Boscombe is a suburb of Bournemouth
Bournemouth is a large coastal resort town in the ceremonial county of Dorset, England. According to the 2001 Census the town has a population of 163,444, making it the largest settlement in Dorset. It is also the largest settlement between Southampton and Plymouth...

. Located to the east of Bournemouth town centre and west of Southbourne
Southbourne, Dorset
Southbourne is a suburb of Bournemouth. It is the most easterly part of the borough, between Boscombe and Christchurch, Dorset. The area was previously known as Stourfield....

, It developed rapidly from a small village as a seaside resort alongside Bournemouth after the first Boscombe pier was built in 1888. There are numerous architectural styles within Boscombe, the elaborate Victorian style of the Royal Arcade, notable examples of Art Deco
Art Deco
Art deco , or deco, is an eclectic artistic and design style that began in Paris in the 1920s and flourished internationally throughout the 1930s, into the World War II era. The style influenced all areas of design, including architecture and interior design, industrial design, fashion and...

 such as the Motabitz store in Christchurch Road and the modernist 1950s styles of the pier and Overstrand buildings. Alongside these are modern flats developments such as the The Reef, The Point and Honeycombe Beach.

Geography and administration

The area upon which Boscombe is situated, between the somewhat older village of Pokesdown
Pokesdown is a small area of Bournemouth, a unitary authority in the ceremonial county of Dorset. It lies just east of the suburb of Boscombe and west of Southbourne.-History:Evidence of human occupation in the area dates back to the Bronze Age...

 and Bournemouth Square was part of the great heathland which covered much of western Hampshire, and extended well into eastern Dorset, from Norman
The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

 times it was within the Liberty of Westover. From the beach and cliffs the whole of Poole Bay
Poole Bay
Poole Bay is a bay in the English Channel, off the coast of Dorset in southern England, which runs from the mouth of Poole Harbour in the west to Hengistbury Head in the east. It consists of steep sandstone cliffs and several 'chines' that allow easy access to the sandy beaches below...

 stretching from Hengistbury Head
Hengistbury Head
Hengistbury Head is a headland jutting into the English Channel between Bournemouth and Milford on Sea in the English county of Dorset.At the end is a spit which creates the narrow entrance to Christchurch Harbour.-Location:...

 in the east to Poole Harbour
Poole Harbour
Poole Harbour is a large natural harbour in Dorset, southern England, with the town of Poole on its shores. The harbour is a drowned valley formed at the end of the last ice age and is the estuary of several rivers, the largest being the Frome. The harbour has a long history of human settlement...

 entrance in the west, and on to Studland
Studland is a small village on the Isle of Purbeck in the English county of Dorset. It is famous for its beaches and nature reserve. In 2001 Studland had a population of 480, the lowest in 50 years...

 and Swanage
Swanage is a coastal town and civil parish in the south east of Dorset, England. It is situated at the eastern end of the Isle of Purbeck, approximately 10 km south of Poole and 40 km east of Dorchester. The parish has a population of 10,124 . Nearby are Ballard Down and Old Harry Rocks,...

 bays to the south can be seen.

Boscombe was originally an independent settlement, separated from Bournemouth by dense wood and moorland, it was incorporated into the boundaries of Bournemouth
Bournemouth (borough)
Bournemouth Borough Council is the local authority of Bournemouth in Dorset, England. The council is now a unitary authority, although between 1974 and 1997 it was an administrative district council with Dorset...

 in 1876 (against the wishes of Boscombe residents).


In 1273 a reference is made to "Boscumbe" suggesting that the name may well have derived from the Old English words meaning a 'valley overgrown with spiky plants' perhaps a reference to gorse
Gorse, furze, furse or whin is a genus of about 20 plant species of thorny evergreen shrubs in the subfamily Faboideae of the pea family Fabaceae, native to western Europe and northwest Africa, with the majority of species in Iberia.Gorse is closely related to the brooms, and like them, has green...


Reference to Boscombe is included in Christopher Saxton
Christopher Saxton
Christopher Saxton was an English cartographer, probably born in the parish of Dewsbury, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England around 1540....

's 1574 survey made of possible enemy landing places on the coast of Hampshire; this mentions... referring to the manufacture of copperas or ferrous sulphate which took place in the district, particularly in the last quarter of the 16th century.

At the beginning of the 19th century Boscombe was described as an extensive common covered with furze and heath, more the haunt of smugglers than anyone else. One of the early landmarks was the 'Ragged Cat', a wayside inn dating back to 1850, later renamed the 'Palmerston' and then 'Deacons', it was renamed back to 'The Ragged Cat' in 2009 before being closed down.

