IT was once described as a “hamlet” and still likes to think of itself as a village in Bournemouth.

Hugh Ashley’s book In Praise of Westbourne is a tribute to the area where he grew up.

He describes it as a “miscellany of memories, with thoughts, ideas, social history, facts and feelings about a very special place”.

The book’s early pages remind us of the area’s Victorian history. Annexed as part of Bournemouth in 1844, the village was boosted by the opening of Bournemouth West railway station at Queens Road in 1874. Soon afterwards, Henry Joy built Westbourne Arcade, where the first shop opened in 1885.

Hugh, who lived in Surrey Road for most of his childhood and is the son of veteran Echo photographer Harry Ashley, shares his personal memories of the shops that thrived when he was a lad.

They include Fullinger’s, the gents’ outfitter; Harvey’s bicycle shop; Milliner and Hollis the newsagent and Weston’s the Bakers.

Gammon’s was a confectionery shop selling home-made chocolate in brown wrappers. “I can still see Mrs Gammon delicately picking up each individual choc with a small pair of tongs and placing them gently into a small cardboard box,” writes Hugh.

He recalls Minns Music “where, as well as instruments, you could buy sheet music and I spent many hours in there, browsing through organ music and popular songs”. The hardware and ironmonger’s shop, “temptingly but clumsily filled with everything you could ever need in that line”, gave its name to the neighbouring thoroughfare, Sharp’s Alley.

The area had the first self-service Woolworth’s, Mac Fisheries, Timothy Whites, Parr’s Chemist, Voysey’s fresh bread shoip, Williamson and Treadgold’s greengrocers and WH Smith. The Arcade contained Don Strike’s music shop (still going strong), Nightingale’s and a host of antique shops, with Orchards being the one Hugh remembers best. There was also Robert Jackson’s of Piccadilly, an “enormous store over-stocked with tins, bags and pots of everything edible. It was expensive but it was good.”

Westbourne also had a small Sainsbury’s. “It wasn’t uncommon to see the internationally famed orchestral conductor Mantovani in there as he lived in nearby Branksome Park,” writes Hugh.

“Although instantly recognisable and world famous, he seemed a very ordinary gentleman out buying his food.”

Hugh devotes a section of his book to the famous residents of Westbourne, including Mantovani and fellow entertainer Max Bygraves, who lived for many years at Sandbourne Road, Alum Chine and was often seen out shopping. World title-holding boxer Freddie Mills was another, as was actor and director Lionel Jeffries.

Baron Ventry, an Irish peer whose home stood where the Branksome Tesco is now, hired a hangar at Hurn in the 1950s and tested an airship there bearing the Bournemouth coat of arms. The founder of what is now Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Sir Dan Godfrey, was a local resident, as was another of its famous conductors, Sir Charles Groves.

Author JRR Tolkien lived in Lakeside Road in the final years of his life. He was the latest of several literary figures to make their home in the area. In Victorian times, residents included the French poet Paul Verlaine and the author Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Kidnapped at his home Skerryvore.

There are sections on the area’s schools, its churches, and landmark buildings such as the Grand Cinema, Royal Victoria Hospital and the demolished Bournemouth West railway station.

It is collection, the author notes, of “warm glimpses of Westbourne both today and in the past, illustrating what a magnificent place it was – and is – to live”.

In Praise of Westbourne is on Sale in the Westbourne Bookshop, Gulliver’s Bookshop in Wimborne and DJ Brookings in Ashley Road, Parkstone, for £14.99.