Victorian Bournemouth (146) finds public and private links interconnecting the British Indians who settled in the resort during the period 1871-1881. Genealogical analysis provides insights into the social history of Indian natives born to families who had originated in Britain. By the time they arrived in Bournemouth, in some cases, several generations of their families had lived and worked in India. In the resort, they occupied different parts of the economy, some wealth creators, some consumers.
Victorian Bournemouth (146): thumbnails
William Blenkinsop (b, Madras, 1837-?)
William Blenkinsop’s father served as an army chaplain in Madras. He qualified as a physician, present in England at least by 1860, where he became married. He had arrived in Bournemouth by 1868, baptising a son then. A Bournemouth resident during the 1870s, he later moved to London before going to Hastings, another spa. Other parts of the family favoured Bournemouth. His widowed mother lived there together with two of his spinster sisters.
Percy Bright (b, Mirzapur, 1864-1941)
Percy Bright and his elder brother, Eustace, born in Mirzapur, United Provinces, during the early 1860s, had come to England when very young, their mother’s health unsuited by Indian conditions. The boys’ parents, members of the London Missionary Society, had arrived in India during 1862. Their father, Frederick, combined his professional skills – bookselling – with appropriate community service by taking charge of the Mission Press. This combination of commerce and community reappeared during the family’s activities once established in Bournemouth, taking the form of Bright’s Department Store.
Margaret Newman (b, Multan (?), 1861-1953)
Her father served with the army in India, but died early, whereupon her widowed mother found another serviceman as husband, Robert Hall, his father manager of a cotton plant in Hyde. They married in Lucknow, 1863. By 1881, however, the family had arrived in Bournemouth, where her father supplemented his pension by acting as drillmaster to the town’s Volunteers, the family house on Cardigan Road, Winton. Two years later, however, she married a man five years her junior, working as a labourer. They prospered, had a child, living with her parents in 1911, still on Cardigan Road. The 1939 census listed Margaret and husband on Muscliff Road, the latter retired from the sanitary department. His estate came out to over £2,000, suggesting they had lived in some comfort.
Margaret Tapsell (b, Deesa, Gujarat, 1838-1922)
As a widow, she married Thomas Tapsell at Byculla, Bombay, in 1873. Tapsell (1831-1898), an Englishman, had served with the army in India. By 1881, they had come to Bournemouth, where Thomas worked as steward to The Bournemouth Club, situated on the foreshore. Later, a pensioner, Thomas and Margaret moved to Christchurch.
Anne MacKenzie (b, Calcutta, 1805-1882)
Anne had married, in Calcutta, James MacKenzie (1789-1861), a shipbuilder. After his death, she brought a string of spinster daughters, all Indian natives, to England. By 1881, the MacKenzie women had come to Bournemouth. She left behind in India two sons. One worked as a barrister in Calcutta, the other rose to become chief auditor of East Indian Rail. After Anne’s death, the daughters remained, living on Knole Road, bequeathing their estates to each other as they passed.
Cicely Yardley (b, Bombay, 1853-1923)
Daughter of Sir William Yardley, high-ranking member of Bombay’s judiciary, she came to England when he retired. For much of her life, she lived with her spinster aunt, a wealthy woman, at the St Regulus in Bournemouth. After her death, Cicely, a lifelong spinster, remained in Bournemouth.
Victorian Bournemouth (146): rank and roles
Most of the British Indians who settled in Bournemouth in the 1870s and 1880s belonged to families who had taken an active part in administration and control of the sub-continent. Their fathers had served in the army, worked in the Indian Civil Service, or in the judiciary. Some of these men achieved high rank: generals, judges, for example. Thus, the families occupied privileged positions within the social hierarchy, notwithstanding the jaundiced opinion held of the ‘country-bred’ by such people as Lady Canning. Many may have come to England early in life to receive an education. Such people would have matched Bournemouth’s traditional visitors: the wealthy and fashionable. A handful of people listed in Bournemouth, 1881, native to India, did not belong to this social group. In at least two cases, their fathers had served in the army ranks. They appear to have connected with the area’s working people.
Some of Bournemouth’s British Indian residents functioned as wealth creators, pursuing active occupations. Percy Bright, once adult, participated in the town’s intellectual community (the local Natural Science Society, whose meetings took place in the family’s reading room) as well as the Congregational church. In time, he entered local politics, becoming mayor. In addition, of course, his family established and built Bright’s Department Store into a successful business. William Blenkinsop worked as a physician in Bournemouth for around fifteen years. He would have belonged to a well-defined medical community which, on occasion, had verged towards political intervention in Bournemouth’s affairs. Margaret Tapsell’s husband, Thomas, one-time ranker, worked for a while as steward to The Bournemouth Club, a recent establishment. Margaret Newman, a soldier’s daughter and stepdaughter, married a local labourer. In contrast, Cicely Yardley and Anne MacKenzie’s family, having independent means, contributed to the local economy as consumers.
Victorian Bournemouth (146): multi-multi families
Other articles on this site have explored social groupings in the form of ‘imperial families’. Such people belonged to networks based in Britain, while spending much if not most of their lives elsewhere in the globe. This might occur within the orbit of British military control, for example, India, but they might also participate in British commercial zones, for example, South America. The families often moved from country to country. For example, William Blenkinsop had sisters born in Madras but also South Africa. One of these married in Cuddapah, Madras Presidency, to an army colonel, a native of Ithaca, Greece. They baptised two children born in India, and one born in Bath. Blenkinsop continued true to type, for after time in Bournemouth, he relocated to London before reaching Hastings, another spa, perhaps resembling in part Ooty, the hill-station and resort used in summer by British Madras administrators.
Family networking, both across generations and sectors, appears also a practice of at least one British Indian family settled in Bournemouth: Anne MacKenzie. In her house, over the years captured by the census, she hosted not only her own adult daughters, but her grandchildren. Also, she had an adopted child, who came to take the MacKenzie name, after living with her for at least twenty years. After marriage, she continued to live in Bournemouth. Furthermore, Anne had as guests other British Indians, one of whom, in turn, connected to a substantial nexus of British Indians. After Anne’s death, her daughters continued this practice, hosting nieces and nephews, until, in the end, some of these became the next generation of residents in the house on Knole Road, Bournemouth. The closeness of British Indian society perhaps encouraged this practice, but, in Anne MacKenzie’s family, it continued after they settled in Bournemouth.
Victorian Bournemouth (146) has examined the lives and genealogical background belonging to some British Indians who settled in the resort. It has looked at their social positions and their economic roles. In addition, it has examined the way in which some practised close family integration across generations and sectors. Together, they formed an important part of Bournemouth’s community.