One of our recent speakers Prof. Matthew Bennett (who is an expert on fossil footprints) is giving a talk at Bournemouth University about his life in research as part of the University’s “Festival of Learning” on June 20th. More information here
As well as our usual Tuesday openings we will be also be open on Saturday 24th March and Saturday 26th May 10am-2pm. Visitors will be able to visit our collections of Egyptology, Archaeology, Geology, Ornithology and Entomology and talk to our expert members. No charge but donations welcome.
Unfortunately, the President’s Address has had to be postponed until a future date due to current adverse weather conditions. There will be no talk on Saturday 3rd March.
Barn Dance is on Friday 10th November 7.30 (not 17th). Tickets £6 from Steve Limburn.
Young Explorers “Famous Scientists” is on Saturday November 11th at 10-12.30.
Students from Bournemouth Arts University and Bournemouth University have been increasingly visiting the society and working on projects with assistance from members.
Dorine Bessière, a MA Commercial Photography student at the Arts University Bournemouth has produced a wonderful children’s book ‘My Alphabet’ with photographs of objects taken at the Society. Each letter is illustrated with a object from the Society’s collection together with a phrase or idiom promoting interest in the Natural Sciences.
SUMMER HOLIDAY OPENING 2017
This Summer BNSS will throw open our doors (10-4) to the general public on Mondays and Wednesdays, in addition to the usual Tuesdays (which we are trying to keep free for normal Society activities although visitors will always be made welcome) between 24/7 and 30/8. These summer visiting days, also listed below, are less hectic than our Open Days and are perfect for getting more one-to-one time from our experts. So make the most of your summer holidays: grab your wall calendar or diary right now and reserve some time for a really special summer visit. Bring your family. Bring your friends. Bring your visitors to Bournemouth and please give generously!
Our Open Day on Saturday 8th April together with the Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) was a great success. It was attended by 919 visitors of which 40% were children. DWT filled the garden with stands to do with Wildlife Gardening.
Income from Sales and Refreshments were gratefully received as were donations. Volunteers manned various stands in the Lecture Hall and throughout the building. The picture below shows those volunteers manning the entrance.
In October 2016 Bournemouth Guides received £32,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for an exciting project to investigate the 3000 year old hill fort called Dudsbury that their campsite is situated on at West Parley.
Led by the Girlguiding members the project focuses on the historical importance of their ancient Iron Age hill fort and also the changing camping experiences in living memory for the Girlguides over their 85 year history on the site.
A group of local Girlguides began their journey to gain personal badges and awards as they discover archaeological finds and how their fortified campsite links to other better known local sites of historic interest such as Hengistbury Head and Badbury Rings. The girls and young women will learn how to permanently record and communicate their findings for visitors along the Stour Valley Way at their currently uninterpreted site.
Dudsbury Camp was secured as a Girlguiding campsite in 1931 and to celebrate the occasion a pageant was staged with Girlguides forming tableaus to explain what was known about the history of the site. Bournemouth Guide Camp Association made the decision that re-staging the pageant with updated information and including the history of Girlguiding on the site would make a fitting end celebration to the project which will be in July 2017.
Discovering that some pottery remains were housed at the BNSS led Girlguiding members to contact the society for information and help with the project. Meeting with Bryan Popple at the Society in November 2016 the girls were introduced to the person and work of Heywood Sumner.
With the kind and considerable research that Bryan put in the girls were able to read correspondence from Heywood Sumner regarding his excavations at their hill fort and the impressive pictures and maps he drew of the site as it appeared in the 1920s. Handling the original pottery pieces that Heywood Sumner discovered was brought to life as the girls were able to see more complete artefacts from the collection at the Society. Of great interest was the beautiful hand drawn map showing Dudsbury’s location on the river Stour between the port at Hengistbury Head and the larger fort at Badbury Rings which was so much clearer than picking out the sites from a modern map.
The girls are currently using this information to design interpretation boards that will be erected on site, information for their new website and ideas for practical iron age workshops. It may be that Mr Heywood Sumner himself makes a posthumous guest appearance at the re-staged pageant… watch this space.
Division Commissioner Girlguiding Bournemouth South and Trustee Bournemouth Guide Camp Association
The Bournemouth Natural Science Society (BNSS) is thrilled to announce the winner of its inaugural President’s Award, which was presented at the Society’s AGM on Saturday 10th December 2016.
This new award has been created to recognise the individual who has contributed the most to the furtherance of science or has inspired to others to do so this year. The many amazing people who were nominated for the Award show that science is thriving in Bournemouth.
The winner for 2016, known to many in and around Bournemouth, is Richard Hesketh. Formerly a Ranger at Hengistbury Head, Richard is now Volunteer Co-ordinator with Bournemouth Parks Department. Described in his nomination as having charm, enthusiasm and as being the ‘genuine public face’ of the Bournemouth Parks Department, Richard is knowledgable ecologist, ardent ornithologist and passionate astronomer.
