Education in early Bournemouth and the hamlets

Education in early Bournemouth and the hamlets


Education in Bournemouth and the neighbouring hamlets, during the early period, took different forms, reflecting social variation across the area. Reverend A. M. Bennett applied his organisational talents and drive to establishing National Schools in both town and country. Towards the end of this period, however, some private schools and colleges appeared. Genealogical exploration offers insights into teachers in the area.

Social terrain


Sharp differences in social texture separated Greater Westover’s hamlets from Bournemouth’s fast-growing resort. The former consisted of several settlements supported by an agricultural economy, around half the household heads working as agricultural labourers. Incidences of poverty appear to have increased in the 1840s. Some of the males had already started farm work from age twelve, most of these following their father into the fields. The situation in 1851 differed little from this. Bournemouth had developed a residential population from the beginning whose livelihood to an extent came from the resort’s visitors. Most of these worked in construction or retail, many having young children. Several builders had ventured into development, becoming capitalists. The Tuck and Ingram family clusters provide examples of this. A layer of middling people coalesced. Rural families might curtail education so that children could contribute revenue. The middling people, however, wanted extended education to improve their child’s opportunities.


At first, Bournemouth attracted affluent people, some needing convalescence, others wanting a healthy holiday. The invalids might stay for extended periods, but for the most part consisted of adults. Children did visit the resort, but most came to stay with their families, departing in due course. Towards the end of Bournemouth’s early period some affluent parents saw an opportunity to provide education for their children there. One group of such people had children whose physical condition might profit from extended stays in Bournemouth’s climate. Another group, of similar social background, worked and lived abroad, for example India or the West Indies. These wanted their children, often born abroad, to receive an English education in a fashionable, but also healthy climate. Bournemouth proved attractive on both counts. Its temperature and its prestige both qualified it for their purposes. In a sense, it provided a Simla on England’s south coast.

Provision of education in rural Greater Westover


In 1841 three people taught amongst the Greater Westover settlements. By 1851, however, teachers had increased in number, two men, most females, often widows. Many of the women came from nearby, part of the agricultural labouring population. Elizabeth Golton later went on parish relief, Ann Troke became a monthly nurse. Two male teachers, however, came from elsewhere (Cheltenham, Cranborne), having fathers in shoemaking and tailoring. Most of the women appear to have taught for a short period, perhaps as a side-line to support their revenue, whereas the two males continued teaching after they left the area. William Pitt Adams, of excellent name, after teaching at Throop, later became husband to a widow, both teaching in Boldre, Hampshire. Robert Pennell, a teacher at Holdenhurst, also married an older lady after moving away, living later in Warwick. Both men, nevertheless, left teaching, one keeping a tavern, the other becoming a master printer.

Educational effectiveness

Most of the female teachers listed for the area perhaps ran ‘dame schools’, sometimes criticised by contemporaries. In David Copperfield Dickens satirised them, describing Pip’s teacher as ‘a ridiculous old woman of limited means and unlimited infirmity’. One of Elizabeth Golton’s sons, later emigrated to the USA, where documentation showed him as illiterate. Elizabeth may have come to teaching too late for him, an agricultural labourer aged 19 at home. William Pitt Adams’s new wife could only make her mark on the marriage document. The census for 1861, however, listed both as schoolteachers. The 1851 census recorded several rural households in the area as having their children receive home schooling. For one, the mother worked as an infant teacher, but the other parents perhaps could not afford the ‘dame school’s’ pennies. Education in the hamlets, therefore, perhaps operated at a minimal level, but change would come from Bournemouth.

Education at Bournemouth

Reverend A. M. Bennett

The Reverend A. M. Bennett prioritised education, establishing a school soon after arriving at Bournemouth in the 1840s. The school would also become an important community venue. Before long, he extended his efforts into the country hamlets. Bennett took the initiative by raising funds to create a school at Moordown, its chapel dedicated to St John in the Wilderness. Children from Bournemouth and Holdenhurst schools came for dinner after the ceremony to enlarge St Peter’s church in 1850. Pupils of the same schools came next year, when they had tea, cake, and a sugar plum hunt. The press reported their number as 110, but eight years later, the number of school children in Bournemouth and nearby villages had become 250. Adult education also attracted Bennett’s attention. He ran a series of lectures for local working people, perhaps in opposition to those trying to establish a Mechanics’ Institute in Bournemouth.

Private establishments

In addition to listing national schools, directories for the 1850s show private sector education, including two boarding schools. Reverend E.G. Bayley ran one, Susan Welch the other. Bayley, a Winchester physician’s son, attended Pembroke College, Oxford, an itinerant clergyman, children born in different places. Susan Welch, born in Jamaica, ran the other boarding school, though the census described her as a governess. Later she emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts. His census record for 1851 described John Hunter Spain as ‘formerly schoolmaster’, but the directory for the same year had him running a ‘day school’. Its reputation boosted by the Sanatorium, Bournemouth attracted the Misses Lance and Burt to remove their ladies’ school from Poole. Soon, a preparatory establishment began, run by another cleric, grooming pupils for the Universities, the Forces, and the Indian Civil Service. Affluent parents, therefore, had several educational choices at Bournemouth by the end of its early period.


The growing infrastructure required by Bournemouth during its early period subsumed the education system in the local hamlets while introducing schooling for the children of residents as well those of affluent if distant parents.


Thanks to Alwyn Ladell for the pictures of Holdenhurst School.

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