A 7¾-mile-long single track branch line from Ringwood to Christchurch opened to public traffic on 13th November 1862. Built under the auspices of the "Ringwood, Christchurch & Bournemouth Railway", this was a spur off an existing 60½-mile-long main line between Southampton and Dorchester, and was worked by the London & South Western Railway (LSWR) from the outset. The line was subsequently extended from Christchurch to Bournemouth in 1870, regular passenger traffic commencing on 14th March of that year, but no intermediate stations were originally opened on this section. The independent company was amalgamated with the LSWR from 1st January 1874 (ref: Bradshaw's Railway Manual, Shareholders' Guide, and Official Directory, 1875).

To speed up journey times between Southampton and Bournemouth, a scheme by the name of the "Bournemouth Direct Railway" received Royal Assent on Monday, 20th August 1883 (ref: Christchurch Times, Saturday, 25th August 1883). This involved constructing a 10½-mile-long double-track line piercing through the New Forest, which began at Lymington Junction and joined the existing Ringwood to Bournemouth line at a junction in Christchurch. As part of the scheme, doubling of the Christchurch to Bournemouth line would take place and a grand new station brought into use at the latter.

The then new station at Bournemouth East (latterly named "Bournemouth Central" and, today, still the coastal resort’s main station) was formally opened on Monday, 20th July 1885, having been built at a cost of £40,000 (ref: The Salisbury and Winchester Journal and General Advertiser, 25th July 1885). On Thursday, 1st July of the following year, a station by the name of "Boscombe", situated in-between Christchurch and Bournemouth, was opened to passenger and parcels traffic (ref: Christchurch Times, 3rd July 1886) on a route that was now double-track. The name of "Boscombe" was applied in spite of the fact that the site was actually located in Pokesdown.

Boscombe station comprised a single island platform, for which the gap in-between the running lines widened to accommodate it. The island was about 520-feet in length, located in a cutting, and was reached by a staircase situated to the east, descending from street level and enclosed in timber. Brick-built offices were provided on the island, the chimneystacks of these protruding through a pitched-roof canopy. A single-storey timber signal box was also built upon the platform surface, this being situated a short distance west of the canopy. Public timetables from 1st October 1891 showed the station name as “Pokesdown (Boscombe)" (ref: The London & South Western Railway, Volume 2, R. A. Williams, 1968).

The LSWR opened a station named "Boscombe", situated in-between Pokesdown and Bournemouth East, with ceremony on Saturday, 29th May 1897, at a cost of £30,000 (ref: The Henley Advertiser, 5th June 1897). At that time, the then new station had the longest platform on the LSWR system (ref: The Hampshire Advertiser and County Newspaper, 2nd June 1897), and the suffix "(Boscombe)" was dropped from the nameboards at Pokesdown.

For 1930, the Board of Directors of the LSWR’s successor, the Southern Railway (SR), authorised an enormous expenditure programme. To the tune of about £4,300,000, this encompassed the construction of new locomotives and rolling stock, the extension of suburban electrification, manufacture of new road vehicles, making alterations to or rebuilding stations, and enlarging freight yards. Of this amount, £58,000 (£3,901,000 at 2021 prices) was to be spent on alterations to Pokesdown station (ref: The Whitstable Times and Tankerton Press, 25th January 1930). Work began on widening the cutting to accommodate an additional two tracks and two side platforms. It was reported in the November 1930 edition of The Railway Magazine that the then new platforms were officially brought into use on Sunday, 15th June 1930. The same publication remarked that the original island platform became derelict at that time and that the construction of new station offices were well in hand. It was also stated that the decision had been taken to rename the station "Pokesdown for Eastern Bournemouth". In local newspapers, the change of the station’s name had been a controversial decision; the local council had asked the SR on 4th February 1930 to change the name of the station to "Bournemouth East", there already being stations by the names of "Bournemouth Central" and "Bournemouth West" (ref: The Somerset Guardian, 7th February 1930). However, some papers lamented the loss of the ancient name "Pokesdown", which derived from "Puck’s Down" (ref: The Daily Mirror, 5th February 1930).

The two platforms of the rebuilt station were each 750-feet-long, of prefabricated concrete construction, separated by four tracks, and linked by a roofed footbridge equipped with lifts. Each platform was host to a 345-feet-long metal canopy comprising steel valances, similar in design to those examples that the SR brought into use at Herne Bay and Dumpton Park. The roofed footbridge also appears to have been a standard design, similar spans coming into use at Gillingham in Kent. The main building was situated higher than the platforms, at street level, at the eastern end of the station on the "down" side of the line. This was built to a utilitarian style that was in favour at the time, being a single-storey structure of red brick construction, with concrete lining and a flat roof. Similar architecture was later employed by the SR on the Chessington branch, in addition to multiple other locations.

As per its predecessor, the SR’s rebuilt Pokesdown station was not equipped with goods facilities — a spacious yard was available at nearby Boscombe. However, a new signal box was brought into use on 27th April 1930, replacing that on the original island platform (ref: Southern Railway Register Section P2: Northam Junction to Weymouth Station, Signalling Record Society). Located immediately beyond the western end of the "up"platform, the signal box was a two-storey-high pitched roof structure, which was constructed from metal sheeting to a patent design.

As part of the £15,000,000 Bournemouth electrification, third rail was laid alongside all four tracks at Pokesdown. Colour light signalling came into use between Pokesdown (exclusive) and Bournemouth Central on 11th December 1966, and between Lymington Junction (exclusive) and Christchurch (exclusive) on 26th February 1967 (ref: Southern Electric 1909-1979, G.T. Moody). However a pocket of semaphore signalling remained between Christchurch (inclusive) and Pokesdown (inclusive).

In the 10th November 1971 edition of the Branch Line Society’s Branch Line Magazine (BLN No. 189), it was reported that the "up" and "down" fast lines at Pokesdown were expected to be removed in the near future, all trains running on the platform lines thereafter. The "up" fast line was taken out of use at Pokesdown on 22nd October 1972 (ref: Branch Line News No. 217, Branch Line Society, 3rd January 1973); your author cannot find a precise date for the removal of the "down" fast, but the signal box was closed on 3rd December 1972 (ref: Southern Railway Register Section P2: Northam Junction to Weymouth Station, Signalling Record Society).

In 1990, a £65,000 scheme to modernise the booking hall and ticket office at Pokesdown was completed, a plaque being unveiled at the station on 5th October of that year to commemorate the occasion (ref: The Railway Magazine, December 1990).

13th May 1964

Four tracks and the steel-clad signal box are evident in this view of Unrebuilt Battle of Britain Class No. 34064 ”Fighter Command” — with cut-down tender — departing the “down” platform, Bournemouth-bound. Four tracks also existed at Brockenhurst and Bournemouth Central. © David Glasspool Collection

3rd September 1977

The gap where two tracks were once laid is obvious in this eastward view, which captures the steel-clad canopies and footbridge. The main building is positioned upper right, immediately behind the footbridge tower on that side. © David Glasspool Collection