Victorian Bournemouth (150)

Victorian Bournemouth (148): Oxford Road (3)

Settled, skilled neighbours


Victorian Bournemouth (148) provides a demographic analysis of Oxford Road’s inhabitants during the late nineteenth century. It tracks population trends, demographic profiles, and economic activity. Oxford Road emerges as a stable community some of which edged towards middling respectability.

Victorian Bournemouth (148): population trends

Settling down

The 1871 census listed just over two hundred people living on Oxford Road. A decade later this number had increased by around a hundred and fifty. During the 1870s, however, the number of buildings had doubled in number. Thereafter, although the buildings do not appear to have reduced in number, the population declined each decade, until, by 1901, it approached levels of 1871. A noticeable difference in household numbers separated the first two decades from the last. Although this number stood at 72 in 1881 compared to 38 in 1871, the average numbers of household per dwelling remained similar (1.90, 1.80). Thereafter, the number dropped, until it reached 1.08 in 1901. Thus, the number of households per dwelling had halved, from about two to one. The street’s community, therefore, would seemed to have changed from many households staying for a short period to fewer settled for the longer term.


A range of statistics combine to support the picture of Oxford Road’s population settling but changing during the late Victorian period. After 1881, fewer buildings contained multiple households. Once containing as many as five households, some buildings accommodated only one. The average number of people per household remained the same: around five and half. Households, however, changed their format: children went, guests came. Average numbers of each dropped and rose. In parallel, the average age of household heads increased from around forty to fifty. Oxford Road changed from a gaggle of young families, most in transition to elsewhere, to a select number of households which proceeded through their life-stages while residents of the street. Not all the children left home, however, for the average number of adult children living with their parents increased. In time, a second generation would take occupancy of Oxford Road. The street matured.

Victorian Bournemouth (148): demographics

Street natives

People immigrated from many parts to reside in Bournemouth for extended parts of their lives. The majority came from Dorset and elsewhere in Hampshire. Over time, the native proportion of Bournemouth’s population grew as families found economic inducements to stay. Oxford Road followed the pattern in that several of its inhabitants had come from Dorset or other parts of Hampshire. Its proportion native to Bournemouth, however, ran at a higher level than for the rest of the town. Excluding lodgers and visitors, the proportion of Oxford Road’s residents, native to Bournemouth, doubled from a fifth to 40% over this period. Elsewhere in the town, the proportion consisted of around half that level. Furthermore, a high proportion of Oxford Road’s population consisted of people native to the street. Thus, many of its young people, at least, may have had a strong sense of connection to the street and each other.

Long-term neighbours

The Bournemouth Guardian published street listings 1887-1895. They show occurrences of families living as neighbours over much, if not all, the period. This occurred in many of the semi-detached villas: Oxford, Woodbine, Milford, Cranstoun, Montpelier, and Ashley. Thus, the street’s community consisted not just of people inhabiting it for several years but living adjacent to each other. The neighbourhood did, indeed, consist of neighbours, from which may have arisen a sense of closeness and stability. Information at this level has not emerged for the earlier part of the period, as the census lists people at ten-year intervals. Nevertheless, some instances occur. The Hardings and Randals lived as neighbours in 1 and 2 Ashley Villas for at least thirty years. Other examples of adjacent habitation occurred for at least two consecutive census listings. Thus, Oxford Road appears to have housed a residential community that lived together and stayed together.

Victorian Bournemouth (148): socio-economic profile

More skilled workers and professionals

Working people, both skilled and unskilled, formed a large proportion of the adult male population dwelling on the eastern side of Bournemouth during this period. Many of Springbourne’s working males not only lived there but played a role in its construction. A trace of this pattern persisted at Oxford Road 1871-1901. Heads of household working in the building trade constituted about a quarter of the total resident on the street on average then. Carpenters, painters, and bricklayers lived together or as neighbours. The number of unskilled labourers and gardeners, however, declined, as did the number of servants driving others’ coaches, though cabbies continued to live here. Thus, a growing sense of middling aspiration began to flourish in the street. Although professional people did not head many households, they featured amongst the lodgers. Lawyers and bankers did not appear, however, but a range of musical people, schoolteachers, and clergymen.

Arrival of lodging-houses

During the day, a large proportion of the employed males must have left Oxford Road, working on building sites, in shops, or driving passengers up and down the streets. Some commerce, however, did exist along the road. The MacDonalds operated a printing press for a while, based in Park Cottages. A riding school perhaps combined with stables will have brought in customers. The mineral-water bottling part, located around the corner, perhaps obtruded its presence on the street. The directories, however, indicate how a silent trade may have accounted for substantial custom: lodging houses. Around fifteen per year found listings in directories during the 1880s and 1890s. Thus, the street came to life, housing builders and their labourers, crammed into dwellings having multiple household occupancy, many perhaps employed in building the rest of it. Thereafter, it became transformed into a quiet dormitory zone, housing people on the frontiers of respectability. 


Victorian Bournemouth (148) has found that Oxford Road settled into a stable demographic format after its early years. A community comprised of established artisans and entrepreneurs replaced a transient collection of labouring people.


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