Victorian Bournemouth (73): kin visits

Role. Contribution. Support


Victorian Bournemouth (73) analyses the social and economic contributions made by visiting-kin present in households of 1861 and 1871. It suggests that roles varied according to personal situations and social background. 

Victorian Bournemouth (73): background

Determining relationship and role

Census forms included a field describing the relationship connecting each member to the head of household. This offers opportunities for analysing the extent to which households contained outside kin, friends or just lodgers. Sometimes, the enumerator clarified the relationship – for example, mother, brother, grandchild. At other times, the term used described a procedural connection – for example unrelated lodgers, servants, or visitors. In some cases, however, genealogical exploration suggests that such people did belong to the family, despite only ‘visiting’. On the other hand, even though a person had kinship with the head of household, it did not mean that they had a place inside the nuclear family. Details found in the ‘occupation’ field can provide insight on this point, but some doubt remains in many cases. Thus, some care should apply to conclusions drawn from analysis of household members. Nevertheless, some apparent patterns applied at Victorian Bournemouth.


The census reports for 1851-1871 show kin present belonging to Bournemouth tourists and residents. Overall, kin accounted for around 5% of the total population. They included both genders, but females outnumbered males. For example, households might include far more sisters than brothers, while mothers outnumbered fathers. This may have occurred because of gender differences in life. Women often outlived men, for example, but more brothers may have formed their own families than sisters. Kin household members had a range of relationships to the head: parents, siblings, grandchildren, as well as such indirect relatives as sisters-in-law, nephews, and nieces. Parents and grandchildren featured less often than siblings and the partner’s younger relatives. Where a person had no occupational descriptor, their role, if not visiting, may have made more of a social than economical contribution to the household. Others, however, had a clear role in the head’s business.

Victorian Bournemouth (73): economic contribution

Middling people

Bournemouth’s economy attracted middling people. They managed the retail channel and hospitality (lodging-houses, hotels, and catering). Members of kin may have assisted the owners. For example, single female lodging-house keepers appeared often to receive business support from sisters or nieces. Men tended to run the retail businesses, but some also accepted kin support. If he had to run both household and business, a man’s female relative might keep house. For example, his mother kept house for widowed Charles Garbett, 35, tailor. William Thomas, the ironmonger, however, had a wife, but her sister kept the house, perhaps because of two small children present. In other cases, however, relatives might assist in the business. In addition to his brother, the unmarried draper, William Masterman, 26, received help in the shop from his mother, who knew the business. A younger sister kept shop for the married confectioner Nathaniel Burden.

Working people

Economic support provided by kin amongst working households occurred less often. A niece of Henry Richards, upholsterer, lived in his household and had the same occupation. William Vatcher and his nephew may have gone labouring together. Others may have lived in a relative’s household but had an independent source of revenue from unrelated employment. Mary Vine, a laundress, accommodated her nephew, a bricklayer’s labourer. Thomas Marshfield, a painter-glazier, included in the house his sister-in-law, who made dresses. The aged Thomas Tabor, a carpenter, had a relative in the house, another dressmaker. Assuming a status as resident rather than visitor, they perhaps had joined these households on the understanding that they produce income. This behaviour, therefore, seems to differ somewhat from the practice of middling people. There, family members contributed to their relative’s business, whereas in these examples the individuals augmented their relative’s household revenue through their own jobs.

Victorian Bournemouth (73): social contribution

Visiting people

In 1861 and 1871, kin often featured in the households of affluent people. Catherine Hobhouse, a middle-aged, spinster, gentlewoman, lived at Richmond Terrace in both census years (perhaps in between as well). A niece accompanied her first, then a younger sister, also a spinster. Francis Scott, an earl’s daughter, 58, shared accommodation with two younger sisters, all three unmarried (1871). Clergymen’s households also seemed to attract relatives, again, often sisters, all celibate as well. Captain Biddle, 40, enjoyed Bournemouth in the company of an unmarried sister, a widowed sister, and her daughter. Much younger, adult spinsters may have joined their relatives to sample spa society and perhaps find future husbands. In most cases, though, most of such groups may have not only toured together but shared the same home as well. Without formal occupations, these kin, therefore, would have made a social contribution to the household, often acting as companions.

Other people

Some kin recorded in middling or labouring households may have escaped from a catastrophe in life. A single widowed parent found sanctuary in the home of a married child. For example, the bootmaker, George Street, had his aged, widowed, father-in-law, now unemployed, as part of the family (1871). In 1851, grocer James Bell, had his mother at home, his father-in-law there a decade later. The old man still worked as a gardener, but, at 74, may have had little employment. Unskilled householders appear to have provided living space to unemployed kin more often than their middling counterparts. The coachman, James Harris, provides a splendid example in his resident great-aunt, aged 100. A labourer, Charles Hamblen, had two brothers in his house, one a bricklayer’s labourer, the other a crippled teenager. Samuel Cutler, 23, a labourer, shared his house with a wife plus seven of her siblings, all teenagers or younger.


Victorian Bournemouth (73) has studied different types of kin recorded by the census present in Bournemouth households of 1861 and 1871. To deduce motivations from a census entry needs caution, but, overall, it seems that such relational sharing occurred for different reasons. On a social level, the visiting households perhaps replicated the home conditions, whereas their working counterparts seem to have provided sanctuary for distressed relatives. On an economic basis, middling households sometimes featured kin sharing the work of running a business. In working houses, however, occupied kin perhaps contributed to domestic expenses through their own occupations.


For references and engagement, please get in touch. Main primary sources: here and here (subscriptions needed).

Leave a Reply