In 2007 Richard started the Monday Meanderers which quickly attracted a loyal following. These guided walks introduced the uniqueness of Bournemouth’s various parks and open spaces to the public, whose appreciation will help ensure their continued survival.
Rod Cooper, President of the BNSS said, “I’m delighted that the President’s Prize has had such a worthy winner in it’s inaugural year. For over a century the BNSS’s aim has been to inspire people to share our love of science and the natural world and Richard Hesketh is a fine example of that spirit.”
Richard receives one year’s free membership of the BNSS, a £50 book token, a certificate, a signed copy of ‘The Natural History of Bournemouth and the Surrounding Area’ and a private tour of the Museum.
The nominations were so strong that the President chose to introduce two additional commendations. Bob Mizon, for his astronomical work with local schools and as Chair of the Campaign for Dark Skies and Sarah Sumbler, Lead Technician at St. Peter’s Catholic Academy in Southbourne, for her enthusiastic work engaging young people in science. Both receive a commendation certificate and book.
Read about it in the Bournemouth Echo
A History of the BNSS Building
It is appropriate that our historic collections of local artefacts, local wildlife and fossils (plus lots more!) should find home in one of Bournemouth’s historic buildings. Not only is “Bassendean” the home of the Bournemouth Natural Science Society, but it is a Grade II Listed Building. These two important institutions came together by chance and necessity in 1919; before then, each had a separate existence.
Bournemouth came into being when Lewis Tregonwell decided to settle here in1810. A few years earlier, as part of Christchurch, this once heathland wilderness was parcelled up and sold off. The road connecting Christchurch and Poole was then just a track. The land to the south was planted out with pines as a cash crop, called Hinton Wood/Eastern Plantation. As the nucleus of Bournemouth expanded, luxurious villas were built in clearings towards Boscombe. One of these houses became the property of John Cassels, a colourful figure who had made a small fortune in India and, with his wife and family, eventually made his home in Bournemouth. Here, he involved himself with the Board of Commissioners (a pre-Council body which developed Bournemouth), with Holy Trinity Church, and moved in circles with the great of Bournemouth. He called his villa “Bassendean”, a possible reference to his Scottish origins, and moved in around 24th July 1880, soon after its completion. For some reason he abandoned the house after three months and moved to Jersey. The house was put up for let, and from the estate agent’s description we learn that the place had four large reception rooms and a full-sized billiard room at ground level, and some 9 bedrooms, two bathrooms and toilets on the upper floor, and a basement for servants and services. It was built in the Italianate style, popularised after Osborne House but not common in Bournemouth. This is typified by rounded-topped windows usually in pairs and the dramatic inclusion of a belfry-like structure, here used for the water-supply.
For the next 40 years the place was occupied by several people, some notable. One of the first was Lt Col Henry Dorrien Streatfeild, of Chiddingstone, here for tragic reasons. Sometime later came the Hon Mrs Isabella Fiennes and her family (today related to Ralph, Ranulph and Joseph).
The Bournemouth Natural Science Society, too, had a mixed but distinguished career. The late 18th century/early 19th century saw a great public interest in the natural world: its place in the universe, its extended history, and the plants and animals that inhabited it. Every large town generated its own natural history and antiquarian society. Their universal aims were to study and attempt to understand the planet on which we live. They did research, they gave lectures, collected items of interest, and books for extended study. In Bournemouth, we chose the academic term of ‘natural science’ to embrace those studies beyond just the living world.
The first stirrings of such a society in Bournemouth came in 1868, when the young town had a population less than 6000. The cliffs were found to yield fossils of tropical plants from 50 million years ago. A call was raised to form a society to care for these and establish a museum to keep them in the locality. One of the advocates was a close friend of Charles Darwin – Admiral Sir Bartholomew Sulivan. He lived just round the corner from where “Bassendean” was later to be built, and was an active promoter of the two societies that preceded the Bournemouth Society for Natural Science that was formed in1903. This latter organisation proved more viable and grew to 112 members in its first year. It was to inherit not only the original objectives, but also many of the various local collections made in the 19th century.
There was a period when our membership reached over 600, and during our existence we have had as our members Alfred Russel Wallace (who, with Darwin, was the co-proposer of the Theory of Evolution), and many other world-renowned eminent naturalists who lived locally. Ten mayors of Bournemouth have been members, including Merton Russell Cotes and Percy Bright. And our annual Presidents have been a stellar array of scientific research.
