Birth and Growth of the Chamber
Please bear in mind that many of the Chamber records were destroyed by fire in World War II - we have endeavoured to piece together the history from records and press clippings gathered together from as far afield as New Zealand.
The Bournemouth Traders Baron of Beef Association was set up in 1885 whose main purpose was to meet quarterly for "the discussion of public matters affecting the general welfare of the Town" and also to hold annually a Baron of Beef dinner on the third Thursday of February. Annual membership was five shillings (25p). A baron of beef is a joint of beef consisting of two sirloins left uncut at the backbone.
In 2012 this event was recreated by BCTC and BAHA to launch the Annual Food & Drink Festival with the Deputy Mayor carving the first slice with a ceremonial sword.
The Association evolved in 1908 into the Bournemouth Traders Federation which accomplished much useful work, but all concerned were convinced that the time had arrived when the Federation should be absorbed into a more comprehensive body.
It was at a meeting held on February 15th 1916 at St Peter’s Hall that a decision was reached to form a Chamber of Trade for Bournemouth. A copy of the original Constitution has yet to be found - below is the 1988 update.
Practically all the existing Trade Associations of the time decided to become affiliated. As such, this was an excellent beginning towards the realisation of the aims of the Chamber not only to advance the welfare of the trader members but also the interests of the Town as a whole – an aim that persists to this day.
At the time of Mr Maurice Plomer’s appointment as “General Secretary” in May 1916 there were 56 “direct” members; within ten years this total had reached four figures. Membership currently stands at 600 direct members with 1500 plus affiliated and contains a very strong cross-section of the community. With all affiliations the Chamber currently represents around 4,500 “traders” with practically every type of business in Bournemouth represented.
The Board listing the Presidents from 1916 to date may be viewed in the Town Hall opposite the Royal Hants room.
The Chamber’s first President was Alderman Percy Bright J.P., (Mayor 1929/31), and the Chamber’s first offices were established in what was then known as Hankinson’s Building or Richmond Chambers, near the Bourne Avenue corner of the Square. After seven or eight years a move to larger premises near Holy Trinity Church was made and later to Cairns House, (former home of the YMCA) in St Peter’s Road. This building was totally destroyed by enemy action in 1943 and unfortunately every early record of the Chamber was lost.
In 2010 some records were discovered in the possession of a relative of a previous Chamber member in Australia and the current President has copies in his possession which can be viewed at Bourne Engraving in Granville Place - not least of which is the menu from the Chamber Dinner in 1927, parts of which were broadcast live on BBC Radio.
Until the late 1980’s representation within the Chamber was by trade, however in recent years this had moved more to representation by area of the town. Of late, various "Specialist networks" have formed within the Chamber such as the Green Knowledge Network, Arts in Business, Recruitment and Health & Well Being. All the traders in the districts meet each other and discuss their issues, with each having a Representative who brings their concerns and issues to the Chamber’s Local Government Affairs Meeting which is held each second Monday of the month at the Town Hall.
This system appears to be working satisfactorily. As well as the Chamber Executive, the meeting is also attended by Councillors, heads of Town Hall departments such as Planning and Tourism, both Bus companies, and the Town Centre Manager. Taxi Owners and Funeral Directors have been members of the Chamber since its inception.
Although membership was never restricted to pure “tradesmen”, in 1988 the Chamber title was extended to Bournemouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce to reflect the more diverse range of business activities undertaken by the members.
Promoting and publicising the town.
The Chamber has always been in the forefront of promoting the town and in 1928 made an agreement with the local authority for the provision of an Information Bureau, as in those days the Borough Council did not have the necessary powers for building and maintaining such a Bureau.
The first Bureau opened in a converted tram shelter in August 1928 and there was a ready and rapid demand for its services. So much so in fact, that a permanent building in Westover Road was built by the Chamber at a cost of £1,000 and was officially opened on 13th May 1929.
Between May and October of that year the Bureau dealt with 20,000 enquiries and found accommodation for over 1,000 people visiting the town – for which the Chamber received a fee of one shilling (five new pence).
The Chamber had agreed with the Corporation to reimburse staffing and admin costs as well as making contributions towards advertising. It's obvious that the revenue from the booking fees alone could not support the costs of the Bureau and the balances of the costs were made up by appeals to members. Over the years the Chamber's members i.e. the traders of Bournemouth contributed around £30,000 to the running of the Bureau.
Eventually laws were amended and on December 31st 1948 the Chamber was able to present the Bureau to the town and the Corporation took over full financial responsibility. The Chamber's role is commemorated in the blue plaque beside the entrance to the Visitor Information Bureau in Westover Road.