recently been built at what is now the Square, catering both for travellers and for the smugglers who lurked in the area at night.
Captain Tregonwell and his wife were so impressed by the area that they bought several acres and built a home, which is today part of the Royal Exeter Hotel. Tregonwell also planted the first of its pine trees, providing a sheltered walk to the beach. The town was to grow up around its scattered pines.
Bournemouth quickly became a destination for affluent holiday-makers and for invalids in search of the sea air.
In the 1860’s, meadows either side of the Bourne stream were being turned into the town’s pleasure gardens. The immaculately tended gardens are still much-loved and the Central Gardens contain the town’s impressive war memorial, guarded by four lions.
A pier was built in 1861, to be replaced in 1880 by an iron structure that provided the foundations for what we see today. A large sanatorium, overlooking the gardens, treated patients with chest diseases. It has recently been re-developed as Brompton Court, a complex of retirement homes, preserving its remarkable chapel
Next to the sanatorium was built the magnificent Mont Dore Hotel, which is now Bournemouth’s opulent Town Hall. In the hotel’s heyday in the 1880s, it was renowned nationally and internationally for its sumptuous luxury which included possessing one of the first telephones in England – the number was “3″.
Although the number of invalids sent to the town dropped in the late 19th century, the resort was still booming and its population increasing rapidly.
One of Bournemouth’s most prominent Victorians, Sir Merton Russell-Cotes, successfully campaigned to have a promenade built.
Sir Merton, who built the Bath Hotel, also donated his art collection to the town, while his wife donated their home, East Cliff Hall – now known as the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum which was recently completely refurbished with the help of National Lottery money.
The Bath Hotel, now known as the Royal Bath, has attracted many important visitors during the years, including Oscar Wilde, HG Wells, Richard Harris, Sir Thomas Beecham, Shirley Bassey, and Prime Ministers Disraeli (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 Sweden and Empress Eugenie of France.
Also, in 1977 the grounds and hotel were used for the film Valentino, starring Rudolph Nureyev.
As Bournemouth’s popularity increased, the town centre spawned theatres, concert halls, cafés, cinemas and more hotels.
The town’s first large entertainment venue was the original glass Winter Gardens, built in 1875 as the home of the town’s municipal orchestra.
The likes of Elgar, Sibelius and Holst conducted there, but the acoustics were reputedly terrible.
In 1935, the original Winter Gardens was demolished. Its replacement, opened two years later, was intended as an indoor bowls centre, but by chance turned out to have superb acoustics, and after the Second World War it became the orchestra’s new home. Prior to the opening of the BIC, the Winter Gardens welcomed just about every major entertainer of the day, from Maurice Chevalier to The Beatles and from Pink Floyd to Morecambe and Wise. But the building has been in decline since the late 1970s. It is currently closed as the council searches for ways to save it.
The Pavilion dates from 1925 and was built on the site of the former Belle Vue boarding house, one of the town’s first buildings. Theatrical legends, including Ralph Richardson and Trevor Howard, played the Pavilion Theatre in its heyday.
The Pavilion faces the cinemas and upmarket shops of Westover Road, which prides itself on being the town’s “Bond Street”.
Westover Road’s Odeon cinema began life as the Regent in 1929 and retains many of the art deco features of the era.
It was known as the Gaumont from 1949-86 and used to host live performances as well as films. Stars who appeared there included Ella Fitzgerald, Dusty Springfield, Victor Borge and in 1963, the Beatles. The cinema now consists of six screens.
The nearby ABC cinema dates from 1937, when it contained one 2,600-seater auditorium. It has three auditoriums today, one of them boasting Dorset’s largest cinema screen, and is the only cinema in the county capable of projecting epics in 70mm. Although tourism remains an important industry in recent years it has been overshadowed by the rise of service industries such as finance, building societies and insurance. This is now the most valuable part of the local economy. Bournemouth is a prosperous town and other industries such as bars and restaurants are booming.
History of the Arlington
The Arlington was originally built as a large private residence in 1864, around the time that the town’s pleasure gardens were being created. The earliest records indicate that a 98 year term lease for £12.00 a year was granted!
The railway reached Bournemouth in 1870, which made it far easier to reach and increased the number of visitors to the area. The Arlington began being leased as furnished rental apartments to accomodate the rapid rise in tourism.
However, it wasn’t until the 1920’s that the Arlington was converted into a private hotel.
It was purchased and refurbished by a Mr F. Flewker, with hot and cold water provided in all rooms and gas fires. The original terms were from 3 guineas for a single bedroom and 6 guineas for a double bedroom.
The hotel changed hands in 1926 to a Mrs and Miss E. E. H. Jones and underwent various improvements, including the installation of central heating.
The Arlington changed ownership once again in the twenties to W.V Stuart and F.M. Clement, who ran the hotel until the early 1950’s when Marshall Wilson and his wife took over.
The Wilson’s had the hotel until the late 1950′s until it was bought by Mr and Mrs Miles. Subsequent owners, including the Hearn’s in the 1970’s, made many improvements to the property and various extensions took place at this time.
The hotel continues to be privately owned and maintained to ensure a pleasant homely atmosphere. We have had many eminent guests stay with us, including Home Secretary Charles Clarke, and several Tory, Labour and Lib Dem MPs’.
The Arlington has repeatedly been a popular choice for championship snooker players Jimmy White, Steven Hendry, James Watanna, Michael Holt, Matthew Stevens, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Alan McManus, & Mark Williams. Snooker fans keep your eyes open!
We look forward to seeing you soon!