Fond memories of Southbourne's Shell House

Fond memories of Southbourne's Shell House

REMEMBERED WELL: The Shell House, Southbourne

EARLY VISITS: Gillian Stoddart at the Shell House in 1973

First published in Echoes by

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.

Comments (4)

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1:16am Wed 9 Feb 11

s-pb2 says...

I also remember Jarvis Cocker visiting it whilst making a rather good TV series on Outsider Art a few years back
I also remember Jarvis Cocker visiting it whilst making a rather good TV series on Outsider Art a few years back s-pb2
  • Score: 0

9:59am Wed 9 Feb 11

jobsworthwatch says...

Surprised our jobsworths didn't slap a conservation order on this popular attraction, especially in view of the considerable effort put into it by the owner. This place was on my daily commute, it was very common in the summer months to see coaches parked up most days. I suspect more people used to visit the shell house than now visit the surf reef!
Surprised our jobsworths didn't slap a conservation order on this popular attraction, especially in view of the considerable effort put into it by the owner. This place was on my daily commute, it was very common in the summer months to see coaches parked up most days. I suspect more people used to visit the shell house than now visit the surf reef! jobsworthwatch
  • Score: 0

8:29pm Wed 9 Feb 11

noddyholder46 says...

It's particularly awful that this genuine treasure was replaced with one of the most tasteless, uninspiring buildings the county has ever seen. Architects, planners and inhabitants should feel ashamed.

Council should have purchased this building and given up one of their fact-finding trips to european imax cinemas or australian reefs.
It's particularly awful that this genuine treasure was replaced with one of the most tasteless, uninspiring buildings the county has ever seen. Architects, planners and inhabitants should feel ashamed. Council should have purchased this building and given up one of their fact-finding trips to european imax cinemas or australian reefs. noddyholder46
  • Score: 0

11:32am Thu 10 Feb 11

Martin Kitcher says...

I too recall it from childhood.
One point though, the report states that the "shells were removed", my question is, were they retained or destroyed? I realise a large amount would have shattered. just wondering.
I too recall it from childhood. One point though, the report states that the "shells were removed", my question is, were they retained or destroyed? I realise a large amount would have shattered. just wondering. Martin Kitcher
  • Score: 0

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