Silicon Beach Bomo - Orientation Guide | Bournemouth Square
Above: The Square and immediate surrounds. The grey lines are roads which are now at least partly pedestrianised, but some like Gervis Place are still bus routes, and even the fully pedestrianised areas, including the Square itself, are also used by cyclists.
|The Square developed as the
town’s central square as it was roughly where the first coast road crossed the Bourne stream
over the town’s first bridge. It has thus been officially the town centre since the resort
began, and is where distances are measured from. (The rail station for instance was kept a mile
away by the first town councillors, the board of commissioners, whose jurisdiction extended a mile
around the pierhead.)
It was originally more of a circle as it was a traffic roundabout. (This anomaly made it the subject of a local press April Fool story that the EU insists the name is misleading and the town change it to Bournemouth Circle.) The original 1920s building on the roundabout’s traffic island was a large tram and trolleybus passenger shelter topped by a small clocktower, this being replaced just by the clocktower on a new base. It was sited above the Bourne stream culvert, and natural subsidence eventually earned this the nickname The Leaning Tower Of Bournemouth, and it was pulled down during the 1990s pedestrianisation. The roundabout for a while had a landscaped garden area around the clocktower but this became dangerous to access, and in the end was reduced to a few bushes growing around the clocktower as traffic took priority.
The replacement structure, the current Obscura Café, proved controversial in that its replica of a Victorian-style camera obscura [a panoramic periscope-style optical-projection device] was never the tourist attraction it promised to be, never seeming to open to the public, leading to council litigation threats. (For legal reasons, we have to say the reasons behind this are obscure.) The café has survived on the basis of its dead-centre location, with outdoor seating most of the year.
Left: The Obscura café, named after the Victorian panoramic periscope style optical device which sits atop it, has the most central location of any local café. It is just beyond the entrance to the Lower Gardens, lined with palm trees to emphasize its "English Riviera" identity. (Mouse over to see 2nd image.)
The late 1990s pedestrian “piazza” scheme was described by the Landscape Institute's VP as “one of the finest examples of a major, traffic-free civic space, created in this country since the Second World War”. Vehicular traffic still loops around where the Square interrupts the Central Gardens, on both upper and lower Gardens sides. There are now official crosswalks for pedestrians to cross to the lower Gardens on both sides.
As its access routes are built around the Central Gardens through which the Bourne flows, it is not oriented on a north-south grid, but roughly NW/SE. However as far as access points go, we can still refer to the 4 cardinal directions each having its own pair of access roads or footpaths. Going around clockwise: there is a northerly approach either via Richmond Hill (lower portion now pedestrianised) or Bourne Avenue, leading to Town Hall; an easterly approach either via Old Christchurch Rd (now fully pedestrianised most of the way to Lansdowne) or Gervis Place (the bus route); a southerly approach leading SW down Exeter Rd towards the BIC [conference centre] or to and from the Lower Gardens (this latter is covered in a separate page); and a westerly approach up either Avenue Road [cars and buses] or Orchard Walk pedestrian precinct leading to the Triangle.
the N/E side of the square are two access routes. One is Richmond Hill, whose lower portion is
now pedestrianised to accommodate outdoor seating. Thus, just round the corner are a student
pub [The Slug And Lettuce] and an Italian-themed chain restaurant [Zizzi]
both of interest here for their outdoor and verandah seating; two doors up is a coffee house
[South Coast Roast]. Opposite is Wildwood, with a dining verandah
[pictured left - mouse over image]. Cafe Thrive vegan cafe is now where Coriander
then The Bayou Kitchen previously stood. Uphill is a four star hotel, The Norfolk,
where you can have afternoon tea in the lounge or the verandah, or a meal in their secluded back
The other adjacent northerly access route
is via Bourne Avenue, leading NW past Town Hall (tower just visible in the background) towards
Westbourne. There are public benches only on this side of the Square, as seen here.
