Victorian Bournemouth (139)

Victorian Bournemouth (138): Springbourne (2)

Kinship support groups


Victorian Bournemouth (138) explores active kinship groups as a possible reason for Springbourne’s rapid population growth in the 1870s.

Victorian Bournemouth (138): background

Decline in rural population

Despite lying in Hampshire, Bournemouth attracted many migrants from Dorset towns and villages. At least three adult natives of almost forty Dorset towns and villages resided in Springbourne during 1881. The county had experienced steady population growth during the eighty years after 1801. While its established towns continued to grow through the period, many rural settlements experienced slackening growth or even population decline. Increased fertility may have stretched available resources, but structural changes within agriculture also will have contributed to this social change. The townships’ growing populations suggest that they absorbed some of the excess residing in rural settlements. The sudden appearance and rapid growth of Bournemouth will have proved a powerful attraction for adults in search of employment. Although Bournemouth’s growth continued, greater increases in population occurred in Springbourne, once a separate settlement to the resort. Genealogical analysis suggests that kinship groups may have contributed to its rapid growth.

Focus of the study

Springbourne inhabitants native to three Dorset settlements form the basis of this study. They originated in Cranborne, Corfe Castle, and Winterborne Kingston. All lay about twenty miles from Bournemouth, situated to the west or north of the resort. Each had experienced the population decline mentioned. Although the first two comprised townships having about two thousand people, much of their economy consisted of agricultural and other labouring. Quarries and clay-pits, for example, occupied many of Corfe Castle’s adult males. Winterborne Kingston had a button industry and lime kilns, but many of its males worked in agriculture. Their migrants settled in Springbourne, then consisting of a few streets. Plotting the geography of their households shows that they lived nearby in the area, a few minutes’ walk from each other. While many had kinship connections, those who did not perhaps at least shared acquaintanceship formed in the native settlements.

Victorian Bournemouth (138): kinship research

Mobile kinship groups

Analysis of the baptism records which survive for the three settlements shows that a few surnames predominated in each. Furthermore, marriage alliances interwove the families down the generations. The resulting kinship groups accounted for much of the community within each settlement. According to an earlier study, natives of the area often moved between villages, attracted by opportunities for employment and partners. Kinship groups in active cooperation would have provided a competitive advantage by accelerating relevant news of both opportunities. Thus, inhabitants shared two experiences. First, they grew up within a society where they had many relatives. Second, while they accepted the need for mobility to establish and fund their adult lives, they may have remained active members of their kinship groups. Genealogical analysis of natives from these three places, resident in Springbourne by 1881, shows extensive kinship connections. Thus, the migrants extended their shared genealogy and connections to Bournemouth.

Kinship reconstruction

Discovering maiden names of female members offers the way to uncover the wider reaches of established kinship groups. Searches on these names has shown many relatives of such women resident amongst the Bournemouth population 1871-1881. Many lived in Springbourne, but some also lived elsewhere in the resort. In some cases, such people trace their connection into the kinship group back by three or four generations. An individual, chosen as the kin hub, might have present in Springbourne or Bournemouth not only grandparents, parents, or siblings present, but also aunts, uncles, and cousins. One nexus, natives of Winterborne Kingstone, covered ten surnames, at least one carrier of each residing in Springbourne. Households lived at Wyndham Road (4), Holdenhurst Road (3), Oxford Road (2), Grove Road, Malmesbury Park Road, and Southcote Road (1 each). Identification of more marriage partners might increase the group’s membership present at Bournemouth during 1881.

Victorian Bournemouth (138): kinship in action

Design not accident

The clustered presence of these kinship groups suggests design rather than accident. Thus, the groups operated in active rather than passive mode. This appears evident in some cases, for wider members of a kinship group resided in the same household. For example, an aunt and uncle might offer support by having a nephew lodge with their family. Four siblings belonging to a Cranborne tailor, Thomas Adams, had made their home in Springbourne by 1881. Wider parts of their family also had reached the resort. A shared purpose seems to explain their collective presence. The attack on one member, Arthur Adams, and his house also illustrated continued mutual support within their new home. His brothers and married sister resided either as neighbours or on adjacent streets in Springbourne. When a mob came to burn his house, his siblings and their family members played an active role in Arthur’s protection.

Community of kinship groups

Thus, early Springbourne’s society may have consisted of multiple kinship groups. Relatives lived at least on adjacent streets. Group members belonged to different generations. This suggests that continual communication occurred between the migrants and their kin still residing in the native settlements. Return trips may have happened, for each of the three villages studied lie within twenty-five miles of Bournemouth. Directories record carrier connections between Dorset rural settlements and towns, which, in turn, acted as hubs for longer travel. Established members will have offered guidance and support to younger counterparts seeking employment in Bournemouth. An issue therefore arises about the balance in Springbourne between the entire community and its components comprised of active kinship groups. Until a threat occurred, the latter may have had a greater influence on behaviour than the former. When the Improvement Commissioners moved to annex Springbourne, this may have ignited the community, for collective action occurred.


Victorian Bournemouth (138) has considered the evidence for how active kinship groups provided the basis for Springbourne’s society and community during the 1870s. Indeed, they appear to have formed its principal component. Their active communication with their native settlements may have explained in part the rapidity with which this part of Bournemouth’s community grew.


For references and engagement, please get in touch. Main primary sources: here and here (subscriptions needed). See also here. Thanks to Bournemouth Public Library for the map.

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