Victorian Bournemouth (69)

Victorian Bournemouth (69): Volunteer Rifle Corps (4)

Success. Disaster. Success. 


Victorian Bournemouth (69) studies the career of Corporal Candy, publican at Victorian Bournemouth and member of its Volunteer Rifles. Although born into a poor rural working family, at his daughter’s wedding he had become a gentleman. Charles Candy’s career illustrates how, during the Victorian period, hard work, resourcefulness and luck could leave behind poverty and facilitate social mobility.

Victorian Bournemouth (69): his first time at Bournemouth

Corporal Candy: Landlord of The Royal Arms 

Charles Candy had taken over Bournemouth’s Royal Arms public house by 1860, according to the press. He lost little time in establishing his business. In 1863 he catered for a meeting of 50 Congregational Ministers held under the patronage of the Reverend Hurry. ‘The dinner was served up in Mr. Candy’s usual style of excellence’, his hospitality already notable. Candy knew how to shoot well. In the autumn of 1863, he had taken part in a match to shoot pigeons. The reporter approved of him: ‘Mr. Candy killing the whole of his birds, seven in succession’. Candy joined Bournemouth’s Rifle Volunteers, in part perhaps of his shooting skill, for his name as a winner appeared often for competitions against other local militia. The same year, he provided a memorable dinner for his militia colleagues, this time held at his pub: ‘the well-known and far-famed hostelry’.

Associate of movers and shakers

In a short time, Charles Candy rubbed shoulders with several established and prominent local citizens. Amongst his competitors at the pigeon-shoot numbered William Bill, manager of the Belle Vue Hotel, a business rival. Bill, however, served as an Improvement Commissioner, a useful man to know. Reverend Hurry, the Congregational Minister, liked active participation in public meetings and causes. With others he attempted to establish a Mechanics’ Institute, but also spoke out at meetings for the railways and the drainage system. At the Rifle Volunteers’ assemblies, Candy would have associated with Christopher Creeke (lieutenant), W. E. Rebbeck (sergeant) and James McWilliam (quartermaster-sergeant), businessmen who also had roles with the Improvement Commission. They brought him closer to them by awarding the corporal’s rank, a measure of relative social acceptability. Hence Corporal Candy associated with local bigwigs and had a business of some reputation, perhaps promise. He had come far.

Victorian Bournemouth (69): rags, riches, rags

Families on the rise

Charles Candy came from a rural family that migrated around the wider neighbourhood of Wimborne, survival their main priority. His grandfather had attended at least two settlement examinations (1800, 1816). When his father, Joel, a carpenter and gardener, died very early, Charles Candy’s family would have faced economic difficulties. His mother, however, appeared to continue the gardening work. Throughout her life, she supported her family (including her grandmother, then 94), moving as necessary, living into her eighties. By 1851, in his early twenties, Charles Candy worked as a footman in Essex. In 1859, however, when he married a local woman in Foulden, Norfolk, he had become an innkeeper. His wife’s family also had ambitions. Although her father gave his occupation at the wedding as ‘farmer’, the census described him as a bricklayer. Later, however, he acquired a smallholding, employing one man, no longer having to lay bricks for others.


Candy, therefore, did well for most of the 1860s. In 1867, together with another prominent local man, Joseph Cutler, Candy won nomination as an Overseer at Holdenhurst. By 1869, however, the local economy hardened. Bankruptcies occurred, some prominent citizens falling foul, amongst them Charles Candy. He owed just over £700 but passed his examination, obtaining a discharge. His beer supplier, however, Henry Godwin of Durweston, ‘entered my tavern at Bournemouth and seized and sold the whole of my furniture and stock-in-trade and effects there.’ The description suggests that the brewer acted in a public way, an event which perhaps would have caused some damage to Candy’s reputation, built from scratch. Some survived their bankruptcies, continuing to live and work at Bournemouth, for example, Candy’s Overseer colleague Joseph Cutler. By 1871, however, a new landlord had The Royal Arms. Corporal Candy had moved his family to Wimborne.

Victorian Bournemouth (69): phoenix

More migrant years

By 1872, Candy may have kept a pub at Stratton, Gloucester, according to a newspaper report. Two years later he had moved to Codford St Mary in Wiltshire, where he baptised his new son, John. As the decade ended they had reached Hurstmonceaux, Sussex, where he baptised his daughter Florance. Thus, the Candy family appears to have moved at least three times in the 1870s, before at last returning to Bournemouth by 1881, where he baptised another child. The press report of his bankruptcy showed a discharge but perhaps the frequent change of address may indicate some measure of debts remaining. Later years witnessed some variation in birthplaces for family members according to census reports. In 1881, Candy gave his origin as the Cape of Good Hope. In 1901, his wife’s details changed from Norfolk to Romsey, Hampshire, while John’s became Parkstone rather than Codford St Mary. 

His second time at Bournemouth

Although he remained in the Bournemouth area, his migrant behaviour continued: Westbourne, then Kinson, then Parkstone. Candy’s occupation also varied: brewer (1881), then a club manager ten years later, finally an insurance agent by 1901. He appears to have had an interest in Westcliff Hall, standing at the top of Priory Road in Bournemouth. Directories registered a man of this name taking lodgers here during the 1890s. Candy’s probate record (1906) indicates success, for his estate had a value of over £6,000. In 1892, at the marriage of his daughter Amelia, he described himself as ‘gentleman’. He may have stretched things here, as sometimes happens on marriage certificates, but, despite the financial catastrophe, Candy appeared successful. Indeed, at the end, Corporal Candy had come far, escaping his rural migrant origins and his time as a footman. At Bournemouth he had rubbed shoulders with gentlemen, before achieving that same position later. 


Victorian Bournemouth (69) has explored the career of Corporal Candy, as it appears in public documents. He went from humble, if not impoverished, beginnings, where he needed to show deference, through to a social position where perhaps he could expect to receive it. In the 1860s, Bournemouth’s commercial climate made it possible for hard workers to cross social lines and learn new types of behaviour.


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