Infobox UK place
official_name= Boscombe
unitary_england= Bournemouth
lieutenancy_england= Dorset
region= South West England
country= England
latitude= 50.725
longitude= -1.840
map_type= Dorset
constituency_westminster= Bournemouth East
post_town= BOURNEMOUTH
postcode_area= BH
postcode_district= BH1 and BH5
dial_code= 01202
os_grid_reference= SZ115920

Boscombe is a suburb of the much larger Bournemouth. Boscombe is by the sea and it has its own pier, which was built in 1888, with a unique aircraft-wings design added in the 1950s at the entrance which is a listed building.

Geography and administration

The area upon which Boscombe is situated, between the somewhat older village of Pokesdown and Bournemouth Square was part of the great heathland which covered much of western Hampshire, and extended well into eastern Dorset. It has a long sandy beach and Boscombe Cliff Gardens offers views of the bay that stretches around from Hengistbury Head to Bournemouth and to Alum Chine and the entrance to Poole Harbour.

Boscombe was originally an independent settlement, separated from Bournemouth by dense wood and moorland. Boscombe was incorporated into the boundaries of Bournemouth in 1876 (against the wishes of Boscombe residents).


In 1273 a reference is made to "Boscumbe" suggesting that the name may well have derived from the Old English words meaning a 'valley overgrown with spiky plants' perhaps a reference to gorse.cite book
last = Mills
first = A.D.
authorlink = Anthony David Mills
title = Dorset Place-Names: their Origins and Meaning
publisher = Roy Gasson Associates
date = 1986
isbn = 0948495049

Reference to Boscombe is included in Christopher Saxton's 1574 survey made of possible enemy landing places on the coast of Hampshire; this mentions... "Bournemouth within the west baye at Christchurch...We finde more a place called Bastowe within the said Baye". Saxton's map of 1575 shows a Copperas House at Bascomb, referring to the manufacture of copperas or ferrous sulphate which took place in the district, particularly in the last quarter of the 16th century.

At the beginning of the 19th century Boscombe was described as an extensive common covered with furze and heath, more the haunt of smugglers than anyone else.

Boscombe Manor

In 1801 a modest sized house called Boscombe Cottage was built as the residence of Mr Phillip Norris. The Christchurch Inclosures Act 1802 increased the estate size to seventeen acres. This property became the nucleus of the Boscombe Manor Estate.

The large estate owned by Mr Norris changed hands several times during the first half of the 19th century. After Norris's death it was acquired by Robert Heathcote, and on his death the estate was put up for auction The estate was purchased by James Dover, in whose possession it remained until 1841; then it was sold to Major Stephenson.

Stevenson sold the estate in 1849 to Sir Percy Florence Shelley who bought the Boscombe property mainly with the intention of it becoming a home for his mother Mary Shelley, but she died in London on 1st February 1851. Sir Percy and his wife liked the place, and decided to make it their home, dividing their time between Boscombe and their London house at Chelsea.

The house at Boscombe was extensively rebuilt for Sir Percy, and also extended to include a 200 seat (later 300 seats) theatre, to the designs of Christopher Crabbe Creeke, who later became surveyor to the Bournemouth Improvement Commissioners and was responsible for both the layout of much of central Bournemouth's roads, and for several local buildings. It may be noted that the name of the house was changed several times over the years, beginning as Boscombe Cottage, it was then for a time called Boscombe Alcove and then Boscombe Lodge. By Shelley's time it was Boscombe House, and they later renamed it Boscombe Manor. In the present century it was Groveley Manor for many years, taking the name of the school which then occupied it, but now it is known as Shelley Park.

To supplement the existing plantations of pine trees on the estate, Sir Percy added a large number of deciduous trees. There was a drive to the house from the main Christchurch Road, which followed the line of the present Chessel Avenue, and there was a lodge at its entrance. A second entry was from Sea Road, along a roadway flanked with lime trees - the present Percy Road.

By the beginning of the 1860s Boscombe consisted of the Shelley estate and some cottages, one of which is known to have stood at the top of Boscombe Hill, near the present Drummond Road.

From 1865 the development and expansion of the area to the end of the 19th century, and beyond, was very rapid. Starting with a proposal by the Malmesbury Estate to develop the 'picturesque Village of Boscombe Spa' to make available building plots for the erection of marine villas to be let on long leases.

The Spa was related to a natural spring of mineral water containing properties similar to Harrogate which had been discovered near the foot of the hill; this would be available for invalids and could combine the advantages of a Spa with those of sea air and bathing.

The scheme was not implemented; instead about 19 acres of land was obtained by Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, on part of which he built a house for himself named Boscombe Towers, in 1868, Sir Henry became closely associated with the development of Boscombe Spa for a considerable number of years. Wolff sought to develop 'Boscombe Spa' as a resort to rival Bournemouth and it was he who created the Boscombe Chine Gardens. In order to encourage the taking of the mineral water from the spring at the mouth of the Chine, small thatched roof building resembling a summer house was erected over the spring, and for a time this became a fashionable meeting place. The Chine itself was partially laid out and a broad pathway provided. A rustic bridge was constructed across the Chine.

The census of 1871 showed that there was a population of 212 people in 19 houses in the Boscombe Estate, and a further 70 people in 9 houses at Boscombe Spa.

During the 1870’s development of Boscombe was such that the population at the census of 1881 had grown to 1,895 - a more than sixfold increase.

Boscombe Pier

An important development in the establishment of Boscombe as a seaside resort was the building of the pier. A proposal for the pier was launched in 1884, when it felt that this would improve the attractiveness of Boscombe to visitors.

