Victorian Bournemouth (102)

Victorian Bournemouth (102): entertainment needs

Protect. Promenade. Progress.


Victorian Bournemouth (102) explores how affluent people used certain entertainment forms to obtain different objectives. Their applications appear to correspond with different places on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This psychological framework categorises human motivation to fulfil basic to extended needs. The needs identified here appear in three of Maslow’s hierarchical levels: protection (basic), esteem (middle), self-actualisation (top).

Victorian Bournemouth (102): entertainment for social protection


In the summer of 1866, the annual gathering of Cranborne’s Poor Man’s Friendly Society seemed a great success. The press report praised this as a system of social control. The editor observed how educating working people had rendered such events enjoyable. Hitherto such a day ‘always ended in squabbles, rows, and fights out of number’. Sudden acts of violence perpetrated by working people frightened their affluent counterparts. Such events threatened their attempts to inhabit a world based on order. Guy Fawkes night in Bournemouth became an occasion where working people might cause disorder. In the 1870s, ‘roughs’ took advantage of the event to throw burning fireworks at passers-by and police. Sometimes they rolled burning tar barrels down Commercial Road. While a new law provided fundamental support, Bournemouth’s affluent types used education to ‘normalise’ working people thereby gaining institutionalised protection against disorder.


Education positioned as entertainment provided one way to achieve the required protection. Throughout Bournemouth’s second period, the press referred to initiatives to establish ‘working men’s clubs’. The Western Gazette thought that the version established in 1869 ‘deserves to prosper’. The club provided a variety of reading material, including newspapers. It also offered chess, draughts, and bagatelle. Those interested might even attend an architectural drawing class held in the evening. The club provided coffee and other forms of refreshment for its members. It did not, however, offer alcohol. In fact, the ‘institution ought to prove a formidable rival to the public house’. Established people saw alcoholic over-indulgence by working people as causing riots, abuse of partners, and penury. Yet, coffee and chess, however attractive to respectable gentility, may not have had the same appeal to those who had spent all day labouring on a building site.

Victorian Bournemouth (102): entertainment for esteem


Dues helped Christchurch and Bournemouth Horticultural Society to maintain an exclusive membership. Its exhibition and prize giving days provided an opportunity for the gentility to gauge and bolster esteem with their peer group. Attendance took the form of social promenading, a form of affluent inspection parade. These annual events attracted press attention, coverage often taking more than a column. Thus, attendees had the opportunity for extending their esteem through virtual promenading via the press report. The visitors’ names, ranked in order of status, appeared long before the list of prize-winners. In 1869, the article identified the Priory as the location, ‘placed at the disposal of the committee by Sir G. F. Pocock, Bart’. Next came the attendees’ list, requiring sixteen lines. Such lists also featured in reports of affluent balls and fetes. The Poole & Dorset Herald created a week’s virtual promenade by publishing a list of Bournemouth visitors.  


Balls and similar forms of entertainment also bolstered esteem amongst the gentility by drawing lines of social division. Balls often occurred at Bournemouth, but social mixing did not occur. In addition to the gentry, tradesmen and even servants attended balls arranged for their social types. Thus, by not attending these other balls, affluent people could nurture their esteem as a form of social separation. Examination of the prizewinners at the Christchurch and Bournemouth Horticultural event shows a similar process at work. The occasion seems inclusive since cottagers might enter as well as gentlemen. Cottagers, however, exhibited vegetables, fruits, or wild flowers they had picked. Gentlemen, in contrast, entered roses, fuchsias, dahlias and other flowers cultivated by their (named) gardeners. Thus, this segregation according to the cultivated items entered into the competition will have enabled the gentry to maintain if not further their sense of self-esteem. 

Victorian Bournemouth (102): entertainment as self-actualisation


These occasions provided affluent people an opportunity to achieve a sense of self-actualisation through a form of entertainment.  Three examples which occurred in 1870 illustrate this practice. That summer, Mr Joseph Fearn gave a very interesting and amusing lecture on “Popular Blunders”. The press tagged this as a ‘rare treat’. In the autumn, a colonel, retired from India, exhorted listeners at the YMCA to practice ‘persevering, truthful, and upright’ behaviour. In December, at the Bournemouth Institute, Dr Roberts Thomson lectured ‘on the interesting subject of “The Microscope and its Revelations”‘. He illustrated this with diagrams and offered opportunities to observe the blood circulation in a toad’s foot through his microscope. ‘A not very numerous audience’ attended. Earlier in the decade, members of the Institute might have heard ‘an instructive lecture upon “Ancient Egypt” … delivered in the institute by the Rev. P. H. Newnham … Admiral Sulivan presided’. 


Affluent and respectable people at Bournemouth also sought self-actualisation by giving artistic performances. For example, in 1868, at the Institute, a programme consisted of ‘readings interspersed with music’. The participants had some level of gentility since the press referred to them as Mr or Miss. J. Pope, Esq., presided. Nevertheless, the programme appeared to incline more towards music-hall than classical or even religious content. Loud encores occurred throughout the evening. On another occasion, a similar programme occurred at the Institute. This time, one of Bournemouth’s successful businessmen presided, W. B. Rogers, the draper. ‘A capital programme of music, readings, and recitations was well carried out and thoroughly enjoyed by all present.’ Rogers served many years as an Improvement Commissioner as did another participant, James McWilliam. They formed part of Bournemouth’s meritocracy. Their participation in this form of entertainment suggests a reach for gentility.


Victorian Bournemouth (102) has presented several examples of entertainment engaged in by affluent and respectable people. When analysed they appear to correspond to different areas of Maslow’s concept about the Hierarchy of Needs. Educational classes for working people helped with protection. Promenading at public events bolstered esteem. Participation in performing arts provided a form of personal progress or self-actualisation. Thus, entertainment met the needs of such people at several levels.


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