|BOURNEMOUTH CIVIC SOCIETY
1972 TO 2012
40th Anniversary Booklet
An Outline of Forty Years Activities and Campaigning
FOREWORD by John Barker - President
This booklet celebrates the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Bournemouth Civic Society in 1972. It grew from a group of Bournemouth citizens who opposed a proposed development which would have despoiled most of the seafront from Pier Approach to the West Cliff. It comprised casinos, four large hotels, conference halls and amusement arcades which would have overwhelmed that part of the seafront. The scheme was eventually seen as too large and was rejected.
At that time the conservation movement was still in its infancy as were “green” policies. But the founders saw the need for the protection of our parks and chines; the preservation and restoration of historic buildings and the need for good designs for new developments both large and small.
From this grew the campaigns to conserve older buildings; to lobby for well designed new buildings; for conservation areas and a healthier environment.
The Society has always been non-political, independent and focussed on the protection and enhancement of Bournemouth’s natural and man-made features. Long may it continue.
BOURNEMOUTH CIVIC SOCIETY OFFICERS AND COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Over the years the Society has benefitted from officers and committee members who have brought an astonishing range of talents, knowledge, expertise and energy thus helping the Society to maintain its credible and well respected reputation throughout Bournemouth. The Officers and Committee for 2012/13 are:
President – John Barker
Chairman – Ken Mantock
Vice Chairman – Jean Bird
Treasurer – Peter Jackson
Membership Secretary – Sally McGrath
Activities Secretaries – Beryl Parker and Keith Barnes
Built Environment Advisor – John Soane
Newsletter Editor – John Barker
Website Secretary – Alan Brown
Minutes Secretary – Paul Newsome
Committee – John Walker and Elaine Cooper
Previous officers and committee members are recorded below.
President (from 1972 to 2012)
Sir John Betjeman, David W Lloyd, Keith Rawlings, John Barker
Chairman (from 1972 to 2012)
Ian Dickins, Paul Munro-Walker, Reg Read, Stewart Harrison, John Barker, Jean Bird, Keith Rawlings, Ken Mantock
Vice-Chairman (from 1989 to 2012)
Peter Hamilton-Harvey, Stuart Harrison, Graham Teasdill, Charles King, Jacqui Anderson, John Barker, Jean Bird, David Crawford, Jean Bird
Hon. Secretary (from 1972 to 2003)
Brenda Zinna, Ken Mantock, Sylvia Tabor, Tricia Rimmer, Marjorie Dare .
Hon. Treasurer (from 1972 to 2012)
Gwen Allan, Brenda Zinna, Joy Keay, Martin Lovatt, Keith Barnes, Peter Jackson
Membership Secretary (from 1986 to 2012)
Bruce Stuart, Raymond Maguire, Betty Kirk, Joe Tabor, David Crawford, Sally McGrath
Social Events (from 1986 to 2012)
Doreen Wilson, Penny Rigby-Hall, Gail Crawford, Beryl Parker & Keith Barnes
Architectural Advisor (from 1986 to 2007)
Ian Jessopp, Laura Simpkins, Patrick Garnett, Derek Bichard.
Planning/Built Environment Advisor (from 1989 to 1991, then 2000 to 2012)
Stuart Harrison, John Soane.
Committee Members (alphabetical order)
John Barker, Keith Barnes, Jean Bird, Norman Boyd, Alan Brown, Jack Brownlow, Ron Bryan, Elaine Cooper, Peter Cox, Brian Concannon, Gail Crawford, John Cresswell, Mollie Dale, Michael Dawney, Mary Edwards, Sue Edwins, Patrick Garnett, Jack Griffith, Michael Hamilton-Harvey, Peter Hamilton Harvey, John Harding, Stuart Harrison, David Hawkes, Roland Hitchcott, John Jones, Charles King, Sidney Kirk, Christian Knighton, Margaret Levinson, Jack Maguire, Ken Mantock, Sally McGrath, Shirley McKenna, Dot Mulley, John Pite, Reg Read, Tricia Rimmer Brian Shuttleworth, John Soane, Cyril Speller, Laura Simpkins, Philip Stanley, George Taylor, Graham Teasdill, John Walker, John Wolstencroft, Brenda Zinna, Rosario Zinna.
EARLY CIVIC SOCIETY CAMPAIGNS FROM THE ECHO ARCHIVES
Thanks must be recorded to Michaela Horsfield, archivist at The Echo, Richmond Hill, for allowing extensive access to the clippings folders and back copies of The Echo, which has enabled this section of the anniversary booklet to be researched and created.
The Echo has long reported on local news and campaigns from the Society. A string of Chairmen and spokespeople have been quoted from over the last 40 years. A small sample of articles chosen to reflect the breadth of the Society’s interests are selected here from the early 1970s through to the late 1990s where records are generally available from the archives prior to the newspaper moving its printing operations out of town.
These and many others fascinating reports have been copied for inclusion in the presentation display material created to commemorate the Society’s anniversary this year and accompany this booklet.
Articles on the campaign seeking the restoration of the Victorian railway station feature in a separate section. There is also a report on the changing face of Bournemouth and its planning policies.
It is recorded in The Echo on 21st October 1972 that:
“At a recent meeting of the Save Bournemouth Campaign Association it was unanimously decided that it was an appropriate time to change the name of the organisation to the Bournemouth and District Civic Society”.
Thus was the Society established largely as we know it today and soon after it was to become fully registered with the Civic Trust (now Civic Voice) and the Charity Commission. The report continues and gives an insight into the background of the Save Bournemouth Campaign that was created to oppose a vast redevelopment scheme stretching from Pier Approach to the West Cliff:
“This action reflected the successful end of the fight against the BIG seafront development, the wishes of the Civic Trust to which the society was affiliated and the wider sphere of activities currently in hand. The original name was chosen in the emotive atmosphere following the disclosure of the BIG plan by Ald. Harry Mears at a public meeting organised by the Fabians in October 1971 and no longer adequately reflected the nature of the society’s activities…….The committee accepted with regret the resignation of those members whose prime concern was with the seafront development and who now felt that they should stand down. In particular the significant contributions of Mr Cyril Speller, press officer and Mrs Margaret Levinson, treasurer, would be greatly missed.”
Sadly Cyril passed away some years ago but Margaret remains a member of the Society to this day. The report interestingly concludes by referring to then current campaigns against the development of the local airport and for local councils to work together to attract jobs to the town. Thus then, as now, the Society was as interested in the area’s local economy as much as its conservation, better planning and environmental protection:
“The committee affirmed their opposition to the proposed runway extension at Hurn Airport and agreed to support the Hurn Airport Action Group. It was however recognised that many aircraft workers at Hurn were gravely concerned about their future employment prospects and it was agreed that some positive action must be taken immediately to attract new light industry to the area. A recommendation would be made to Bournemouth and Dorset Councils that in advance of the creation of Area 29 they considered their planning policy for general industrial development at the airport.”
In November The Echo reported that the Council’s Planning Committee had refused to place a Conservation Area order on Talbot Village, the rare surviving example of a model Victorian village complete with its cottages, school, church and almshouses. The Society had created a well argued and illustrated report setting out the value of conserving the historic settlement (another would follow within a few years for Inner Town Conservation Areas) and The Echo noted:
“the society consider that while a conservation order would not necessarily completely exclude some redevelopment, the layout and character of the village must be preserved at all costs.”
Thankfully the Council did eventually create a Conservation Area here and its preservation has been guaranteed in some contrast to the modern development, University campus and housing estate on the other side of Wallisdown Road. 1973 saw a number of what would be important and long term campaigns for the Society being covered in The Echo. Indeed comments on the change in Bournemouth’s character, the impact of flats and the congestion and problems of traffic remain high on our agenda today.
“Signs of the times, Parts of Bournemouth like Las Vegas.” So reported The Echo of the Society’s Conservation Sub-Committee Chairman Paul Munro-Walker’s comments:
“Gaudy signs, stickers and advertisments are part of a new vulgar fashion. All these signs are so unsubtle and they are unnecessary. People are more interested in what they are buying than the signs outside. These are totally unsuited to a place like Bournemouth.” Paul, who had conducted a survey on local buildings in need of conservation thought public opinion would change the situation. He wanted to see shopkeepers forsaking their big plastic signs for quieter displays and his survey had revealed many buildings of historic interest in Bournemouth, but he warned some would be replaced by blocks of flats or car parks.”
The same month saw the headline “Curb the flats call by Civic Group” with sweeping restrictions on flat development being suggested by the Society in its Spring Newsletter which was widely quoted from:
“all new flat developments should be restricted to five storeys and the limit should be just three storeys when flats intrude into residential areas. The planning authorities should delineate the areas proposed for flat development and these should be severely limited.”
It is startling to recall that at this time with no Conservation Areas, few listed buildings and little by way of local planning policy, great swathes of the town, notably on the East and West Cliffs, Westbourne, Lansdowne, Dean Park and Town Centre faced proposals replacing Edwardian and Victorian villas, some still in their original use whilst many others converted to hotels, with blocks of high rise flats. Just as we find today the report comments:
“The Society say many of the high rise flats now being built in Bournemouth will be sold to out of town owners as investments and used only for holidays or weekends If the present rate of building goes on much of the town will be changed in character with rows of rectangular, featureless blocks demonstrating the country’s lamentable shortage of good architects.”
Unlike now publicity surrounding planning applications was not wide and so the Society was
“disturbed at the granting of planning permission for high rise flats in residential areas without warning the unfortunate neighbours.” and called on the Council to:
“go much further than the minimum statutory obligations – wholly inadequate – in telling the public of contentious planning applications. Bournemouth should use methods adopted in some other towns, like Christchurch and Winchester and could try publishing weekly lists of applications to subscribers or publishing major applications in the local Press. Site notices should also be used.”
All these eventually came to be but not before many a resident only learnt of a redevelopment when the bulldozers arrived in the area. Bearing in mind the recent national debate on the need for transparency and selflessness by those elected to public office whether locally or in Westminster it is interesting to read that 40 years ago:
“Another controversial proposal of the Society is that no-one with vested property, building or related interests should serve on the Council’s Development, Planning or Works Committees”.
Finally from the Spring Newsletter the following is reported:
“The society launches an attack on the urban motorways planned for Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch. It says it is not clear what purpose the routes will serve, because different authorities have differing views. They would cut across existing roads and cause congestion for local traffic. The towns could try computer controlled traffic lights, town centre minibuses, bus priority schemes and large car parks on the outskirts, but an east-west bypass north of the built up area would assist in reducing the volume of through traffic. An integrated transportation plan was desperately needed as an alternative to knocking down large parts of the town for short term improvements in traffic flow.”
Later in 1973 good news was reported:
“Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman has agreed to be president of Bournemouth Civic Society. In a letter to the society he said he had a great affection for Bournemouth”
Earlier this current year of 2012 we saw the opening of the new Twin Sails Bridge in Poole so it is interesting to read in September 1973 that:
“A fixed road bridge across Holes Bay, in Poole Harbour and stronger emphasis on planning for public transport, rather than private vehicles, are called for by Bournemouth and District Civic Society in observations on the Draft Poole District Plan. And they say the planned Route Nine road from Fleets Bridge toward central Poole should be linked direct with the Hamworthy Peninsula. It is not considered that a swing bridge replacing the present installation would ever be a satisfactory solution, therefore a fixed bridge should be built across Holes Bay to service the Hamworthy area.”
In these early years the Society regularly commented on schemes in Poole, East Dorset and Christchurch Councils’ areas – giving rise later to some criticism and a call to stick to matters directly falling within Bournemouth.
Branksome Dene (now Zetland Court, the Masonic Retirement Home in Alumhurst Road, Westbourne) faced uncertain times so in October 1973 the Society sought the listing of this historic villa. Under the headline “Save this old mansion, say Civic Society” The Echo notes:
“Bournemouth and District Civic Society want to preserve Branksome Dene, one of Bournemouth’s stately homes from a century ago. So they are asking the Department of the Environment to include it in the list of buildings of architectural and historic interest. Members are concerned over the future of the building following the appearance in the grounds of a notice board indicating planning permission is being sought for flat development on the site. Branksome Dene, standing above the chine to which it has given its name, has had a chequered history and famous people including Lord Randolph Churchill, Sir Winston Churchill, Lord Louis Mountbatten and his wife Edwina Ashley, have stayed in the house. Since 1951 it has been a convalescent home for the Grand Order of Israel and Shield of David Friendly Society.”
Whilst large scale development in the form of tall blocks of flats in the grounds was subsequently allowed Branksome Dene was listed and so remains to this day.
The Civic Society has always been non-political, independent and focused solely on representing its members views on the protection and enhancement of Bournemouth’s natural and man-made features. It has long drawn members who care about Bournemouth and who outside of their involvement with the Society have been supporters of all and none of the major political parties. Many have been active in the towns cultural, historical, religious, business and literary circles and worked with residents’ associations across the town. Some have served on Bournemouth Council.
However from time to time when the Society has been campaigning on a particular issue it has been accused, mainly by disgruntled Councillors, of bias or promoting a political objective. The accusation was first made in November 1973 when the Society was concerned with plans for a new West Cliff Conference Centre but also years later when campaigning for Conservation Areas on the East Cliff, when arguing against a leisure centre in the middle of Meyrick Park and when working with David Atkinson, the then Bournemouth East MP, promoting with him the renovation of Bournemouth Railway Station and defending the Green Belt.
“Civic Society denies bias accusation” reports The Echo in November 1973:
“Bournemouth Civic Society, it seems, has been said recently to have political aims. An executive of the society’s committee, Mr Paul Munro-Walker, denied this and stated the intentions of the society were to do everything in their power to maintain Bournemouth as a beautiful town”.
1974 was dominated by concern with plans for a new West Cliff Conference Centre and associated high rise hotel and residential redevelopment stretching up Priory Hill.
In May “Don’t destroy the town centre, plea” began a report in The Echo that continued:
“Bournemouth and District Civic Society claim the character of the town’s attractive centre will be destroyed in an avalanche of redevelopment – unless there is a revision of the town centre policy plan. The plan they say is the main cause of what is happening in the town centre. Particularly affected, they say, are the Norfolk Hotel, Richmond Gardens, the area around the Municipal College, the railway station scheme, the Triangle and the whole area zoned for office development centred on the Lansdowne.
The Society’s big bugbear is the proposed conference centre on the West Cliff, which they say is likely to cost more than the Council’s £16million estimate, they say it could be double. The Society support the idea of a smaller 3000 capacity centre, with a much lower construction cost, rather than a 5000 capacity centre. They claim the hotel buildings and conference centre will be totally out of scale with the setting of the West Cliff and support the Alec Jackson plan for the conversion and extension of the Pavilion”.
“NO! Public verdict on conference centre”. The report in the Echo of 13th June stated:
“A public meeting in Bournemouth last night voted overwhelmingly against the Council’s proposed £25million conference centre on the West Cliff. But voters declared they were in favour of a smaller and more modest scheme as embodied in the Chamber of Trade proposals. The chamber of trade are supporting a plan by the chamber’s architect Mr Alec Jackson, for a conference centre extension to the Pavilion. It would cost according to Mr. Jackson a maximum of £5 million. A resolution opposing the council plan was carried by a large majority at the meeting in the Punshon Memorial Church Hall, Exeter Road.
More than 200 people crowded into the tiny hall and some had to stand in the corridor outside. Bournemouth Civic Society who are drumming up support for their battle against the council’s plan, organised the meeting. They broadly support the chamber of trade proposals. Former Chairman of the Society Mr Ian Dickins said the meeting was the first opportunity in 18 months for the public to voice their opinions.
