Bournemouth – Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum
Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum.
This exotic seaside villa was built by hoteliers, Annie and Merton Russell-Cotes in 1901, as their home. Filled with their extraordinary collection of British paintings and sculptures, as well as souvenirs from their travels around the world. It is a unique Victorian survival in Bournemouth. The house and collection stand testimony to Annie and Merton’s love for each other and passion for collecting. On their deaths in 1921, they gave the house and its collections to the people of Bournemouth to enjoy forever.
This grand art gallery and museum stands in a premium spot atop the town’s East Cliff in a Grade II listed building in Art Nouveau style originally known as East Cliff Hall. It was built in 1897 as a commission by Merton Russell-Cotes, the owner of the neighbouring Royal Bath Hotel as a birthday present for his wife Annie and the first phase was completed in 1901.
Six years later Annie donated it and its contents to the town as a museum and Merton contributed his fine art collection and valuable keepsakes from his foreign travels. In return, the pair were made honorary freemen of the town. They continued adding to the collection and maintaining it until their deaths and in 1922 the Borough of Bournemouth assumed ownership, renaming it after the benefactors as the arts gallery and museum that is here today.
The Russell-Cotes Museum is an art gallery and museum in Bournemouth. It is located on the top of the East Cliff, next to the Royal Bath Hotel.
In 1897, the architect John Frederick Fogerty was commissioned by Merton Russell-Cotes, then the owner of the Royal Bath Hotel, to build a house as a birthday present for his wife Annie. Originally called East Cliff Hall it was built in the northeast section of his hotel’s garden. Built in the Art Nouveau style with interiors by John Thomas and his son Oliver. It was completed in its first form in 1901.
In 1907, Annie Russell-Cotes donated East Cliff Hall and its contents as a museum to the town of Bournemouth and Merton donated his fine art collection. In return they were made honorary freemen of the town. They continued living in part of the house and over the next ten years they paid for an extension to be built and made further donations including the freehold of the site. It was formally opened by Princess Beatrice in 1919. After their deaths the Borough of Bournemouth took over the running of East Cliff Hall and re-opened it as the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum on 10 March 1922. After Sir Merton’s death, it was extended into his part of the house; a further extension was opened in 2000.
The house and the new annex display various items collected in the course of Sir Merton’s foreign travels, especially to Japan, and paintings from his personal art collection. One room is the Sir Henry Irving Museum; Irving, a friend of the Russell-Cotes’, had stayed in that room. When Irving died in 1905, this room was devoted to his memory. Items purchased at the sale of Irving’s effects formed the basis of the Irving Museum and were displayed with memorabilia associated with his contemporaries such as Ellen Terry and Sarah Bernhardt.
Russell-Cotes Museum, Russell Cotes Road, Bournemouth
List Entry Number: 1108857
This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 28/05/2020
SZ 0990 19/169
RUSSELL-COTES ROAD (south side), Russell-Cotes Museum
II* House museum and art gallery, formerly East Cliff Hall. 1894 by Bournemouth architect John Fogarty for Sir Merton and Lady Russell-Cotes: eastern picture gallery wing added 1918-1919 by H.E. Hawker; western gallery wing added 1990 by Bournemouth Council Architect’s Department. Cement render. Tiled mansard roof with tall rendered chimney stacks and decorative cast iron balustrade; pyramidal roof flanked by conical roofs to southern bays. French villa style, on steep slope having single storey to road and three to garden.
Porch of 1907: bulbous windowless pavilion of staircase adjoining has glazed dome on domical leaded base. Garden front has central canted bay flanked by bowed bays with continuous copper hood above second floor windows and loggia to first floor (which follows the line of the bowed bays) approached by stone, balustraded imperial steps having a segmental arch giving access to stairs to first floor. Attached double height picture gallery rendered with rusticated pilasters and terracotta busts in modallions; cornice and balurstrade with urns. To left, two storey bowed conservatory; rendered ground floor with three round-arched openings and glazed first floor with shallow conicle roof. Attached three storey extension, known as The Display Space, in similar but simplified style to the house. Remarkable middle class aesthetic interior to house with rooms off of a large top-lit, double height, galleried hall with black and gold painted imperial stair.
Interior decoration by O. Thomas. Much stencilling, hand-painted ceilings and panels, tiles and gold lincrusta wallpaper; some good door furniture. Good stained glass to windows, screens and top lights. Hall with mosaic lined marble fountain and star painted ceiling with top light depicting phases of the sun and signs of the zodiac. Stair with stencilled dado and gold painted classical frieze below stained glass dome depicting bats and owls with clouds and stars; mosaic lyre pattern squinches with lunettes having painted figures in roundels. Dining room has painted peacock frieze on deep coving, brought forward on freestanding pink marble Cornithian columns which flank a round arched inglenook with Elizabethan style overmantle and grate with blue and white figure painted cheeks; flanked by stained glass windows. Fretwork screen to window bay. Morning room ceiling replaced following war damage and painted in contemporary theatrical trompe-l’oeil style by Anne Zinkeisen. French style drawing room has C18 Florentine doors, white and gold plaster ceiling, elaborate chimney piece and overmantle and fretwork screen to window bay. Upper rooms have various scenically painted ceilings and cornices. Scenes include Burmese, Japanese, pastoral and nautical. Lady Russell-Cote’s boudoirs in Adam Revival style having a pink stencilled scheme incorporating cameo medallions and laure swags; good chimneypiece and overmantle; fretwork screen to window bay. Arabic style painted polygonal vestibule with stained glass dome leads to study having open screen, golden imitation Spanish leather wallpaper and painted coved cornice depicting pastoral bird scenes. Irving Room has painted medallions. Picture gallery top lit with patterned stained glass including a compass; Corinthian screen to gallery entrance and Corinthian doorcases with painted texts to openings form an enfilade. Tiled toilets and former bathroom with stencilled walls, tiled dado and painted panel depicting a peacock, a parrot and fruit. The Display Space has top lighting domes, one with stained glass depicting local landscapes by Sasha Ward; circular opening to second floor allows dome to be seen from first. Floors approached by spiral stair in glazed turret.
Lord and Lady Russell-Cotes made their money from the Royal Bath Hotel, Bournemouth. They travelled widely and collected extensively; the house was built both to accommodate the collection and entertain on a large scale. In 1908 they presented the house and contents to the Corporation of Bournemouth, though retaining their right to live their for their lifetime. By 1922 both had died and the house and gallery were opened to the public. It is particularly complete example of middle class aesthetic taste. The Display Space contains commissioned sculpture, stained glass and furniture by contemporary artists and designers, in the tradition of the original house.
Listing NGR: SZ0922290894
Tagged: , Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum , Bournemouth , Dorset , England , Great Britain , United Kingdom , GB , UK , Grade II* Listed