Victorian Bournemouth (123)

Victorian Bournemouth (123): church offerings (2)

Giving reflects donors’ wider purposes


Victorian Bournemouth (123) looks further into the patterns of donations made by the congregations attending the resort’s three main churches. The analysis explores the extent to which the incumbents’ style of worship and personal ambitions may have resulted in these patterns.

Victorian Bournemouth (123): schools and missions


In 1853, Reverend A. M. Bennett preached a sermon to raise funds to support building a school at Moordown. Work began on the Chapel of St John in the Wilderness later that year. Five years after he supervised exams at both Moordown and East Parley. He said then that St Peter’s supported 250 children in the surrounding schools with their donations. Acting as a missionary amongst the resort’s hinterland, he provided a virtual roadmap for its later expansion within the rural settlements. St Aldhelm’s, Branksome, also benefitted from his attention. During the 1870s, St Peter’s donations continued to assist these schools. Holy Trinity also gave funds to the parochial schools, but unspecified. St Michael’s supported the Missionary Students Association. Almost all the money given for this category benefitted Bournemouth and its hinterland. Apart from money given by St Michael’s to the Missionary Students Association, very little went outside the vicinity.


The Reverend Bennett spent much of his time supervising education in the area. He made sure that the teachers attended the Diocesan Training Institute at Salisbury in order to take qualifications. When he examined the children at East Parley in 1864 he treated them to tea because he noticed a large improvement in their performance. Bennett dedicated his professional life to High Church Anglicanism. His work to establish efficient schools in the area seems consistent with that direction. The exclusive nature of this approach appeared in 1870. Children from his schools came for tea in Bournemouth, but children taught in the various non-Conformist churches went elsewhere. They did not mix on this occasion. Thus, in a sense, the donations made at St Peter’s helped to fund the Reverend Bennett’s personal crusade, helping him in his quest to educate working people early and keep them from drink in adulthood.

Victorian Bournemouth (123): church societies


In addition to money given to local schools, St Peter’s gave funds to the Vale of Avon Choral festival. Otherwise, for societies, this church and St Michael’s supported the same beneficiaries. They donated to the Additional Curates’ Society, the National Society, and the Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Holy Trinity donated about the same amount to societies as the other two churches combined. This church, however, supported different societies. Holy Trinity’s offerings went to these societies: Church Missionary, Church Pastoral Aid, Colonial and Continental Church, Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews. In addition, they supported the Parochial Branch of the Church of England Temperance Society. Further exploration of each society supported by Bournemouth’s Anglican churches shows a correlation according to worship styles. The societies supported by St Peter’s adhered to High Church principles, a ritualistic style of worship akin to Catholicism. Holy Trinity’s beneficiaries, however, sympathised with Evangelism.


St Peter’s had become a showpiece site for the High Church style of ritual. The Reverend A. M. Bennett’s ritualistic worship dominated Bournemouth’s religious format for at least two decades. The land for St Peter’s had come from the wealthy Gervis family, Bournemouth’s largest proprietor. Their social background would have matched that of most of the resort’s early visitors. Holy Trinity, however, rose on land donated by Robert Kerley. His wealth had come from developing much of the town’s property, but he appears to have come from a somewhat humble background. Holy Trinity belonged to the Evangelist wing of the Anglican Church. Worshippers now could choose between styles of service which suited their religious beliefs. The analysis of the two donation strategies shows how each church provided through charities additional support for their religious beliefs and styles not just elsewhere in the country but also across the world.

Victorian Bournemouth (123): overseas


Donations to overseas causes shows how Bournemouth’s congregations supported issues wider than those associated with specific forms of worship. Some of Bournemouth’s donations went to assist the Indian administration’s attempts to relieve suffering caused by the Indian famines of 1876-1877. A list of St Peter’s charitable donations for 1876 has also survived. In that year, the church supported missions at Capetown, Maritzburg, and Bloemfontein. The latter two lay in areas occupied by the Boers and Zulus, lying in uneasy adjacency to the British Cape Colony. St Peter’s donations also went to help children saved from Zanzibar’s slave market. Next year, the parishioners gave for this purpose almost every month. St Michael’s gave some money for this purpose, while Holy Trinity gave a third of its charity money in 1877 to the Church Missionary Society. This group had a base at Mombasa which accepted slaves liberated by the Royal Navy.


The situations in Southern Africa and India proved fertile subjects for newspaper readers. These events helped to shape and change public opinion causing Parliament to attend. A Commons’ debate concerning the liberation of Zanzibar’s slaves by the Royal Navy featured several comments about the hardening opinions of the home population. Lord Carnavon’s abrupt decision to form a federated state by absorbing the settlements in South Africa against their will formed the basis of another press subject. His actions would lead to war and disaster followed by the press at the decade’s end. Questions had arisen over how officials had supplied relief during the Bengali famine, once again attracting public opinion. Thus, the pattern of donations made by people who attended Bournemouth’s three main Anglican churches reflects the wider concern about these events held across the country. Furthermore, the money donated provided another link between resort and empire.


Victorian Bournemouth (123) has shown how the pattern of congregational donations illustrated the personal ambitions of a local clergyman, the hard differences between types of Anglican worship, and the development of public opinion about world affairs.


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