Mr Dickins pointed out the problem of cars. A comprehensive network of new roads will have to be built in the town centre and beyond, entailing an amount of demolition and disruption not as yet dreamed of. He claimed the council were attempting to bulldoze their proposals through with minimal public consultation.”
The meeting was criticised in a neighbouring report:
“Bournemouth Technical College principal Dr Raymond Bailey slammed the meeting for its cynicism and sarcasm in discussing the conference centre. He stood up and told the meeting “for close on an hour I have heard a lot of sarcasm and cynicism in a matter which is of vital importance to this town”. He went on to accuse opponents of the council plan of a “maudlin” approach and added “I hope this will not come through at the public enquiry”.”
At the Public Inquiry held during July and August the Society presented its case:
“The proposed West Cliff Conference Centre was a scheme of a vainglorious nature Mr Paul Munro-Walker, Chairman of Bournemouth Civic Society said. He told the public inquiry into the scheme at the Town Hall that the massive construction was a megalopolitan fantasy. The society were firmly convinced that the district council’s proposals were premature, ill-considered and over-ambitious. The scheme was ultimately impractical by reason of cost and location said Mr. Munro-Walker.
Evidence for the Civic Society was given by one of its vice-presidents, Mr Ian Dickins, who is a lecturer in town planning at Birmingham Polytechnic. Mr. Dickins, who was chairman of Save Bournemouth Campaign Association in 1971-2 said: we were caught completely by surprise by the speed with which the council produced their current proposals. There had been no public involvement in the present proposals apart from the statutory minimum. Bournemouth’s tourist industry was prosperous, Mr Dickins claimed and did not need an artificial stimulus to remain viable”.
This report also featured a sideline:
“Family hotels on the West Cliff provided an important service to the town, said Mr. Dickins. The Society deeply deplores the demolition of any of the hotels on the site in advance of a decision on the planning application, he declared. Once the West Cliff hotels have been demolished they can never be replaced and the accommodation will be lost forever. The demolition of hotels and other buildings on the site in advance of a decision was seriously prejudicing the work of the inquiry”.
Other reports from 1974 include:
“Save the hydro plea to planners. Should the Linden Hall Hydro in Christchurch Road, opposite Boscombe Chine Gardens, be replaced with a 13-storey block of flats? No, say Bournemouth and District Civic Society.”
Sadly the hydro was demolished and the replacement was regularly referred to in later Echo reports of the Society as one of the ugliest buildings in town.
“Bournemouth’s busy Civic Society have fired yet another volley in the continuing saga of the Bourne Hall Hotel annexe. The Society recently stepped in to save the annexe, listed as a building of architectural interest, when they heard the owners might demolish it after obtaining council permission last year?”
Whilst the annexe stands today converted to flats but still an interesting feature on Poole Road, the Bourne Hall Hotel, on the corner of Queens Road has long gone and been replaced by a plain block of flats.
“Writing, weapon of the watchdog group. Every time Bournemouth is threatened with unnecessary development members of the area’s Civic Society should protest by writing to local and national newspapers, to MPs and local councillors. It was the only effective way open to them in a democracy, said Mr Paul Munro-Walker. He was replying to the toast to the society at their first annual dinner held at the Abbey Mount Hotel. Mr Munro-Walker concluded with a toast to the Society’s president, Sir John Betjeman, whose work over half a century had done much to bring our architectural heritage to the notice of the public. Guest speaker was Mr. David Lloyd, the society’s vice-president and architectural advisor to the Victorian Society.”
Today letter writing, emailing and contacting the decision-makers locally and nationally remains the bedrock of the Society’s campaigning work. Annual lunches of the society disappeared for many of its middle years but today talks, visits and an annual summer garden party and a Christmas Lunch are fixtures on the calendar and serve good use in keeping members together and informed on campaigns as well as raising much needed funds. Conservation Areas were created in the Town Centre only in the 1990’s but the areas and buildings highlighted by the Society form the core of these areas.
Across in Southbourne in 1974:
“A compromise plan has been put forward by Bournemouth Civic Society in an attempt to save an outstanding listed house from being demolished to make way for old people’s flats. The building, Foxwood, 108 Belle Vue Road, Southbourne could be used for the wardens flat and communal facilities linking with new flats to be built nearby. The proposal was put forward by Mr. Ian Dickins, the societys planning adviser, during the second day of a public enquiry at the Town Hall. He said the society objected to the demolition proposal and wanted their linked building scheme to be considered by the Environment Secretary.
Mr. Dickins said the house was built in 1903 for a doctor by a local architect, Joseph Brewerton. It was an example of the typically English arts and crafts style. The Victorian Society had stated that the house was of exceptional architectural interest and quality.”
The inspector and Environment Secretary clearly did not share this view and so the house was allowed to be demolished and replaced by flats. Thankfully very few listed buildings now suffer the same fate but it is interesting to recall that in these former times even listed buildings fell prey regularly to demolition rather than creative conversion or re-use.
“Bournemouth’s two town centre subways, on which work is just beginning, will bring added safety to the Square area for the next two decades, said a Town Hall spokesman commenting on yesterday’s assertion by the Bournemouth and District Civic Society that the subways would not be needed.”
So reports the Echo on 22nd January 1974 on features that indeed lasted more than 20 years before being filled in as part of later pedestrianisation works.
“The Society had pointed out it was the long term objective to have the central area traffic free. The Town Hall statement said it had always been considered public transport and other essential service vehicles would be allowed in the town centre. In the meantime, the subways would, because of the considerable flow of vehicles and pedestrians, give the pedestrians protection. They would speed up movements in the area and lessen the likelihood of accidents.”
As noted earlier, the Society took an interest in matters outside of Bournemouth and the “and District” in its name stretched regularly to Poole. However in April, soon after Bournemouth and Christchurch became part of Dorset, an article appeared in The Echo under the title of “You ‘Ampshire hupstarts keep yer noses hout of are ‘arbour” and continued in dialect and concluded : “So I warn yer, Civic Society, keep yer nose out o’ Poole affairs or you’ll vind 5000 yatchtsmen mustering at the old County Gates, to say nuthin’ of the Poole Pirates.”
1975 saw the Society taking part in events to celebrate European Architectural Heritage Year and it organised a conference at the Russell-Cotes Museum in October. It dealt mainly with the built environment in the towns of South East Dorset but also went out to the nearby rural landscape including Badbury Rings, Gussage Down, Tyneham and Winfrith Heath.
In 1976 a “Save Cottage Plea” report noted that:
“Another group have joined the battle to try and save a country cottage in the middle of urban Winton. They are the Bournemouth and District Civic Society who are supporting a local ratepayers’ association who have opposed the demolition of the cottage at Smithfield Place. The Civic Society have written to the Town Hall objecting to a plan by Melson Wingate Ltd to extend their factory, which would involve the demolition of the cottage. They describe the cottage as an attractive building, stated by the occupier to be in acceptable condition (though it has had a tarpaulin on the roof).”
March 1977 saw the Society continuing its campaign for conservation areas in the town centre, something it would eventually succeed in, but not for many years:
“Victorian guest houses on Bournemouth’s West Cliff and “building society row” along the town’s Old Christchurch Road should become part of town conservation areas, the 200 member Bournemouth Civic Society proposed”.
An accompanying by-line also reported:
“The Society also gave their opinion on the Triangle and the Tregonwell Road and Terrace Mount areas. Ten years ago, they say, the Triangle would perhaps have been suitable for the protection of a conservation area. Neglect had however brought it down to a position from which, without great expense, it could not be raised to its former beauty. They suggest having a garden in the centre. Tregonwell Road and Terrace Mount had been blighted by thoughtless planning. It had been a mistake to demolish the old Fox Inn and the black box which had replaced it was no compensation.”
