Victorian Bournemouth (95):

Victorian Bournemouth (95): Oxford Road Bio (1)

Melange of restless working people 


Victorian Bournemouth (95) explores the biography of Oxford Road, first settled in the 1860s. By the 1871 census, however, over two hundred people lived on this road. Only a few would stay longer term.

Victorian Bournemouth (95): orientation and occupations


Oxford Road, or, sometimes Street, lay in the north-eastern quadrant of the Victorian settlement. The diagonal of Old Christchurch Road led the construction line outwards, at Lansdowne then becoming Holdenhurst Road, Springbourne’s artery. Here the new railway station encouraged extensive residential building, Oxford Road part of this process. Surviving photographs show a combination of terraced structures and detached villas, either side of a wide road. The census listed 38 heads of household on the street. Each building contained multiple households. In some cases, overcrowding seems severe. Large families crammed into subdivisions or apartments of each property, sometimes a dozen or more. For example, one section of Metford Villa contained a dozen people running across at least two families as well as lodgers. Although only one person kept a lodging house, several households included guests. The police station sat at one end of the street, the railway station near the other.


Apart from the police and two female annuitants, working people lived here. Their occupations varied. About a third of household heads had artisan jobs in the construction industries: plumbing, painting, bricklaying, carpentry. Others worked with horses, laundry, and gardens. Unskilled labourers also featured. Most of the boarders worked at similar occupations to the heads of household, though two households involved musical boarders. An elderly gardener and his unmarried daughter seemed to have housed eight teenage choristers. James Dymott, a groom at this time, took in four boarders, three being musicians. Most of the construction people worked with wood. Some occupied divisions within the same house, implying their working in teams or elementary partnerships. The carpenter Charles Staples also took in a man working in his trade. Working people, therefore, populated Oxford Street from its beginning. This pattern would continue for the remainder of the Victorian period.

Victorian Bournemouth (95): social profile

Back story

Most of the residents arrived during the 1860s, though some already lived in the settlement or its hinterland. The Irish coachman, James Harris, lived in a lodge on Richmond Terrace already by 1851. Two thirds of the population had originated elsewhere in Hampshire or Dorset. The rest came from a variety of southern counties, from Cornwall to Essex. The tailor, William Elgar, now joined his son who had lived in Bournemouth for twenty years. Otherwise, few if any of the residents appear to have shared links, kinship or geographic. Elsewhere in Bournemouth, coordinated immigration involving common genes or geography did occur. Where identifiable, sons followed paternal occupations all qualifying as working people perhaps for many generations. Some changed their line after arrival, but most continued past jobs. William Wakeling, for example, an Essex coachman, worked in service before, during, and after living in Oxford Street. Joseph Applin always made furniture.

Future story

Documentary evidence has survived with which to follow the lives of some residents after 1871. Only a few, it seems, lived in the street at least until 1881. Charles Gubbins, the plumber, from Greater Westover, remained. Others reappear in subsequent decades living in the Springbourne area, Holdenhurst Road or the street grid behind it. Their time at Oxford Road perhaps allowed them to assess the neighbourhood, also some streets took shape later. Charles Staples, the carpenter, may have left, but by the late 1880s he has returned, this time making cabinets. Others who emigrated from Bournemouth after living in Oxford Road, did not, however, return to the town at all. Susan Glyde, the annuitant widow, returned to Frome, Somerset by 1881. George Dodd, the gardener, returned to Springfield, Essex. Frederick Reeves, the plasterer, returned to South Stoneham, a long life ending in the workhouse by 1911.

Victorian Bournemouth (95): mini-case histories

Three thumbnail biographies, reconstructed from online records and hence subject to the usual caution, show how residents’ fortunes might vary. All three men lived on Oxford Road, Bournemouth, in 1871. These ‘biographies’, of course, only consist of documentary way-points, containing nothing about their experience or perspectives that would appear in diaries or letters. One family stayed in Oxford Road, another in the neighbourhood, a third moving to Winton.

1 Henry Amey

Born in Hampreston, near Wimborne, around 1830, Henry Amey worked in Poole first as a groom. For his early working life, he continued to work with horses, first in Lambeth, then, by 1871, in Oxford Road, Bournemouth, a flyman. The census recorded his wife’s occupation, then, as laundress. Perhaps this resulted in a reorientation for the family, because, by 1881, both Henry and his wife had a laundry in Winton, successful enough to pay for several employees. By 1891, they had established another laundry near Southampton, in 1911 run by one of their sons. The Winton laundry appeared to flourish, described by later directories as the ‘Bournemouth Sanitary Laundry Co.’

2 Charles Gubbins

Gubbins lived at 3 Oxford Road, perhaps called Herrington Villa, a new property divided into two tenements. Its mortgagees advertised its sale in 1870. Gubbins, the master tenant, had a lodger, the rent £13 a year. Although an immigrant in common with most of Bournemouth’s population, Gubbins had not come far. Born in Throop or Holdenhurst, when little, he would have known the Oxford Road area as heathland. A plumber’s apprentice working in Christchurch, ten years later, living on Poole Road, Bournemouth, he had his own business, employing six staff. He remained in this business for many years, never moving from Oxford Road after 1871, it seems. Later in life he became a cab proprietor, a business taken over by one of his sons who remained in the neighbourhood.

3 George Britton

Born in Ireland around 1822, he had reached Christchurch by 1845, where he married Ellen, daughter of a local beer retailer. After this, the family appeared to travel, children born elsewhere in Hampshire, Kent, and London. By 1861, they had returned to Christchurch, where he worked as a butcher. Ten years later, however, a family of eleven children, they lived in Oxford Road, where George had become a riding-master, an occupation he kept at least until 1885, according to directories. They left Oxford Road, but stayed in Springbourne. Later directories show two sons having apartments to rent in addition to working as watchmakers. Hence, after a long journey, this family entered Bournemouth through Oxford Road, stayed in the area, and became property people in the second generation.


Victorian Bournemouth (95), therefore, has analysed the residents of Bournemouth’s Oxford Road in 1871. Most consisted of working people, skilled and unskilled, many occupied in the building business. Most had immigrated to the town during the previous decade. Only a few would remain as residents of this street, but some continued to live in the neighbourhood, several from the second generation. Others left Bournemouth, some returning to their origins. Thus, the street’s society had little long-term stability, coming and going with some regularity, a melange of restless working people.


For references and engagement, please get in touch. Main primary sources: here and here (subscriptions needed). Thanks to Alwyn Ladell for this picture of Oxford Road.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply