Cultural Capital Gallery Contributors:
Grantley Berkeley
Writer & Social Commentator

Grantley Fitzhardinge Berkeley (1800–1881)

The Honourable Grantley F. Berkeley MP, author of at least 9 books as well as a politician, was a colourful, eccentric leading figure in local society when the area was just developing as a spa-resort and in his memoirs wrote a less-than-reverent account of its emerging upper-crust society at a time when Victorian sensibilities were supplanting Regency ones.
Although MP for Gloucester for two decades from 1831, around 1830 he established a summer seaside residence in the Mudeford-Highcliffe area, occupying Beacon Lodge, on the clifftop just east of Highcliffe Castle (then still being built). He did not own it - it was rented by other VIPs such as the Bishop of London in 1837, but he seems to have spent most summers here for at least two decades (presumably when the Commons was in recess).
An aristocratic snob, and (as a younger brother) an earl manqué whose godfather was the Prince Regent, GFB was ‘known for his vanity and arrogance’. When his first novel, an 1836 historical romance, was ‘savagely’ reviewed, he horse-whipped the publisher to try to make him reveal the identity of the reviewer, with whom he then fought a pistol duel. (Luckily this did not result in a fatality, and his wealth and position helped him avoid a criminal conviction.) Locally, he also threw a gamekeeper in the river for perceived insolence, and even with his social peers was as openly critical as he dared.


GFB's 4-volume Life & Recollections tells how he saw sea-bathing habits change from the free-form days of the Regency era, when bathing costumes were scarcely known [above], to the cover-all days of the Victorian era [below], when GFB's local beach at Mudeford-Highcliffe was rigorously policed by a bathing-machine proprietress backed by the local landowner. In later times, the beach was completely segregated to stop even clifftop voyeurs [see top image] from getting a look in.

One For The Ladies
GFB's long life spanned the Georgian and Victorian eras. He spent the first half of it in the former, and can be characterised as a figure who felt more at home there than the more prim and proper Victorian era which followed. His DNB entry says that even late in life he insisted on still wearing the 'chapeau bras' Regency-era style of sideways cocked hat by then five decades out of fashion; one parliamentary history says he was the last person ever to wear this style of cocked hat.

With his main interest being outdoor pursuits, GFB might be characterised as a man's man. His DNB entry notes: "He was a master both of stag and of fox hounds. Four of his favourites were famous: his terrier Smike, his bloodhound Druid, his mastiff Grumbo, and his retriever Smoker. Even his tame cormorant Jack was for a long time noted as a wonder."

There is a certain ostentation implied here, and in his dress he was a notable dandy. His DNB entry goes on: "He prided himself to the last upon having learnt pugilism from Byron's instructor, Jackson, and retained until far on in middle life a coarser kind of buckish coxcombry. He delighted in wearing at the same time two or three different-coloured satin under-waistcoats, and round his throat three or four gaudy silk neckerchiefs, held together by passing the ends of them through a gold ring."

Reading between the lines, it seems he also (though married from 1824 on) had what used to be called an eye for the ladies. This seems to have led to his one claim to fame in his political career as an MP, when he successfully campaigned, 1836-41, to allow ladies to be admitted to the Commons public gallery. When staying locally, he would also try to encourage ladies in his social circle to get out more, rather than simply attend church, instead of "bobbing about from dell to dell as if they thought every bush concealed a serpent and a tempting apple, and that they were never safe unless at church."

After writing a second (also unsuccessful) historical novel, he switched to nonfiction, usually on sporting topics, even travelling to America as a sporting-magazine correspondent, but seems to have always spent his summers in the bay area.
His writing career would span four decades, mainly nonfiction but also venturing into historical romance (twice), poetry, and possibly a satiric 5-act play [see below]. His final work, Fact & Fiction, would be a two-volume treatise on the treatment of animals, in 1874.
While his historical novels are of no interest, his multi-volume memoirs are still quoted by local historians as a mordant observer of the fledgling resort's social scene as it evolved from rougher Georgian times (male nude bathing etc) to the more pious Victorian one, with its rigorous bathing restrictions.
His aristocratic viewpoint meant that passages in his memoirs could be scathing as a scene in one of Trollope's novels about the Victorian aspiration for respectability above all else.
Examples of his writing are given below.

Left and below: page scans and text excerpts from GFB’s 1860s Life & Recollections, which offer some colourful details of social life in the area in the 1830s onward. Local references are largely in the final chapter of Vol II, which is a review of how south-coast sea-bathing became preferred to the hazards of Continental-honeymoon etc trips.

