Victorian Bournemouth (139)

Victorian Bournemouth (139): Springbourne (3)

Continuity and change


Victorian Bournemouth (139) explores further aspects of the community inhabiting Springbourne, the Bournemouth suburb housing many working people. This article analyses the later personal history of native children recorded as present in 1881. The database contains details about such people, over five hundred in number. The focus consists of their social profile found for 1911. This includes location, occupation, birthplace, occupation of marital partner (if married), and occupation of partner’s father. The analysis considers the extent to which Bournemouth natives remained there in adult life or moved elsewhere.

Victorian Bournemouth (139): demography


In 1881, children accounted for about half the population of Springbourne. Of these, just over half consisted of natives to here or Bournemouth. Such people had grown in numbers during the 1870s, almost 80% born then. Indeed, those aged under five accounted for over half of Springbourne’s native children. Very few native adults lived here. Almost two thirds of families housed at least two children native to the area. Thus, many of the fathers had obtained sufficient employment to persuade them to settle for several years. The number of native children in a household appears to correlate with its income. For example, little difference in age separated heads of households working as unskilled labourers from those employed as building artisans. Nevertheless, the families of the latter contained more native children than the former. Hence, their presence suggests that higher paid men found sufficient incentive to settle and produce children.

Kinship patchwork

An earlier analysis has found that some, perhaps many, kinship groups counted amongst the earlier migrants to settle in Springbourne. Transferred from their native villages, such kinship groups perhaps replanted their cultures within the new environment. Thus, the neighbourhood may have consisted of groups originating from many villages sewn into a patchwork. A network’s key characteristic protects its members. It seems plausible that this process would continue even after transplanting. From within its protection, members could have competed against outsiders for jobs and other resources. The kinship groups enabled related people to get a start in their new environment. The rapid arrival of children native to Springbourne would have prepared the way for kinship groups to merge into the nascent neighbourhood. Longitudinal analysis of these children, following them to adulthood, provides an opportunity to gauge the extent to which their families had found longer term success in the area.

Victorian Bournemouth (139): 1911


In 1911 about a third of the native children listed present in Springbourne for 1881 had either died or vanished from the documentary records. Of the rest, half had moved away from the Greater Westover area, but half remained inhabiting Bournemouth and its suburbs, in particular, Springbourne and Charminster. Now separated by a trunk road, these two neighbourhoods belonged to a single area in 1911. The emigrants lived elsewhere in the country, a few abroad, but nowhere in concentration, scattered in response to job and partner opportunities. Thus, at least a third of natives recorded in 1881 remained within the area, many within a few minutes’ walk from their parental homes. A small number had married a native. Of these, over twice as many remained in Bournemouth as lived elsewhere in the country. The majority, however, had found partners from amongst those born outside Bournemouth.

Social conservatism

The database recorded the child’s paternal occupation, their occupation in 1911, that of their partner then, if married, and that of the partner’s father where identified. This provides a rough basis for studying social mobility and whether people married outside of their social group. Recorded occupation provides the evidence for social position, inferences always needing care in application. For these purposes, the analysis has divided people between skilled and unskilled occupations. It has found that, for those where the information exists, most people married a partner having a similar social background, but this applied more to those coming from a skilled background. Of those involved in social change, about the same number moved upwards through marriage as down. This pattern applied whether an individual remained in Bournemouth or moved elsewhere. Thus, their society remained within its sectors for the most part, emigration not bringing improvement in general.

Victorian Bournemouth (139): assessment

Healthy continuity

The Springbourne community appears to have incorporated both continuity and change in its society. Many of the families continued to live in the area and to increase the population of native children. Of these, some emigrated, but many remained, acquiring employment and partners as their basis for their households. If only a small number married a native, many of those having immigrant partners continued to inhabit the same neighbourhood if not street where they had spent their childhood. Thus, Springbourne society had the opportunity to benefit from stability but not to the extent that it became as introverted as some of the rural villages from which many families had emigrated. Bournemouth’s constant appeal to immigrants at any social level resulted in a continuous stream of outsiders bringing different customs and attitudes. Studies of group contexts and networks note that a balance results from stability but also innovation.

Pebbles to sand grains

Thus, Bournemouth became a crucible for continuous social development as it homogenised its developing culture with a regular supply of novelty. In Springbourne, where its early society consisted of kinship groups, the community may have resembled pebbles on a beach. Each retains an identifiable integrity and separation but, taken together, they serve a general purpose. Over time, as the kinship groups perhaps needed less integrity or broadened through marriage alliances, Springbourne’s community came to resemble sand rather than pebbles. That most of its married natives, whether present in 1911 or lived elsewhere, had linked with a partner having a similar social background suggests a conservative element in its society. The area had appealed to working people, both skilled and unskilled, from its origin, during the late 1860s. In 1881, the census shows that such people continued to account for its society. Its native generation changed little from that.


Victorian Bournemouth (139) has analysed Springbourne’s society through a study of its native population and its contexts. The analysis compared the situations in 1881 and in 1911.  This suggests that the community combined stability with innovation to achieve an identity that did not become either outmoded or introverted.


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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