Southern Winds

Arriving in Bournemouth, I walk to the church of St Stephen. Designed by Pearson, it’s a Victorian church that rivals a lot of cathedrals with a long and elaborately paved gothic revival nave. From there I walk onwards to Street’s elaborate church of St Peter. The interior is smaller than that of St Stephen but what it lacks in comparative scale it makes up for in detail, with much of the nave covered in frescos, beautiful stained glass (including a version of the Annunciation by Comper) and an elaborately carved pulpit. I particularly like a stained glass window showing scenes from the book of revelations – is there such a thing as a stained glass nastie? Of course, I have to go to the graveyard to find the graves of the two Shelleys before visiting the Russell Cotes Museum. The museum rather reminds me of places like the Leighton House in London but on a much larger scale. The collections range from Tiger’s teeth necklaces, Norwegian wooden ale mugs, Russian drinking cups, Maori jade axes, paintings of a Volcano in Hawaii, Palestinian coin headdresses, a replica of the Portland vase and a Wedgewood case decorated with Spinxes, a lyre made from a mummified crocodile, Samurai armour, Noh masks as well as memorabilia from the careers of Henry Irving and Sarah Bernhardt. The sculpture collection includes busts of Queen Victoria, Nelson, Othello, Shakespeare. Athena, Napoleon, orientalist images of Arab Chiefs as well as statues of Cleopatra, Hamlet, the Princes in the Tower, Disraeli and Pharaoh’s daughter. The painting collection ranges from Victorian historical painters like Edwin Long and Byam Shaw (as with his painting of Jezebel) to aesthetic paintings by Albert Moore and Pre-Raphaelite paintings by Rossetti, Simeon Solomon and Arthur Hughes (a lot of the Victorian paintings seem to reflect a taste for female flesh, with a heavy preponderance of nymphs; unsurprisingly paintings by Etty figure here) through to more idiosyncratic paintings by Atkinson Grimshaw. There’s also one solitary room dedicated to the twentieth century, with paintings by the likes of Christopher Nevinson. There’s an exhibition while I’m visiting of works by the De Morgans; in his case lustre plates and plaques showing sea serpents, ships, ports and other maritime themes (many taken from his work by P&O) and in her case paintings like Aurora Triumphans, Lux in Tenebris, Ariadne in Naxos and Phosphorus and Hesperus. Finally, the house itself with its cross of Scottish Baronial with Italian Renaissance is equally idiocratic, with every surface covered by frescos or stained glass.

I then travel out of Bournemout to Christchurch and walk to the Abbey. I’m rather disturbed by the number of UKIP posters I see around, with a UKIP office on the high street; I keep on expecting an old lady to break into a rendition of ‘Yesterday Belongs to Me.’ The Abbey itself has lots of interest, from the Shelley monument, the medieval misericords, a monument to Francis Dashwood’s daughter to the fresco in the quire and it striated layers of gothic vaults and romanesque arches. Finally, I go for a walk down to the beach at Pokesdown. The view from the bay there extends for miles and I go to look at the shells washed up there.

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