Christopher Crabb Creeke

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Christopher Crabb Creeke
Born 11 March 1820
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England
Died 1886
Bournemouth, Hampshire now Dorset, England
Occupation Architect
Projects Royal Bath Hotel extension (1878)[1]
First Bournemouth town survey and plan
Bournemouth sewer improvements
Wimborne Road Cemetery, Bournemouth[2]

Christopher Crabb Creeke (11 March 1820 – 1886) was an architect and surveyor who was largely responsible for shaping the early development of Bournemouth.

Early life

Christopher Crabb Creeke was born on 11 March 1820, in Cambridge, the son of tailor and robe maker Thomas Creeke and his first wife Elizabeth Rootham Crabb. By the time he was 20, Creeke looked set to follow his father's trade as a tailor, however he moved to London to train as an architectural draughtsman. Whilst there, he married the recently widowed Elisabeth Norwood in 1845.



Creeke seems to have arrived in Bournemouth in around 1850, on a commission from Mary Shelley to convert a large property at Boscombe into her seaside retreat. Shelley died before she could move in, but her son, Sir Percy Florence Shelley, retained Creeke's services.

Bournemouth at this time was a haphazard development, where properties had been built largely at the whim of untrained landowners. There was no co-ordination of effort, and in the case of the vast Branksome Estate, the promise of development potential had led to a tangled mass of mortgages and the ruination of at least one owner. This was a situation crying out for a capable mind to solve.

Growth of reputation

Creeke, meanwhile, had decided not to return to London, a resolution determined as much perhaps by the delicate health of his wife (which had left her needing the constant care of an institution) as by Creek's appreciation of the beauty of Bournemouth. The varied problems of Bournemouth presented him with a challenge to which he showed himself the equal. One of his first tasks was to assist in a court case that was causing problems at Branksome. Creeke used his skills to draw up a map of the vast Branksome Estate, hundreds of acres in extent, which proved useful in sorting out the wrangles over the various mortgages and charges at the estate. As a result of Creeke's work, the estate was soon up for sale and attracted some significant purchasers, such as the Talbot sisters and Charles William Packe.

Elsewhere in Bournemouth, William Clapcott Dean was on the verge of inheriting several hundred acres of land. Dean hailed from a local family of yeoman farmers. They too were suffering from crippling mortgages which were only cleared by a life insurance payout when Dean's mother died. This left Dean able to contemplate the development of his land, but he had none of the necessary training for the work and so turned to Creeke for advice.

Planning Bournemouth

Creeke was becoming invaluable to most of the major landowners in Bournemouth, but he was also aware that the ad hoc nature of the existing development had left the town in need of proper drains, water supply, roads and refuse collection. None of the private estate offices were equal to the task and there was no forum in which to co-ordinate the necessary efforts. This situation was finally resolved in 1856, when Parliament, following the due petition from the local property owners, allowed the establishment of the Bournemouth Commissioners, and empowered them to levy a local rate for the improvement of the town and the construction of a pier. Unsurprisingly, Creeke was appointed as the surveyor by the Commissioners, and so began a long period during which Creeke advised both the land owners and the Commissioners. What emerged was his conception of Bournemouth as a town of meandering roads and large villas in spacious plots that shaped the development of the town.

Later life

By 1861, Creeke's younger half-sister Anna had moved to Bournemouth where she appears to have acted as housekeeper and secretary to her brother. Creeke lived in several houses that he had designed himself. His wife Elisabeth died early in 1881 in Fleet, Lincolnshire. Creeke survived her by five years, and died in 1886. He was buried in the Wimborne Road cemetery, which had been laid out according to his plans. His crusader type grave is close to the chapel that he designed for the cemetery, and which is now a listed building.[2][3]


For someone who contributed so singularly to Bournemouth, Creeke is somewhat forgotten these days. A bust of him that once had pride of place at the Town Hall, had been consigned to backroom oblivion in the storerooms of the town museum the Russell-Cotes until its retrieval was championed by local historian John Barker. It now graces the Mayor's Parlour. There is one other carving of Creeke, commissioned by former mayor Keith Rawlings, and situated outside the conference hall where the major political parties hold their gatherings. It celebrates Creeke's work as the surveyor of nuisances and master of the drains, and portrays him sitting on a toilet.[4]

On 21 August 2009, a new Wetherspoons pub, called "The Christopher Creeke", opened in the Lansdowne area of Bournemouth.


  1. Denby, Elaine (1998). Grand Hotels: Reality and Illusion. Reaktion Books. p. 177. ISBN 1-86189-121-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Register of Parks and Gardens: Cemeteries" (PDF). English Heritage. Retrieved 3 March 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Creeke, Christopher Crabb". UKPG Database. Retrieved 3 March 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  4. "Hero brothers in arms". Dorset Daily Echo. 6 July 2002. Retrieved 3 March 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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