A month later The Echo reported on a tree planting activity by the Society:
Bournemouth and District Civic Society have planted what they hope will be a vandal-proof tree. They haven’t gone as far as putting a huge fence round their tree by the War Memorial in Bournemouth Gardens. It was more of a question of vandal psychology. Planting the tree out of the immediate reach of vandals, yet still appearing attractive to the discerning passer-by, was the ideal solution decided the society.”
This was the first of several environmental projects to be supported by the Society. In future years, working with the Council’s Parks and Countryside staff and local residents’ groups it planted spring bulbs in Horseshoe Common, planted trees in Seafield Gardens, cleared shrubs and litter from Iford Meadows and Alum Chine and working with Bournemouth Heart Club built steps at Millhams Mead.
Boscombe’s imposing Victorian Police Station has long since been replaced by a functional, modern building. However the loss of the original did not go without comment for, as reported in August:
“Demolition of Boscombe’s Gloucester Road police station and the building of a new station would be a waste of public money, Bournemouth Civic Society claim.”
The Society was later that year again interested in the fate of a building in Poole. One that is now only commemorated in the name of the large townhouse development that bears its name:
“The Victorian Wagnerian fantasy, Cerne Abbas, in The Avenue, Poole, comes under the auctioneer’s hammer on December 14 and the Civic Society is determined to see that the building is saved from the developers. The building is being auctioned by Rumsey and Rumsey at the Queen Hotel, Bournemouth and there are two plans for it.
The first would involve demolition so that four blocks of flats can be built; the other allows for three blocks of flats with the building being kept as a nursing home.”
The following year the Society was unhappy with Council plans for the new Pier Approach building, still with us today:
“Bournemouth’s Civic Society have hit out at the Council’s £800,000 plan for a leisure centre complex at the Pier. “The whole concept of the use of the building seems to be of a cheap and vulgar nature which is quite out of keeping with the reputation as a first-class resort which Bournemouth has been trying to re-aquire during the last two years.” Said Mr. Paul Munro-Walker, co-chairman of the Society. And members of the Civic Society “strongly urged” that the plans be submitted to the Royal Fine Arts Commission for comment and advice as was done with proposals for the Bournemouth Conference Centre. “Bournemouth surely deserves something better” said Mr. Munro-Walker. “
Early in 1982 an adjacent seafront building facing redevelopment by the Council was of concern to the Society: Pier Approach Baths. Curiously, thirty years on, the Waterfront complex and IMAX building now occupying its site, may soon to also be demolished by the current Council :
“Bournemouth and District Civic Society have thrown their weight behind the campaign opposing any development of the Pier Approach baths. The council plan to sell the baths to help finance the controversial conference centre on the West Cliff. But protestors feel the new leisure pool included in the conference centre will not replace the existing baths for competition or teaching. Mr. Paul Munro-Walker, chairman of the Civic Society said he was opposed to the redevelopment of the site for residential use. It would be a private scheme out of keeping with the public nature of the pier and gardens. He said he felt the baths were a social asset and would not be replaced by plans for the leisure pool at the centre which was “little more than a plunge bath”.
1981 saw the Council unveiling its latest plans for a Conference Centre, now with us in a slightly revised form as the Bournemouth International Centre, these latest plans like their predecessors not impressing the Civic Society. In January:
“Civic Society slam the centre plan. Architectural aspects of plans for a multi-purpose centre on Bournemouth’s West Cliff have been criticised by Mr. Paul Munro-Walker, chairman of Bournemouth and District Civic Society. Mr Munro-Walker says “we are not in the least impressed by the standard of design. It is infinitely inferior to that prepared some years ago for public inquiry by Sir Robert Matthew.” There could be grounds for objection in massive treatment of the Exeter Road façade; overwhelming and mediocre effect of the timesharing flats at the front of the cliff; the proposal to demolish the Pier Approach Baths for replacement by flats. The baths were an integral part of the Pavilion design which they reflect and complement”
And in May:
“Centre plan lacks artistic merit. Plans for the multi-purpose centre on Bournemouth West Cliff seemed to constitute over-development and lacked artistic merit. That was one of the comments made on the Borough Council scheme made at a meeting of Bournemouth and District Civic Society, which backed the call for a referendum the centre.”
1982 saw good news with The Echo Office, Richmond Hill and Palace Court Hotel, Westover road becoming listed buildings:
“The Echo office and the Palace Court Hotel were at the request of the Bournemouth and District Civic Society added by Bournemouth planning committee to the town’s list of buildings regarded as being of special architectural interest. Members were told the two buildings were typical of the 1930s.
Other buildings suggested for listing but not taken up at this stage were the Westover Ice Rink – “they don’t build them like that any more,” said planning officer Mr. Peter Challen: the Pavilion “its an important building” said Cllr Lionel Bennett”: and the Kingsleigh First School annexe in Kinson Road, put forward by Cllr Bennett and Cllr Mrs Jill Bryant.
A building that suffered a far worse outcome was Holy Trinity Church that had been of concern to the Society for many years. In 1981 the Echo reported:
“Another Victorian B’mouth landmark to go? Holy Trinity Church tower in Bournemouth’s Old Christchurch Road is to come down, the church commissioners have announced. But Bournemouth Civic Society and the national Victorian Society are now preparing to make a final stand to try and save the tower which survived a fire over two years ago.”
By October 1983 further plans for the former church site were being reported in The Echo:
“Plans for offices on the site of Bournemouth’s old Holy Trinity Church in Old Christchurch Road have been criticised by Bournemouth and District Civic Society. But the design team responsible for the block call it an architectural statement worthy of a prestigious site, though their leader Mr. Donald Snape does not think newspaper columns are the right place for the debate. Civic Society Chairman Cllr. Paul Munro-Walker said the new plan meant the site being overdeveloped and losing its amenity value. The society thought it out of sympathy with the “elegant Italianate” look of the road and this was the wrong place for a large office block. Mr. Snape said his building fitted well into the area. The site was an urban one, and it formed the logical conclusion of the buildings stretching down from the Lansdowne. The road was visually complex, with the height of buildings varying enormously. The building was not intended as a pastiche of the Victorian style of most of Old Christchurch Road’s buildings but it used the rhythm of these buildings and would look elegant. “
These offices were eventually built and remain today. Donald Snape subsequently designed the Westover Road Tourist Information Centre and the renovation and extension of the Norfolk Hotel, Richmond Hill. Both these schemes were welcomed by the Society. Mr Snape eventually became a member of the Society but sadly died soon afterwards.
In August 1986 The Echo reported on the Society’s concerns with the fate of many important buildings in the town, one of which, the central railway station, was to involve many years of campaigning before success was achieved:
“More of Bournemouth’s best buildings are under threat of demolition or defacement, said Cllr. Paul Munro-Walker and that is symptomatic of ills which make him very concerned over the town’s future. “The whole thing has got seriously out of control” he said, “Bournemouth is taking on much more than it can handle in the way big schemes. The general public are very dissatisfied with what is happening, even if they can’t articulate their worries”. He spoke after a meeting of Bournemouth and District Civic Society of which he is chairman, decided to object to some plans for important changes. One is the British Rail application to demolish Bournemouth’s 100 year old Central Station to which he confirmed that the Victorian Society are also objecting. “This is Bournemouth’s largest listed building, not counting the churches”, said Paul. “British Rail have not put in any indication of what will replace it but their track record – if I can put it like that – certainly isn’t very good.” He said Weymouth’s Victorian station had just been replaced with a building that was a kind of Victorian pastiche, Poole’s resembled a set of Portakabins and the Southampton station redevelopment was “a mess.” He deplored the loss of the Linden Hall Hotel to a block of flats whose design he dislikes and the demolition of Porchester School’s old building, while he is very concerned over prospects for the college and library buildings at the Lansdowne.”
The during 1986 and 1987 much effort was put in by the Civic Society to persuade the Council to designate Conservation Areas in town where interesting and attractive, but unlisted, buildings were otherwise being demolished and replaced by uninspiring blocks of flats.
