Between the boundaries of industrial Poole and the healthful parklands of Bournemouth lies Branksome, a complex area of wealthy estates and working class homes. It is the center of Borough jealousies and snobbery, because the vast village of Branksome which at one time had its boundaries well inland and almost into Bournemouth Square has two separate communities divided by a railway line. There is still a strong village community spirit within each.
Branksome has one side called the Park and the other literally on the other side of the tracks, an area mainly of terraced residences built around the Gas Works. The latter does have its beauty spots, amongst them Coy Pond, where swans and geese entertain the visitors. The gardens around the Bourne were developed with ornamental bridges in 1850, nearly twenty years before Bournemouth set out the Pleasure Gardens.
Early prints of Branksome show sheep grazing on the banks of the Bourne. Branksome Park is the area which stretched through the lovely woodland to the Chines, now developed for the pleasure of visitors at Branksome and Branksome Dene.
The Park estate belonged to C. W. Packe, M.P. for Prestwold, Leicestershire. In 1852 he built a plain stone Tudor house to a design by the Scots Romantic, Robert Burn. An earlier single towered building was on the site.
The drive to the house is now the Branksome Avenue, and until recent years the Lodge at the Westbourne entrance to the Park was used as an Estate Agentís office, but a new gyratory traffic scheme and the erection of large office blocks completely changed the area.
It was long known as County Gates (where Dorset and Hampshire met before the county boundary changes). If you look carefully, a small fragment of the lodge wall has escaped demolition.
Later Packeís home became the Branksome Towers Hotel, a famous hotel of quality where Royalty stayed, and it was run by one family until the 1960s.
The avenue became a broad boulevard flanked by mansions, amongst them Cerne Abbas, described as a Wagnerian fantasy and built in 1890 in red brick Gothic with a high chateau roofed tower, but both hotel and house have been demolished during the last decade with other proud Victorian properties and the Avenue is now lined with blocks of modern flats as well as the site of the Branksome Towers Hotel.
Gone also are the magnificent rhododendrons which dominated the Avenue, in twenty foot high banks separating the road from the foot-paths. Muggers and molesters loitered to catch the unwary and sadly the magnificent bushes have been cut to waist height. Both the Chines are now hut-lined bathing beaches belonging to Poole Corporation who have developed the sites without spoiling them, but a ghastly murder shortly after the last war caused acres of the Dene to be leveled in the search for clues, when Neville Heath was charged with the murder of Doreen Marshall. The devastated land was utilized as a car park.
In 1893 there was a rustic bridge over the Dene Chine from which the young Winston Churchill fell whilst climbing the woodwork and his life was feared for. How different might our modern history have been if young Churchill had died in a Dorset Chine.
In 1969 a reminder that Branksome was once an Urban District was given when a skin diver lifted a large stone from the harbor bed. It bore the letters B.U.D. and it was first thought that the stone was a petís tombstone.
However, it was soon verified that it was an old boundary stone of the Branksome Urban District, which became part of Poole in 1905.