Boscombe | Chineland
Thursday 25th July 2024


Boscombe is a suburb of Bournemouth and thrived with the growth of the English seaside holiday. It developed rapidly from a small village into a seaside resort alongside Bournemouth after the first Boscombe pier was opened in 1889. Between the wars Boscombe was one of Bournemouth’s wealthiest areas with many large Victorian and Edwardian family houses. Post war there was a boom in the seaside holiday market and Boscombe with its large number of smaller guest houses enjoyed this period of prosperity. In 1965 Boscombe railway station closed.

© Dan Ashton

Boscombe sea front

It was in the 1970s and 1980s with the decline in the traditional English holiday market that Boscombe’s fortunes began to wane. Many of the small guest houses and large family houses were converted into flats and apartments. By the 1970s this transition in character was attracting vulnerable people, people on low incomes and those in receipt of benefits to the area. With this increase in less affluent, vulnerable people came an increase in transience in the population, a more ‘chaotic’ environment in Boscombe and the beginnings of a drug using community in the area. This was coupled with an influx of Liverpudlian drug users and dealers to Bournemouth in the 1970s. Bournemouth was becoming an importer of people with drug and alcohol problems, and the drugs market expanded around these circumstances. By the 1980s this was being further stimulated by the setting up and proliferation of treatment centres for drug misuse.”

Boscombe saw an increase in social problems during this period with drug and alcohol dependency levels well above the national average. In 1990 in an attempt to revitalize the shopping centre Christchurch road between Palmerston road and Ashley road was pedestrianised and the Sovereign shopping centre opened. In 1993 BoscombeHospital was demolished having moved to a new site in Castle lane.

There are numerous architectural styles within Boscombe, ranging from the elaborate Victorian style of the Royal Arcade, notable examples of Art Deco such as the Motabitz store in Christchurch Road and the modernist 1950s styles of the pier and Overstrand buildings. Alongside these are modern flats developments such as The Reef, The Point and HoneycombeBeach.


The Royal Arcade

Boscombe Pier
A pier was proposed in 1884 as a visitor attraction. In September 1888 the contract for its building was awarded for £3,813, and for making the pier approach £938. The pier was 200 yards (180 m) long, and built in spans of 13 yards (12 m) each with a continuous wrought iron girder frame, which carried timber decking 11 yards (10 m) wide. The pier head was 40 yards (37 m) long and 13 yards (12 m) wide, with a landing stage on each side, at which excursion steamers could call. At the entrance were two toll houses with turnstiles. The architect for the pier construction was James Stuart Campbell McEwan-Brown (1870–1949). His family were originally from Kintyre, Argyll and were closely connected to the Duke of Argyll. It is no surprise therefore, that it was opened with considerable ceremony on 29 July 1889 by the Duke of Argyll.

The pier head was not added until 1926, and like most piers it was partially demolished during World War II to combat the threat of invasion. The pier remained derelict for a number of years and was only fully reopened in 1962. The borough architect, John Burton, designed the modernist 1950s style entrance building. This building was Grade II listed in 2004, the heritage minister said:

“The NeckBuilding at Boscombe Pier is a rarity amongst municipal entertainment structures of the period. It was designed with real conviction and flair. The vivacity of this structure clearly illustrates the revitalisation of the British Seaside Resort in the 1950s.”

Courtesy Wikipedia

More recent times
New development of the area around Boscombe was approved under the Boscombe Spa Development Plan in July 2006. This project was intended to turn the seafront into a spa village complete with an artificial surf reef. Completed in Autumn 2009 the controversial reef was constructed as part of the restoration work that also included the Overstrand buildings. Subsequent reports on the reef’s performance showed that it was failing to meet its performance criteria and in 2011 the ill fated ‘reef’ was closed due to safety hazards – ie: it was falling apart.