What connection do The Beatles, the Oscars, Jack the Ripper, Frankenstein, and the ‘World’s Best Beaches’ have to the south coast town of Bournemouth in the UK?
We’ll be honest right from the start. We love our home county of Dorset more than anywhere else in the world! It’s so spectacularly beautiful that coming home is never a hardship. Does this mean that we’re biased in the articles we write about our home? Probably. But should you listen to us anyway? Definitely!
Bournemouth is the largest town in Dorset. On the south coast of England, Bournemouth has always been a popular beach holiday destination for us Brits. Its international reputation is growing, however, and rightly so. With two international airports within a 35 mile radius of the town (Bournemouth International and Southampton International), and good transport links to London, it’s not a difficult place to get to. If Bournemouth is not somewhere you’ve thought of visiting before, this list of 10 interesting facts about the town may make you think differently.
#1 Bournemouth Beach is officially one of the best beaches in the world
If you’re planning a beach holiday then you want to go to a good beach, right? Actually, forget ‘good’, you want to go to a great beach, right? No, wait a minute, this is your precious annual leave we’re talking about. If you have limited time to travel and you’re yearning for the beach why not go to one of the best beaches in the world?!
Hello Bournemouth Beach!
Don’t just take our word for it, take it from Tripadvisor’s 2019 Travellors’ Choice list. Bournemouth Beach has been voted the ‘Best Beach in the UK‘, the ‘6th Best Beach in Europe‘, and the ‘20th Best Beach in the World‘. It beats beaches in the Seychelles and Australia!
It’s not just Bournemouth Beach that is award winning. In other award news, Bournemouth has won the award for ‘Best UK Seaside Town‘ in the British Travel Awards 2019.
Whilst the weather in England is notoriously changeable (yes, yes, we Brits are obsessed with the weather), as far as we’re concerned that’s a bonus when it comes to visiting Bournemouth Beach. Visit Bournemouth on a hot summer day and you’ll be sharing the beach with hundreds, if not thousands, of other people. Go to the beach in the winter, however, and you can have it to yourselves! Here’s the photographic proof!
Dorset’s Coast is varied and parts of it are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the Jurassic Coast). We highly recommend spending time exploring the whole of the Dorset Coast.
#2 The Beatles loved Bournemouth
If you were asked to name places connected to the Beatles you’d definitely say Liverpool. Hamburg and London would also be on the list. Would you say Bournemouth? It’s highly unlikely! But Bournemouth deserves a place on the list. Why?
- Between August 1963 and October 1964 the Beatles played more live gigs in Bournemouth than anywhere else in the UK, outside of London.
- The cover photograph for their second album, With the Beatles (Meet the Beatles in the United States) was shot in the Palace Court Hotel on Westover Road (now a Premier Inn).
- George Harrison wrote his first Beatles song, Don’t Bother Me, whilst in Bournemouth
- John Lennon bought a house for his Aunt Mimi in neighbouring Sandbanks and spent a lot of his time with her there.
#3 One of the leading Jack the Ripper suspects played cricket for Bournemouth
The streets of Whitechapel in London’s East End were a dangerous place to be in 1888, especially for female prostitutes. This is the time when the infamous serial killer, Jack the Ripper, committed his sickening and sadistic murders. It is generally accepted that the killing spree ended abruptly in November 1888, although nobody knows why.
The identity of Jack the Ripper is still unknown to this day. One of the men who the police suspected at the time was Montague Druitt. He was a barrister whose body was found in the River Thames shortly after the last murder. Could the killings have stopped because the killer himself was dead?
You may be wondering what this has to do with Bournemouth? Well, Montague Druitt was born in neighbouring Wimborne Minster and his body now lies in the town’s cemetery. Druitt was a keen cricket player and played for various teams in Dorset, including the Gentlemen of Bournemouth team. In fact, it is cricket that potentially provides him with an alibi for some of the murders. Around the time of some of the murders he was playing cricket in Bournemouth and it has been said that it is therefore unlikely that he travelled between Bournemouth and Whitechapel. Who knows. Looking at the dates of the murders and the cricket matches it certainly isn’t impossible for him to have travelled between the two places [insert your own joke about transport links in the late-1800s being better than they are today, here].
There is a further link between Bournemouth and Jack the Ripper. The police officer who led the investigation into the crimes at the time is Inspector Frederick Abberline (portrayed by Johnny Depp in the film From Hell and by Clive Russell in the TV series Ripper Street). Inspector Abberline retired in 1904 and moved to Bournemouth, living at 195 Holdenhurst Road. He died in Bournemouth in 1929 and, coincidentally, is buried in the same cemetery as Montague Druitt.
