Lewis Tregonwell 1758 - 1832

Lewis Tregonwell

Lewis Dymoke Grosvenor Tregonwell was born in 1758 at Andersen in Dorset and lived at Cranborne Lodge as the squire, marrying into reaches twice. By 1796 he had become captain of the Dorset Rangers whose duties were to keep watch along the clifftops for French invaders and smugglers. during the French revolutionary wars. He was also a Justice of the peace and Deputy Lieutenant for the county of Dorset.


After the battle of Trafalgar the threat of invasion by Tregonwell Armsthe French lessened and so in 1810 he felt the was now able to retire from the service. In his "retirement" he took his wife, Henrietta, who was recovering from an illness caused by her infant son's death, along the shores which he used to patrol and she fell in love with Bourne Bottom. It was decided that they should build a holiday home there, and eight-and-a-half acres of land was purchased between Decoy Cottage, one of the only dwellings and four miles, and the sea's edge from Sir George Tapps for just under £180. A house was built on the present site of the Royal Exeter Hotel in which much of the original house can still be seen in the design. Later, Tregonwell also bought the Tapps Arms which Sir George built in 1809, and decided to rebuild and rename it the Tregonwell Arms.


His butler, Symes, was highly valued by Tregonwell and he was built his own cottage, Symes' Cottage, which was later renamed Portman Lodge, Portman Lodgeafter Henrietta's maiden name, as the estate grew into Bourne Tregonwell.


In 1832 Tregonwell died at the age of 74 and was buried in Winterborne Anderson, but in 1846 his widow had his remains transferred to a vault in St Peter's Churchyard at Bournemouth. The Lodge was demolished in 1930, and it was this that increased in many people's suspicions that Tregonwell, or Symes at the very least, was involved in some way with smuggling activities. A secret chamber was found 3ft below the ground surface, with an arched roof 6 ft above the floor. It was 10 ft in length and 7 ft in width, and was accessible through a trapdoor. The Symes clan of Cranborne, Verwood and Sixpenny Handley had long been involved in smuggling, and the butler never appeared to travel with Tregonwell, so it is possible that he looked after his master's smuggling activities while he was away.


Further factors that point towards this theory are firstly, why should Tregonwell wish to build a holiday home where French invasion was likely; and secondly, the location was ideal for looking out over the sea for incoming ships. Another coincidence is that Cranborne Lodge, Tregonwell's main residence, lay on a smuggler's route north from Bournemouth.


Geoffrey Morley, in his book "smuggling in Hampshire and Dorset" has put forward an interesting (but unsubstantiated) theory that Isaac Gulliver may have been associated with Tregonwell and taught him a great deal about the craft so he could take over after Gulliver's retirement. Tregonwell was known to be a friend of the Prince Regent (later King George IV), and if the story is true that Gulliver informed the King of a French plot to assassinate him, this may explain why the Dorset Rangers never went to any great lengths to capture Isaac.


The question of the "Founder of Bournemouth" being involved in some way with smuggling still remains today, and it is unlikely that it will ever be answered. However, one thing that can be said for certain is that Tregonwell, if nothing else, must have turned a blind eye to it.