I found this unexpected gem in Bournemouth back in February, lurking around the corner from the Royal Bath Hotel: The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum. I’d heard of the Russell-Cotes gallery when I’d lived in Bournemouth, but had never ventured inside before. I found the gate – hiding in plain sight, overlooking the East Cliffs. The gate led to a beautiful, relatively small garden with features and nods to the Japanese influence that lurks inside the house. The house itself is quite remarkable – it has a wonderful history with the Russell-Cotes family, and you can learn more by reading the placards and watching a short documentary on the first floor. The building was a pet project of Merton Russell-Cotes’ – he spent his retirement years building his dream home based on influences from the family travels. If Merton was alive today, he would be the star of Grand Designs, for sure! Although the style is eclectic, it works in a wonderfully wacky way. The open rooms don’t just house the huge art collection the family collected – walls and coving are painted with intricate coving and are grand and artistic in their own right. Even if Victorian art is not your favourite, I think you’d be hard pushed to not find something you like here. When Merton finished building the house, next to their business – the Royal Bath Hotel – he gifted it to his wife, Annie, who he adored until he died. When she finally passed away, the family gifted the house to Bournemouth council to enable the public to enjoy the art collection they had amassed. This is remarkable in itself, and worthy of a day trip.
As an aside, they run various events throughout the year. When I visited, you could partake in a murder mystery game. I’ve listed this year’s exhibitions below.
Russell-Cotes Ceramics: Connoisseur or Conned?
24th March 18 – 26th August 18
Philip Sutton: Woodcuts
1st May – 29th July
Making and Breaking the Rules: Royal Academy 250 at the Russell-Cotes
5th May – 14th October
The Flourish Flock Project
31st July – 5th August
Visit the website for opening times, admission fees and more info.