Victorian Bournemouth (89)

Local servants at early Victorian Bournemouth


Local servants, from Poole, Christchurch, and the Greater Westover villages, worked at different domestic duties in the early Victorian Bournemouth local economy. Servants found in the larger vacation villas appear to have accompanied their employers. People local to the area, however, appear to have provided service to retailers, professionals, some lodging-houses, and the hotels. Bournemouth’s servant population according to the 1851 census, therefore, consisted of people from near as well as far.

Bournemouth’s local servants 1

Retail assistance

Local servants, born in the three areas mentioned, supported the retailers Matthew Cox (grocery) and William Belling (pharmacy). The employers had immigrated to Bournemouth. The Bellings, brother and sister, came from Lostwithiel (Cornwall), the Cox couple from Havant (Hampshire). Both shops at the 1851 census employed only local servants. The chemist had two servants: William Marshall, porter, and Mary Ballard. The former may have belonged to the large Marshall network that included his namesake, the bootmaker. The latter, an agricultural labourer’s daughter, came from Milton, Hampshire, not far from Christchurch. The Coxes employed two servants, both from Poole. Samuel Welstead worked in the shop while Jane Cartridge had domestic duties. According to their origin, none of the servants appeared to have a geographic or social connection with their employers. They will have found their employment through the local network built around advertising and word-of-mouth.

Professional support

Servants born in Poole or Christchurch also worked in the households of the few professional people resident in the resort at census time, 1851. John Spain, the schoolteacher, had a single servant, a female from Poole. Two doctors, Edward Mainwaring and Richard Elgie, had more extensive households, consisting of staff for the most part from Dorset and Hampshire. Sarah Snelgar worked as a nurse at the Elgies, a seventeen-year-old, born in Poole. Sarah James (26), cooked for the Mainwaring household. As with the retailers, all the professionals had immigrated to Bournemouth, both physicians coming from beyond either Dorset or Hampshire. John Spain, however, came from the Isle of Wight, his wife from Poole. That connection may have resulted in their employing a servant from there. The physicians, however, appear to have sourced their domestic staff through the same means as the retailers.

Bournemouth’s local servants 2


The two main hotels, the Bath and the Belle Vue, employed several servants, performing a wider array of duties than residential domestics. Eight servants comprised the Bath’s staff. One came from the USA, one from Wiltshire, and one from Somerset. The rest, however, came from villages in the area nearby: Red Hill, Throop, Holdenhurst, all part of the Greater Westover rural area. The Belle Vue employed fewer servants than the Bath, but the pattern of their geographic origins remained similar. In this case, half came from Christchurch. Perhaps the normal recruitment sourcing methods supplied the Bath’s staff, but local connections may have assisted the Belle Vue. Samuel Bayley, for long its owner, or principal tenant, had come to Bournemouth via Christchurch, where he had a draper’s business. His contacts may have helped the Belle Vue source half its domestic staff from his earlier business location.

Other large houses

The elite area, Westover Villas, consisted of large buildings each taken by a family which appears to have brought their domestic staff from home. A similar condition applied to staff in most of the houses located in another luxury area, Richmond Terrace. By now, other houses built for vacationing visitors had begun to dot the area covered by the resort. Affluent families, having a similar social profile to the other two areas, occupied them in spring 1851. Edward Harris, now MP for Christchurch, brother of the Earl of Malmesbury, qualifies as a local, all his staff coming from or near that town. Local servants, born in the Christchurch area, however, also appeared on the staff of these other houses, taken by visitors from elsewhere in the country. This suggests that they may have used local staff as a temporary resource. Servants born nearby also worked at the Baths.

Futures and discussion

Future lives vary

In later life many of these local servants disappear, perhaps for physical or life-stage reasons. Some, however, seem to have left the area for service work elsewhere. Emma Hibberd, for example, went to London, working in service, in 1881, lodging with a brother, a domestic coachman in Marylebone. Her brother, working with her in Bournemouth, later became a butler in East Grinstead. Late in life, Emma returned, however, keeping a lodge at Hurn with a spinster sister. Jane Cartridge may have continued in service, perhaps in Chelsea by 1861. Others stayed near or at home. Samuel Welstead returned to his mother at Poole, working in grocery. Sarah Burridge married David Burt, a local man farming 30 acres and lived in Holdenhurst at least until 1881. Sarah James, however, returned to Poole where she became married and widowed by 1861. Like other servants, they experienced mixed fortunes later in life.


An earlier analysis has hypothesised that two parallel cultures existed during Bournemouth’s early period. One consisted of the affluent visitors who stayed in large, luxurious properties. The other consisted of the residents who operated the rest of the local economy. Some of these appeared to form an embryonic layer of middling people. The origins of the servants noted in the town’s 1851 census appears to reflect this division amongst the domestic population. Home servants accompanied the visitors on their trips, but local servants worked for the town’s residents. Apart from one or two cases, servants born in Bournemouth’s hinterland – Poole, Christchurch, and rural Greater Westover – seemed restricted to jobs offered by local businesses other than holiday venues. Often, the affluent visitors recruited their domestics from their home county or nearer. Bournemouth’s residents consisted of immigrants who acted in a similar way. They sourced their servants from nearby.


Local servants present in early Victorian Bournemouth indicate that economic opportunities existed for working people born in the hinterland not only in construction but also domestic service.


For references and engagement contact here.


Leave a Reply