IT may not be the oldest town in Britain but Bournemouth has a remarkable cast of characters who have chosen to make the resort their home or spent time enjoying its sedate charm.
Now, to celebrate Bournemouth’s bicentenary, local author and member of Bournemouth Civic Society Leigh Hatts has produced an intriguing alphabetic guide to more than 350 people, from architects and eccentrics to politicians and pioneers who have been associated with the town.
And as looking at the lives of the great and the good of the town’s past, in Bournemouth’s Who Was Who? (Natula, £11.95) Leigh Hatts also offers many fascinating details that will surprise many.
Here are just 25 details selected from the author’s compendium:
• The composer Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) was inspired to be a trumpet player when, as a boy, he met Louis Armstrong at the Royal Bath Hotel. He later conducted the BSO.
• George Harrison wrote the song Don’t Bother Me during the week when he was in Bournemouth, appearing with the Beatles at the Gaumont (now the Odeon) in 1963.
• Charles Bennett, who won Britain’s first Olympic gold medal in Paris in 1900, coming first in the 500m and then picking up another gold and silver, became landlord of the Dolphin (now Gulliver’s Tavern) at Kinson.
• American composer Irving Berlin brought his wartime show, This is the Army, to Boscombe Hippodrome in 1940. The show included the songs Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning and White Christmas.
• Poet laureate John Betjeman was founding president of Bournemouth Civic Society and described St Stephen’s Church as “the most beautiful Victorian church in the south-west”.
• Lady Shelley claimed that Bournemouth doctor Bodley Scott’s prescription of hemp for curing haemorrhages caused Robert Louis Stevenson’s fevered dreams that resulted in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He was also the first doctor to attend Winston Churchill after his fall from a bridge in Bournemouth in 1892.
• Rupert Brooke discovered poetry at the age of nine when staying with his aunts in a house that is now in Dean Park Road.
• TV cook Fanny Craddock (1909-93), from the age of 15, attended Bournemouth High School (now Talbot Heath). Film critic Dilys Powell (1901-95) was also educated there.
• Barbara West Dainton, the last but one survivor of the Titanic disaster, was born in Bournemouth 10 months before the ship’s maiden voyage. Another Bournemouth resident, Arthur West who was a floorwalker at JJ Allen department store (now the Quadrant Centre) was a victim of the disaster.
• Princess Diana opened the McCarthy & Stone HQ in Bournemouth in 1987 and, four years later, landed by helicopter at Wentworth College to visit the nearby Anglo-European College of Chiropractic of which she was patron.
• Charles Darwin stayed at the Cliff Cottage on the site where the BIC now stands.
• Actor Lionel Jeffries (1926-2010) who starred in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, lived in Bournemouth and once took Bob Hope to the Richmond Arms at Charminster.
• Pioneer aviator Amy Johnson, recovering from a nervous breakdown, stayed with family in Kinross Road in 1925. Years later she landed near Talbot Village and opened a fete at Meyrick Park.
• Leigh Hatts reveals that the Ottoman Empire’s last interior minister Ali Kemal (assassinated in 1922) accompanied his wife Winifred in 1909 to Bournemouth where she gave birth to their son Osman at the home of her mother. Later Winifred died and Kemal returned to Turkey and Osman took his grandmother’s maiden name becoming Wilfred Johnson. His grandson, Boris, is Mayor of London.
• New Forest snakecatcher Brusher Mills cleared Queens Park heathland of snakes before it became a golf course in 1905.
• War artist Paul Nash died in 1946 while staying in a hotel in Boscombe Spa Road.
• Controversial playwright Joe Orton’s play Loot had its world premiere at the Pavilion in 1966.
• Terence Rattigan (1911-77) set his 1954 play Separate Tables in Bournemouth, the town which was also the scene of the Rattenbury murder case on which he based another play, Cause Celebre.
• Two men who were awarded the VC for gallantry in the First World War, Frederick Riggs (1888-1918) and Cecil Noble (1891-1915), had both lived in homes in Capstone Road. Derek Seagrim (1903-43), who was awarded the VC in the Second World, lived in nearby Charminster Road.
• Edward Shackleton, son of South Pole adventurer Sir Ernest Shackleton, stood in the 1945 Bournemouth by-election as the Labour candidate with the slogan, “With Shackleton to the poll”.
• Count Vladimir Tchertkov (1854-1936) was deported from Russia in 1897, moving into Tuckton House in Saxonbury Road, Tuckton, setting up a printing press that printed the banned works of Leo Tolstoy.
• Stephen Tennant, an eccentric “bright young thing” of the 1920s and lived in Branksome Wood Road. He was depicted as Cedric Hampton in Nancy Mitford’s novel, Love in a Cold Climate.
• Beatrice Webb (1858-1943), social reformer, went to school at the top of Bath Hill.
• In 1883 Oscar Wilde arrived in Bournemouth too late to give a scheduled talk at the Theatre Royal in Albert Road. He returned the following week to speak, hoping he’d been forgiven. Fellow wit, the painter James Whistler spent Christmas 1896 at the resort.
• And finally… Leigh Hatts fine book contains the fact, that will fascinate fans of the Archers that Arthur Wood (1875-1953) was not only a flautist with the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra but also composed the long-running radio serial’s signature tune, Barwick Green. You live and learn!