Bournemouth is a relatively young town, the name ‘Bournemouth’ has only existed as a single word since 1840. The land was relatively uninhabited until the Christchurch Inclosure Act of 1802, which enabled Sir George Ivison Tapps (1753-1835) to purchase swathes of heathland between Christchurch and Poole, surrounded only by a few scattered hamlets, when the sacred influence of Christchurch’s Priory and the seafarers of the region influenced the culture. By 1835, when Sir George Tapps-Gervis (1795-1842) inherited his father’s vast estate, the area of ‘Bourne Mouth’ had been preserved as a summer playground of the Victorian elite, including Lewis Tregonwell. The following year, Tapps-Gervis unveiled a set of plans to build the Westover Villas – along what is now Westover Road.
A document in the Meyrick Estate Archive indicates that the ‘Musicians of Christchurch’ were paid to perform at the laying of the foundation stone of the Westover Villas in 1836. Whilst we don’t know much about the players or what they performed, we can see that they were paid £14 to attend ‘at Bourn with Band’ on 1st June, and as the Hampshire Advertiser recorded it was a ‘scene of great gaiety’, and, whilst we don’t know much about the players or what they performed, we know they were paid £14 – the relative real price today being around £1,295.
“Bourne Mouth, between Poole and Christchurch, was the scene of great gaiety last week, when the foundation stone was laid of a row of excellent houses, about to be erected by Sir G.W. Tapps Jervis at this delightful spot. A very large party was assembled on the occasion; and the stone was laid by Mrs. Tregonwell, assisted by W. Baldwin, esq., of Ringwood. A collation was afterwards partaken of by the party, and all the inhabitants of the district and the visitors were regaled in the most liberal and hospitable manner by the worthy baronet.” (Hampshire Advertiser, June 1836)
Incidentally, the name ‘Bournemouth’ was first recorded in its modern single-word form in Benjamin Ferrey’s 1837 bill for his design of Westover Villas; we’re excited to be able to share an image of his work with you. Dr Stephen Gadd, Meyrick Estate historian, suggests that whilst we don’t know more about what those Musicians of Christchurch played, ‘we can be surethat they engaged heartily in the consumption of beer and cake’. It sounds as though the early days of Bournemouth’s musical life were pretty good!
Benjamin Ferrey’s design for the seventeen Westover Villas, drawn in 1836. These two villas, numbered 5 and 6, were demolished within 80 years to make way for the Westover Palace Tea Gardens, their sites now occupied by nos. 12-20 Westover Road. © Meyrick Estate archive
Account book detailing a fee paid to the Musicians of Christchurch © Meyrick Estate archive. These images are shared with the kind permission of Meyrick Estate Archive.