President's Weekend at Christchurch

Away Weekend at Christchurch - 1st to 3rd April 2011

Nine Rotarians and their wives joined President Robert and Jenny at The Lord Bute Hotel in Christchurch for an away weekend.  The twenty of us almost filled the hotel's 13 rooms.  Supper was a beautifully-crafted menu with eye appeal as well - look at the typical starter!
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Hotel Entrance

The Lord Bute Hotel

Elegant Starter

After supper we were treated to a short talk by Sheila Boyd-Howell about Harry Gordon Selfridge, the millionaire entrepreneur who set up the famous London store and also fashioned Highcliffe Castle, a mock-Gothic pile just 400 yards from our hotel. 
He gambled away his fortune, died in penury and was buried in a very simple grave in St Mark's church nearby (photo by Jenny Anderson), next to the much more elaborate graves of his wife and daughter.

On Saturday morning after breakfast we all drove into Christchurch for a private visit to the Museum of Electricity.  The building was a former small power station to supply electricity to the 11-mile tramway from Christchurch to Bournemouth.  One of the trams was on display and we were allowed to climb aboard and experience another era. 

Museum of Electricity

A Christchurch Tram

No more room on top!

The tour continued with displays of early electrical goods (such as ten-inch black-and-white television sets, early washing machines and tea-making equipment) that took most of us back to our childhood.  The visit rounded off with a talk on the history of electricity, during which the President volunteered to try a 400-volt shock from an early 'health-promoting' machine.

Early tea-makers

Health-promoting device

Shocking the President

After the Museum visit we split up and many of us visited Christchurch Priory, an enormous building for such a small town.  In the Choir were several hassocks embroidered with the logos of local Service Clubs, including Rotary and Inner Wheel.  The Jesse Altar Screen (about 1360) was particularly impressive.

Christchurch Priory Nave

Rotary hassock

Jesse altar screen (1360)

In the afternoon, Philippa Davies had arranged for us to have a guided tour of Highcliffe Castle, including visits to areas not open to the public. This impressive 'castle' was assembled by Harry Selfridge from portions of mediaeval buildings all over Europe, especially the oriel window over the main entrance.  One of the other entrances was decorated with what was originally a mediaeval fireplace. Some of the gargoyles, however, were clearly modern.

Highcliffe Castle, view from South                           image copyright (c) Highcliffe Castle

After an introductory talk by a guide (who happened to be a Rotarian) we split into two groups and explored all areas of the restoration project.  Much of the building had been 'raided' and stonework, panelling etc. had been removed.  A multi-million pound restoration project is taking place.  Hard hats were mandatory in some areas, and with people of Bob Anderson's height it's easy to see why!  The Castle is now a popular and attractive wedding venue.

 Highcliffe Castle, Great Hall end

 Highcliffe Castle, Garden view

 Highcliffe Castle, Oriel window


 Modern Gargoyle (probably)


 Highcliffe Castle, Great Hall


 Hard hats esp. for the tall

After another impressive supper we were entertained by an illustrated talk by a retired Royal Navy Lt Commander about his ten-year service as Poole Harbour Master.

On Sunday morning most of us drove to nearby Buckler's Hard on the Beaulieu River, to enjoy lunch at the Master Builder's Hotel.  The President was warmly thanked for organising a very enjoyable away weekend.

Arriving at Buckler's Hard

Cottages at Buckler's Hard

Lunch at the Master Builder




Thursday 1st January 1970

Published by: The Rotary Club of Canterbury

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