Having been successful in lobbying for Conservation Areas in Talbot Village, Throop and Holdenhurst and Wick and the Town Centre, the leafy suburbs of East Cliff, West Overcliff Drive, Talbot Woods & Meyrick Park and The Saints (off Wimborne Road) together with the late marine terrace at Undercliff Drive were all now promoted for protection. Working with the local residents Association’s in these areas the Society urged the Council to recognise the special character of each area and after time success was achieved.
July 1987 also saw the Society organising its first series of members’ visits to local country houses. These trips originally organised by Ken Mantock, then Penny Rigby-Hall, Gail Crawford and now Beryl Parker and Keith Barnes have grown enormously in scope and number. Now a full range of visits, talks and lunches are arranged that not only keep members involved and entertained but also raise most of the funds needed to cover cost of running the society’s campaigning work. In 1987 the Echo reports:
“A tour of Chettle House at Blandford marked the first of a series of visits to local architectural and historic sites by the Bournemouth and District Civic Society. The group were the guests of owner, Mr. Patrick Bourke. Further excursions are planned to Longford Castle and Edmondsham House, by the architectural conservation society.”
However throughout the period when the East Cliff Conservation Area was being considered by the Council a rash of redevelopment schemes came forward – one building, Bournewood, in Knyveton Road, actually being demolished in a day with services still connected to beat the new planning protection.
“Bournemouth and District Civic Society has been accused of “sticking its nose in other people’s business” by an angry hotelier who wants to sell his property” reported the Echo in August 1987. “ The confrontation came as Civic Society Secretary Mr. Kenneth Mantock showed the Echo the three hotels in Manor Road, which could be demolished to make way for up to 108 flats. The site visit followed a letter he wrote to the borough planning officer. Emergate Ltd wants to knock down Chinewood Hotel, Manor House Hotel and Highclere Hall Hotel. The Civic Society is anxious the Victorian character of the area will be lost only to be replaced by three modern blocks of flats. Mr. Mantock said: “What makes them so special is that there are three of them and they do make a marvellous group together. Its not just their individual importance, its their importance as a group.”
All three of these character buildings remain – two having be extensively refurbished and converted to luxury private apartments whilst the other more modestly renovated and converted to flats. Across the road the fate of the former Cliff End Hotel, empty and neglected for a decade is a real concern today in 2012.
Westward along the clifftop, success was achieved in October with the Council designating the West Overcliff Drive Conservation Area, encompassing West Overcliff Drive, McKinley Road, Milner Road and parts of West Cliff Road.
In April 1988 the Civic Society was also pleased to learn that another batch of buildings it had suggested for national protection by becoming listed buildings had been recognised as such:
“The news that six local landmarks have been granted Grade Two listed status has been welcomed by local campaigners. The buildings, which include Bournemouth Law Courts and the 100 year old fire station, will now be preserved for future generations. High on the Department of the Environment’s conservation list is East Cliff United Reformed Church in Holdenhurst Road. Mr. Ken Mantock, secretary of Bournemouth Civic Society, said: “ It’s very good news. Now the bulldozers can’t just come along and raze the buildings to the ground.” The properties have been listed because of their architectural, historical or technical flair. “It is a way of protecting and safeguarding buildings which are of regional and national importance.” Said Mr. Mantock. Also saved from the threat of development are three private houses in St. Anthony’s and St. Winifred’s Roads. “
Come May, alternative plans for the seafront site then known as “Golden Acres” and now largely occupied by the Waterfront/IMAX complex were on public display. Schemes from several developers were shortlisted by the Council and the Echo reported that:
“Civic group slam plan. Bournemouth’s architectural watch-dogs have described the De Vere/MAS plan for the town’s seafront as a giant “inverted hypodermic needle.” The influential Bournemouth and District Civic Society has come out in favour of Ladbroke’s plans for the multi-million pound refurbishment of the town’s Pavilion and seafront area. But Chairman Mr Paul Munro-Walker said that while recognising that the Pavilion needed refurbishing, he felt that the town would have been served better had the company included more than its 500-seater plan. Mr Munro-Walker also criticised the lack of information available to the public at the exhibition showing the proposals. He dismissed the scheme from De Vere/MAS, who come up with a £40 million proposal. He said: “The De Vere scheme looks like an inverted hypodermic needle, it is a non-starter as far as I’m concerned.”
In June a well illustrated feature in the Echo reported:
“Praise the best and pillory the worse – that’s the simple message from Bournemouth Civic Society after scanning the acceptable and unacceptable faces of recent developments in the town. Among the worst according to the Civic Society chairman Mr. Paul Munro-Walker are the Linden Hall luxury flats which replaced the Linden Hall Hotel in Christchurch Road, Boscombe. He calls them “outrageously ugly.”
On the credit side, the refurbished Norfolk Royale Hotel on Richmond Hill is a success with the Civic Society. “The additions have enhanced the original” Mr. Munro-Walker says. Also a hit is the new Epiphany Primary School at Muscliff designed by the county architect. The octagonal shaped roofs and use of wood make it a cut above the rest, according to the Civic Society. The recently restored Bournemouth Arcade recreates “a wonderful Victorian environment” they say.
The Civic Society also praise three of the town’s most controversial new buildings: McCarthy & Stone’s “wireless-shape” headquarters in St. Paul’s Road, the new Bournemouth General Hospital with its distinctive blue roofs and the Littledown Sports Centre with its huge curving timber roof span.
The four most “blighted” areas of Bournemouth, according to the Civic Society, start with the Lansdowne viewed from the Central Station “dominated by inhuman office blocks.” Then there is the seafront by the Bournemouth International Centre with its “sprawling” brick walls, The Triangle “crying out for regeneration” and Avenue Road overshadowed by the multi-storey car park. The best of Bournemouth is the West Overcliff Drive peninsula which has survived several recent challenges to the Conservation Area, the original villages of Throop and Holdenhurst and the model 19th century estate of Talbot Village. The Victorian facades in Old Christchurch Road may actually be enhanced by the new Dalkeith Arcade development and the Poole Hill/St. Michael’s Road area has retained much of its original character. Mr. Munro-Walker’s simple message is that if town planners encourage more of the good and discourage more of the bad, then Bournemouth will get better buildings.”
In August the Echo reported that the Civic Society was “Seeking out the jolly red phone boxes” and later secured the listing of the four K6 phone boxes adjacent Lansdowne College and two at the Central Railway Station. Most others in town were unfortunately removed by British Telecom and replaced by modern equivalents that critics rightly said resembled shower cubicles. The same month the Echo noted:
“Conservation watchdogs have joined the fight against the controversial Meyrick Park sports and leisure complex. The Bournemouth and District Civic Society has thrown its weight behind local residents fighting the £5m sports and leisure development and is threatening to take Bournemouth Council to the local government ombudsman over the issue. Objectors, spearheaded by Meyrick Park East Ratepayers and Residents Association, claim the council did not consult residents properly and is trying to challenge the Council’s decision in the courts. “A delightful park of natural beauty is likely to be destroyed. Allow this to happen here and then somewhere else and we eventually wake up to the fact that we have destroyed our environment,” said Reg Read, chairman of the Civic Society.”
In September the neglect of listed buildings in Throop were featured in the Echo:
“Bournemouth conservationists are demanding urgent action from the council in a bid to preserve two listed buildings at Throop. Bournemouth and District Civic Society say Throop House and The Piggery are being allowed to decay.”
Later the same month a small article headed “Probe Civic Society Call” appeared in The Echo with a Bournemouth councillor taking a swipe :
“British Rail and the Bournemouth and District Civic Society both came in for criticism when Dorset Planning Committee discussed the idea of making the railway from the Hampshire border to Bournemouth more attractive to look at. Members stressed that people were more interested in having trains giving a good service than looking at the view.