Boscombe Manor

In 1801 a modest sized house called Boscombe Cottage was built as the residence of Mr Phillip Norris. The Christchurch Inclosures Act 1802
Christchurch Inclosures Act 1802
The Christchurch Inclosures Act 1802 was a United Kingdom local and personal Act of Parliament for the dividing, allotting, and inclosing, certain commonable lands, and waste grounds within the parish or chapelry of Holdenhurst, in the county of Southampton.Bournemouth, in the late 18th century...

 increased the estate size to 17 acres (68,796.6 m²). This property became the nucleus of the Boscombe Manor Estate.

The large estate owned by Mr Norris changed hands several times during the first half of the 19th century. After Norris's death it was acquired by Robert Heathcote, and on his death the estate was put up for auction The estate was purchased by James Dover, in whose possession it remained until 1841; then it was sold to Major Stephenson.

Stevenson sold the estate in 1849 to Sir Percy Florence Shelley who bought the Boscombe property mainly with the intention of it becoming a home for his mother Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley was a British novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus . She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley...

, but she died in London on 1 February 1851. Sir Percy and his wife liked the place, and decided to make it their home, dividing their time between Boscombe and their London house at Chelsea.

The house at Boscombe was extensively rebuilt for Sir Percy, and also extended to include a 200 seat (later 300 seats) theatre, to the designs of Christopher Crabb Creeke
Christopher Crabb Creeke
Christopher Crabb Creeke was an architect and surveyor who was largely responsible for shaping the early development of Bournemouth.-Early life:...

, who later became surveyor to the Bournemouth Improvement Commissioners and was responsible for both the layout of much of central Bournemouth's roads, and for several local buildings. It may be noted that the name of the house was changed several times over the years, beginning as Boscombe Cottage, it was then for a time called Boscombe Alcove and then Boscombe Lodge. By Shelley's time it was Boscombe House, and they later renamed it Boscombe Manor. In the present century it was Groveley Manor for many years, taking the name of the school which then occupied it, but now it is known as Shelley Park.

To supplement the existing plantations of pine trees on the estate, Sir Percy added a large number of deciduous trees. There was a drive to the house from the main Christchurch Road, which followed the line of the present Chessel Avenue, and there was a lodge at its entrance. A second entry was from Sea Road, along a roadway flanked with lime trees - the present Percy Road.

By the beginning of the 1860s Boscombe consisted of the Shelley estate and some cottages, one of which is known to have stood at the top of Boscombe Hill, near the present Drummond Road.

From 1865 the development and expansion of the area to the end of the 19th century, and beyond, was very rapid. Starting with a proposal by the Malmesbury Estate to develop the 'picturesque Village of Boscombe Spa' to make available building plots for the erection of marine villas to be let on long leases.

The Spa was related to a natural spring of mineral water containing properties similar to Harrogate which had been discovered near the foot of the hill; this would be available for invalids and could combine the advantages of a Spa with those of sea air and bathing.

The scheme was not implemented; instead about 19 acres (76,890.3 m²) of land was obtained by Sir Henry Drummond Wolff
Henry Drummond Wolff
Sir Henry Drummond-Wolff GCB, GCMG, PC was an English diplomat and Conservative Party politician, who started as a clerk in the Foreign Office.-Background:Wolff was the son of Georgiana Mary and Joseph Wolff...

, on part of which he built a house for himself named Boscombe Towers, in 1868, Sir Henry became closely associated with the development of Boscombe Spa for a considerable number of years. Wolff sought to develop 'Boscombe Spa' as a resort to rival Bournemouth and it was he who created the Boscombe Chine Gardens. In order to encourage the taking of the mineral water from the spring at the mouth of the Chine, small thatched roof building resembling a summer house was erected over the spring, and for a time this became a fashionable meeting place. The Chine itself was partially laid out and a broad pathway provided. A rustic bridge was constructed across the Chine.

The census of 1871 showed that there was a population of 212 people in 19 houses in the Boscombe Estate, and a further 70 people in 9 houses at Boscombe Spa.

During the 1870s development of Boscombe was such that the population at the census of 1881 had grown to 1,895 - a more than sixfold increase.


