Victorian Bournemouth (125)

Victorian Bournemouth (101): annuitants

Spa-trekking, wealthy, single ladies


Victorian Bournemouth (101) presents the results of analysing women designated in the 1871 census as ‘annuitant’. They formed one part of women visiting and residing in Bournemouth who depended on ‘unearned’ incomes.

Victorian Bournemouth (101): unearned incomes


A tenth of women recorded in the resort by the 1871 census had the benefit of an unearned income in the broadest terms. Of these a quarter derived support from their family in one way or another. This covered a number of designations: aristocrats; daughter or wife; ‘gentlewoman’; ‘lady’; ‘the honourable’. Almost half gave investments as their occupation. These divided between land (‘landed proprietor’, ‘rents’), funds (‘stock’, ‘dividends’, ‘interest’) or both. About twice as many women derived their income from funds as land. Only a small number cited land and funds. The remaining women, about a fifth, listed ‘annuitant’ as their occupation. Only a very small number of such people had appeared in the town earlier. In 1871, however, almost a hundred used that description, a few men, but the majority female. As a generic term for a regular stipend or pension it lacks the detail of ‘land’ or ‘funds’.

Social lives

Two thirds of these women remained unmarried. Tracking of their subsequent lives suggests that, in most cases, they would not change that status. A fifth had become widows. Thus, as a rule, this type of income went to single women having no direct support from a living husband. About 40% of the women headed their household, but the majority had the social role of ‘other adult members’. This group combines a number of designations: spinster daughters; wider kin; boarders, lodgers, or visitors. Wider kin often consisted of sisters to the head of household, most unmarried. Widowed mothers also counted amongst the wider kin. The analysis has grouped these women together on the basis of their income source. They all qualify as ‘affluent’ because they did not conduct recognised work. On the other hand, several social levels may have occurred in this apparent social group.

Victorian Bournemouth (101): annuitants

Social profiles

Genealogical exploration has led to the identification of around fifty women designated as ‘annuitants’ at Bournemouth in 1871. Apart from one wife so recorded, the remainder consisted of widows (15) and spinsters (34). The widows had an average age of 61, but the spinsters, at 39, almost halved that. They lived on average to over seventy years old, but some had entered their eighties, while two lasted until their nineties. One appeared to have a dairyman for a father, another a coal merchant. The rest, however, came from fathers belonging to the affluent establishment: lawyers, forces, consular service, clergymen, commerce. Where identifiable, the widows’ husbands, for the most part, had come from a similar background. The women’s birthplaces lay in many counties of England. Some, however, came from Scotland, Ireland, and further: West Indies, India. Thus, most of these annuitants occupied a niche within the broad designation of affluent establishment members.


After their appearance at Bournemouth in 1871, some appear to have continued their association with the resort, for subsequent census listings located them there. Others reappeared in later years at a wide variety of places. Other spas and watering places, however, featured amongst them: Buxton, Eastbourne. A few of the annuitants recorded at Bournemouth, where tracked in later years, appeared to live alone, sometimes with servants. Most, however, lived with at least one other person. In most cases, these people had kinship with the annuitant, but many configurations occurred. They may have lived with a married child and family, or with a cousin, but on several occasions they appeared to share their accommodation with a sister. After their visit to Bournemouth, some returned to the same address, but others chose a more mobile life. Often, their associate, related or a friend, would also appear in their company, indicating a continuing close relationship.

Victorian Bournemouth (101): case histories

Marianne Wilkin (1833-1911)

Marianne, born in London, had several siblings, growing up in a house staffed by servants. Her father, a gentleman, left an estate worth six figures. Marianne never married, but an older sister, Amelia, did so. Her husband, Sir William Yardley, though born in England, became a judge in India. They had several children, two of whom, Julia and Cicely, appeared to form a close relationship with their aunt, Marianne Wilkin. Julia joined her at Bournemouth in 1871, the two staying on Hinton Road. Thereafter, Marianne stayed at the St Regulus on Priory Road each census year until 1911. On every occasion, one or both of the Yardley sisters accompanied her. Marianne lived a long, perhaps comfortable live, her estate worth over £40,000.

Theodosia Ward (1827-1925)

Theodosia came from an affluent family. Her father, John Ward, born in England, had a private income. He worked for the Indian Civil Service, marrying a Yorkshire woman in Calcutta (1817). They had many children, some, like Theodosia, born in India, but others after their return to England. The family appeared in Melcombe Regis (1841) Paddington (1851) and Ryde, on the Isle of Wight (1861). Thus, by the time she came to Bournemouth in 1871, aged 43, a spinster, Theodosia had visited at least two established holiday venues. By 1881, she had reached another fashionable watering place: Folkestone. Here she appeared to stay with two Irish spinster sisters. By 1901 she may have moved to Eastbourne, where the 1911 census also captured her. On both occasions, she had servants present, but no kin or friend. Her probate record shows she died there, her estate over £20,000.

Mina Tucker (1826-1905)

Despite an apparent French father, Mina de la Tour originated in England (London), but married her husband in Brussels (1850). He also worked in the Indian Civil Service. The couple produced at least three children born in India. They accompanied her to Bournemouth in 1871. Although married, Mina described herself as an ‘annuitant’, a rare use of the term. It may suggest that she had use of her own funds, since she left a sizeable estate, although some may have come from her husband, who predeceased her. The family’s association with the east continued, for two of her grandchildren had Burma as their birthplaces. They and two spinster aunts stayed with Mina during 1901 at another seaside resort: Torquay.


These three annuitants appear to have led globe-trotting lives, combining imperial and spa cultures, weaving around different parts of their extended families. Sarah (French) Wilson, born in Tortola, West Indies, provides another example. She, too, ended up in Eastbourne, but her estate value fell below £1,000. The enormous estate left by Catherine Watkinson (almost £80,000) as well as those of the three women discussed here contrive an average of almost £10,000 left by annuitants. The median of about £3,500 perhaps gives a more representative idea of annuitants’ wealth. Most of the annuitants spent their lives in England, some mobile, some perhaps less so.  Circumstance may have accounted for their spinster status, but some may have avoided marriage by choice. Many seem to have remained in contact with family members belonging to different generations. All, by definition, had committed to the culture because they retained their money in productive parts of the economy.


Victorian Bournemouth (101) has found that annuitants played important social and economic roles in the country. Many moved around, bringing their spending to different places. Many also acted as integrators within their near families but also connected with wider kin. A few of those who visited Bournemouth in 1871 returned, or, perhaps, never left.


For references and engagement, please get in touch. Main primary sources: here and here (subscriptions needed). Thanks to Alwyn Ladell for this picture of the St Regulus. See also here.

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