Dorset Planning Committee Chairman Miss Sylvia Dunscumbe said they would be meeting British Rail representatives in about six weeks and would warn BR in advance that they wanted to discuss the standard of train service. Cllr. Cyril Dyer said one of the blots on the railway landscape was Bournemouth Station. This was not BR’s fault – it was because the station had been made a listed building. Cllr. Miss Dunscumbe suggested the committee should “ask the Civic Society about it.” They had opposed the demolition of the present building and the building of a new station. Cllr. Mrs. Margaret Hogarth suggested the committee should “investigate” the Civic Society. They were, she believed, “about five people with masses of paper and nothing to do.”
In October 1988 HRH The Prince of Wale’s made his famous “carbuncle” speech and decried the state of current architectural standards in the UK. The Echo sought local views on this and so the Society gave a local perspective under the banner headline of
“Civic group believe they need champion like Prince Charles to tackle the march of the “ugly monsters””.
“Architectural “monsters” marching across the Bournemouth skyline have convinced local conservationists that they need a champion like Prince Charles. His criticisms seem to have struck a chord with Bournemouth Civic Society. Secretary Ken Mantock said: What the Prince said about modern architecture is borne out from experience and common sense.”
And in December another new office block in the Lansdowne was reported in the Echo as upsetting the Civic Society:
“A giant new mirror-glass office block planned for Bournemouth by Abbey Life has been slammed as “a second-rate Dallas” by a tope conservationist. The 100ft high, seven storey tower will be covered in blue or green tinted mirror-glass and, if given the go-ahead by planners on Monday, will become Abbey Life’s headquarters. “The use of mirror-glass is ten years out of date and even when it was new, it wasn’t any good,” said Mr Paul Munro-Walker, chairman of the town’s Civic Society. He’s called on planners to throw out the scheme – planned to be built on ground opposite the insurance present HQ in Holdenhurst Road. “It’s unimaginative and will look totally out of place. It’s a second-rate Dallas and it’s the type of third-rate architecture we are only too used to getting here in Bournemouth.”
January 1989 saw the fate of one of Bournemouth’s oldest buildings, outside of the rural River Stour villages, hitting the headlines:
“The imposing Douglas House Hospital at Southbourne, finally reaches the end of an era later this month – but the future of the building is still not certain. The remaining 28 geriatric patients are to be moved out on January 21 and transferred to Christchurch. But the debate over the building itself is set to continue for many months to come. And although Dorset Health Authority wants to demolish the building – parts of which date back to the 18th century – objectors have pledged not to give in without a fight.
Bournemouth Civic Society has made repeated protests about the plans to clear the site to make way for sheltered housing units and flats. The east wing was originally part of Stourfield House, a Georgian mansion built in 1776. The main part was constructed in the late Victorian period and although not listed, is nevertheless reminiscent of a grand mansion. The health authority has already gained planning permission to build a unit for 25 mentally handicapped adults at the rear of the building. It was also proposed to construct 85 flats and 51 sheltered housing units but this was recently turned down by the local council. District estate manager for the health authority, Mr Keith Hesketh said this had been on the grounds of density and negotiations were now going ahead to achieve an acceptable reduced number. He envisaged that a new planning application would be submitted in the next four to five weeks. Mr Hesketh confirmed that the Authority still wanted to demolish the main building. “There is no place for it in our scheme – it does not lend itself to conversion,” he said.”
Douglas House was subsequently demolished and its entire grounds, including the lawned grounds that faced Southbourne Road, built upon. Douglas Mews, a small estate of linked and terraced houses, together with a block of flats to which is fitted the grand sweeping staircase of Stourfield House, now occupy the site. The purpose-built home for mentally handicapped adults referred to in the report was built adjacent to Ravenscourt Road but was closed several years ago and is still being marketed for reuse/redevelopment.
Problems with historic buildings in Throop village were reported again in April to be of concern to the Civic Society. This time though the Society was becoming more strident in demanding action from the Council since owners continued to do little to care for their properties. Also in April the Echo reported that the Society was organising a public meeting on new plans centred on the Triangle and controversially including a road bridge over Central Gardens linking Avenue Road and Bourne Avenue near the War Memorial:
“Ambitious plans for the redevelopment of the Triangle at Bournemouth have prompted a Civic Society open meeting. And organisers hope as many interested people as possible will turn out on Tuesday 25th April to hear more details from the developers. Guardian Royal Exchange Properties will give an illustrated presentation of their plans and answer questions at the Grove Hotel from 8pm. “With the possible demolition of the ugly multi-storey car park, the pedestrianisation of the Square and the construction of a bridge over the Gardens, the impact of this scheme is enormous,” said a Civic Society spokesman.
In May members of the Civic Society and East Cliff & Town Centre Resident’s Association rolled up their sleeves. As recorded in the Echo:
“Civic society spruces up park. Civic Society members collected dozens of sacks full of empty bottles and cans in a clean-up campaign to mark national Environment Week. They spent about four hours at Bournemouth’s Horseshoe Common at the weekend. Secretary Ken Mantock said: “We felt that Horseshoe Common had been neglected for a long time so we told the Council we wanted to clean it up as our practical exercise for environment week. We collected a substantial amount of rubbish, all of which could easily be taken home instead of left on the common.”
The same month saw the Echo report a return of David Lloyd, the Society’s President to town as guest speaker at a dinner held at the Bournemouth International Centre hosted by Civic Society Chairman Reg Read, former literary companion to founding President Sir John Betjeman:
“The importance of Bournemouth keeping its green spaces has been emphasised by the president of Bournemouth Civic Society. Mr David Lloyd, who was speaker at the Society’s annual dinner, and described Bournemouth as one of the first garden cities. ”
In August 1989 the campaign by the Civic Society and the Throop & Muscliffe Residents’ Association to seek maintenance and improvement of listed buildings in Throop gained some high level support as the Echo duly reported:
“David Atkinson, MP for Bournemouth East, went on a “green walkabout” on Friday in a bid to draw attention to some of the town’s most neglected buildings. During his walkabout at Throop he inspected buildings dating back to the 15th century, accompanied by members of Bournemouth Civic Society and the local residents’ association. Both groups are worried about the state of the listed buildings. Ken Mantock, Secretary of the Civic Society, said that they were so concerned, they had invited the Planning Committee to look at the situation, “but we did not hear anything.”
A few months later the Echo reported that the momentum for action in Throop was being maintained by the Society:
“A five-point plan for the protection of Throop Village and its surrounding green belt has been drawn up by Bournemouth and District Civic Society. At a meeting attended by MP David Atkinson, members of the Society decided that the Conservation Area and environment should be enhanced and protected. They highlighted the need for a comprehensive planning strategy and the protection of listed buildings and the character of the area. Solutions to problems associated with increased tourism were needed said society members. They called for the preservation of Throop, Holdenhurst and Muscliff villages as a united rural locality, deserving protection from urbanisation. Members also advised the designation of a definitive green belt following the line of the proposed Castle Lane relief road.”
With issues causing concern across town the Society took its message to a wider audience by producing and distributing a leaflet to thousands of homes. The Echo in October reports:
“The Bournemouth and District Civic Society is mounting what it calls “a wide-scale information project” to bring opposition to council-sponsored development plans. Society secretary Kenneth Mantock claims: “If ever there was a time when the town was awash with potentially ruinous plans, it is now.” “Therefore we must speak out against this tidal wave of spoiling development,” said Mr Mantock. The Civic Society has already voiced its opposition against plans to build a new sports complex at Meyrick Park and a new golf course at Hengistbury Head, but has not yet commented on the proposed Boscombe Overstrand leisure complex. The Society is printing about 5000 leaflets, detailing its concerns, to be distributed around the town.”
1990 saw Town Centre developments regularly exercising the Society’s interest, early in January:
“Traders in Bournemouth are dropping their opposition to a multi-million shopping re-development scheme. The Triangle Traders’ Association is now backing the £100m GRE shopping scheme after the developers agreed to demands for more pedestrianisation. But the Bournemouth Civic Society is calling on the developers to improve on the current “bland and boring” design. And the scheme still faces opposition from local bus companies who claim the development will reduce the number of town centre bus stops. The development involves a 370,000 sq ft shopping centre between the Triangle area and the Square.”