The Square is not so much a quiet place to work or think, but more a place to watch the world
go by, as the town's central crossing point for pedestrian traffic. (Note that the photos at
left were taken deliberately at quieter times to show the background more clearly; usually when
the sun is out, it's much busier.) The 15-foot pole in the centre held aloft a gas flame paid
for by church groups, seen here, has since been supplanted, to reduce costs, by an illuminated
globe known as the Light of Hope.
The Square is not so much a quiet place to work or think, but more a place to watch the world go by, as the town's central crossing point for pedestrian traffic. (Note that the photos at left were taken deliberately at quieter times to show the background more clearly; usually when the sun is out, it's much busier.) The 15-foot pole in the centre held aloft a gas flame paid for by church groups, seen here, has since been supplanted, to reduce costs, by an illuminated globe known as the Light of Hope.
Along Bourne Avenue are several cafes with outside or semi-enclosed seating: closest to the Square, a branch of the Dancing Moose has opened where LaTasca Tapas was. Next is Monty's Burger Lounge [where Kino Lounge was], then the All Fired Up Ceramics Cafe (they host ceramics-pottery etc events), then Tapas Plus (formerly the site of Legends cafe-bar), which has a conservatory-style front verandah with glass panels which can be slid back in hot weather. Beyond that is the newest addition to the scene, Salt N Pepper Indian Restaurant. Closer in, below The Slug And Lettuce's front balcony, the Tesco Metro (on the site of what was a Borders bookshop) is a popular source of sandwich takeaways for those who want to have lunch sitting on the benches or stone walls around the Square and Lower Gardens.
Left: An al fresco salad lunch at the Dancing Moose
Above: The Norfolk Hotel on Richmond Hill, showing the front verandah. There is also a lounge for afternoon teas, and a back garden which is part of their fine-dining restaurant.
Left: Zizzi on Richmond Hill, with the summer tables out.
more easterly approach is either via Old Christchurch Rd or Gervis Place, but while the former
is now fully pedestrianised most of the way to Lansdowne, the latter is the main bus stop area,
and thus crowded. It leads to Westover Road, which has bars and restaurants, the closest being
The Stable pizza place in the former TIC premises on the corner, which has outdoor bench
seating at the back, overlooking the gardens. Opposite are Mia Caffé
(Italian café) and The Brasshouse (a barn-like 'foodie' pub with sofas,
which serves large breakfasts and does buffet group catering).
Left: The Mary Shelley [Wetherspoon's gastropub], 5 mins walk from the Square, viewed from St Peter's Rd where it meets Gervis Place. At right is St Peter's Church, where the Shelley family tomb from which the pub's name derives is located, in the churchyard. Hinton Rd, left, crosses Old Christchurch Rd pedestrian precinct, in the background. On the corner at left by Beale's (the town's most famous dept store) is a branch of Cosy Club, with a lounge-style cafe (note loud-ish muzak even in daytime) and upstairs dining room.
Left: Looking SW across the Square, and [mouse over] from lower Richmond Hill, showing the new Terrace Mount buildings owned by Hilton Hotels in the background.
The southerly approach leads SW via Exeter Rd towards the BIC [conference centre] or via the Lower Gardens running to the Pierhead. Along the Gardens there are few eateries (the main one, the terraced Lampeter Hotel, sadly having closed, along with the Arlington Hotel's "arts cafe" next door), and the Pavilion Cafe [with terrace] at the southern end. There is also now a kiosk cafe with outdoors seating near the aviary/ arts-display area, the Picnic Park Deli, above the bandstand. Buses using Exeter Rd still cut through the Square to park along the SE approach, as the municipal bus station to which this route connected burnt down rather mysteriously some years ago and was never rebuilt; instead the land was sold for an NCP car park. After a long history of complaints over the lack of a central bus station (resulting in the present head-to-tail lineup of buses parked along here at the bus stops in Gervis Place, waiting to change drivers etc), the Council first tried using the Triangle as a bus terminus, then when that was redeveloped, tried to buy the bus station site back the way they did with the IMAX building, but failed. The car park site now holds a leisure [i.e restaurants+multiplex-cinemas] complex called BH2 [see below].
southerly approach down Exeter Rd towards the BIC has no pedestrianised extension beyond Halo
nightclub (in what was a church!) but there is a Wetherspoon's gastropub [The Moon In
The Square] with outside seating plus a rear courtyard upstairs. Sourdough pizza restaurant
Franco Manca opened in May 2017, in the former menswear department of Debenhams.
