Victorian Bournemouth (123)

Victorian Bournemouth (122): church offerings (1)

Heavenly pennies


Victorian Bournemouth (122) explores the patterns within donations made by the resort’s main three churches during the 1870s. Each week, the Poole & Dorset Herald reported the amounts given by parishioners of St Peter’s, St Michael’s, and Holy Trinity. Analysis finds wide differences in the amounts given and their application between the churches.

Victorian Bournemouth (122): religious terrain

Brief history of the churches

Early visitors to Bournemouth worshipped in a temporary church, but, after the arrival of Reverend A. M. Bennett rapid progress occurred on constructing St Peter’s. Throughout the first two periods, Bennett worked hard to raise funds for developing further the church fabric. By the early 1870s, collections for a spire had begun. Holy Trinity, carved out of Holdenhurst parish, appeared in 1867, built on land donated by Robert Kerley, developer and Improvement Commissioner. St Michael’s parish, formed from St Peter’s, came into existence around 1870, but building work on its church did not start until 1874. During the years reported – 1874 and 1877 – parishioners each week worshipped in one of the three churches and give money for designated causes. Other churches had come into existence as well, for example, St Swithun’s and St Paul’s, but they made a scanty appearance in the newspaper’s reports of donations.

Local clergy in the 1870s

Reverend Bennett, incumbent at St Peter’s, had absorbed High Church beliefs and attitudes during his studentship at Oxford. For thirty-three years, he pursued his ministry with vigour, throughout the town and across the surrounding villages. His constant fund-raising brought physical enlargements and splendour to St Peter’s. Religious tourists visited Bournemouth to observe the details of his High Church Anglican worship. This did not satisfy everyone. When Holy Trinity emerged, it appealed to Evangelicals. An observer wrote to the press about worship here. ‘Here the service is conducted with simplicity’, as ‘it used to be before ritualism became so common.’ The incumbent, Philip Eliot, a banker’s son, later became Dean of Windsor. Edward Wankelyn administered at St Michael’s, his brother head of an exclusive private school at Bournemouth. They came from a family which ran an international trading company. Thus, despite the differences in worship, the incumbents had similar social backgrounds. 

Victorian Bournemouth (122): financial analysis of offerings

Amounts and trends

During 1874, the money reported as donated at all three churches amounted to almost £3,000. Three years later, however, this figure had risen to almost £5,000. In one week of that year, however, Holy Trinity raised over £1,000 for its tower, thereby distorting the figures. Notwithstanding that, however, the money donated in the latter year grew. With this figure removed, the distribution of donations remained similar across the churches in both years. St Peter’s accounted for just over half the money, Holy Trinity a third, the rest coming from St Michael’s. Both St Peter’s and Holy Trinity lay in the town centre, the latter not far to the east. As such, they stood to benefit from the visitors staying nearby. St Michael’s stood out to the west, an area populated with many working people. Nevertheless, between the years, this church experienced the greatest growth rate in giving.


Plotting the donations month by month shows a level pattern of giving except on three occasions. The highest peak occurred at Easter. For example, the £1,000 donated for Holy Trinity’s tower came at that time. The other two apparent bulges occurred at Christmas and in the autumn. St Michael’s experienced the flattest pattern compared to the other two sites. Data exists that enables the plotting of visitors’ arrivals on the same basis during the 1870s.  This shows that arrivals bulged at two periods: spring and autumn. Thus, the pattern of visitors’ arrivals matches the shape to some extent found in the donations plotted on the same basis. The churches, therefore, appear to have benefitted from visitors’ donations as much as from those residing in the town. St Michael’s, however, experienced least fluctuation in its donation pattern, perhaps an indication that its parishioners consisted more of residents than visitors. 

Victorian Bournemouth (122): application of donation money


Two main applications of donation money appear from the analysis. Some of the money went to each church, some went for charitable use. Overall, for the two years, about two thirds of the money went to the former, a third to the latter. This varied between the three churches. Holy Trinity and St Michael’s acquired new churches for their parishes during the 1870s. Much of the money in 1874 donated at Holy Trinity went to church fabric. In 1877, however, church services attracted some of the money as well as the fabric. Some money went to St Michael’s church fabric, but church services and clergy took the greatest share. Building remained important at St Peter’s despite its relative age. Money went towards the belfry, the western apse, the frescoes, and the spire. The needy received less than 5% of donations, but they received support otherwise through the poor rate.


Charity money went to four main categories of recipients: schools and missions; church societies; health; overseas. Schools and missions attracted almost half of the money donated. Overseas and health applications received about a fifth of funds. Church societies took most of the rest. This pattern varied across the three church congregations. St Michael’s donated little to missions and schools, but almost half its money to overseas purposes. Holy Trinity, however, showed much greater interest in donating to church societies. These attracted much less attention at St Peter’s. Most of the overseas money went to assist charities working in Southern Africa and India. Schools and missions supported education both in Bournemouth and in the surrounding villages, Moordown in particular. Health consisted of support for the Sanatorium and Dispensary. A wide array of church societies received money. A greater share of money supported the Additional Curates’ Society and the Missionary Society.


Victorian Bournemouth (122) has explored the amounts, trends, and broad patterns in donations given by parishioners attending the three main churches during the 1870s. Differences in amounts and applications have emerged between them. The oldest church, St Peter’s, headed the group in amounts raised. It also donated to a wide number of charities. Further analysis on charity donations will form the subject of another article.


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