The many faces of Bournemouth Square - how the heart of the town has changed over the years

Bournemouth Echo: The many faces of Bournemouth Square - how the heart of the town has changed over the years The many faces of Bournemouth Square - how the heart of the town has changed over the years

THE current argument about whether cyclists should be allowed to cross Bournemouth Square illustrates just how important the area is to the town.

Throughout the lifetime of the Daily Echo, debates have raged about the road intersection that lies at the heart of modern Bournemouth.

There was already an inn standing near what is now called the Square when Louis Tregonwell, the founder of modern Bournemouth, came to town in 1810. But the town did not consist of much more.

Visitors at that time had to cross the Bourne Stream by walking across a plank, which was finally replaced by a brick-built bridge in 1849, during the town’s increasingly rapid expansion.

As the layout of roads took shape, the Scotch Church was built at the corner of Richmond Hill and Old Christchurch Road in 1872. It was later replaced by the Hotel Empress, now the NatWest bank. The 1860s and 1870s saw the building of the Wilts and Dorset Bank building nearby, later extended to two storeys as Hankinson’s estate agency.

Bournemouth continued to expand rapidly and in 1925, a tram shelter was built at the centre of the Square. The clock that stood on its roof was given to the town by Captain HB Norton, a magistrate and former councillor.

Trams were gradually replaced by trolleybuses and were withdrawn altogether in 1936, leaving the shelter derelict. It was demolished in 1947.

With the rise of the car, the Square became a circle, with a roundabout built in its centre and Captain Norton’s clock installed on the top of a distinctive new tower surrounded by flower beds.

Pedestrianisation had been suggested as early as 1943, but by 1963, Bournemouth council was considering a plan that would have roads dominating the Square.

The Echo reported that the Square would be developed on two levels, with pedestrians on the lower level and large roads above them. The borough engineer was reported as hoping “to be able to plan it in about three or four years’ time”.

All this time, the culvert carrying the Bourne Stream under the Square was subsiding, and as early as 1972, people were noticing that the clock tower seemed to be listing. Officials insisted it was an optical illusion, but when the trees and bushes around the tower were cleared in 1992, it was revealed that Bournemouth really did have its own leaning tower.

Another succession of ambitious plans for the Square were announced in the 1980s. In 1986, there were plans to create a “Crystal Palace bridge” across the Square, with hanging gardens and shopping arcades running from the old bus station in Exeter Road almost to the war memorial in the Central Gardens.

In 1987, a scheme was revealed that would take three acres of the gardens but put back five acres of terraced gardens above new shops.

Two years later, the Echo reported a plan which was “95 per cent certain” to go ahead.

It involved the pedestrianisation of the Square, with a 300,000sqft shopping precinct spreading from the Triangle along Avenue Road and the bottom of Commercial Road.

More wrangling followed before a new scheme for a pedestrian “piazza” scheme was unveiled in 1991. This involved closing Bourne Avenue at the Square and blocking off the junction with Richmond Hill.

When details were revealed that May, Joe Samworth, vice-president of the Landscape Institute, called it “one of the finest examples of a major, traffic-free civic space, created in this country since the Second World War”.

But the idea was controversial, and in September 1992, more than 50 yellow cabs joined residents and traders in a protest. It was claimed that the scheme would add £1.50 to a cab fare to Winton, while Braidley Road residents could lose £50,000 each from their property values if traffic were diverted away from the Square.

Work on pedestrianisation began that month, although a compromise had meant traffic could still pass along the edge of the Square along Bourne Avenue and Avenue Road.

On September 23, the Echo reported the outrage of passers-by as the trees on the roundabout were felled. Town centre councillor Lilian Rhodes said: “It’s a day of mourning for the centre of Bournemouth that we love. I stood there with tears in my eyes.”

The £277,000 pedestrianisation scheme was offered as an experiment. The landscaping work and paving could be lifted to reveal the highway underneath if the scheme was a flop.

But the impact on trade seemed to be good, with double-figure percentage rises in car park use. On November 30, the Christmas lights switch-on doubled as the official opening of the pedestrianised Square, with Neighbours star Stefan Dennis and EastEnders’ June Brown doing the honours.

That December, two thirds of traders said sales had increased since the pedestrianisation.

There were more changes ahead, and in May 1997 it was revealed that the clock tower was set for demolition as part of a £1.9m revamp which would include the addition of a cafe with a first floor camera obscura.