Opposite, across Exeter Rd, a £50m leisure complex, known initially as West Central and
now officially as BH2, was built
on the main downtown car park site. As well as an Odeon 10-screen multiplex [supplanting the
2 old Westover Road cinemas] it has 14 chain restaurants. (Pride of place must go to The
Real Greek, which has top-floor views over the gardens.) Note that unlike other such
plaza centres, there is no public seating inside or outside the complex - you have to use one
of the restaurants or cafes to sit down. The complex is accessible from the Lower Gardens side
via a broad terrace where several of the restaurants, such as Ask Italian, have
outdoor seating [see image below].
Above: The Moon In The Square upstairs courtyard and [mouse over image] the new BH2 cinema/restaurant complex then being built on the site of the town's old bus station, which burnt down, and was turned into a car park.
Right: a CGI 'artist's impression' from the BH2 website of how the cafe-terrace would look when its 14 restaurants opened in 2017. [2018 update: in reality, there aren't that many outside seats.]
The westerly access point is via Avenue Road [cars and buses] or Orchard Walk [pedestrian precinct], both of which lead uphill to the Triangle (with the road becoming the main road westward to Poole). Halfway up the pedestrian precinct is a covered shopping arcade [no cafes], adjacent to the former M&S site [closed April 2018]. The pedestrian route starts just past Debenhams department store, which stands next to where the Square's original inn and residence (known as Decoy House, for visiting duck hunters) was from the 18th Century. The inn and adjoining caretakers' cottage were knocked together to make the town's first church and schoolroom, and when stagecoaches first came through here, the stop was named Bourne House - in a sense, Bournemouth started right here. Debenhams is the biggest and oldest of the shops on the Square, and has a cafeteria-style tearoom/restaurant on its 3rd floor.
Left: Debenhams and [mouse over image] the opposing view looking down Orchard Walk pedestrian precinct, with the start of Avenue Road alongside, next to the Central Gardens.
What little peace and quiet there is in the Square is sometimes overwhelmed by noisy public events, licensed by the Council for a fee, involving use of a PA system. (It may be what passes for music, or someone shouting about Jesus.) The giant advertising telescreen that towered over the SW corner however seems to have disappeared permanently, apparently following anonymous threats to shoot holes in it. The most common events are singers and bands of various types (who presumably pay an £80 Event Fee to be able to perform and sell their CD onsite), and Continental food markets.
The Xmas market pictured here has become an annual event, usually with traders over from Germany, who set up open-air bars (as shown here) as well as booths selling food and xmas-gift items. The various booths go up over a month before Xmas (in fact before Remembrance Day services until WW2 ex-POW veterans complained seeing Germans hammering together huts was an unwelcome reminder). It is no longer referred to as the German Xmas Market but as either the Alpine Market or the European Xmas Market or (following complaints many stalls were run by UK businesses) just the Xmas Market. An attempt at a grand opening parade / Christmas lights switch-on ceremony in 2015 was such a fiasco (parents complained children were nearly trampled in the scrum) it is not being repeated. Mouse over photo left to see 2nd image showing the Xmas illuminations.
|The pedestrianised area's flat smooth surface, which can be slippy when wet, is also a venue for skateboarders. These congregate mainly in the evenings, jumping and crashing their boards, though during busier daytimes, a few also like to weave in and out of pedestrian crowds, which has caused at least one newsworthy accident, which prompted calls for a ban. (Police say it is a Council matter, nothing to do with us, mate.) Following a 12-month 'successful trial' (meaning luckily, no-one was seriously injured), cyclists are also now allowed to ride (with or without brakes) through Bournemouth Square and across Pier Approach, rather than having to dismount.|