Victorian Bournemouth (156)

Victorian Bournemouth (156): Q4 summary

Aspects of social behaviour

Introduction

Victorian Bournemouth (156) surveys articles published in the fourth quarter, covering different aspects of society at all levels. A focus on Anglo-Indian visitors to Bournemouth provided insights into Imperial society. Articles about Oxford Road suggested the possibility of ‘middle-fication’ and a social protectorate. Two studies explored how new travel technology opened up possibilities for significant social change. Two others served as reminders that poverty remained a constant problem in Victorian Bournemouth.

Victorian Bournemouth (156): Anglo-Indians

Simla-by-the-Sea

The commercial exploitation of India and it’s civic administration played an important part within 19th century British society and history. People involved in this belonged to two categories: expatriates, natives. A group of articles centred on the latter, tagged Anglo-Indians, some of whom visited Bournemouth. According to the census, an increasing number of such people found the resort attractive as it grew in reputation and size. They might visit Bournemouth on three occasions in their life: education, vacation, retirement. During the nineteenth century, Anglo-Indian society had adopted the practice of spending the hot summer months in the cool shade of hill stations, the best known perhaps Simla. One of the articles suggested that Bournemouth perhaps functioned as a Simla-by-the-Sea for Anglo-Indians. Its benign climate and origin as a resort for privileged people qualified it for their attention. Perhaps Simla society as satirised by Kipling found reflections at Bournemouth.

Forming a square

The other articles explored the self-image and social position for Anglo-Indians once transported from their native homeland to Britain. Born in exile, they may have created and nurtured a lifestyle ‘more British than the British’. Some expatriates had little time for them, placing them on an inferior social position. Using the census entries, one article speculated that this group on coming to Britain may have formed an introverted group, consisting of extended family members or others belonging to their networks. Unable to integrate with British natives, despite equivalence of wealth, accent, or education, such people gravitated to the mobile and anonymous nature of spa society. Some may have settled in Bournemouth, but their houses became havens for other Anglo-Indians arriving in Britain for the first time.

Victorian Bournemouth (156): Oxford Road

Middling street life

Oxford Road, which still exists today, in Victorian Bournemouth straddled a border between Dean Park’s elite settlement and rows of housing built in Springbourne for working people. A series of articles explored the social history and development of Oxford Road during the 1870s and 1880s. It found a strip of houses which had undergone both physical and social development. Oxford Road appeared to experience social indecision or uncertainty. It had begun life as a small collection of buildings sheltering multiple households of working people. As time passed, middling people arrived to replace the former inhabitants. The level of multiple occupancy became much reduced. Family turnover also seems to have diminished. At the end of the period the population had aged but in some cases standards of living appeared improved. Thus, if not gentrified, Oxford Road during the late Victorian period may have undergone ‘middle-fication’.

Social protectorate

The continuous presence of neighbours over years, if not decades, will have thrown a blanket of social stability over Oxford Road. Thus, a community of people occupying similar positions within society came into being. Study of the advertisements placed for some of the properties by estate agents provide clues about the social levels of the inhabitants. Flush toilets as standard and Japanned wardrobes, for example, provide indicators of middling occupation. Leaseholders may have influenced social changes by the level of finish and price of occupation, but it seems possible that given the continuous settlement by the same families a measure of social inclusion exclusion occurred. Analysis of Oxford Road’s demography, therefore, provides a little clue about how social collaboration might happen. The inhabitants of Oxford Road, long in place, perhaps created a type of social protectorate if not a virtual fortification. It helped restrict occupation to ‘people like them’.

Victorian Bournemouth (156): other subjects

Transport and mobility

One article explored the rapid expansion of cabs and their usage at the resort. Cabs delivered two benefits. First, they provided a convenient and speedy way to connect with railroad technology expediting wider travel. Second, they provided a new form of employment for working men, providing income throughout the year. Thus this new technology, while adding convenience to conveyance, also contributed to important social change. Working men had an alternative choice of employment beyond service or unskilled manual labour. By becoming proprietors, some men used cabs to achieve social mobility. More social change occurred after the arrival of another piece of new technology: bicycles. Within very short time, people at lower social levels could achieve freedom of movement at low cost of ownership or even renting. Not only did new forms of entertainment appear that encouraged socialisation and mixing, but this extended to both genders.

Poverty

One article explored the backgrounds and subsequent lives of children which the 1881 census listed in the workhouse annex and school at Tuckton. Family catastrophes, the loss or one or both parents, most often to early deaths, seems to account for the entry of most. Children of humble backgrounds, if they lived to adulthood, they appear to have remained at this social level. Another article analysed the practice whereby newspaper editors inserted each year stories about Christmas meals provided for workhouse inmates. Their constant appearance and standard format provided elite and middling audiences with a predictable alternative to traditional, unchanging pantomimes. The analysis of the pauper children and the Christmas meal provided at Christchurch Union workhouse provide reminders that, despite the glamour of Bournemouth society and the sparkle of new technology, some social problems secured nothing more than minimal attention from many decision-makers and social leaders.

Takeaway

Victorian Bournemouth (156) has summarised key findings emerging from the last quarter’s articles. As the town increased its size and momentum for future growth, greater texture within its social structure evolved.

References

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