The scheme went ahead, with the Captain Norton’s clock installed on top of the cafe building, although the camera obscura has long been out of action. By the 21st century, the town’s churches had raised funds for the addition of an “eternal flame” in the Square, while new shopping and restaurant developments were being planned as developers brought new schemes to the town.

It was all a long way from that little plank over the stream.

Comments (17)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

11:08am Wed 7 May 14

H2o-hara says...

Interesting photos .
Interesting photos . H2o-hara
  • Score: 7

11:40am Wed 7 May 14

BmthNewshound says...

Rather than being a vibrant focal point for the town centre today the Square is a pretty soulless place which occasionally places to host to tacky low quality markets and “events”. It lacks any character or identity and acts as more of a barrier between Commercial Road and Old Christchurch Road.
.
As is often the case in Bournemouth over recent decades there has been lots of talk of grand schemes for the square but nothing materialises. The Square would be greatly improved by the planting of trees to soften the stark paving and create some shade and I’d like to see a competition to design a new clock tower to act as a focal point – the winning design chosen by local residents rather than Councillors who time after time have demonstrated an amazing ability to get things so wrong.
.
Of course, Beelsey and his Council appear incapable of delivering projects which improve the quality of the town centre and enhance the lives of local residents. The Square now appears to be reserved for S&D Leisure to exploit and take the profits generated back up to Manchester rather than reinvest in Bournemouth. Bournemouth must now rank as having one of the most dull, dismal, and depressing town centres in the country .
Rather than being a vibrant focal point for the town centre today the Square is a pretty soulless place which occasionally places to host to tacky low quality markets and “events”. It lacks any character or identity and acts as more of a barrier between Commercial Road and Old Christchurch Road. . As is often the case in Bournemouth over recent decades there has been lots of talk of grand schemes for the square but nothing materialises. The Square would be greatly improved by the planting of trees to soften the stark paving and create some shade and I’d like to see a competition to design a new clock tower to act as a focal point – the winning design chosen by local residents rather than Councillors who time after time have demonstrated an amazing ability to get things so wrong. . Of course, Beelsey and his Council appear incapable of delivering projects which improve the quality of the town centre and enhance the lives of local residents. The Square now appears to be reserved for S&D Leisure to exploit and take the profits generated back up to Manchester rather than reinvest in Bournemouth. Bournemouth must now rank as having one of the most dull, dismal, and depressing town centres in the country . BmthNewshound
  • Score: 33

12:31pm Wed 7 May 14

hadvar says...

Yep, cool photos. I'm struggling to see how the square has improved over the years. It's has nothing of interest at the moment. It's a big, paved area, nothing else. It's Bournemout's patio. Dull, and soulless. Could be vastly improved, along the lines of some smaller London squares.
Yep, cool photos. I'm struggling to see how the square has improved over the years. It's has nothing of interest at the moment. It's a big, paved area, nothing else. It's Bournemout's patio. Dull, and soulless. Could be vastly improved, along the lines of some smaller London squares. hadvar
  • Score: 31

12:57pm Wed 7 May 14

smhinto says...

Wonder why we call it Bournemnouth Square when in fact it is a circle ?.
Wonder why we call it Bournemnouth Square when in fact it is a circle ?. smhinto
  • Score: 11

1:49pm Wed 7 May 14

patrician01 says...

smhinto wrote:
Wonder why we call it Bournemnouth Square when in fact it is a circle ?.
It used to be a square and the name has stuck! It needs to have more character with trees and continental atmosphere. It is simply soulless.
[quote][p][bold]smhinto[/bold] wrote: Wonder why we call it Bournemnouth Square when in fact it is a circle ?.[/p][/quote]It used to be a square and the name has stuck! It needs to have more character with trees and continental atmosphere. It is simply soulless. patrician01
  • Score: 20

1:58pm Wed 7 May 14

Moro99 says...

good to see that there were several cyclists mixing with the pedestrians in 1922.
good to see that there were several cyclists mixing with the pedestrians in 1922. Moro99
  • Score: 6

2:22pm Wed 7 May 14

speedy231278 says...

