History

Boscombe Chine Gardens are located in a steep-sided valley known locally as a 'Chine'. The Chine runs roughly north west to south east where it reaches the coast at Boscombe Pier; a side valley joins the Chine from the west, about half way along its length.

Prior to the development of the site, the sides of the Chine formed part of the once extensive Dorset heathland, although vegetation was sparse towards the sea with exposed soft sandstone banks and cliffs.

The Christchurch Road has existed for some considerable time and would have linked the coastal settlements (harbours) of Christchurch and Poole. Prior to the introduction and rapid development of the railway, there were very few dwellings in the vicinity of what is now known as Boscombe.

In 1860 records indicate that the Shelley and Tyler families lived in the area, as well as families from a few other cottages. There was also an Inn on the Christchurch Road called the Ragged Cat, which later became the Palmerston Arms. This building is still there but is no longer a public house.

The upper section of Boscombe Chine Gardens were first laid out between 1868-71 by Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, the local landowning MP, as 'pleasure grounds' for the adjoining properties.

Wolff's original design included:
  • Walks
  • Croquet Grounds with shelter
  • A Rustic Bridge
  • A Substantial Lodge (which stands in the northwest corner of the Gardens)
A mineral spring existed at the southern (or lower end) of the Gardens until the 1920s, which gave the surrounding area the name 'Boscombe Spa'.

In the 1860's there was a building boom that transformed the picturesque village of Boscombe Spa into a fashionable coastal resort, famed for its aromatic pines, public promenades, and Italian and Elizabethan style villas.

The key period of Gardens' development occurred during the 1880's, when they were transformed into a public park under the direction of the Borough of Bournemouth Pleasure Grounds Committee.

In 1883, the western arm of the Chine was leased to the Bournemouth Improvement Commissioners by Sir George Meyrick, this included the area designed by Sir Henry Drummond Wolf back in 1868. Over several years the development of the gardens continued and included:
  • Channeling of the stream
  • Building of the main paths
  • Levelling, planting and turfing
  • Construction of a model boating pond, tennis courts and tennis pavilion
Despite a number of changes in the intervening years, the general layout of the Gardens remains largely intact. The principal alterations to the original layout include:
  • The disappearance of the Spa spring
  • Replacement of public tennis courts with mini golf
  • Filling in of the model boating pond
  • Improvements to the northern boundary of the site (Christchurch Road)
  • Replacement of the rustic bridge with a concrete structure
  • Cliff stabilisation
  • Road widening at the southern end opposite Boscombe Pier

Green Flag

Boscombe Chine Gardens were developed originally from a ‘chine’ of heath and mire into a splendid Victorian garden, a central part of the then thriving Boscombe resort.

For fifty years the Gardens were in decline, with investment never matching the levels seen in its heyday. Eventually in the 1990’s they became a no go area. Anti-social behaviour all contributed to their problems, whilst a dense tree canopy only served to exacerbate them.

With help from a strong community a successful bid was made to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Now, with the project complete, the park is transformed. The Chine has been opened up by the removal of much of the tree canopy and native grasses have been sown to improve the habitat quality of the site.

Where there was an underused tennis court, is a brand new ball court; on the site of the old boating pond is a new water play area; the mini-golf has been re-launched with disabled access; and the terrace café overlooks it all.

The original features of the Gardens remain, two spa shelters, the lodge and the return of magnificent bedding displays.

What really makes Boscombe worthy of a Green Flag is the energy of the local community, determined to make Boscombe a better place to live. The Gardens are central to the development of the community as a whole, and it shows with the success of events that they regularly put on.