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Alum Chine derives its name from an unsuccessful attempt to mine and manufacture alum and copperas during the late 16th century. Alum was a fixative used by the dyeing industry, as well as tanners, illuminators and painters. Copperas was a black dye and was used to manufacture black ink. However, the deposits proved uneconomical and by the mid 17th century, mining had ceased,
‘Chine’ specifically refers to a steep sided narrow valley found along eroding coastlines, typically formed in the soft Tertiary sands and gravels of southern England by the action of fast flowing streams.
William Dean purchased this part of the West Cliff after the Enclosure Commission awards in 1805. For a long time the embayment around Alum Chine continued to be used by local fishermen for the storage of boats and equipment. The area was originally heathland - the present mixture of deciduous and evergreen woodland having been planted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Three bridges span the chine. The first is the suspension bridge built by David Rowell & Company in 1903, at a cost of £480. The second is a spandrel/arched bridge built in 1922 to replace an earlier rustic bridge from which a young Winston Churchill is said to have fallen l whilst playing in 1892, nearly losing his life! The third bridge is a beam and post bridge constructed in 1924.
Argyll Gardens was laid out in 1903, to include a public convenience. A bowling green was in place by 1907 and a croquet lawn by 1910, prior to the site being transferred to the Council in 1919. Pavilion extensions were erected in 1931, by which time tennis had replaced croquet. In 1980 a new pavilion was built, the tennis courts having been replaced by an additional bowling green in the interim period.
The Alum Chine Tropical Gardens were originally laid out in the 1920’s and formed part of Bournemouth Gardens of Excellence. The idea for the Gardens of Excellence scheme was born in 1922 with the aim of creating botanical gardens to further enhance the town’s reputation for its beautiful floral heritage. By the 1990’s, however, the Tropical Gardens had degraded and become cloaked in Holm Oak and Euonymous japonicus. In 1996 the gardens were replanted and a new paved viewing platform provided.
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