Victorian Bournemouth (56): events 1856-1871

Victorian Bournemouth (56): events 1857-1870

Improved infrastructure, commercial vicissitudes, enriched society


Victorian Bournemouth (56) consists of an analytical overview for key events during the period 1857-1870. A review of newspapers for Bournemouth’s second period shows the resort improving its infrastructure, experiencing commercial vicissitudes, while its society became enriched.

Victorian Bournemouth (56): Infrastructure and Commerce

Infrastructure: Commission under the microscope

The Improvement Commissioners addressed several key projects. Perhaps the most important – the drainage system and the Pier – took a considerable amount time, involving the Commission in contentious episodes. Drainage issues included public confrontational meetings with the Sanatorium’s medical staff. Many of the physicians had powerful social networks that enabled them to pressure the Commissioners about improving the drainage system. Nevertheless, the Commissioners resisted the browbeating and attacks fought in the media. The Pier also proved problematic. Storms took the first one early in its life, a new version opening in 1861. Maintenance and repair became constant issues. In 1867, storms again brought substantial damage. The Commissioners supervised water and gas lines which private contractors installed from the west. This resulted in wrangling, the company not careful about restoring the road surfaces. Railways, the Pleasure Grounds, and the possibility of a Winter Gardens also engaged the Commission’s attention.

Commercial performance

Analysis of 1864’s list of visiting parties and their departures suggests that, on average, 75 parties a week came to the resort. An assumption of 2-3 people per party would bring the annual number of visitors to around 10,000. Hence, in a year, the town at least may have doubled its population. Construction continued to keep pace with tourist traffic. Auctioneers kept busy selling property. Lodging-houses seemed a solid investment. A constant stream of job advertisements suggested that parts of the economy remained healthy if not improved. Nevertheless, bankruptcies occurred with some regularity throughout the period. The spectacular crash of the Ledgard Brothers’ bank occupied the press for a while in 1861. At the end of the period, however, the bankruptcies increased at a sharp rate, their declaration, in part, encouraged by a law change. Many of the bankruptcies concerned building projects that had gone sour.

Victorian Bournemouth (56): social and sporting developments


The formation of Bournemouth’s own volunteer battalion marked a social success on two levels. First, those involved resisted Lord Malmesbury’s attempts to incorporate them with Christchurch, an important step in the resort’s identity. Second, Bournemouth’s volunteers combined men of different social ranks, a reflection of homogeneity achieved in other battalions throughout the country. The range of entertainments occurring in the resort broadened from classical music. Audiences had four different events during one week in November 1867: light musical fare, two lectures at the Bournemouth Institute and the Wesleyan chapel, and a concert given by the Bournemouth Promenade and Volunteer Band, involving amateur singers. The Christy Minstrels played Bournemouth at least twice, while a circus visited in 1870. Musical events to support the Sanatorium continued. In addition to the working men’s institute others emerged: the Bourne, Young men’s, the Literary. Hence, the entertainments appealed to a broad social spectrum. 


Cricket had made a sporadic appearance during Bournemouth’s early period but became a more regular fixture for the resort 1857-1870. The Reverend Wankelyn encouraged it as part of his school’s curriculum, their team playing several fixtures, including a recurring one with Wimborne school. On one occasion ‘Mr. Dowding’s bowling proved destructive to the Wimborne stumps’. A men’s team began to play regular fixtures, including matches against Christchurch, Wimborne, the Universities, Ringwood, I Zingari, Salisbury, and Fordingbridge. The club played fifteen matches in 1868, winning ten. A new cricket ground appeared at Springbourne, another at Dean Park. Local businessman Robert Kerley laid out an archery ground near Cranborne Gardens. Competitions took place. Interest helped to fill a waiting list of potential club members. Encouraged by the interest, Kerley enlarged the archery facility. Towards the end of the period, efforts to establish and promote a regatta at Bournemouth came to fruition.

Victorian Bournemouth (56): religion and crime


During the first period, the Reverend A. M. Bennett had provided his Tractarian version of Christianity for the settlement whether they liked it or not. He proved a tireless individual, spreading his influence across the hamlets and into the educational system. Not even he, however, could keep pace with the increasing population and widening religious requirements of the resort’s inhabitants. In the second period, the number of Anglican churches increased: Poole Hill, Springbourne, and Madeira Vale. These installations occurred in areas populated by working people, different types to many of the regulars at St Peter’s, Bennett’s own church. Furthermore, places of worship appeared for other denominations: Congregational, Methodist, Presbyterians. The press carried more criticism of Bennett’s High-Church rituals. Men appointed to the new churches offered a wider Anglican palette. At the end of the period, Bennett, now in his sixties, became indisposed, a curate appointed to help with his duties.


The Petty Sessions at Christchurch continued to hear cases involving Bournemouth residents. Cases had not changed much from the early period. Theft, drunkenness, and assault occurred often, almost always concerning working people, female as well as male. In 1869, however, a case occurred which perhaps included xenophobia in addition to assault. This involved an Algerian dealer in African goods, Ibrahim Tonboul (different versions of the name appear), having a shop in the Arcade. Frederick Wright, perhaps a near neighbour, a jeweller, attacked Tonboul in the street. A perceived insult to Wright’s wife may have caused the trouble. Wright received a 30/- fine in addition to costs. A counter charge took place the next day, for which the court, perhaps in xenophobic sympathy, set a penalty of two trustees at £10 each, plus £20 for the defendant. The Wrights stayed on in Bournemouth, but the Tonboul family had gone by 1881.


Victorian Bournemouth (56), in this overview of key events 1857-1870, shows the transformation of an affluent ‘holiday camp’ into the beginnings of a town. During this process, the town’s managers addressed infrastructure problems, the economy began to experience cycles of health, and society broadened. 


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