In 1875 a 160,000 gallon water tower was built in Palmerston Road, at this time it was stated that there were 244 houses in Boscombe. In February 1877 Boscombe hospital opened in Shelley Road, it initially had beds for 12 patients. In 1880 Boscombe Land Society was formed purchasing 13 acres of land in November of the following year. The was in the area of the present Knole Road, there were initially 73 plots. Much of the Shelley property in the area to the east of Sea Road was developed in the next ten years amounting to a further 70 plots. In 1883 Pokesdown station opened on the LSWR Brockenhurst to Bournemouth line. In 1889 Boscombe Pier opened (see below). The commercial centre of Boscombe had a major boost with projects by Archibald Beckett including blocks of shops, the Salisbury Hotel, the Royal Arcade, and a Grand Theatre, which was to become Boscombe Hippodrome, then the Royal Ballrooms and today the O2 Academy. These were all built between 1888 and 1895, shortly after opening in 1892 the Royal Arcade was lit by electricity. On the 29 May
1897 Boscombe station
Boscombe railway station
Boscombe railway station was a station in Bournemouth, now in the county of Dorset, England. It was opened in 1897 at which time the previous station with the name was renamed Pokesdown. The station served the Royal Victoria Hospital and the centre of Boscombe around the Royal Arcade...

 opened. On the 19th of August 1893 the Burlington Hotel opened it was designed in a Italian Renaissance style and had 200 bedrooms. By the turn of the century the remainder of the Shelley estate had been sold, Boscombe Chine gardens had been laid out and there was little remaining vacant land within Boscombe. Before her death in June 1899 Lady Shelley had gifted four acres of land which were laid out to form Boscombe Cliff Gardens. In the 1901 census the population was 9,648.

20th Century

Boscombe thrived with the growth of English seaside holiday. Between the wars Boscombe was one of Bournemouth's wealthiest areas with many large Victorian and Edwardian family houses. In 1935 construction started on the San Remo Towers block, located between Sea road and Michelgrove Road, the Grade II listed block of 164 flats was designed by Hector Hamilton, in a Los Angeles Spanish style. Post war there was a boom in the seaside holiday market and Boscombe with its large number of smaller guest houses enjoyed this period of prosperity. In 1965 Boscombe railway station closed.

It was in the 1970s and 1980s with the decline in the traditional English holiday market that Boscombe's fortunes began to wane. Many of the small guest houses and large family houses became HMOs
House in multiple occupation
Houses in Multiple Occupation , also known as Houses of Multiple Occupancy, is a British English term which refers to residential property where ‘common areas’ exist and are shared by more than one household. Common areas may be as significant as bathrooms and kitchenettes, but may also be just...

Boscombe saw an increase in social problems during this period with drug and alcohol dependency levels well above the national average. In 1990 in an attempt to revitalize the shopping centre Christchurch road between Palmerston road and Ashley road was pedestrianized and the Sovereign shopping centre opened. In 1993 Boscombe Hospital was demolished having moved to a new site in Castle lane.

Present day

New development of the area around Boscombe was approved under the Boscombe Spa Development Plan in July 2006. This project was intended to turn the seafront into a spa village complete with an artificial surf reef
Boscombe Surf Reef
Boscombe Surf Reef is an artificial reef built to enhance surfing conditions in Boscombe, Dorset, UKThe Boscombe Surf Reef is the first surfing reef to be constructed in the Northern Hemisphere. The town of Boscombe opted to build a surfing reef to provide a unique focal point for the town's...

. Completed in Autumn 2009 the reef was constructed as part of the restoration work that also included the Overstrand buildings. Reports on the reef's performance showed that it was failing to meet its performance criteria. In 2011, the reef was closed due to safety hazards explaining that the reef's sandbags had torn, were starting to leak sand and move around. Further investigation proved that one of the sandbags had completely moved out of place and substantially lost its contents and a second was damaged. The council state that they are in talks with ASR Ltd to repair and improve the reef but as of summer 2011 no work had begun. Funding for the development had been through the sale of the local seafront car park, to Barratt Homes for 169 seafront apartments, at Honeycombe Chine
A chine is a steep-sided river valley where the river flows through coastal cliffs to the sea. Typically these are soft eroding cliffs such as sandstone or clays. The word chine originates from the Saxon "Cinan" meaning a gap or yawn....

. As well as these flats there have been a number of other large developments of ultra-modern flats such as "The Reef" in Boscombe Spa Road and the renovation of Shelley Park into a medical centre and flats development, it is hoped to fully restore the Grade II listed theatre in the future.

In May 2007, for the first time, a property in Boscombe went for sale for £1 million. The property was a flat with views of the coast, and was the main headline in the Bournemouth Daily Echo. Boscombe gardens underwent a renovation project and was substantially remodelled, a public art trail was also installed around Boscombe as part of the renovation project.

