Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Shelley Legacies Heritage Day

On 29 February 2020, right before the covid-19 pandemic, we investigated the legacies of the Shelley family in Bournemouth and Boscombe in a one-day event.

The family’s legacies are imprinted on the landscape of the area, with Boscombe Pier being part-funded by Percy Florence Shelley, and the Chine Gardens being former land from the Shelley estate. But they’re also mythical. Despite neither Mary nor Percy Bysshe Shelley ever living in the area, there are pubs named after them, there was a museum dedicated to their lives and works, and the town has been home to an annual Shelley Frankenstein Festival.

The Shelley Legacies Heritage Day comprised a screened interview with Dr Stephen Hebron about the Shelley papers in the Bodleian Library and their connections to Boscombe; a talk from Dr David Coates about Sir Percy Florence Shelley, his private theatre and Bournemouth; and a talk from Lord Abinger about his ancestors - the Shelley family - including insights into some members of the family who are lesser known. These talks will incorporate previously unpublished images and artefacts and newly located archival materials.

During the day guests also had the opportunity to get hands-on, transcribing copies of manuscripts relating to Percy Florence Shelley. In addition, there was an opportunity for guests to share their understandings of the legacies of the Shelley family in the region.

The day culminated with a reading of one of Percy Florence Shelley’s humorous short plays, He Whoops to Conquer, performed by members of Bournemouth Little Theatre. It was the first time that this play has been mounted since it was first staged in this very same venue over 150 years ago.

Shelley Theatricals

Figure 2: A watercolour of the theatricals at Boscombe Manor c. 1850-70. Image courtesy of Lord Abinger.

The day ran as follows:

  • 9.00am-10.00am: Registration and Tea and Coffee
  • 10.00am-10.40am: Welcome and Discussion – What are the Shelley Legacies in the region for you?
  • 10.40am-11.15am: Dr Stephen Hebron (Bodleian Library, University of Oxford) on curating the Shelley and Abinger Collections. A Screened Interview.
  • 11.15am-11.45am: Coffee Break
  • 11.45am-12.30pm: Lord Abinger on his ancestors, with Q&A
  • 12.30pm-1.00pm: Dr David Coates on Sir Percy Florence Shelley, his diaries and his theatricals.
  • 1.00pm-2pm: Lunch Break. During the lunch break there'll be the opportunity to get hands-on with history: transcribing documents and researching Shelley Legacies, as well as viewing a few items from Lord Abinger's private collection.
  • 2pm-2.45pm: Staged Reading of a play by Sir Percy Florence Shelley, performed by members of Bournemouth Little Theatre.
  • 2.45pm-3.15pm: An overview of the proposed Shelley Legacies Project
  • 3.15pm to 3.30pm: Q&A and Closing Remarks
  • 3.30pm: End of the Shelley Legacies Heritage Day.

The event was FREE and ran from 10am to 4pm. It was organised by Dr David Coates and was supported by the University of Warwick. During the event David sought interest from members of the public who wanted to take part in a larger community-driven project on the topic of Shelley Legacies. However, due to the pandemic, and the permanent closure of the Shelley theatre, this project has not yet moved forward.

Percy Florence Shelley

Figure 1: Percy Florence Shelley on a penny farthing. Image courtesy of Lord Abinger.