#4 Bournemouth used to be in Hampshire, not Dorset
Bournemouth is situated in the stunningly beautiful county of Dorset, but it hasn’t always been that way. The town was founded in 1810 by Lewis Tregonwell and was part of Hampshire, until 1974 when it became part of Dorset as a result of a local government re-organisation.
#5 Bournemouth knows how to put on a good festival
Bournemouth Air Festival
Every year in August Bournemouth puts on the biggest air show in the UK: the Bournemouth Air Festival. The Festival lasts for four days, starting on a Thursday and ending on Sunday. It’s all centred on the beach between Bournemouth and Boscombe Piers (see #1 above for another reason why Bournemouth Beach is a must visit place) with the flying displays taking place over the sea. To be honest though, calling it an ‘Air Festival’ doesn’t do justice to the events taking place. Yes, there are the flying displays, and lots of them, but, in the words of the Air Festival itself:
As well as flying displays throughout the afternoon and early evening there will be so much more to see across the whole area including a Royal Navy dive tank, unarmed combat displays, cooking demonstrations by Navy chefs, the newly located RAF village, product sampling from a multitude of traders and of course the traditional Funfair.https://bournemouthair.co.uk/whats-on/
The phenomenal Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, usually display, as well as the Typhoon, Spitfires, Hurricanes, Lancasters, Chinooks, wing walkers, parachute display teams, etc etc etc. It is an absolutely spectacular event. And it’s all for free!
Dates for 2020: 20th August to 23rd August.
Bournemouth 7s Festival
The Bournemouth 7s Festival is the world’s largest sport and music festival. It takes place every year at the end of May, over the Bank Holiday weekend.
If you play rugby, netball, volleyball, hockey, or dodgeball you can get a team together and enter one of the tournaments. Many people camp over the weekend and fancy dress is encouraged! Around 30,000 people attend each year, whether to compete or to spectate. In the evenings, when the matches have finished, the whole event turns into a music festival (Professor Green was the headline act in 2019). It’s good fun! Although you definitely need stamina to play through the day, and then play through the night!
Christmas Tree Wonderland
Think Bournemouth is just a summer destination, think again! In the winter months the Bournemouth Lower Gardens turn into a magical Christmas Tree Wonderland! Stretching from the seafront through to the town centre are over 100 Christmas Trees, lit spectacularly! But there’s not just trees in this Christmas Tree Wonderland, oh no! There’s a HUGE outdoor ice rink, Alpine bars, street food (the smell of freshly baked churros is intoxicating), and an Alpine themed Christmas Market. And guess…it is all free!
#6 The grave of Frankenstein’s creator is in Bournemouth
The story of Dr Frankenstein and his attempt to create a human being which ended in the creation of a monster, is famous throughout the world. Who hasn’t seen the image that’s synonymous with Frankenstein, the one of an enormous grotesque male with a screw bolted through his neck to hold his head on? Whether it’s Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller starring in a theatrical production; James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe, and Andrew Scott starring in a film; or Sean Bean, Vanessa Kirby, and Anna Maxwell Martin starring in a TV series, it’s easy to find adaptations of the Frankenstein story in the modern media.
But did you know that Frankenstein was created back in the early 1800s by the author, Mary Shelley? Mary was married to Percy Bysshe Shelley (the hugely influential English Romantic Poet), and they were friends of Lord Byron (regarded as one of the greatest English poets of all time). Mary created Frankenstein when she was 18 years old in response to a ghost-story writing competition devised by Lord Byron, and the book was published for the first time when she was 20. Writing such a masterpiece at the tender age of 18 years, that’s some talent!
So, what does the legendary creation of Frankenstein have to do with Bournemouth? The answer, as you may have guessed from the title of this section, is that Mary Shelley is buried in Bournemouth. Her grave is in the graveyard of St Peter’s Church in Bournemouth town centre.
Mary never lived in Bournemouth so why is her grave in one of the town’s churches? It seems that her son, Percy Florence Shelley, had bought a house with his wife in Boscombe, Bournemouth and it is because of this that Mary’s final resting place is where it is. Mary died in 1851 and wanted to be buried with her parents (the philosopher and novelist, William Godwin and the writer and feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft). They were buried in St Pancras, London but, because this was too far from Percy’s home, he had their coffins exhumed and re-buried in St Peter’s graveyard, along with Mary’s coffin.