The nickname
A nickname is "a usually familiar or humorous but sometimes pointed or cruel name given to a person or place, as a supposedly appropriate replacement for or addition to the proper name.", or a name similar in origin and pronunciation from the original name....

 Bos Vegas has gained popularity in recent years, it occurs with slight spelling variation in the names of two Boscombe businesses and is in common usage on many web forums.

Boscombe is also home to AFC Bournemouth who play at Dean Court. Many fans still refer to AFC Bournemouth as Boscombe, a reference to the days of Boscombe St John's.

There is a thriving street market in the High Street on Thursdays and Saturdays as well as a vintage market on the first Saturday of every month.

Boscombe Spa

Boscombe Chine, the ravine breaking through the sandy cliffs, comprised several small valleys draining the land around Boscombe. Several of these originated in Springbourne, but they all eventually confluenced near to Christchurch Road. The southern end of the chine was laid out as pleasure gardens with a surface water stream as a picturesque feature. Towards the foot of the Chine, near to Sea Road, a chalybeate
Chalybeate waters, also known as ferruginous waters, are mineral spring waters containing salts of iron.-Name:The word "chalybeate" is derived from the Latin word for steel, "chalybs", which follows from the Greek word "khalups"...

 spring was discovered, no doubt fed by the water draining into the chine. A small thatched hut was erected over the spring and was given the name Boscombe Spa. The water was sufficiently foul-tasting that people would make a special trip to drink the water for any health-giving properties that it may contain.

Boscombe Pier

A pier was proposed in 1884 as a visitor attraction. In September 1888 the contract for its building was awarded for £3,813, and for making the pier approach £938. The pier was 600 feet (182.9 m) long, and built in spans of 40 feet (12.2 m) each with a continuous wrought iron girder frame, which carried timber decking 32 feet (9.8 m) wide. The pier head was 120 feet (36.6 m) long and 38 feet (11.6 m) wide, with a landing stage on each side, at which excursion steamers could call. At the entrance were two toll houses with turnstiles. The architect for the pier construction was James Stuart Campbell McEwan-Brown (1870–1949). His family were originally from Kintyre, Argyll and were closely connected to the Duke of Argyll. It is no surprise therefore, that it was opened with considerable ceremony on 29 July 1889 by the Duke of Argyll.

The pier head was not added until 1926, and like most piers it was partially demolished during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 to combat the threat of invasion. The pier remained derelict for a number of years and was only fully reopened in 1962. The borough architect, John Burton, designed the modernist 1950s style entrance building. This building was Grade II listed in 2004, The heritage minister said: The building at the pier end was initially reopened as the Mermaid theatre and then a Roller Skating rink before becoming an amusement arcade. It closed in 1989 and the pier became progressively more derelict over the next 19 years.

On 30 October 2005 the pier was closed as it was deemed unsafe. The Grade II listed pier entrance building was externally restored in 2007 together with a restoration of the pier neck. New decking, lighting and central windbreak screen was added together with a new viewing and fishing platform end section, replacing the derelict mermaid amusement hall. The pier re-opened in May 2008.
To the east of the pier is Europe's first artificial
Multi-purpose reef
A multi-purpose reef, also commonly known as an artificial surfing reef or surf reef, is a structure located offshore designed to induce wave breaking in a manner that creates a wave suitable for surfing or body boarding. Artificial surfing reefs can exist in many different configurations and be...

 surf reef
Boscombe Surf Reef
Boscombe Surf Reef is an artificial reef built to enhance surfing conditions in Boscombe, Dorset, UKThe Boscombe Surf Reef is the first surfing reef to be constructed in the Northern Hemisphere. The town of Boscombe opted to build a surfing reef to provide a unique focal point for the town's...


Since the re-opening of the pier in 2008 a Friends Association has been established, organizing art exhibitions and live music performances. In 2009 website Nothing To See Here named it Britain’s coolest with the National Piers Society
National Piers Society
The National Piers Society is a registered charity in the United Kingdom dedicated to promoting and sustaining interest in the preservation and continued enjoyment of seaside piers....

 voting it Pier of the Year 2010.

The pier also has its own dedicated angling club ( for out of hours fishing founded in 2002.

The Boscombe Devil

The Boscombe Devil is a gargoyle
In architecture, a gargoyle is a carved stone grotesque, usually made of granite, with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building thereby preventing rainwater from running down masonry walls and eroding the mortar between...

located facing the Boscombe grand theatre now the O2 Academy(see above), believed to have been placed there to show disapproval at the entertainments on offer.

External links

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