Digby Chambers: 25 Old Christchurch Road, Flats 1-15 Digby Chambers and 2-10 (Evens) Post Office Road


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Bournemouth, BH1 1BA


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Statutory Address:
Bournemouth, BH1 1BA

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Bedford Buildings, now Digby Chambers, a speculative development of 1887 by George Joseph Lawson and John Donkin. Later alterations; repairs and refurbishment in early C21.The interior of the building, except the communal areas to Flats 1-15, is excluded from the listing.

Reasons for Designation

Digby Chambers (25 Old Christchurch Road, Flats 1-15 Digby Chambers and 2-10 (evens) Post Office Road), a commercial building of 1887 to the designs of Lawson and Donkin is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* for its eye-catching and decorative design which displays a high degree of architectural flair and is appropriate to its prominent central Bournemouth location; * the brickwork and carved stone and terracotta detailing add a distinctive textural richness to the façade; * an accomplished work by a notable local architectural practice which has several buildings on the List.

Group value:

* it makes a positive contribution to the street scene and has group value with 14-24 Old Christchurch Road (House of Fraser) and the former Post Office and Savings Bank on Post Office Road which are both listed at Grade II.


Beckford Road was laid out on land that was previously part of the Beckford Estate and was described as a new thoroughfare in November 1885. It connected Old Christchurch Road with Richmond Hill and was renamed Post Office Road around 1900.

Bedford or Beckford Buildings as it was previously known, now Digby Chambers, is situated on the corner of Beckford Road and Old Christchurch Road and was a speculative development, designed and built by Messrs Lawson and Donkin (established 1874 at Trinity Chambers, Old Christchurch Road)). The building was described as ‘just approaching completion’ in October 1886. By the following January it was part-occupied by the publishing office of the Bournemouth Guardian and the Western Chronicle, and Lawson & Donkin had also re-located their offices there. In January 1888 the remainder of the building was rented to the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). The Digby Institute, as it was to be known, was named after Edith Wingfield Digby (1847-c1921) the founder and president of the Bournemouth YWCA, and was officially opened by the Bishop of Winchester on 3 April 1888. It comprised 100 bedrooms for use by young women working in the neighbourhood, but also included an academy of music and Havergal Hall, a large room capable of seating 160 people and let for public meetings and lectures. By the 1890s part of the building was also leased as offices to an auctioneers and estate agents and 25 Old Christchurch Road was occupied by G Oliver, boot and shoe dealer. It is unclear when the YWCA moved out of the building, but the upper floors and Havergal Hall were reconfigured and converted to thirteen flats and two maisonettes in the 1990s.


Bedford Buildings, now Digby Chambers, a speculative development of 1887 by George Joseph Lawson and John Donkin. Later alterations; repairs and refurbishment in early C21.The interior of the building, except for the entrance lobby, hall and main staircase to Flats 1-15, is excluded from the listing.

MATERIALS The building has a steel frame with facades of brick and stone under slate roofs, and dressings of stone, brick and terracotta.

PLAN It is orientated roughly north-south along Post Office Road with its southern face to Old Christchurch Road. It is irregular on plan, with a long north-south block and a roughly east-west block at its northern end.

EXTERIOR The development, which has four storeys, cellars and attics, is characterised by its tall elevations in a Victorian Gothic style, with prominent features which accentuate each end of the building. At the southern end of the building the ground floor has a pair of arched shop windows; these have carved ballflower style decoration to the springing points and the spandrels of the arches; the timber-framed windows are early C21. Above these there are eight-light windows in stone to the first, second and third floors which are divided at each level by projecting stringcourses and carved terracotta inset panels with slightly Art Nouveau style detailing; these panels are repeated around the building. The windows are framed by full-height brick pilasters which continue through the cornice above to frame the gable at the apex which appears partially rebuilt and contains a mid-C20 metal-framed window. The deeply-projecting cornice has moulded sections and a continuous row of angled dentils and continues around the full street-facing length of the building. As the building turns the corner it is angled. The ground floor has an entrance with early-C21 timber and glazed door, angled pillars with foliate-carved capitals and moulded, arched head with decorated pendant-style keystone and fan vaulting. A canted oriel window rises through the upper three storeys with tracery in a loosely Perpendicular style with cusped detailing which stands proud of the timber sashes behind and further terracotta panels between each floor. It is unclear whether the oriel was ever capped at roof level by the turret or cupola as intended.

The ground floor of the long eastern elevation has a row of seven wide pointed-arch shop front openings with deeply-moulded heads and C20 timber windows and a continuous stringcourse above. Each bay of the upper floors contains full-height window bays framed by slender brick pilasters which connect at sill level by inverted arches formed in stone. The windows themselves are wide timber sashes with tracery detailing; their openings have flattened ogee heads of stone and terracotta. Above the cornice, at roof level, the bays terminate in a row of tall dormer windows in moulded openings which have early-C21 timber casements in Y-tracery frames. Between the dormers there are low brick arches which connect the slender piers that flank the windows.

At the northern end of this elevation the building projects eastwards. At ground-floor level the original entrance (to the YWCA; now Flats 1-15) and shop fronts have been altered. The connection with the main block has a bay of single windows; those at first and second floor are set back beneath a squinch arch in the angle with a pointed stone head. Adjacent, there are two window bays with the same brick framing treatment as the remainder of the building, but the windows themselves are in stone traceried surrounds. Above the first-floor windows there are stone panels with intricate carved detailing. The central bay rises to a dormer window, adjacent to which is a truncated chimney. The gabled end bay of the building, which faces east, is asymmetrical with a pair of window bays of the same treatment as those adjacent rising to a wide gable above. The gable itself has two pairs of windows on two levels with a central feature of projecting angled bricks which rise from the cornice to a truncated stack.

INTERIOR The entrance to Flats 1-15 opens onto a lobby which has a pointed-arched doorway with engaged columns; capitals with foliate and floral carvings; a pair of doors that have three lights with cusped heads to the top half and panelling below and a fanlight with a roundel pattern. There is a main staircase with turned newels and balusters; one section has panels with pierced flower decoration between the balusters. A lift has been inserted in the open well.

The rest of the interior is plain and is not of special interest; many areas have been altered and modernised and the shop premises have been refitted.

Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 ('the Act') it is declared that, other than the communal areas, namely the entrance lobby, hall and main staircase, to Flats 1-15, the interior of the building is not of special architectural or historic interest and is excluded from the listing.


Books and journals
Ward, Lock and Company Ltd, , A Pictorial and Descriptive Guide to Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch, the Avon Valley, Salisbury, Winchester, and the New Forest, (1920), 24
Bournemouth YWCA Proposed New Buildings, The Guardian, Saturday January 21 1888
Kelly’s Directory of Hampshire 1898


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building(s) is/are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building but not coloured blue on the map, are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act. However, any works to these structures which have the potential to affect the character of the listed building as a building of special architectural or historic interest may still require Listed Building Consent (LBC) and this is a matter for the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to determine.

End of official listing

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