The main part of the Russell-Cotes complex, East Cliff Hall, was built between 1897 and 1901 and is a combination of Italianate villa and Scottish Baronial. It is set in grounds incorporating a Japanese garden, situated on the Cliff top in Bournemouth, overlooking the Needles, to the east, and the Purbecks, to the west. The Russell-Cotes is just two minutes away from Bournemouth Pier, a short walk up the glorious coastal path, behind Harry Ramsden’s restaurant.
The exuberance and variety of styles found within the building creates a unique atmosphere that is a mixture of both private house and public museum. Created by two dedicated collectors, Sir Merton and Lady Russell-Cotes, the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum is of international importance.
Ostentatious and eccentric are words often used to describe the house’s captivating interior and eclectic collections. Hand-painted stained glass and covings by John Thomas, featuring Japanese-inspired swallows, peacocks and other motifs, mingle with ceilings adorned with mythical gods and figures. Original de Morgan ceramics rub shoulders with striking embossed wallpaper by The Tynecastle Company, whilst the sun-design mosaic fountain in the main hall reflects the stunning zodiac-sign stained glass in the huge skylight above. The Russell-Cotes is an oasis of inspiration and personal exploration and discovery.
The art galleries play host to both regularly changing and permanent exhibitions, from the contemporary to the classical. Entry to all exhibitions is FREE. Recent contemporary exhibitions have included Meeting Place; Contemporary art & the museum collection.
Gallery I is a dedicated Edwin Long gallery. Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s famous Venus Verticordia (1864) and Albert Moore’s Midsummer (1887) are just two of the significant works on display from the permanent collections. Almost every aspect of the wall space is covered with the most eclectic collection of art.
The Russell-Cotes’ world-renowned Japanese collection is displayed in the purpose-built Japanese Gallery in the modern extension, as well as in the period Mikado’s Room on the upper ground floor of East Cliff Hall, the ceiling of which is festooned with lanterns whilst the windows overlook the Japanese garden. The Russell-Cotes is the only museum to have commissioned its own Manga; a Japanese graphic novel which tells the story of the Russell-Cotes’ travels in Japan in 1885. Copies are available from the Russell-Cotes Shop on the upper floor of the new extension.
Historic treasure trove
You can learn more about Sir Merton & Lady Russell-Cotes through the vast number of curios and treasures they collected from across the globe; from the bizarre and fascinating (Buddhist skull drums) to the historically dramatic (the axe that is believed to have beheaded Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1587, is in the Yellow Room, and the table of Napoleon Bonaparte in the dining room). The Russell-Cotes has been described as "a treasure house of upmarket Victorian souvenirs" (Daily Mail) and every visit heralds a new discovery.
Sir Henry Irving Room
The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum also houses a "museum within a museum" One room on the upper ground floor is a dedicated to Sir Henry Irving, with artifacts of the great actor and his contemporaries Ellen Terry and Sarah Bernhardt. Visit this fascinating and quirky historic house, museum, art gallery and Japanese Garden and discover something new today and each time you return.
There are a number of packages to suit all needs, from individual tours to larger group tours. Treat yourself to something wonderful and unique! Contact Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum for enquiries or to book a tour.
The museum pride themselves on being child-friendly. Offering baby-changing facilities, children’s activity packs (The House Detectives), a childrens activity and story area, as well as a small play area for the under-fives. The Cafe at Russell-Cotes offers children’s meal choices. Special events and activities are run for children during most school holidays. These can include face-painting, theatre, puppet shows, and arts and crafts. Contact the museum for more details
on (0)1202 451858.