Lady Mary Bankes

Mary Bankes was born in 1598, she was the wife of Sir John Bankes – attorney general to King Charles I. The couple lived at Corfe Castle and had ten children together. In 1643, when civil war broke out in England, Mary stayed in the castle with her daughters, servants and five guards. The castle was attacked by 2-300 men who did not succeed in capturing it. 80 men came to Mary’s aid to reinforce Corfe Castle before a further 5-600 invaders made their second attempt at defeating them. Mary, with the help of her guards, defended her home, throwing stones and burning embers down onto the soldiers. They wounded and killed 100 of them. Her castle was finally captured when Mary was betrayed and men were let in through a gate disguised as Royalists. Only then, did she surrender. For her bravery, she was allowed to retain the keys to the castle, which are now kept at Kingston Lacy. Corfe Castle was blown to pieces later that year, the ruins still stand to this day.


Amanda Holden

Actress and presenter Amanda Holden is best known for her roles in Cutting It, Wild at Heart and her recent appearances as a judge on Britain’s Got Talent. Born in 1971, a young Amanda moved to Bournemouth at the tender age of 16 and her parents ran a local Bed and Breakfast. She studied drama at what is now Bournemouth and Poole College and landed her first TV appearance as a contestant on Blind Date. She has had many esteemed roles in the theatre as well as on the television, and has been nominated for the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 2004. After her first marriage to fellow presenter Les Dennis broke down, Amanda found love with record producer Chris Hughes and in 2006, gave birth to her first daughter, Lexi. In 2008 the couple got married, with formula 1 driver David Coulthard as their best man that was also the year she ran the London Marathon in aid of the Born Free Foundation in an impressive 4 hours and 13 minutes! After a tragic still birth and a miscarriage, she had her second daughter Hollie Rose earlier this year. She is still highly involved with her charity work and enjoys continuing success in her career as an actress.


Mary Shelley

The novelist Mary Shelley, most famous for her book ‘Frankenstein’, had her home built in Bournemouth for its pleasant climate, called Boscombe Manor. Born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin in 1797, she was the daughter of two writers. After her mother died when she was just 11 days old, she was raised, educated and influenced by her political philosopher father. She married the romantic poet and philosopher Percy Shelley. It was on a trip to Geneva with Lord Byron when she conceived the idea for her novel Frankenstein, which went on to become one of the great classics. Mary and Percy had four children, three of whom sadly died. The couple and their youngest son moved to Italy and it was there that Percy Shelley drowned at sea during a storm. As was custom, his body was cremated on the beach where it was washed up. However, a friend of Mary’s retrieved part of his burning heart and gave it to Mary who kept it for many years at Boscombe Manor before it was slipped into their son’s tomb as he was buried in St. Peters church, Bournemouth. She was later buried there alongside them, when she died of a brain tumor aged 53.


Leilani Dowding

This 32 year old beauty from Bournemouth was busy studying Economics at Royal Holloway, University of London hoping to become a city trader when she left the world of business behind to become a professional model, which incidentally turned out to be a very shrewd business move. Brought up Roman Catholic by her Filipina mother Zena and British father, and with a name like Leilani – meaning ‘heavenly flower’, she was set to be a heartbreaker. She did some glamour modelling, became a page 3 girl, and in 1998 won the esteemed title of Miss Great Britain. She is now a professional model in the motorsport industry has appeared on the show ‘The Weakest Link’ with Ann Robinson and even has her own clothing line called Leiluna.


Sarah-Jane Hutt

Several years before Leilani became the beauty of Bournemouth, Sarah-Jane had taken the world by storm by being the 5th British woman to ever win the Miss World title. Born in Poole in 1964,She attended Mountbatten School in Romsey, Hampshire. This local stunner beat 127 other ladies to win the accolade in 1983 at the tender age of 19. Unlike many other pageant queens, Sarah-Jane stayed true to her humble roots by self-deprecatingly refusing to admit she was the most beautiful woman. Despite some of her competitors agreeing with her, the judges out-voted her and crowned her the winner.


Lillie Langtry

Born Emily Charlotte Lebreton in 1853 on the Isle of Jersey, she was reported to be as outspoken and outgoing as her five brothers. Despite having many admirers, Lillie married Edward Langtry and persuaded him to move to London with her, where she was discovered after sitting for a portrait by artist Millais. His painting entitled ‘The Jersey Lily’ won portrait of the year 3 times over the following 50 years. It launched her career as a professional beauty and actress. She brushed cheeks with Disraeli, Gladstone and Oscar Wilde to name but a few. After meeting the Prince of Wales, the pair embarked on a scandalous love affair. He bought a plot of land in Bournemouth and on it she designed and built their love nest Langtry Manor. She was a smart woman and valued the gift of land and property as assets far preferable to jewellery. The Price became King Edward VII of England. Lillie gave birth to a daughter, Jean Marie. There was a rumour that her child was fathered by Price Louis of Battenberg, Edward’s nephew. She led a colourful life and finally died at the ripe old age of 75 in Monacco, but was buried in Jersey. Newspapers around the world proclaimed it was the end of an era.