Victorian Bournemouth (173)

Victorian Bournemouth (173): marriage social dynamics

Same, up, down, old, new


Victorian Bournemouth (173) explores social information within the occupations of grooms and fathers-in-law found on marriage certificates. The analysis produces insights about social mobility, wedding ages, and remarriages. Most of the information relates to three suburban parishes, inhabited for the most part by working people, skilled and unskilled. Coding has distilled a range of occupations into a social categorisation scale. The period runs over the last three decades of the Victorian period.

Victorian Bournemouth (173): social mobility

Like with like

About four fifths of marriages combined men and women having working backgrounds, both skilled, Level 1, and unskilled, Level 2. Within this group, cross-analysis compared each partner’s social position. The results suggest that many unions consisted of ‘mixed marriages’, combining partners from each Level. Amongst those who married partners at the same Level, however, a social difference emerged. Marriages combining two people at Level 2 occurred at about twice the rate those at Level 1. Thus, perhaps labouring people, the Level 2s, practised greater social conservatism than their skilled counterparts. A difference between genders, however, has emerged. This suggests that Level 1 grooms married Level 2 women more often than Level 2 equivalents did the reverse. Thus, while Level 2 men perhaps faced difficulties ‘marrying up’, female social equivalents did not. This suggests that Level 2 females had greater opportunities or experienced less opposition to achieve social mobility.

Labouring conservatism

Comparing the social positions of fathers and sons adds further texture to the subject. In most cases, fathers and sons existed in the same social space. In some cases, however, a son had ascended or descended from his paternal social level. The partners chosen by these sons present a differential social pattern. Grooms who had ascended to Level 1 nevertheless still appeared to marry women having a lower social position. Furthermore, a son who had descended to Level 2 might more often marry a woman having that same social position. This resonates with the picture of relative social conservatism found amongst Level 2 marriages. People born into that Level perhaps experienced greater difficulty in achieving social change than their Level 1 counterparts. The difficulty may have consisted of personal inhibitions or external obstructions. This conforms to the essential conservative nature of society found from the analysis of marriage partners.

Victorian Bournemouth (173): marriage ages

Age at marriage

Across the three parishes, evidence suggests that, for both working types, women married younger than men. About a sixth of brides came to the altar aged less than twenty-one. In comparison, one in twenty men married at the same age. This conforms to a pattern whereby the males had had to have set aside funds to meet the greater expenses incurred by living as a couple. A difference also appears to have occurred according to social level within working people. Brides or grooms positioned within Level 2 married at younger ages than their skilled counterparts. Marriage by the age of twenty-five appears to have applied to Level 2 types, both men and women, but skilled workers in some cases delayed to their later twenties. Thus, Level 2 men, while they married quite early, chose partners still in their teens. Skilled working people, however, had to develop their craft-skill before marriage.

Month of marriage

In rural parishes, spring and autumn created job opportunities for agricultural labourers. In pastoral communities, lambing provided spring work. Getting in the harvest did the same for arable settlements. Thus, enriched by the extra work, men had the ability to engage in marriage. A trace of this practice remained at Holdenhurst during the nineteenth century. Over a third of marriages involving Level 2 workers occurred during the months of September to November. Such a pattern would not appear in urban communities. This seems to have applied to working males living in the three suburban parishes, for their marriages did not bunch as in rural communities. Many, however, had migrated from such settlements. Once taking up residence in Springbourne or Moordown, such families would have found that the rhythm of their lives would follow a different chronology to that of their tradition. This suggests that physical relocation could involve cultural reorientation.

Victorian Bournemouth (173): remarriage

Age at remarriage

Disaster could destroy a marriage at any time. At Moordown, some widowers remarried in their early twenties. Jesse Hoar, a gardener, found himself back at the altar aged 24. A similar pattern occurred at Springbourne. There, George Venn, a carman, married for the second time at this same, young age. For the most part, however, widowers who remarried did so later in life. On average, working males who remarried did so in their late thirties or forties. A similar pattern applied to women. A few had experienced disaster early in their first married life, but the rest remarried in the late thirties on average. Eleanor Smith remarried at 24, a Winton resident. In Springbourne, Gertrude Trickett and Charlotte Banks remarried at ages 22 and 23. On average, however, according to the Springbourne register, widows who remarried there did so in the late thirties. The same patterns appear at Holy Trinity.

Gender differences

A noticeable difference according to gender appears in this analysis of remarriage. The number of widowers who remarried outnumbered the widows by at least twice if not three times. In a small number of cases, widowers remarried to widows. For example, Thomas Ingram, a labourer, remarried to Jane Thorne, a widow, both aged in their sixties. The widower, William Gollop, a gardener, aged 66, married Sarah Jane Hookey, a widow six years younger. A more common occurrence consisted of a widower marrying a spinster. This happened about three times as often as the reverse. In some cases, widowers married spinsters a generation younger. Otherwise, they found partners amongst women marooned at home having reached their thirties, perhaps destined for lifelong spinsterhood. In a few cases older widows married younger bachelors. This pattern suggests that men had a greater opportunity or need to remarry than women.


Victorian Bournemouth (173) has extracted information from wedding certificates that has provided insights reaching beyond the event. It has explored marriages that crossed apparent social borders within working people. The ages of marriage also suggested possible differences in behaviour dividing the social types. Within the subject of remarriage, it has found that widowers underwent this transition more often than widows, often taking spinsters for their second partners.


For references and engagement, please get in touch. Main primary sources: here and here (subscriptions needed). You might like this also.

Leave a Reply