Tenders for the building of the pier were issued and in September 1888 the contract was awarded for £3,813, and for making the pier approach £938. The pier was convert|600|ft|m long, and built in spans of convert|40|ft|m each with a continuous wrought iron girder frame, which carried timber decking convert|32|ft|m wide. The pier head was convert|120|ft|m long and convert|38|ft|m wide, with a landing stage on each side, at which excursion steamers could call. At the entrance were two toll houses with turnstiles. It was opened with considerable ceremony on 29th July 1889 by the Duke of Argyll.

During the decade from 1881 to 1891 Boscombe had grown apace, the population increasing from 1,895 to 6,324.

Further developments were made in the 1890s by Archibald Beckett who was responsible for the Salisbury Hotel (now Greens) in 1890, the Royal Arcade in 1892 and the Theatre (now The Opera House) in 1895.

In a brief span of about 35 years, 1866 - 1901, Boscombe had grown from a few cottages with a handful of people to an established seaside resort with a population in the 1901 census of 9,648.

Boscombe Spa

Boscombe Chine, the ravine breaking through the sandy cliffs, comprised several small valleys draining the land around Boscombe. Several of these originated in Springbourne, but they all eventually confluenced near to Christchiurch Road. The southern end of the chine was laid out as pleasure gardens with a surface water stream as a picturesque feature. Towards the foot of the Chine, near to Sea Road, a chalybeate spring was discovered, no doubt fed by the water draining into the chine. A small thatched hut was erected over the spring and was given the name Boscombe Spa. The water was sufficiently foul-tasting that people would make a special trip to drink the water for any health-giving properties that it may contain. On a small plateau overlooking the Chine and the spring, Sir Henry Drummond Wolff built a residential estate and gave that the name Boscombe Spa too.


One of the few early landmarks was the 'Ragged Cat', a wayside inn dating back to 1850, later renamed to the 'Palmerston' and then 'Deacons'.

Boscombe centre contains some examples of art deco buildings, for example the building now inhabited by Motabitz.

Boscombe is also home to Shelley Manor located in a cliff top suburban area, just off the main shopping district, built in 1801 and once owned by the Shelley family - see Mary Shelley, the area is fairly desirable with many large and attractive houses. The Shelley family were largely responsible for the construction of Boscombe Pier.

Present day

Boscombe is not considered the most upmarket area in the Bournemouth area however the area has improved significantly over the past 5 years. Previously, the presence of drug dealers and high crime rates, along with mainly small and pokey houses have deemed most of the area as unsophisticated. However, with the regeneration plans and new housing developments these problems are diminishing at a considerable pace.

New development of the area around Boscombe was approved under the Boscombe Spa Development Plan in July, 2006. This project will turn the seafront into a spa village complete with an artificial reef that will create 4ft (1.2m) waves. Funding for the development has been made by the sale of the local seafront car park, to Barratt Homes for 169 seafront apartments, at Honeycombe Chine.

The area immediately around Boscombe Pier has seen much new development with a string of luxury flats and houses having being built over the past 5 years. It is possible to surf next to the historic pier, and in 2005 plans were announced to build an artificial surf reef close to the pier. On the 30th October 2005, the pier was closed as it was deemed unsafe. The grade II listed pier entrance building was externally restored in 2007 together with a restoration of the pier neck. New decking, lighting and central windbreak screen was added together with a new 18 square metre viewing platform end section, replacing a derelict amusement hall that once formed the end of the pier. Work finished in January 2008 and the pier is due to re-open to the public in May 2008.

Property prices in the area have increased and with the Boscombe Spa Development Plan going ahead this looks set to continue. There have been quite a few improvements to the area though especially by the coast, where architects have built ultra-modern houses and flats which are becoming popular around many parts of Bournemouth and especially Poole (mainly in the wealthier suburban areas).

In May 2007, for the first time, a property in Boscombe went for sale for £1million. The property was a flat with views of the coast, and was the main headline for the Bournemouth Daily Echo at the time.

Boscombe is also home to AFC Bournemouth who play at Dean Court. Many fans still refer to AFC Bournemouth as Boscombe, a reference to the days of Boscombe St John's. AFC Bournemouth became a more fashionable name during the 1970s but the purists still recognise the legitimate and rightful name as Boscombe St John's. A rallying cry of "Boscombe back of the net" can still be heard on match days.

Boscombe has a thriving street market in the High Street(Christchurch Road pedestrianized zone) on Thursdays and Saturdays. The market has an excellent variety of stalls covering fruit & veg, clothing, mobile phones (accessories & unlocking - one stall even does on the spot repairs!), fresh meat and seafood (the crabs often have names painted on them!). The market is complemented with a good range of high street names and also some independent ones.

Boscombe is sometimes (and not always affectionately) referred to as "Little Liverpool" by locals due to its unusually large Scouse population. There are also large Polish and Scottish communities. Other local nicknames for the suburb include "Bos Vegas" and "The Costa del Dole".


There are a number of initiatives underway to make Boscombe a better place to live, work and visit.The wiki contains information and listings to facilitate this process and to help visitors and new residents find their way around the wealth of initiatives that are going on in and around Boscombe.


* Edwards, Elizabeth, 1998. 'Bournemouth Past'. Phillimore & Co. Ltd.

External links

* [ Boscombe Area Forum Website and Forum Info - Councillors, Council officers,Guest Speakers and residents meeting monthly in Boscombe, independent and funded by Bournemouth Borough Council]
* [ Surf Reef In Boscombe]
* [ Boscombe Surf Reef]
* [ Community website]
* [ Boscalicious The Boscombe Website - For Community, News, Events & Reviews]
* [ based in Boscombe area for discount computer repairs for the regeneration area's residents]
* [ A History of Boscombe]
* [ Boscombe Spa Village Redevelopment]
* [ Shelley Manor]

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