History: The Full Story

Morley Road chapel

Rosebery Park Baptist Church was founded in 1891 and in 1892 built a chapel in Morley Road in Pokesdown on what was then called the Rosebery Park Estate – hence the church’s name! The chapel was expanded in 1897. (Photo is from 1910).

As the writer of local Bournemouth history, J.A. Young, explains:

“By the 19th century the term ‘park’, once referring to an enclosed tract of land reserved for hunting animals by the nobility, was frequently misused to glorify unremarkable pieces of land being sold as building estates.”

newspaper ad 1889 building lots for sale on the Rosebery Park Estate
1891 Christchurch Time newspaper cutting

Historical evidence of the name Rosebery Park Estate! from the ‘Bournemouth Guardian’, June 1889: an advert for the sale of building plots; and an article in the ‘Christchurch Times’ newspaper, dated 31st January 1891, discussing problems with the state of the roads.

Newspaper image © The British Library Board. All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive.

cartoon of Rosebery, Harcourt and Morley

The 5th Earl of Rosebery, Archibald Primrose, was a famous Victorian aristocrat and Liberal politician, who was Prime Minister in 1894/95. It was a common practise to name building ‘estates’ and roads after famous statesmen.

Morley and Harcourt Roads were also named after Rosebery’s fellow politicians.

Cartoon courtesy of The Morgan Library & Museum.

Rosebery Park Baptist history map on 1923 Godfrey Edition Boscombe & Pokesdown
Rosebery Park Baptist history on “Godfrey Edition” map, “Boscombe & Pokesdown 1923”

1. In the 1890s ‘Freemantle’ was the name for the area between Pokesdown and Boscombe. The nucleus of the original Rosebery Park Baptist fellowship came from the Baptist Mission Chapel at Freemantle, thought to be on the very same site now occupied by the present building (812-814 Christchurch Road)!
2. In 1891 the new fellowship met in a rented school room in Stanley Road, which later had its name changed to Livingstone Road.
3. The chapel on the corner of Harcourt and Morley Roads, on the Rosebery Park Estate, was built in 1892. It was expanded in 1897.
4. The present home of RPBC in Christchurch Road was built in 1931. It was known as Keswick Hall and it was an independent Baptist Church. RPBC moved from the Morley Road chapel into the much larger Christchurch Road hall in 1951.

Morley Road chapel 2019

This is what the Morley Road chapel, which Rosebery Park Baptist Church members built in 1892 and 1897, looks like today! Since 1st July 2018, Turning Point church have been using the Morley Road chapel for their services.

1930s style Pokesdown Railway Station sign

In the early 1930s it was suggested the church name be changed to “Pokesdown Baptist Church” but this was not supported by the church attendees, who were content with their association with the Rosebery Park Estate.

Keswick Hall built 1931

In 1951 the church members sold the Morley Road chapel to the Bournemouth Society for the Deaf and bought the current building on Christchurch Road, as they needed more space for the growing congregation and increasing activities. Keswick Hall, as it was called at the time, was built in 1931 as an Independent Baptist Church. It is thought to be on the same site as the original Freemantle Baptist Mission Chapel, from which the Rosebery Park Baptist fellowship emerged.

Rosebery Park Baptist Church c1951-69

c.1951-69. The church building before the alterations to the front.

history booklet by Robert J Jeans

In 1991, Rosebery Park Baptist Church celebrated it’s 100th anniversary! This booklet of the history of the church was written by Robert J. Jeans.

church building photo by Alwyn Ladell

Alterations were made to the front of the church building in 1969/70. This is what Rosebery Park Baptist Church’s building looked like as of 2015 (photo by Alwyn Ladell).

church building Sept 2020

Repaint of front doors, 2020.

Pokesdown Pixie

This is Pokesdown Community Forum’s ‘Pokesdown Pixie’! (designed by ‘Definitely Mary’)

Where did ‘Pokesdown’ get its name from?

The name ‘Pokesdown’ for this area is first found in a written record in 1734, but some suggest the origins of the name go back to the 13th century. No one can say for sure why this name was given. Theories include:
• it might be a corruption of ‘Peaksdown’ – ‘Peak’ – a high point in the downs (‘down’ meaning low hills covered in grass);
• it may have been a persons name associated with the down – ‘Pocs’ Down’;
• it could be from ‘Pooks Down’ where ‘pooks’ is the local dialect word for the heaps of hay;
• but the most popular (if unsubstantiated) theory is that Pooks (or Puck’s) Down was referring to the fairies or pixies living, playing and dancing merrily on the downs in question!

Information taken from from ‘Limelight on Pokesdown’ written by Tony Crawley for the Christchurch Herald 1st March 1963 edition, and JA Young’s ‘History of Pokesdown’ as reproduced on http://pokesdown.com/

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Rosebery Park Baptist Church, 812-814 Christchurch Road, between Boscombe and Pokesdown, Bournemouth, BH7 6DF