Victorian Bournemouth (146)

Victorian Bournemouth (144): British Indians (2)

Self-conscious imperial types


Victorian Bournemouth (144) explores the demographics and mindsets of British people, native to India, found in Bournemouth during 1881. It begins a series of articles concerning such people registered as present by the census.

Victorian Bournemouth (144): background


People born within the British Raj recorded in Bournemouth during 1881 accounted for around the same amount of Greater Westover’s population as in the previous census: about 1%. Of these, about a third consisted of children, many at boarding school. Of the adults, some appeared to reside in the town, while others had come to visit. In about half of the cases, their place of birth did not feature in their record. Of the remainder, the three main cities – Calcutta, Bombay, Madras – accounted for only about half, the rest born in a variety of places throughout the Raj. Sufficient genealogical information has survived for sketching the biographies of many Bournemouth visitors born within the British Raj. The Imperial Gazetteer of India contains a mass of statistics describing the sub-continent during the nineteenth and twentieth century. It provides the basis against which to interpret the biographical information recovered for those recorded in Bournemouth during 1881.


Study of Anglo-Indians, a term used here to British people native to India, offers insights at two levels. The first consists of perceptions drawn about their relationship to Bournemouth, by now an established member of the ‘spa circuit’. People, for the most part privileged, migrated between several towns that offered both convalescent and sociable benefits. It seems that most of the Anglo-Indians recorded here in 1881 belonged to this nomadic group, but some became residents, often staying many years. In their relationship to Bournemouth, deeper points consist of their motivations to visit and the role taken within the community by those who became residents. The second consists of insights which their biographies offer about the history and society of their birthplace: British India. Some visitors belonged to the latter days of the East India Company’s administration, but the younger members came from the regime of its successor, the Raj.

Victorian Bournemouth (144): basic demographics

Age and gender

For comparative purposes, analysis has produced a summary profile for gender and age for Anglo-Indians noted as resident in Hastings, Brighton, Bath (Walcot) (1881). Overall, females outnumber males by about 2:1, except in Brighton, where the balance has a less pronounced pattern. The populations divided in almost equal parts between under and over 21, the former somewhat larger than the latter. Age and gender, when taken together, show the adults having a marked difference in gender. The women account for a third of the Anglo-Indian population in these three resorts, whereas the men only a tenth. Military casualties and results of heavy social alcohol usage perhaps had taken their toll on the men. The Bournemouth quotient of Anglo-Indians present during 1881 matches the picture drawn for the other three resorts but in exaggerated proportions. Here, the adult women accounted for over 40%, the under 21s forming a minority.

Paternal occupations

In the case of about half the adult Anglo-Indians recorded at Bournemouth, the occupations for their fathers have survived. A small statistical base, but analysis shows perhaps a meaningful pattern. In around half of cases, the father had worked in the army, several generals amongst them. Gertrude Baker (69), Mary Burne (28), Jane Haymes (41), and Margaret Cherwell (28) all had fathers who became generals. Daniel Boyd (62), son of a general, had also become one. In other cases, army fathers had belonged to the Staff Corps, a few colonels, one captain, the lowest recorded rank. Civilians (ICS), lawyers, and professionals (physicians and clergymen) accounted for about the same number of paternal jobs as the army. Only a small number had ‘box-wallahs’ or commercial types for fathers. Thus, the Anglo-Indian adult population at Bournemouth (1881) belonged to India’s governing structure, comprised of people having a privileged background.

Victorian Bournemouth (144): origins and consciousness


Respondents offered differing levels of detail for their birthplaces. In some cases, the field contained ‘India’ or ‘East Indies’. Some went no further than to list the Presidency: Bengal, Madras, or Bombay. Others, however, offered place names. In very broad terms, the origins of the British Indian natives visiting Bournemouth in 1881 match the demographic detail recorded for contemporary India. Most came from the north: Bengal and the provinces to the west. Thereafter, towards the south, came Madras and Bombay. The birthplaces illustrate the wide spread of British occupation. ICS and professional men baptised their children in the main cities for the most part. Army people, however, had their children in many places, including the summer hill station of Simla. Paternal occupations for children born in North-Western Provinces consisted of lawyers and missionaries in addition to ICS and the army.

British subjects

Quite often, in addition to the place or even country name, the fields relating to origin contained the statement ‘British Subject’. Respondents, therefore, felt the need to add this detail to an English audience consisting of the census enumerator and his back-office administration. Contemporary commentators indicated that British society across India often adhered to a lifestyle that replicated if not exaggerated that of the mother country. Furthermore, during the nineteenth century a previous closeness to parts of Indian society became wider, reflecting the greater self-consciousness of the Victorian period. The people became, as it were, more British. Nevertheless, instead of having little doubt that they fitted in to, in this case, the British town of Bournemouth, several of these Anglo-Indians felt it necessary to state their citizenship status. While this may have reflected a need for detailed correctness, it perhaps also indicates a level of social insecurity.


Victorian Bournemouth (144) has sketched in some demographic details about Anglo-Indian visitors and residents to Bournemouth at the time of the 1881 census. In broad terms, this group of people appears to form a representative sample of ‘country-bred’ society scattered across the Indian geography and a range of occupations. Born as British, these Indian natives nevertheless may have felt self-conscious, even nervous, about the extent to which they ‘fitted into’ homeland society.


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