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Fond memories of Southbourne's Shell House
Joan Stoddart of Bear Cross says her family came to live in Bournemouth in the late 1950s and whenever relatives or friends visited them they always took them to the Shell House in Overcliff Drive and would often chat with George Howard, the owner of the house who had collected all the shells.
She sent in photographs of her youngest daughter Gillian at the Shell House. In the first picture, taken in October 1973, Gillian is with her grandmother Mrs Watson.
Ten years later Joan took another picture of Gillian at the Shell House, little had changed and it was attracting visitors from around the world.
Karol Riva of Highcliffe also sent in a picture of a girl at the Shell House taken in the summer of 1973 saying it was a shame that the house and shells have now all gone.
The Shell House was created and lovingly tended by hotelier George Howard in 1948 after the death of his son Michael at 14 of meningitis.
Working meticulously with sea shells that he had accumulated from all over the world, the former miner and seaman transformed the garden of his home into an unique local landmark that attracted visitors from near and far.
The collection including not only a grotto, a statue of King George and the Dragon and a wishing well, but lava rock from Iceland, coral from the Red Sea, Porto Cristo rocks from Majorca, quartz from South Africa and giant clams from the South Pacific.
It was claimed that there were some valuable William Morris and William de Morgan art nouveau tiles embedded in the concrete.
Over the years, the Shell House raised thousands of pounds for various charities, including Christchurch Hospital’s League of Friends, who in 1988, two years after his death named a centre after him.
In 2001 his other son, Raymond, began to dismantle the house and remove most of the shells.
Two years later the Shell House was finally demolished to make way for a development. A block of flats now stands on the site.
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