It was during the inter-war period which saw millions of visitor’s flock to Bournemouth to enjoy the new craze of sun bathing. During the winter of 1934 - 1935 the Bournemouth Borough Engineering department built the Fisherman's Walk Cliff Lift on land which was previously purchased from the Viscount Portman's estate. Fisherman's walk having previously receiving its name from a cliff top pathway which led down a makeshift set of wooden cliff steps down to the beach, which was frequented by the local fishermen.
The cliff lift machinery and trackway was built by the Express Lift Company being erected together with the toll houses and cliff workings by the Bournemouth Borough direct labour force. The cost amounted to £6,925.
Photographs which were taken during the construction of the Fisherman's Walk Lift show a timber trackway erected over the promenade which was used to remove the spoil from the cliff face workings into the sea.
The cliff lift was finally opened on 8th June 1935 by the Borough Engineer Mr F. P. Dolamore in the presence of the corporation tradesmen who had worked on the project. It is believed to be the last cliff lift railway built in the UK.
The lift conveys passengers through a vertical height of 91 feet on to a 5 ft 10 ins gauge railway track which is inclined at 45 degrees. The total track length is 128 feet and the lift was originally designed to travel at 156 feet per minute. The original motive power was provided by a 500 volt 21 horse power electric DC current motor. The later replaced with a more efficient 3 phase AC supply. The lift is controlled by a driver housed in the toll house located at the top assisted by an attendant at the bottom on the building on the promenade.
The lift cars were modelled to a similar specification and design as those on the East and West Cliff lifts which were based on tram cars. The Fisherman’s lift cars compromised of an oak frame with oak panelling and a metal dome roof. Seating was arranged for six people and there was sufficient space to accommodate a bath chair. The cars were overhauled several times in the post war period, being completely replaced in 1978.
The stepped cliff terracing either side of the lift is constructed from local Purbeck stone and was largely rebuilt following a severe cliff fall on the west side in 1980.
The lift has operated continuously between March and October since first constructed, except for a hiatus between 19th August 1940 and the end of the Second World War. It is estimated that in excess of 4 million people have travelled on the Fisherman’s Walk Cliff Lift since it was first opened.