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History of Bournemouth - The Red House

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  • Stained glass loveheart swan window

History of the Langtry Manor

Now a Hotel on the East Cliff of Bournemouth

When it comes to History, none of the hotels in Dorset, let alone Bournemouth or the East Cliff can top the Romantic beginnings of the Langtry Manor - the most famous hotel in Bournemouth.

In 1877 the future King Edward VII bought a plot of land in a secluded area of the East Cliff in Bournemouth for the woman he loved,Lillie Langtry.

Often described as the very first supermodel, Lillie was born to the Dean of Jersey and had a unique beauty.  Her feisty personality attracted the attention of the Prince of Wales.   It was not long before love blossomed and Lillie became not only his love but his "official" mistress.  He decided that he wanted to have somewhere  they could get away from prying eyes, relax and be themselves.

Where others would have preferred jewellery and gowns Lillie was very practical and considered land and property to have lasting value.  Bertie, as he was often called among close friends and family, told Lillie that she could design a home for the two of them.

Lillie enjoyed designing the romantic royal love nest, adding many personal touches. The foundation stone bares the date 1877 and ELL (Emilie Le Breton Langtry). The King's chamber has a lofty ceiling specially designed to disperse his cigar smoke. The walls feature original paintings and their love of the theatre was reflected in the huge carved oak fireplace sporting hand painted tiles with scenes of Shakespeare plays in blue and white enamel with gold leaf.

They say What say they?

Let them say

On the outside wall of the Kings room is the motto 'Dulce Domum' (Sweet Home). On the garden side of the building visitors are welcomed with 'Stet Fortuna Domus' (may fortune attend those who dwell here).

Lillie was determined to stamp her personality on the building and on entering the manor, her friends would receive a warm embrace with the greeting 'and yours my friends' meaning this is your home too.

No royal retreat would be complete without a magnificent Dining Hall. Lillie hated dark wood and as in the rest of the house the wood was painted with the new white enamel.  Beneath the minstrels gallery is a self explanatory statement for all to see: 'They say What say they? Let them say'. Carved into the inglenook fireplace are the letters 'ELL' and in the stained glass window lovers' swans.

Lillie didn't want to leave anyone in doubt as to whom her benefactor was.  She even had curtain tie back hooks with the Prince's own emblem.  A humorous feature of the Dining Hall is the peep hole from where His Royal Highness could view his guests before deciding whether to descend.

The building work did not proceed at the pace the couple desired. The English masons were on strike and others had to be imported from Holland. Meanwhile the couple made use of the nearby home of Lord Derby (now the Langtry Lodge).

Lillie named her pride and joy the 'Red House' and she and Bertie were delighted with the home that she had made for them. Picture the scene: Lillie is waiting for the Prince and sits in anticipation, glancing frequently out of the window, with the diamond ring he gave her she lovingly scratches her initials and intertwined love Hearts.

This feature along with many others previously mentioned can still be seen today along with a small display entitled 'The 1877 collection' which consists of Lillie Langtry memorabilia and relevant artefacts and pictures from 1877.  A controversial feature within the building is a stained glass window dated 1881 on a staircase commemorating the birth of her daughter Jeanne Marie who was born in Paris and attended by the Prince's own Physician. Rumour has it that the child was fathered by Prince Louis of Battenberg, the Prince's Nephew, who soon after rose swiftly through the ranks of the British navy.  Jeanne Marie was brought up as Lillie's niece and was only told who her father was on the eve of her wedding day.

Of the Hotels in Bournemouth the Langtry Manor on the East Cliff is the most famous.   Not only for its history but also for the quality, unique style and attentive service it provides is guests.   The Howard Family own, run and maintain the hotel in the style befitting a King.  It was purchased by Pamela Howard in 1977, exactly one hundred years after it was built and has been lovingly restored to its former glory.

Tara Howard, the Managing Director extends a warm welcome for you to visit the Langtry Manor for a cup of tea or just a look around to see and feel the wonderful ambience of this Historic building on the East Cliff of Bournemouth.

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