As an additional twist to the tale, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s heart is also buried in the graveyard of St Peter’s Church. Shelley died at sea in the Gulf of Spezia in 1822, just before his 30th birthday. The argument continues as to whether he was murdered or it was an accidental drowning. But however he died, his decomposed body washed ashore on a beach near Viareggio, Italy a few days later, and, in accordance with Italian regulations, was cremated there. Legend has it that his heart was snatched from the flames by his friend, Edward Trelawny. However his heart came to be separated from the rest of his body, all accounts agree that it is now interred at St Peter’s Church in Bournemouth.
#7 Football is helping put Bournemouth on the world map
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that top footballers and football teams are insanely famous throughout the world. And the English Premier League is the most famous football league (soccer league if you’re American) in the world.
A.F.C. Bournemouth stared financial ruin in the face back in 2008 but it managed to pull off an epic reverse of fortunes. Thanks in no small part to its manager, Eddie Howe (a local boy who went to school in Wimborne), the club was promoted from Football League One to the Championship in the 2011-12 season. It then achieved the seemingly impossible in the 2014-15 season by winning the Championship and earning promotion to the Premier League. In the 2015-16 season A.F.C. Bournemouth played in the English Premier League for the first time!
Prior to the 2015-16 season, whenever someone from another country asked us where we were from and we answered ‘Bournemouth’, we were usually met by a blank stare. Nowadays, it’s different. When people ask us now the response is often ‘ahh, Bournemouth, where the football team are from?’. It’s such a lovely feeling to be somewhere like Barbados or Panama and have someone recognise our home town.
#8 Bournemouth has Oscar winning credentials
Christian Bale won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Fighter at the 2011 Academy Awards. He’s had three other nominations, most recently in 2019 for Best Actor for the film Vice. Guess what…he went to school in Bournemouth, leaving at the age of 16.
At the 2019 Academy Awards the film which won the most Oscars was the Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody. Rami Malik won the award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury. Queen’s drummer, Roger Taylor, was played in the film by the actor, Ben Hardy (who is also known for the role of Peter Beale in the BBC’s British soap opera, Eastenders). Guess what…Ben Hardy was born in Bournemouth.
One of the most successful films at the Oscars of all time is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, nominated in 11 categories and winning all 11. The film is based on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, written by the author JRR Tolkien. Guess what…Tolkien lived in Bournemouth from the 1960s until his death in 1973.
Perhaps best of all, graduates from Bournemouth University have been involved in the visual effects for a number of films nominated for Oscars. For example, some of the University’s graduates won the award for Best Visual Effects in 2014 for the film Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. And in a complete swoop, in 2018 the University’s graduates directly worked on the visual effects for all five films nominated for the Oscar that year (Blade Runner 2049; Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2; Kong: Skull Island; Star Wars: The Last Jedi; and War for the Planet of the Apes).
#9 Bournemouth is home to the world’s favourite orchestra
Bournemouth’s world class reputation extends into the world of music. Not only does it have its own symphony orchestra, in 2014 the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra was voted the ‘World’s Favourite Orchestra’ in a poll by Bachtrack.
The BSO is one of the most recorded orchestras in Britain, but nothing beats hearing it live. Its home is the Poole Lighthouse Concert Hall, but it plays in around 150 concerts a year throughout the South and South West of England. One of the highlights of its program is the spectacular series of Proms in the Park outdoor concerts, performed in Bournemouth’s Meyrick Park. The BSO performs regularly in the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, as well as in venues around the world.
Talking of the BBC Proms, Marin Alsop, the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms, was the principal conductor of the BSO from 2002 to 2008. The appointment was a landmark for British classical music: not only was she the BSO’s first female principal conductor, she was the first female principal conductor of a UK orchestra. It’s fair to describe the BSO as a trailblazing orchestra.
#10 You can stay in the love nest built by a king for his mistress
King Edward VII was the oldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and was on the British throne from 1901 to 1910. He was married to Princess of Alexandra of Denmark and they had six children…but that did not stop him having affairs. One of the women he paid more attention to than he should have done was the actress, Lillie Langtry. Their relationship developed whilst he was the Prince of Wales and, in 1877, he gifted the ‘Red House’ to Lillie. The house was designed by Lillie herself and built in the Victorian style in Bournemouth. She was lucky with its position, on the elegant streets of the East Cliff, close to the sea.
Today, the Red House has become a luxury boutique hotel, Langtry Manor. It retains many of its original features and is stunningly beautiful. The two Heritage Rooms are particularly special, complete with four-poster beds. If you stay in one of these you’ll definitely feel as if you are in a room fit for a king! It’s a special place to visit, whether you are staying the night or going there to eat. If you are going to eat we highly recommend the afternoon tea. We went for a special occasion and they gave us a tour of the hotel and swans made out of meringue with fresh cream as an extra-special treat to help us celebrate!