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24 September 2014

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You are in: Dorset > Coast > Point 3: Prince Albert Gardens

Prince Albert Gardens

Prince Albert Gardens

Point 3: Prince Albert Gardens

From the pier, turn into Prince Albert Gardens for some reminders of Swanage's rocky past.

Swanage was originally a quarrying and fishing village, but in the 19th century, it underwent a transformation into an elegant Victorian seaside resort. 

Holiday haven
The bathing house

Morton Pitt's bathing house

In the 1820s, Local MP, William Morton Pitt turned the Mansion House into the Manor House Hotel which was renamed the Royal Victoria when the young Princess (soon to be Queen) Victoria stayed there in 1833.  It's now an apartment block and nightclub.

Morton Pitt thought that Swanage could be as successful as Weymouth was in attracting well-heeled visitors to sample the craze of sea-bathing.  He built Marine Villas - the white building next to the pier, with underground baths with an inlet from the bay - so visitors could 'sea bathe' without having to venture into the sea!

In 1885 the London and South Western Railway started bringing visitors from London's Waterloo Station.  Paddle steamers brought more day trippers and the town was a full blown holiday resort by the turn of the century.  Visitors would ‘take the air’ – a pleasant escape from the smog of cities like London – while taking a ‘parambulation’ along the pier, sampling the tea shops or taking trips inland.

Amongst the town’s famous visitors was the author Thomas Hardy who came here on honeymoon in 1875 with his first wife, Emma, and spent a winter at the home of Swanage Lifeboat's first Coxswain, William Masters. While staying there, he wrote his story Hand of Ethelberta in Swanage, which he called 'Knollsea', a place where “Everyone in the parish who is not a quarrier is a boatman.” 

And Enid Blyton, the children’s author who was the JK Rowling of her day, set many of her Famous Five stories around the Purbecks including Swanage Bay.

Swanage is still a massively popular resort attracting thousands of visitors to the sandy beach, as well as the more energetic who use it as a base for diving, watersports, and walking on the coast path or up Ballard Down. 

The Lady of the Rocks

The Lady of the Rocks

And on New Years Eves, it has been transformed into a party town, one of the best places on the South Coast to spend new year - locals and visitors don fancy dress and see in the New Year at the Square.

Stone sights

As you walk through Prince Albert Gardens on the way to Peveril Point, look out for some 'Greek ruins' – they are actually replicas of the 2,400 year old Athena Polias – they are the same design as the pillars on the British Museum and once adorned another building in London – no-one's quite sure which one!

And Swanage’s stone heritage is commemorated by another sculpture in the gardens – look out for the Lady of the Rocks, designed by Mary Spencer Watson, and made of Purbeck Stone.

You can either walk to Peveril Point along the seafront (this is a rough, rocky path) or walk up through Prince Albert Gardens and join Peveril Point Road which will take you to the Point.

last updated: 29/01/2008 at 15:09
created: 19/07/2005

You are in: Dorset > Coast > Point 3: Prince Albert Gardens

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