Our beautiful shores and idyllic atmosphere have long attracted a plethora of people to Bournemouth, famous individuals amongst them…
Over the years, Bournemouth’s beauty has accommodated some very influential authors of the past. Including the handful of those described below.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973), most famed for being the author of The Hobbit (1937) and Lord of the Rings (1954), spent a considerable amount of time in Bournemouth in his later life. Although he frequented the neighbouring area of Lyme Regis in his childhood summers, his family always staying at Three Cups Hotel in Broad Street, his connections to Bournemouth were only formed in the post-war years, once he had amassed considerable fame.
Tolkien worked and resided in Oxford, and his address was popular knowledge amongst his fans – many would stop by his house, eagerly wanting their book copies signed, or some would even phone his household, often with no care for time-zone differences. This made Tolkien understandably irritated, and hugely longing for a getaway.
At first, Tolkien and his wife Edith, would only holiday in Bournemouth. Once again, they would always stay in the one place, this time it being the Hotel Miramar on the East Cliff. However, when Edith became increasingly frail, Tolkien closed the door on Oxford, and the couple retired to a modest, now demolished, bungalow that backed onto Branksome Chine, where they lived until Edith died in 1971.
Although Tolkien moved back to Oxford, he would still often stay at Hotel Miramar for his holidays. Tolkien died in Bournemouth, at age 81, on 2nd September 1973.
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
By the mid-to-late 19th century, Bournemouth had become a reputable seaside health resort, attracting rich holidaymakers and invalids alike. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), who had been riddled with inherited weak health all his life, was one of the latter who made his way to Bournemouth in search of treatment.
Stevenson and his wife Fanny settled in the area in 1884, shortly after publishing one of his most famous novels, Treasure Island. First, the couple stayed in the Highcliffe Hotel, then around West Cliff Gardens, and finally, in the renamed Skerryvore, on Alum Chine Road, which was subsequently destroyed in a World War II bombing raid. It was during his residence in Bournemouth, up until 1887, that Stevenson wrote the majority of his works, including the powerful novella, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886).
Unfortunately, the renowned healing qualities of the sea air did not help Stevenson; his condition deteriorated at such a rate that the author rarely saw any of the town but his own house. Finally, in 1887, his physicians deemed him not well enough to stay in Great Britain, and he made his way to the United States, where he lived until his premature death in 1894, at the age of 44. Therefore, Bournemouth was his last place of residence in all of Europe.
Stevenson’s life in Bournemouth has been commemorated in the form of a memorial garden where Skerryvore once stood, on Alum Chine Road. There is also an avenue named after him in Westbourne.
In a decision as unorthodox as her magnum opus, Frankenstein (1818), Mary Shelley’s (1797-1851) last wish was to be buried in Bournemouth with her parents, a place which she had only visited once in her life.
Her wish was fulfilled, and her grave, along with her parents’ – whose bodies were moved from St Pancras, London, to be with her – can be seen at St Peter’s Church in the heart of Bournemouth town centre. Continuing the unwonted decisions, her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley’s heart was also placed alongside Mary Shelly in her grave, even though he died 29 years prior. A truly Romantic act, in both senses of the word!
Shelley’s unconventional decision has been widely attributed to wanting to be close to her son, Sir Percy Florence Shelley, who was in the process of building his house Boscombe Manor, which would only be ready for occupation a month after her demise. Regardless of reason, Shelley’s legacy has been gladly adopted in Bournemouth. The Shelley Theatre, Shelley Frankenstein Festival, and The Mary Shelley Wetherspoon pub, located less than 50 meters away from the writer’s grave, all act as local reminders and celebrations of her life.
Any other historical writers from the Bournemouth area you can think of? Why not let us know in the comments section! For more local stories from the world of literature and theatre, click here. Plus, you can follow HQB Media on all our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.