The same month “Row looms over threat to listed building” appeared in the Echo, it continued:
“Conservationists and developers in Bournemouth are poised to clash over the fate of one of the town’s Victorian hotels. Members of the town’s Civic Society have launched a fight to save the Merville Hotel which is set to disappear as part of the Terrace Mount car park and flat re-development unveiled this week. Society secretary Kenneth Mantock said the listed building was “a part of old Bournemouth” and should be preserved.”
In February the Echo reported that the GRE scheme had been approved by the Council along with another shopping development on the former bus station site in Exeter Road. This latter scheme was never to see light of day and plans for a cinema, leisure and shopping centre were subsequently approved in the 1990’s and a further revised scheme has been very recently approved by the Council.
February also saw comment on a vast thirteen storey development of over 400 flats on the Terrace Mount site which included a road tunnel carved under the site linking Exeter Road and Terrace Road which would, with the GRE scheme’s bridge over the Gardens, allow the pedestrianisation the Square. Whilst the Society was sympathetic to the enhancement of the Square and pedestrianisation it opposed to the Terrace Mount scheme :
“A controversial property development in Bournemouth town centre may sail through the planning process – because the borough desperately needs the developer’s cash, claims a rival developer. A senior Tory councillor yesterday confirmed that the borough was hoping to persuade the developers of a 480-flat project in the town centre to pay for £6 million of roadworks, vital to the pedestrianisation of the Square. But rival developers Eagle Star are accusing the Borough of rushing through the flats scheme, proposed by the Carlton Group on the site of Terrace Mount car park, to get its hands on the vital cash.”
By May the Society’s opposition to the GRE scheme had hardened according the Echo:
“Plans for a bridge over Bournemouth’s Central Gardens will ruin the town oasis, say conservationists. The town’s Civic Society is worried that developers of the huge Triangle shopping complex are going to saddle the beautiful Central Gardens with a squat bridge that will not enhance the area. And the civic conservationists are also concerned that the £160 million shopping complex itself, which will right up against the gardens, is too high.
Civic Society Ken Mantock said a design model of the bridge showed it was “dumpy” and called on the developers, Guardian Royal Exchange, to carry out a design rethink. He also agreed with rival developers Eagle Star that the bridge would make that part of the gardens dark and dank.”
July saw the Society welcoming a smaller scheme for Terrace Mount:
“Revised plans to redevelop the Terrace Mount area of Bournemouth have won the backing of the town’s civic campaigners. Town planners will next week debate new proposals to turn the Terrace Mount car park and adjoining land into a major apartment and commercial complex. The original plans, put forward by the Carlton Group, were condemned by the Bournemouth Civic Society for being too big. And senior Tory Cllr Bill Forman said a model of the development looked like a “barracks”. Ken Mantock, Civic Society secretary, is now welcoming the scheme, particularly for its mixed retail and commercial use. “We think a dull, quiet housing estate inappropriate for our vibrant town centre area,” says Mr. Mantock. But he says the Society wants the Terrace Mount scheme to be linked with the adjoining Winter Gardens concert hall site.”
January 1991 saw the Society’s concerns about Throop again reported in the Echo:
“Bournemouth Borough Council is considering taking legal action against owners of decaying listed buildings in the Throop conservation area. Borough planning officer Inglis Thomson says he will write to the owners of the Malthouse and Throop House after complaints by Bournemouth Civic Society and and Muscliffe councillor Ron Whittaker. Mr Thomson said The Malthouse, which was severely damaged by fire earlier this year had been given 14 days to make emergency repairs. He added that he had also written to the owner of Throop House asking him to remove tipping material from the grounds. A report on the current state of the properties will be put before the borough planning committee on January 14th.”
In June 1991 the new Abbey Life headquarters in Holdenhurst Road, which the Society had objected to in its original form, was opened and the Echo noted:
“Bournemouth’s latest striking office block has earned the praise of some of the town’s toughest critics. Bournemouth and District Civic Society, the scourge of many a new development, have heaped praise on the unusual new Abbey Life headquarters to be opened next week. Ken Mantock, spokesman of the Bournemouth Civic Society praised its “nautical” air, saying it resembled a “beached ocean liner”.
April 1992 saw reports on the Society’s unhappiness with proposals on the East Cliff and in Muscliffe:
“Fresh plans to develop part of Bournemouth’s East Cliff have been condemned by the town’s Civic Society. Borough councillors will next Monday be advised to accept plans for a 25-flat development at 43 Knyveton Road. But Ken Mantock, secretary of the town’s Civic Society, has written to borough planning officers to condemn the scheme as “over-development of the most insipid kind”.
“Plans to build a sports ground in North Bournemouth are running into fresh opposition. Developer Wimpy is applying to turn land off Muscliff Lane into a sports ground for its staff, despite protests from local residents. And now the town’s Civic Society has come out against the scheme saying it is “wholly inappropriate for this site.”
In November real sadness hit the Society with the death of committee member Sidney Kirk during a public inquiry held at the Town Hall:
“A prominent member of Bournemouth Civic Society has died following a heart attack at a public inquiry. Tributes have been flowing in for Sidney Kirk, 73, who collapsed after giving evidence at Bournemouth Town Hall against the widening of Wessex Way. Mr Kirk and his wife Betty, of Southbourne, moved to Bournemouth after he retired as structural engineer for Croydon council. Kenneth Mantock, secretary of the Civic Society said: “He immediately got stuck into local affairs and took a positive role. We have all lost a very dear friend, but also a very doughty campanigner.”
January 1993 brought good news that further Conservation Areas had been created in the town by the Council:
“Plans to give conservation area status to seven areas in Bournemouth have been welcomed by a local civic group. Ken Mantock of the Bournemouth and District Civic Society said the society had been campaigning for the status to be given to Boscombe Spa, Westbourne and Old Christchurch Road for several years.
Bournemouth Council’s town planners have also designated Boscombe Manor, Porchester Road, Dean Park and Churchill Gardens conservation areas.”
Later in the year the Society was supporting plans to convert the historic but sadly decaying Royal National Hospital, to the new Bournemouth Library:
“Bournemouth’s Civic Society has welcomed plans to use the former Royal National Hospital in Bournemouth as a library. The proposal to use the listed building next to the Town Hall is being discussed by residents associations and councillors in the town. A meeting of the society voted unanimously to support the proposal. Vice chairman Graham Teasdill said: “I would far rather have a library in a building which has some dignity and history to it, rather than the last building we saw which would have looked like two ghastly bookends stuck together.”
The Bournemouth Library, originally located within the Lansdowne College building, has several sites proposed for its new home. One was at the corner of Lansdowne and Madeira Roads, now occupied by student accommodation. Another was in the Royal National Hospital but the library eventually ended up and remains at The Triangle in a new purpose-built building. The Royal National Hospital, dating back to 1855, was subsequently very successfully converted to retirement housing. During the same year members returned to Horseshoe Common:
“Bournemouth’s Horseshoe Common is set to bloom with hundreds of bluebells next spring thanks to Bournemouth Civic Society volunteers. They have planted more than 3000 bulbs in a woodland glade on the common. Ken Mantock, the society’s honorary secretary, said:” By rolling up our sleeves and working in partnership with others we can ensure that the town’s assets, both natural and man-made, are conserved and enhanced. This is a perfect example of what the Civic Society stands for and will do for the benefit of the town.”
In September 1993 the Echo reported:
“Heat turned up in incinerator row. Plans to build a new clinical waste incinerator at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital have been attacked by civic watchdogs. Bournemouth and District Civic Society says the site for the proposed plant – which could handle waste from all over the Wessex Region – is too close to nearby homes. Committee member Martin Lovatt claims the incinerator would worsen traffic problems in the area and could add to air pollution in the Bournemouth and Christchurch region.”