Doesn't it look nice without all the S+D junk, beggars and Big Issue peddlars? Better organised bus stops, no silly pimple-like cafe, and no-one trying to thrust a leaflet in your hand or get you to take a survey!
Doesn't it look nice without all the S+D junk, beggars and Big Issue peddlars? Better organised bus stops, no silly pimple-like cafe, and no-one trying to thrust a leaflet in your hand or get you to take a survey! speedy231278
  • Score: 11

3:33pm Wed 7 May 14

smhinto says...

speedy231278 wrote:
Doesn't it look nice without all the S+D junk, beggars and Big Issue peddlars? Better organised bus stops, no silly pimple-like cafe, and no-one trying to thrust a leaflet in your hand or get you to take a survey!
Or lunatics mugging you, swearing at you for no apparent reason and no 'drunks' or dysfunctional lunatics roaming about and fighting in the street. It was certainly a different world then.
[quote][p][bold]speedy231278[/bold] wrote: Doesn't it look nice without all the S+D junk, beggars and Big Issue peddlars? Better organised bus stops, no silly pimple-like cafe, and no-one trying to thrust a leaflet in your hand or get you to take a survey![/p][/quote]Or lunatics mugging you, swearing at you for no apparent reason and no 'drunks' or dysfunctional lunatics roaming about and fighting in the street. It was certainly a different world then. smhinto
  • Score: 14

3:34pm Wed 7 May 14

High Treason says...

hadvar wrote:
Yep, cool photos. I'm struggling to see how the square has improved over the years. It's has nothing of interest at the moment. It's a big, paved area, nothing else. It's Bournemout's patio. Dull, and soulless. Could be vastly improved, along the lines of some smaller London squares.
Look at the council website photo. Amazing how much difference it looks with Photoshop.
[quote][p][bold]hadvar[/bold] wrote: Yep, cool photos. I'm struggling to see how the square has improved over the years. It's has nothing of interest at the moment. It's a big, paved area, nothing else. It's Bournemout's patio. Dull, and soulless. Could be vastly improved, along the lines of some smaller London squares.[/p][/quote]Look at the council website photo. Amazing how much difference it looks with Photoshop. High Treason
  • Score: 2

6:57pm Wed 7 May 14

spooki says...

smhinto wrote:
speedy231278 wrote:
Doesn't it look nice without all the S+D junk, beggars and Big Issue peddlars? Better organised bus stops, no silly pimple-like cafe, and no-one trying to thrust a leaflet in your hand or get you to take a survey!
Or lunatics mugging you, swearing at you for no apparent reason and no 'drunks' or dysfunctional lunatics roaming about and fighting in the street. It was certainly a different world then.
Don't forget the foreign students blocking the pavement in huge groups and the God botherers shouting and telling me I've sinned when they know absolutely nothing about me.
The paving is dangerous when it's wet too. Although I do rather like the pebbly fishy mermaid thing.
[quote][p][bold]smhinto[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]speedy231278[/bold] wrote: Doesn't it look nice without all the S+D junk, beggars and Big Issue peddlars? Better organised bus stops, no silly pimple-like cafe, and no-one trying to thrust a leaflet in your hand or get you to take a survey![/p][/quote]Or lunatics mugging you, swearing at you for no apparent reason and no 'drunks' or dysfunctional lunatics roaming about and fighting in the street. It was certainly a different world then.[/p][/quote]Don't forget the foreign students blocking the pavement in huge groups and the God botherers shouting and telling me I've sinned when they know absolutely nothing about me. The paving is dangerous when it's wet too. Although I do rather like the pebbly fishy mermaid thing. spooki
  • Score: 11

7:47pm Wed 7 May 14

O'Reilly says...

Moro99 wrote:
good to see that there were several cyclists mixing with the pedestrians in 1922.
I'm sure they had bells on their bicycles in those days Moro to warn pedestrians of any impending danger..............
.
[quote][p][bold]Moro99[/bold] wrote: good to see that there were several cyclists mixing with the pedestrians in 1922.[/p][/quote]I'm sure they had bells on their bicycles in those days Moro to warn pedestrians of any impending danger.............. . O'Reilly
  • Score: 5

7:00am Thu 8 May 14

misplacedspaniard says...

How Bournemouth Square has been ruined over the years.
How Bournemouth Square has been ruined over the years. misplacedspaniard
  • Score: 6

7:29am Thu 8 May 14

MJD says...

Try this site on facebook if you like old Poole and Bournemouth.
Try this site on facebook if you like old Poole and Bournemouth. MJD
  • Score: -1

7:32am Thu 8 May 14

MJD says...

