IT'S the oldest pub in Bournemouth, yet its history is shrouded in mystery.

The Cricketers Arms, in Windham Road, celebrates its 160th anniversary this year and landlady Sheila Harvell is appealing to Echo readers to help her piece together a picture of the pub's past.

"We don't really know a great deal about it," she says.

"A few regulars come up with bits and pieces - and I know there was a lot of old photos at one time - but they're long gone and it's all a bit confused."

The pub, which pre-dates Bournemouth railway station by nearly 40 years, was originally the Cricketers Hotel named after the cricket ground that once existed on land opposite, on the council works beyond where the railway line now runs.

The original stables and coach house is still there and heritage experts reckon the front of the pub was extended a short distance around 1910. The stained glass windows and the bar are thought to date from the same time and, according to stories handed down by regulars, the bar was taken from a cruise ship.

Bournemouth-born boxing world champion Freddie Mills lived in nearby Spring Road and used to drink in the Cricketers.

In the 1970s, a group of locals lead by Peter Fay, Percy Singer and the late Harry Legg wanted to start a boxing gym in Freddie's name and approached the champ's widow Chrissy, who agreed.

The sign is still on display at the Cricketers where they ran the Freddie Mills Boxing Gymnasium in the function room (now a raised seating area with an impressive ornate Victorian fireplace) for several years before moving to the Brunswick, Charminster.

Some years ago one of the locals jotted down a few memories of the Cricketers.

It seems four of the houses in Spring Road - numbers 2, 4, 6 and 8 - were built as homes for draymen and there's some speculation the Cricketers once housed a brewery.

She also remembers an onion seller who traded from the coach house during the 1940s when a Mr Glass, a strict disciplinarian, ran the pub with his wife. During the war the pub housed evacuees who would pack out the saloon and lounge bars where they would sing and make merry.

"There's also stories about a men's club, the Malmesbury Lodge, who held meetings in an upstairs room which is now our lounge and bedroom, but again, we don't know much more," says Sheila.

"We love it here. It's like living in an old house and the pub is our front room where all our friends come and have a drink with us - actually it's not like working at all.

" There's never any trouble - nearly everyone knows each other and if they don't they soon do, it's that kind of place.

"But it would be really good to know more about the pub and what has gone on in it down the years."