The Founding Of Bournemouth - According To Grantley Berkeley

The ultimate source of this anecdote (which can be found in Mate & Riddle's 1910 centenary history) is unknown. The opening address with its "Listen!" suggests it was part of a recitation. It's certainly not a genuine anecdote from memory, as he suggests - GFB would only have been 9-10 years old at the time, and living nowhere near. On the identity of "the great man", see panel right.

"It's an odd place, and of strange history. Listen ! I knew it when it was in its wild state of heather, and its name was only known from the juncture of the little rivulet of Bourne, at that particular spot, with the sea. On a dark night, a lord of the soil drove up in his carriage, and, halting on a slight eminence, he exclaimed to his steward, 'How far am I from the sea?'
'Close, sir,' was the reply; 'you will hear the surf if you listen.'
'Good,' said the great man, 'let there be houses here; and mind, as people at watering places love shaded and sequestered spots, plant— plant, sir, well with the Scotch fir — fir, d'ye mind me, nothing else will grow.'
'Where shall we plant, sir?'
'Here, here,' said the great man, waving his hand in the murky air, and turning round till he forgot his position as regarded the whereabouts of the vasty deep, and ordered the trees to be planted in front of the row of houses.
The lord of the soil who commanded this was a gentleman of the old school, of a warm heart and an open hand, and one whom to know was but to like; his word was a law against which there was no appeal, so his steward obeyed him to the letter.
House upon house, no two of them at all alike, soon reared their walls over the dreary heather, till the village or watering place assumed the likeness of a Chinese puzzle.
. . . The houses had scarce been raised by their proprietors before wise men were found to take them; an inn was built, baths sprang up, bathing machines of different patterns spotted the beach, fat women were found to attend them, and there was nothing wanted but a parson, a butcher, a baker, and an hostler; the doctor and the lawyer were regarded as sure to follow of their own free will, as Satan may be supposed finally to attend a congregation of sinners."

The "Great Man"
Mate & Riddle drew on his 4-volume Life & Recollections for their 1910 Bournemouth centenary history Bournemouth: 1810-1910, for its "illustration of watering place life", he having lived there by then, he said, for 36 years, i.e. back to 1830.
In fact he relates an anecdote [see opposite] how the town's founder planned the township of Bourne one night in about 1809-10 as he passed through in his coach by issuing decrees to his steward. Mate & Riddle suggest the reader take such passages cum grano salis (with a grain of salt) - this is GFB simply having fun.
Since the tale is somewhat cynical (about the indiscriminate planting of trees which block the view etc), GFB prudently does not name the 'great man'. Some histories take the story to concern the town's official founder Capt. Lewis Tregonwell JP, but 'a lord of the soil' suggests Sir George Ivison Tapps. Tapps was the major local landowner, who had bought the first 'marine villa' in the area, Stourfield House, in 1790, after its original owner Edmund Bott JP died. Already having a stately home of his own at Hinton Admiral and various outside interests (he is described as a 'hard-living' friend of the Prince Regent), he simply rented it out, to Mary Bowes and others.
He bought up the main parcels of land made available by the 1805 Inclosures Scheme, and on one of these in 1809 built the Tapps Arms inn at Bourne for the benefit of 'daytripper' picnicking visitors from fashionable Mudeford. However his plans to develop the area came to little in his lifetime.
This left the way clear for posterity to give 'town founder' credit to Tregonwell. He had originally been one of those picnicking daytripper visitors from Mudeford, who in 1810 bought land at the mouth of the Bourne from Tapps, and later the adjacent inn, which he renamed the Tregonwell Arms. Tapps died near the end of the Georgian era, leaving the development of the planned township to his son, Tregonwell having moved away by then.

GFB On Bournemouth 'Puseyism'
 ". . . Bournemouth is, as I have said, a very pretty place; it is also a very strange place. It has more Divine service in it, and the churches are more crowded and better attended than in any place I ever saw ... From the way the churches were thronged, and the frequency of Divine service, I had thought at first that Bournemouth must rank high in sanctity and decorum, but on inspecting the visitors' list kept at the Library, I therein saw that no less than twenty-seven fresh clergymen had arrived in one week. What then means this advent of religious men? Surely there must be some reason for their flocking here. Either the place has been very wicked, or it must become good. I have been told that it is a nursery for Puseyism, and that this class of visitors come to learn its attractive ceremonial previously to introducing it to their own congregations."
Left: GFB personally found Bournemouth dull, not at all to his sporty tastes (“It is a very quiet place for sedentary or literary occupations.”) He particularly opposed the puritanical element trying to ‘civilise’ the then fashionable neighbouring Regency resort of Mudeford-Highcliffe, and the later-developing Bournemouth he generally considered it a lost cause as a bastion of clerical 'Puseyism'. This refers to the 1830s "Oxford" movement led by a Rev. Pusey to make the CoE more of a High Church akin to the Catholic one [see GFB's account left]. He compares "the church here" (presumably St Peter's) with St Barnabas, Pimlico, classed as "the first purpose-built church to embody the principles of the Oxford Movement".

