Winton Forum


The Birth of Charminster

Charminster has never had an official boundary and its location varies according to who you talk to. It is generally accepted that the shopping and restaurant area south of the Richmond Arms is Upper Charminster, while the rest that spreads down the hill and northwards is Lower Charminster.

Neither really represents the original settlement.

Before 1800, it was an unnamed tract of land between Moordown and Littledown and began as a tiny huddle of cottages near the junction of what is now East Way and Charminster Road. It is believed to have got its name because one of the original inhabitants came from Charminster near Dorchester.

The first detailed census in 1841 shows just three families living there - those of Fletcher the tinker, Burridge the bricklayer and Watton the farm labourer. The population was in fact bigger than you might think - the Watton family alone accounted for twelve people.

The heathland provided a living. The villagers grazed their animals and were self-sufficient in fuel. They cut turf which was dried and used instead of coal. And they were not short of sweetening for their food - honey was extracted from from hives scattered across the heathland

Charminster Map
Lower Charminster - still only a settlement of a few cottages in 1898.

Coming to or from the coast, people used a track that became known as Charminster Lane and subsequently Charminster Road.

A three acre gravel pit was formed at where West Way Close is now, and another two acre claypit was formed - its edge is now part of Fampoux Gardens.

An echo of the ancient past, there were also a number of tumuli (Bronze Age burial mounds). Most of the prehistoric sites that littered the heathland here were built over as the area was developed, and after 2000 years of neglect they would have been heavily weathered and hard to spot. Many of were only rediscovered by the Ordnance Survey's 19th Century surveyors. The best local surviving example of the old landscape is to be found in Queens Park, between the pond and Queens Park Avenue. If you walk along the footpath when the sun is low in the sky, you will, with some effort, be able to pick out several low ridges crossing the golf course. These mark what are believed to be fields that were abandoned after the Black Death.

The development of the Charminster we know today started in the 1880s as the Dean Park Estate edged northwards to end at Lowther Road. That area was previously known as East Common and its only previous claim to fame was as the site of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Circus - a spectacle which fired the imagination of a generation of Bournemouth people.

The development continued to creep northwards through the 1880's and turn of the century as the Lansdowne Park Estate was constructed in the parcel of land between Iddesleigh Road and Alma Road, and the Malmesbury Park Estate was built between Lowther Road and Richmond Park Road (or Boscombe Farm Road as it was originally known).

Upper Charminster
Extent of Upper Charminster development in 1895

The Malmesbury Park Estate was in fact split into several smaller areas - the Devonshire and Rush Corner Estates were two of them.

As the 19th Century drew to a close, development in the area was consolidated, rather than expanded, with houses being built on plots that had already been laid out.

There were however two new areas opened up for development. Claypit Common (now Hankinson Road to Green Road) became the South Winton Estate, and south of this, and significantly for Charminster, Shortthorn Common (now Alma Road to Maxwell Road) became the Charminster Park Estate. There was even a central 'Charminster Park' which was built around an exhausted claypit and brickfield. That park became Winton Recreation Ground. These areas had been more or less claimed as being part of Winton, by being included in the Winton Urban District Council's boundary.

The first 25 years of the last century saw the development of the Richmond Park Estate between Richmond Park Road and Queens Park Avenue. Its name lives on with the Richmond Park Bowling Club based at Winton Rec.

Queens Park 1923
Developments by 1923

Other developments in the first thirty years of the last century included the Charminster Estate around Charminster Avenue and the Charminster Hill Estate which included Bushey Road.

Lower Charminster
Lower Charminster - 1924


Queens Park
Lower Charminster - 1933

The 1920s saw a consolidation of housing stock, with much infill development around Charminster. There were also several important public buildings which were sited on the Charminster Hill ridge, including Saint Francis of Assisi church, where various birds and animals are incorporated into the design, Saint Walburga's School, and Charminster Library, which was known by that name from 1939. East Way was begun, and an infant and junior school were built along its south side - known for a time as the Charminster Road School.

When Bournemouth Council built the early council houses in Luckham Road, the estate was named 'Lower Charminster' even though there had never been an 'Upper Charminster'. From that decision came the concepts on an "upper" and "lower" Charminster.