Plans for a huge extension to Throop House and its conversion to a nursing home were reported in March 1994:
“Historic Throop House is to be restored and turned into a 40-bed nursing home. The news follows a surprise planning decision which allows the owners to improve the property – although it lies in a green belt protected area. The Grade II listed building in Throop Village is nearly 200 years old but has been empty and in a state of disrepair for several years and has also been attacked by vandals many times. Plans to convert it into a nursing home were turned down by Bournemouth council and the Civic Society.”
Thankfully though, these plans were never implemented and instead the listed riverside dower house was subsequently sold and extensively renovated and returned to use as a family home which it remains today
In July, after several years of the Civic Society and local residents’ association opening up Throop Mill on National Mill Day and some Bank Holidays, thanks to the owners’ permission the following report appeared:
“A mill, which was recorded in the Domesday Book, could be developed as an arts centre say enthusiasts who want to look after it. Throop Mill, has not been used since 1974 when a weir was built on the River Stour, which diverted water away from the millstream. Since then the building has been maintained by the owners, the Heygates milling company, with all the original equipment, except the millstones, still in it. Just over 1000 people turned out last Sunday for the latest open day held at the mill, where an opera singer sang. Organisers hope the open days will inspire people to suggest possible future uses. Another is planned for August 28.”
May 1995 saw the Society supporting a fundraising social event at one of its member’s homes:
“Plants, poetry and prose are a merry mix for garden lovers to sample during an open day at Arnmore House Garden, Home of David Hellewell at 57 Lansdowne Road, Bournemouth, on Sunday May 14th. Three members of Brownsea Open Air Theatre – Barbara Warde, Lin Denning and David Weeks – will be performing scenes from Shakespeare plays during the afternoon. Focal point of the garden with its unusual landscaping is a twin parterre. There will also be stalls, exhibitions and competitions. Proceeds in aid of the International Tree Foundation and the Bournemouth Civic Society.”
Later in the year, following the Hon. Secretary’s election to Bournemouth Council, a recruitment drive was publicised:
“Enthusiastic new members are being sought for the Bournemouth and District Civic Society. The independent, non-political charity gives people the chance to influence future developments in the town and save the best of the past – both buildings and environment. And with the departure of secretary, Ken Mantock, the society has launched a recruitment drive. Chairman Stuart Harrison said: “We want new people, especially younger ones, to join us. We are losing some people from the committee and would like to see, for example, more residents and students become involved because Bournemouth is going to be their town in the future.” He said the current 500 members were all over 30. Losing Mr Mantock from the key position of secretary would be a blow and someone with administrative experience was needed to take over, he added.”
A large, well-illustrated, feature appeared in January 1996 headed “Building civic pride”:
“Few garden lovers will need reminding that Bournemouth received its prestigious Europe in Bloom award in 1995 – but what for this year? On the crest of this unique success, the resort expects a boom year in tourism and trade. Bournemouth Civic Society chairman, the Rev Stuart Harrison, is hoping for a year of consolidation and enhancement in matters of townscape and landscape. “The gardens are part of the town and I think it is a matter of civic pride,” he said. “I agree there should be something to commemorate the town’s success last year. One thing we have supported is the proposal to put in a Victorian fountain in the middle of the Victorian shopping centre.”
Mr Harrison said the Civic Society was mainly concerned with the environmental well-being of the town as a whole and more specifically the need for good quality design in new development. “Our second concern is areas of character. Old houses and sometimes business properties with merit and character need to be retained and perhaps in many cases their original historic setting can be preserved. An example of this would be the development of the East Cliff, which is one of the major conservation areas.” Bournemouth’s fastest period of growth was the late Victorian era, when hundreds of large houses were built, often in extensive grounds, to cope with the influx of visitors to Britain’s premier health resort. “Many of these old houses were taken down in the 1960s and ‘70s and replaced by blocks of flats,” said Mr Harrison. “We may think we see a lot of detached houses in fairly spacious surroundings which was the character of Victorian and Edwardian Bournemouth, but a lot of it has actually gone.
We are about seeing that these villas are protected – but not merely preserved. If there are good cases for redevelopment to take place, then we would like to see new development of good design quality that respects the natural surroundings, neighbouring properties and the standards of the conservation area itself. There are guidelines from the Department of the Environment to actively enhance the conservation area if at all possible – but if the building is not of great merit to put something back which is perhaps better.”
Mr Harrison said one big issue the society fought successfully was for the preservation of Bournemouth’s Victorian railway station, where restoration is now underway. “There was a public inquiry in 1986. We fought with the council against proposals by British Rail and we won the day. Probably because of the recession as much as anything else, there was a degree of sour grapes from BR for a while. The councils weren’t always that positive either.” Mt Harrison said the society was already observing the proposed new AFC Bournemouth football ground in Kings Park to ensure good design.
The following year, 1997, saw members in April again being reported in campaigning for more civic pride:
“A vision for Bournemouth in the new Millennium has been revealed to civic chiefs by the Bournemouth and District Civic Society including demands for a public inquiry into Bournemouth International Airport. In a presentation to development heads at the town hall society chairman Stuart Harrison and other members spelled out how the town could regain its “civic pride” amongst ordinary people of the town”.
Among the wide range of initiatives suggested in the report is a demand for an investigation into noise pollution from the airport which, the society says, has reached epidemic proportions. The report says: “The continuous drone of gratuitous flights of light aircraft over the town is wittingly and unwittingly a contempt of the town and its residents. The kindest response of the airport to date seems to be that if people choose to live near an airport, they must expect noise.”
Other suggestions in the document entitled “Back to Bournemouth – Pulchritudo et Salubritas” include: soundproofing of Wessex way and Horseshoe Common; introducing free park and ride schemes and extending and encouraging the use of bicycle path; painting town bridges and roundabouts; developing a centre for modern art in the town.
Mr Harrison said the initiatives were designed to be worked on in conjunction with the borough council and other organisations such as the Chamber of Trade. “It is the small things that accumulate to make a big impact on the visitor. We want to make the town more attractive and give it a lift. Bournemouth is a transient place, with lots of elderly residents and youngsters. The society would attempt to build up more of an identity.” Peter Challen, Director of Development Services said that he had circulated the report to all members and was awaiting their replies before responding.”
The same day in the Echo, 18th April, a letter appeared from the Civic Society’s Chairman regarding Council plans for the Winter Gardens:
“We have read the letters in the Echo last week regarding the Winter Gardens and see that the killjoys are alive and well. Many developers apparently avoid this town because of negativism and indecision and might be expected to continue to do so if such attitudes prevail. The Bournemouth Civic Society, which is not only concerned with conserving the best of the past, welcomes new and exciting developments such as the present Winter Gardens proposal. It is welcomed as the proposal is, in principle, but we do have a number of reservations. We are concerned that the development appears somewhat dense and we look for the detailed design not being visually overbearing. There needs to be a traffic management scheme for the development and good cycle pathways and storage facilities to encourage the use of cycles and discourage cars. On such a prominent site there needs to be a first class landscaping scheme which will frame and soften the look of the buildings. Probably our prime concern, however, is the essential retention of the Winter Gardens’ acoustic properties, which have been the reason for saving it. As it is, the proposals envisage extensive works which are more than mere refurbishment and could substantially alter its acoustic qualities. This is the real concern, most of the other issues are largely matters of detail.”
Thus ends this first 25 year scan of the activities of the Civic Society as recorded in the pages of the Echo. The cut off date is not arbitrary as it represents the years where most easily accessible files are available topic by topic in the Echo clippings archives. Thereafter with modern newspaper production practices and a move of the printing processes out of town such detailed archives are no longer kept in this manner.
However an overview of many campaigns and activities from the following decade and a half follows in subsequent pages of this booklet continuing the Civic Society’s history right up to date. But first probably the most important single campaign the Civic Society has been involved in.