"At Bournemouth, man has no amusement of any kind; and what is stranger still, when men and women meet at this watering place there is no association, no promenade, as at other places, where the people walk; and not an opportunity sought in which to exchange an idea."

"Bournemouth seems made for social enjoyment, and to waken the heart to genial sympathy; yet the visitors apparently shrink within themselves, remaining in their lodgings or hotels, or secreting themselves in the cover afforded by the neighbouring bushes.

It is a very quiet place for sedentary or literary occupations. But were it not for the advantages of the adjoining wilds, and a fir-wood still bearing the suggestive title of Cupid's Grove — because there was a time when to my certain knowledge lovers used to meet there— no one at this fashionable watering place would be able to speak to his friend, to walk out, possibly not to sneeze, without its being known to and canvassed by the community in their various hiding-places."

Left: GFB compares the Bournemouth church with the London church that pioneered the 1830s High Church movement, adding the surrounding woodland plantations offered the town's one chance of privacy for assignations.

The Shelley Family Connection
He would become friendly with Percy and Mary Shelley’s son and his wife at Shelley Manor in Boscombe after they established a theatre there, he describing their home as “an evergreen oasis in that desert of dullness.” (He was of course referring to early Bournemouth.) He appeared "more than once" (he says) as an actor in Shelley Manor theatre productions, and Mate & Riddle's centenary history mentions how he planned a satiric play about the ladies of Bournemouth [see below].

Left: GFB's link with the Shelleys of Boscombe later got a nearby road named for him: Grantley Rd, Boscombe [BH5 1HW], just SW of the Sir Percy Florence Shelley pub-restaurant.

Prologue from 'A Trip To Bournemouth' by Grantley F. Berkeley:
- The sonnet from the play's prologue, addressed to the ladies of Bournemouth:

"Cease to seem over fair or over good.
Care not to join the Pharisaic brood.
Laden with cross and rows of jetty beads,
Who glide like ghosts, restless from naughty deeds.
Slippers embroider not — nor paint on scrolls
Gaudy appeals to unrepentant souls.
Enjoy your bath, your walk, your croquet game,
And archery practise without tear or shame;
Have your flirtations in a harmless way,
Whether at concert, promenade, or play,
Pic-nic, or yacht excursion in the Bay,
And cease to go to Church three times a day.
Remember you need heed no harsh complaints.
Those who are Angels never need be Saints.

[quoted in Mate & Riddle; the original play, if ever completed, is sadly lost]

The Lost Bournemouth Play
Mate & Riddle's 1910 town history describes how GFB proposed writing a 5-act satire called 'A Trip to Bournemouth' inspired by Sheridan's 1770s play "A Trip to Scarborough," to be performed at the Shelley Theatre. They add there is no evidence it was put into effect, but quote its Prologue, in which he exhorts (in AABB verse couplets) the ladies of Bournemouth to stop going to church three times a day and get out more. He explained his intention (source is unknown but indicates intent in the present tense, perhaps from a letter):

I have an idea in my head of writing a comedy, on the Sheridanean model, of course, illustrating seaside life. I shall call it ' A Trip to Bournemouth.' All the dramatis personae are in readiness— the scenes and situations of each of the five acts (the interest working up to an astonishing climax in the last) all carefully imagined, and not even the wildness of the residents forgotten.
...when my comedy is announced we shall see, and so will Bournemouth; such a picture of the caprices of fashionable religion will then— I think I may venture to say— never have been exhibited before.
There is a clergyman at a funeral in one of Hogarth's pictures, that I shall paint to the life in my play: there is one, did I say, there are indeed some dozens whom I shall make to strut their hour on the stage. Time was when congregations were content with one; now we must have a clerical regiment ranked on either side the way to the altar, all doing little bits of the service, as if sinners could not be saved unless by a ladder of divines on whom to ascend to heaven.

Highcliffe view Left: The views SE and SW over Christchurch Bay from Highcliffe Castle estate (mouse over image to see 2nd photo). For the three decades that he spent summers on the coast, GFB's main local residence was at Highcliffe-on-Sea, an eastward extension of the Regency resort of Mudeford. Former Prime Minister Bute, who had built the original High Cliff House, chose this spot for a seaside residence as he regarded it as the finest prospect in England. The present Castle was completed in 1835, a few years after GFB arrived to stay at a neighbouring estate, Beacon Lodge, just to the E.
Highcliffe-On-Sea on Google Maps, satellite view:
Highcliffe Castle is the large grey bldg with the maze-like forecourt garden.
The area which in the 1830s-40s was GFB's summer residence, now-demolished Beacon Lodge, is off to the right.

