The History of Rosebery Park Baptist Church and Pokesdown:

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Page 1.

Setting the Scene…

The Mid to Late Victorian Era in Pokesdown and Boscombe

In 1867, the entry in a Christchurch Directory describes Pokesdown as “an increasing and thriving village” whilst “Boscombe is a hamlet near Pokesdown which is daily increasing.”1 William Pickford moved to Pokesdown, aged ten, in 1871, as the son of the new Minister at the Congregational Church. Sixty four years later, The ‘Bournemouth Times and Directory’ reported on his childhood memories:

“Mr Pickford recalled the old house and Pokesdown life as he once knew it. The parsonage, of course, had no gas light and the water was drawn from a well near where the present school house stands. Those in Pokesdown knew little of Bournemouth.

a sepia photo of a horse and cart coming up Pokesdown Hill
Pokesdown Hill. Date unknown. Source Pokesdown Community Forum.

The postal address of the village was ‘Pokesdown, Ringwood’ and later, ‘Pokesdown, Christchurch.’ They did not go into Bournemouth to shop, but got their clothes in Christchurch and boots from a cobbler in Holdenhurst. It took half-an-hour to walk through the country lane to Lansdowne, perhaps picking blackberries on the way. Lansdowne was merely a crescent of shops. Bournemouth Pier was reached by an excursion through the pine clad slopes of the cliffs, while as for Boscombe, it did not exist.”2

colour print of the Ragged Cat Inn at the top of Boscombe Hill, with a horse and cart, and very rural look, approx 1860
Ragged Cat Inn, top of Boscombe Hill on Christchurch Road, c.18608. Source: Art UK from Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum.

The 1871 census gives the population of Pokesdown as 511 people,3 and Boscombe, 282, made up of 212 people in 19 houses in the Boscombe Estate, and a further 70 people in 9 houses at Boscombe Spa.4 By 1901 the figures are, Pokesdown: 4,930;5 Boscombe: 9,648!6

As the writer of local Bournemouth history, J.A. Young, explains: “Much of the open land at Pokesdown [and Boscombe7] was developed through a number of building estates, owned either by Land Societies or by individuals and companies. These estates were usually marked out in building plots, and to a considerable extent influenced the manner in which the district was laid out.”

In 1857 what could “perhaps be regarded as the first of such estates” was built on twenty seven acres to the east of Seabourne Road.9 In Boscombe, to start with, in 1865-67, housing suited to the needs of artisans and other work people were established on the north side, whilst on the south side a select type of resort was planned, Boscombe Spa.10

Information from J.A. Young’s ‘Pokesdown Past 1750 to 1900’ and ‘Boscombe The Victorian Heritage’. On Old Ordnance Survey Map Godfrey Edition ‘Boscombe & Pokesdown 1923’.11

The names of the Pokesdown estates are shown in the red boxes, including The Rosebery Park Estate, and the names of the Boscombe estates are in the blue boxes, showing the building of houses in the area between 1857 and 1894. “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.”12

black and white photo of the original Pokesdown Station with an island platform and the entrance from the middle of the bridge over the railway
The island platform of the original Pokesdown Station. Source: ebay redgate8

In July 1886 the railway station opened at Pokesdown. It was called “Boscombe Station” until it was re-named Pokesdown Station in May 1897, in preparation for the new Boscombe Station opening in Ashley Road in June 1897! The original entrance was from the centre of the bridge over the railway. There were five horse-drawn omnibuses each weekday between Pokesdown Station and Bournemouth Square.12a

Written by Charles Henry Mate for the town’s first official centenary, and published in 1910, ‘Bournemouth: 1810-1910, the history of a modern health and pleasure resort’ is regarded as the standard early reference on the town.13 Here he talks about the urbanisation and growth of Pokesdown:14

“When they gave up the reins of Office in 1890, the Commissioners handed over to their successors the care of an area comprising 2,592 acres. This remained the area of the new municipal borough down to 1901 —a year after Bournemouth had become a County Borough—when a new extension took place which more than doubled the total area— bringing it up to 5,850 acres. The districts thus incorporated were Pokesdown, Winton, and Southbourne. Pokesdown was the centre of one of those artizan communities which we have already referred to as springing up on the confines of the borough in the middle of the last century. On the passing of the Local Government Act Of 1894, it elected its   first Parish Council , which a year later was superseded by an Urban District Council. Long before that there had been agitation for the inclusion of Pokesdown within the Borough Of Bournemouth, and in 1892, the Town Council, by ten votes to three (six not voting) passed a resolution favouring the inclusion of both Pokesdown and Winton. But having done that, they waited so long that the Pokesdown people became impatient, and petitioned for the establishment Of an Urban Council of their own, which they secured, as stated, in 1895. To the credit of that Authority it may be mentioned, that they so improved the amenities of the district that the population considerably more than doubled itself in the decade — 1891 to 1901 — for whereas at the former Census the emuneration showed 2,239 souls, at the latter the total was no less than 4,930.”

Here are some significant events in local and national history, to help put the beginnings of Rosebery Park Baptist Church into context:15

There is a PDF plain text version available of Timeline 1 here.

From Boscombe to Freemantle to Rosebery Park…

Freemantle Baptist Mission Hall
Freemantle Baptist Chapel on Christchurch Road. Source: booklet ‘Rosebery Park Baptist Church:
The First Hundred Years’ by Robert J. Jeans

From 1876, to the early 1920s16, ‘Freemantle’ was the name for the area between Pokesdown and Boscombe on the Christchurch Road. Or as the 1898 edition of ‘Kelly’s Directory of Hampshire’ describes it: “Freemantle is a district adjoining Boscombe, the whole of which is within the ecclesiastical district of Pokesdown”17. It was here that members from the Boscombe Baptist Church (established in 1874)18 built an outreach mission hall, the Freemantle Baptist Mission Chapel, in 1889. It was on the same site now occupied by the present Rosebery Park Baptist Church, between Somerset and Warwick Roads, on the Christchurch Road.19 The Freemantle Chapel seated 200 people, and Sunday services were held at 3pm and 6.30pm.20

The ‘Bournemouth Guardian’ newspaper reported on the opening on the new Baptist Mission Chapel at Freemantle, 14th September 1889: introduction below, or you can read the full article here.

PDF of the newspaper articles is available here. They are images, and not plain text, but they can at least be enlarged for easier viewing this way.

newspaper article about the Freemantle Chapel opening
Newspaper image © The British Library Board.
All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive.
Evidence of “Freemantle” on a building in Somerset Road today. 21
Photo taken 25th March 2021 for RPBC.

Rosebery Park Baptist Church, founded 1891…

In 1891 a breakaway group from the Freemantle Baptist Mission Chapel formed their own new, small, church of 24 members, initially meeting in a rented school room in what was then the nearby Stanley Road (later renamed Livingstone Road). In 1892 they purchased a building plot on the new Rosebery Park Estate, on the corner of Morley and Harcourt Roads, and built their first small chapel.22

Drawing from booklet ‘Rosebery Park Baptist Church: The First Hundred Years’ by Robert J. Jeans

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

The copy and paste citation for this page: The History of Rosebery Park Baptist Church and Pokesdown, Page 1. Author: Michelle Fogg. Date: June 2021. Url:

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