Douglas House

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 Douglas House, Bournemouth was formerly Stourfield House.  I have not been able to discover why it came by its new name.

Stourfield House was built on the very edge of the unspoilt heath that lay between Christchurch and Poole in 1766.

It was built for Edmund Bott, a barrister and writer, who had no known connections with the area. The house was built on the high ground overlooking the Stour Valley with views towards Christchurch and the New Forest.

Officially the first house built on the heath, although it was almost certainly predated by Bourne House / Decoy Pond Cottage, a pair of semi detached cottages that stood where Debenhams now stands in The Square, close to what was then the ford that crossed the Bourne Stream on the main route between Christchurch and Poole.

Another property, Boscombe Cottage built in 1801, that stood where Shelley Manor now stands in Beechwood Avenue, almost certainly had much earlier roots, but Stourfield House is generally recognised as the first noteable property built on the heath, albeit on the very edge.

Edmund Bott had over 100 acres of the heath enclosed, almost certainly by way of a local 'inclosure' agreement, meaning that because the heath was common land, all interested parties had to sign away their rights to the land being enclosed. This would have included the Lord of the Manor Sir George Tapps and anyone exercising their commoners rights on the land.

Local 'Inclosure Agreements' were not sanctioned by Parliament as it was felt that they could be open to misuse by unscrupulous landowners coercing commoners to sign away rights to land that they didn't want to, although they still took place. The Government did pass an act to allow huge swathes of common land to be enclosed across the country, including all of the heath between Christchurch and Poole in the 'Christchurch Inclosure Act 1802'.

It is likely that the local commoners would have seen employment opportunities connected with the building and running of Stourfield House which was built on the high ground overlooking the Stour Valley and the ancient villages of Iford, Tuckton and Wick, who no doubt farmed the land sloping down to the valley bottom from the edge of the heath.

Stourfield House lay the origins of Pokesdown that grew up around it although it is highly likely the land was already being farmed to some degree a scattering of cottages were already in the vicinity prior to the building of Stourfield House. There would have been no settlement of any note and i would be inclined to see it more as a spreading out of the nearby Iford that had existed at a crossing point on the Stour since Saxon times.

Edmond Bott passed away in 1788 and the house was purchased by Sir George Tapps who rented it out, most noteably to the Countess of Strathmore(1), one of the richest heiresses in the country, who was a member of the Bowes-Lyon family as was the Queen Mother, making her an ancestor of our present Queen.

The Countess lived at Stourfield House from 1796 until her death in 1800, when she was buried in Westminster Abbey.

In 1844 the house was purchased by Admiral William Popham, and it remained in his family until 1893, when the estate was broken up into building plots and the house much enlarged.

It became a school for a while before becoming a sanatorium / hospital most commonly referred to as the Home Sanatorium, and later, the Douglas House Hospital.
Listed building status
Porch and staircase of east wing only of Douglas House Hospital 40/1392 34/273

Original entrance front of Stourfield House, circa 1766, incorporated in large brick, half timber and tile-hung hospital of 1898. 3 storeys on high basement, with recessed centre between 2 gables. Good Ionic porch with console-bracketed cornice, reached up double staircase of stone, with sweepingly clawed iron railings ending in urn-topped newels. Arch to basement beneath porch on rusticated piers, with rusticated spandrels, segment-roofed lobby with arched recesses. Walls unfortunately refaced in 1898: roughcast and stucco bands, half-timber to 1st floor, tile-hanging to 2nd. 4-storey canted bay on west side. Small 2-storey annexe to east, circa 1840, in painted brick, with gable on console kneelers.



Douglas, House, in West Southbourne, was opened in 1934 by the United Services Fund as a convalescent and holiday home for tuberculous ex-service men of the Army and Royal Ait Force. It was established for men with quiescent tuberculosis who needed a period of convalescence under medical supervision so as to render them fit for employment. The yearly average of residents was 583, with a total of 80 beds available.. The Fund gave monetary support to the family while the men were in the home.

It was demolished in 1991 and replaced by a housing development and medical centre, with the creation of Douglas Mews.

The main staircase and porch were retained, moved, and incorporated into a new building called Stourfield Mansion.

Notes:
1.  This is not the place to tell the tale of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne, but she had two husbands, several lovers and a number of seld induced abortions and inherited a fortune.

Source

Sources for this article include:

  • British Medical Journal, 1934
  • Flickr - Bournemouth Grant


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    Last modified: Monday, 06 July 2020