This aerial view of the terrain shows some of the many green spaces and cliff paths in the vicinity open to the public.

Site Of Interest: Highcliffe-On-Sea
In the 1830s-40s, GFB rented a large seaside house on the clifftop here - Beacon Lodge, on the main Lymington Road, just E of Highcliffe Castle. The lodge is no longer extant, but the locality retains the official designation 'Beacon Lodge Cliff Top Land' and a few placenames survive like 'Beacon Drive'. The clifftop viewpoint here is accessible via The Christchurch Coastal Path leading E from Mudeford Quay, or by car from the Highcliffe Cliff Top car park by the Cliffhanger Cafe.
view of Mudeford from Highcliffe
The view SW from the clifftop behind GFB's Beacon Lodge estate, towards Hengistbury, left, and (just across the narrow mouth of Christchurch Harbour), Mudeford, then a fashionable Regency or late-Georgian era resort.

Left: A pair of screenshots showing Highcliffe as it appeared in period guise in the BBC’s Trollope adaptation The Way We Live Now (mouse over image to see 2nd photo). The present path up and down the cliff here is in fact a modern ‘wheelchair-accessible’ one replacing the old rough footpath.
GFB tells in his memoirs how he had steps cut in the cliff for bathing so his guests did not have pay the shilling fee demanded by the ‘Beach Supervisor’. The steps GFB cut in the cliff are long gone due to coastal erosion.

Left: GFB tells various anecdotes re how the local landowner ‘the late Sir George Rose’ played beach-patrol vigilante with nude bathers. This would not be the original better-known Sir George Rose, Pitt's advisor, who died in 1818, but his son Sir George Henry Rose MP whose summer residence was at Sandhills House in Mudeford.

Above: The seashore by Canford Cliffs. This would have been closer to GFB's sea view by the time of Trollope's The Way We Live Now. It is set in the 1870s, by which time the ageing GFB had moved to the other side of the bay, to Alderney Manor in Poole, on a 60-acre estate which then stretched down to the shore near Canford Cliffs.

Left: GFB expresses his preference for the earlier resort over the new one at Bourne. ( The "fun" he refers to as having seen is unspecified, but probably refers to his watching the antics of the bathers as they try to preserve their dignity while having a dip.)
Mate & Riddle comment on his literary approach to memoirs, “We are afraid he was not altogether an unprejudiced observer; but he had a racy style, and is worth further quotation, with the caution that his remarks must be taken cum grano salis.”


What Berkeley meant by this is not clear, but he did entertain guests there, and had a staff of around 6, not including their families, who lived in an adjacent cottage. (He seems to have been the one who renamed his dwelling from Alderney Cottage to Alderney Manor.)

In keeping with his country-squire lifestyle, he also still continued his conflicts with the locals, and an 1870 fire which burnt up much of the greenery on his estate has been ascribed to arson, possibly by a disgruntled local against whom he had acted. (He had had several run-ins with his neighbours, whom he or his gamekeeper accused of being 'poachers', and had been fined by magistrates for seizing a neighbour's dog.)

After turning his back on the "pretty but dull" growing resort of Bournemouth which had supplanted the once-fashionable Regency resort of Highcliffe/Mudeford, he would later rent a house from Sir Ivor Guest, owner of the Canford estates in Poole. He wrote his memoirs there, his 1865-6 four-volume Life & Recollections, in which he would describe [see scan at left] his present abode as a ‘hermitage’ hut, a small, secluded castellated shooting lodge.
This being his present-day whereabouts at time of writing, he doesn't give the name of the place, but this would be since-demolished Alderney Manor (30 years later the site of Augustus John’s artists' commune). It was then sited in 60 acres of woodland, off the Ringwood Rd. Despite its grand title, it was little more than a large pink bungalow in the 'Strawberry Hill' style, described by biographer Michael Holroyd as "like a cardboard castle from some Hans Christian Anderson story ... built by an eccentric Frenchman," with a walled garden and castellations that were a feature of the 19C Gothic Revival movement.

Berkeley concludes his memoirs:


In declining health, his main home for his last year [1880-81] was since-demolished Dursley House or ‘Dursley Villa’ (Dursley was a GFB aristocratic-family name), in the Longfleet district. Grantley Berkeley died here alone age 81, having outlived his wife and their two sons.

Pictured left is Longfleet church, Longfleet Rd. Its prominent spire is a hallmark of its being a Gothic Revival style church built in the 1830s, when GFB arrived in the area, and later would have been his neighbourhood church. GFB had firm views about styles of worship.

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