We later called ourselves the Bournemouth Natural Science Society (BNSS), but it was to take longer to find a permanent home, starting first in the upper floor of a boot shop (122 Old Christchurch Road), Granville Chambers (Richmond Hill), then a space at the newly-built Municipal College at the Lansdowne. The aftermath of the First World War necessitated a new home and we took over “Bassendean”, just a quarter of a mile up the road. Thanks to the generosity of Sir George Meyrick and members (and with help from rentals), the BNSS moved in formally on 7th February 1920.
It needed some modification of the ground floor, but the present ‘Museum Room’ still gives the impression of the south-facing lounge and dining room from which it was formed. Upstairs, some of the former bedrooms are now occupied by the specialist collections; similarly, the Geology collection is now situated in part of the former servants’ quarters.
When the Society moved into “Bassendean”, the members realised they could display another dimension: the inside could hold the ‘dead museum’ of stuffed birds and butterflies, but in the acre of garden a ‘live museum’ of exotic plants could be created. Shrubs and trees like camellias, wych-hazel, and Gingko were planted and still give a riot of colour and interest. In recent decades – with less croquet – it has become a haven for wildlife with foxes, frogs, autumn ladies tresses, and numerous bird species. This has been encouraged with the digging of ponds, placing of bird boxes and bug-houses, and hedgehog-hibernation boxes. Our lawn may now look a mess – but you should see the woodpeckers, jays and squirrels working it for food! More further could be done such as bat-boxes, perhaps a butterfly farm, wild flower meadow…. Add to this a weather station, and we become a scientific oasis amongst a sea of flats and concrete. Join us in the exercise!
There is no doubt, that the Victorian naturalists caused great decimations with their collecting practices: we have an example of this displayed in the form of a Great Auk, rendered to extinction in 1844 because every collector and museum wanted one. (Actually, our bird is composite replica, but it does not stop us highlighting it as a cause célèbre: “Extinction is forever”)
Today, thanks to legislation, it is illegal to kill a wide range of animals, or collect eggs or pick plants. Present members of the Society also regard such practices as morally wrong and do not engage in taking specimens from the wild. The wide availability of cameras makes it unnecessary, anyway. However, we recognise the value of having specimens: as a teaching and study resource, an inspiration for art – and the sheer “Wow!” factor. Unlike many museums today, we would wish to display our specimens, share their beauty with the public. How often do you get to be that close to a Golden Eagle? We find we are now becoming a repository for earlier collections (often sadly because the collector has just deceased). Instead of valuable, unique specimens being confined to the scrapyard, we may be able to find a space amongst our crowded shelves (repeat, ‘may’).
History has shown that Bournemouth has lost the opportunity to retain objects because there was then no local repository. We have mentioned the Eocene plant fossils, but another case has been the loss of Bronze Age urns from Pokesdown. On the other hand, we received our lovely Egyptian mummy because in 1922 we had space to receive her. Similar local rescues, have included a collection of Barton Bed fossils (the second best in the world), and nationally, the archives of the Gilbert White Foundation. “Bassendean” is now a unique home to thousands of treasures from microscopic fossil nummulites to a blossoming Indian Bean Tree. It is all there to be shared with the residents and visitors of Bournemouth. A unique double-whammy of a museum.
“Bassendean” was the former home of the Dorset Wildlife Trust during its early years. Since then the Society’s activities have brought together many local conservation groups, sharing events or their hiring our hall for special occasions. Being central to transport connections, the place has the potential to be a dynamic hub for existing groups, or the nurturing of new groups.
For much of our earlier existence, our collections were almost private, with just occasional airings to the public. Now, because of our charitable status, we are obliged to allow more accessibility. We are happy to do this and have recently received accreditation which gives us greater abilities. To provide this function of an historic collection within an historic building will need much work and we seek more volunteers to help and more funding to make the building properly functional.
“Bassendean” is now 136 years old! Many Victorian buildings had conservancy-style roofs over their stairwell. At “Bassendean” this lantern roof differs by being central, allowing light to pass through a surrounding balcony at upper floor level, creating a light well to the entrance hall. The original effect on guests entering the building must have been stunning. It is a rare architectural feature that is worthy of restoring to its original function.
However, the Lantern has a wooden frame and despite carrying out repairs, exposure to weather has rotted the frame. It now leaks, putting our collections at risk of damage, and requires major repair. To help stop further damage from the weather, scaffolding has temporarily been placed over the top of the lantern.
The BNSS would like to restore the Lantern Roof to its original glory. To do this we have to raise £100,000 to fix the roof to its Grade II Listed standard, working with specialised architects and builders. We are looking into various funding streams and grants to do this, but to get the ball rolling we have started the #LanternRescue project. We are asking visitors and the local community to donate to this project and we are hoping to raise funds to support the project.
There will be a range of activities and events supporting #LanternRescue over the coming year, so keep your eyes open! You can also donate on our website.
Thank you for your support.