The Russell Cotes Museum is a victorian villa built by Sir Merton Russell Cotes as a gift for his wife’s 66th birthday in 1901. What a generous husband he was! The house he built is set on the cliff top just east of the main Bournemouth pier and has spectacular views stretching from the Isle of Wight in the East to the Purbecks in the west. It was to be used by the Russell Cotes as their seaside home and also to house their vast collection of art, ceramics and other objects they had collected on their extensive travels and they generously left the house and contents to Bournemouth Council to be enjoyed after their deaths.
If you are looking for an example of how wealthy victorians lived then this museum gives a good insight. The house has wonderful rooms set to reflect what life was like for Merton and Annie. A dining room, drawing room, study, morning room, conservatory, bedrooms and magnificent entrance hall are all complete with ornately painted ceilings, period furniture and some original wall paintings. Their personal story is at the heart of the museum with an introductory video giving their background from hoteliers to wealthy patrons of the arts.
The bedrooms now house their extensive collections of artefacts from around the world. It seems hard to believe that they were able to travel so far and bring back so much. There are artefacts from Japan, Australia, Russia, Scandinavia, India and the Pacific Islands.
Beyond the entrance hall are galleries which have been added more recently to display their larger artworks and paintings that have been added to the collection since their deaths.
There is a shop, a lift, toilets and a cafe with lovely views which can be used without paying for admission to the rest of the house. It’s a great place to go when the sun isn’t shining.
Opening times are Tues-Sun 10-5 with entrance costing £6 and £4 for concessions.