MJD wrote:
Try this site on facebook if you like old Poole and Bournemouth.
Try this site on facebook if you like old Poole and Bournemouth.
https://www.facebook
.com/groups/oldpoole
/
[quote][p][bold]MJD[/bold] wrote: Try this site on facebook if you like old Poole and Bournemouth.[/p][/quote]Try this site on facebook if you like old Poole and Bournemouth. https://www.facebook .com/groups/oldpoole / MJD
  • Score: 1

2:07pm Thu 8 May 14

KLH says...

speedy231278 wrote:
Doesn't it look nice without all the S+D junk, beggars and Big Issue peddlars? Better organised bus stops, no silly pimple-like cafe, and no-one trying to thrust a leaflet in your hand or get you to take a survey!
Jehovahs Witnesses pestering you - worse than the beggars they are IMO!!

Cannot go anywhere in Bournemouth centre without one of those approaching you...
[quote][p][bold]speedy231278[/bold] wrote: Doesn't it look nice without all the S+D junk, beggars and Big Issue peddlars? Better organised bus stops, no silly pimple-like cafe, and no-one trying to thrust a leaflet in your hand or get you to take a survey![/p][/quote]Jehovahs Witnesses pestering you - worse than the beggars they are IMO!! Cannot go anywhere in Bournemouth centre without one of those approaching you... KLH
  • Score: 2

3:53pm Thu 8 May 14

Deltiologist says...

How can we trust the Echo to be accurate with important details, both historical and topical, when it does not take the trouble to proof read copy? It was NOT Louis Tregonwell who is remembered as our town's Founder, but LEWIS Dymoke Grosvenor Tregonwell to give him his full name.
However, a study of Echoes from past years, reveals its journalists often reported on criminality, drunkeness, poverty and other 'undesirable' elements which tarnished the town's image of Health and Beauty. Over the last 200 years of the town's existence these problems faced by our society have not been solved. I suggest that those who consider that today's ills are a recent phenomena spend some time studying those sad stories in the newspaper's back copies (available for inspection on microfilm in the library's Heritage Zone) and contemplate how those characters who found themselves disadvantaged and on the margins of society could have been helped in days gone by, and how their compatriots today can be encouraged to make a positive contribution to our local and national economy. Do we learn from history - or are we doomed to keep on repeating past mistakes?
How can we trust the Echo to be accurate with important details, both historical and topical, when it does not take the trouble to proof read copy? It was NOT Louis Tregonwell who is remembered as our town's Founder, but LEWIS Dymoke Grosvenor Tregonwell to give him his full name. However, a study of Echoes from past years, reveals its journalists often reported on criminality, drunkeness, poverty and other 'undesirable' elements which tarnished the town's image of Health and Beauty. Over the last 200 years of the town's existence these problems faced by our society have not been solved. I suggest that those who consider that today's ills are a recent phenomena spend some time studying those sad stories in the newspaper's back copies (available for inspection on microfilm in the library's Heritage Zone) and contemplate how those characters who found themselves disadvantaged and on the margins of society could have been helped in days gone by, and how their compatriots today can be encouraged to make a positive contribution to our local and national economy. Do we learn from history - or are we doomed to keep on repeating past mistakes? Deltiologist
  • Score: 1

8:31pm Thu 8 May 14

bbird says...

Bournemouth Square serves purely to get from one lot of shops to another. The 'Square' which should be the focal point of the town centre is a waste of space. The café is depressing, in the Square and nearby skateboarders and cyclists hurtle past, you are accosted by Chuggers and religion bashers. The markets are horrid and sell tat. The pavement looks slippery and grimey when wet.

Every comment in every forum about the Pier Approach, Gardens & Markets is basically anti S&D Leisure. Is our council listening??????

Bournemouth Square should be beautifully planted and paved, with perhaps a couple of good cafes and a brasserie with outside terraces, run by capable locals. And open in the evening. (If we could move the unsavoury characters and hen & stag parties elsewhere, perhaps the centre would come to life in the evening).
Bournemouth Square serves purely to get from one lot of shops to another. The 'Square' which should be the focal point of the town centre is a waste of space. The café is depressing, in the Square and nearby skateboarders and cyclists hurtle past, you are accosted by Chuggers and religion bashers. The markets are horrid and sell tat. The pavement looks slippery and grimey when wet. Every comment in every forum about the Pier Approach, Gardens & Markets is basically anti S&D Leisure. Is our council listening?????? Bournemouth Square should be beautifully planted and paved, with perhaps a couple of good cafes and a brasserie with outside terraces, run by capable locals. And open in the evening. (If we could move the unsavoury characters and hen & stag parties elsewhere, perhaps the centre would come to life in the evening). bbird
  • Score: 2

Comments are closed on this article.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree