Victorian Bournemouth (99): holiday venues

Victorian Bournemouth (96): tourism analysis (1864)

Middling people. Lodging-houses


Victorian Bournemouth (96) explores patterns found in a database of tourist traffic assembled from the Poole & Dorset Herald (1864). The paper published a visitor list each week. It listed those arriving, their venue, and limited demographic data. Departures also appeared as well as names of those moving from one venue to another. The analysis provides insights into visitor profiles, venue types, and seasonality.

Victorian Bournemouth (96): arrival volume patterns

Trends and seasonality

During this year, on average 75 parties per week registered at one of Bournemouth’s venues. For the whole year, the total number of party registrations reached almost 4,000. The volume of arrivals varied at different parts of the year. During January and February, the arrivals’ number ran at below half the average. In March to May the numbers rose to just below the average. Thereafter, they climbed above it for a period lasting to October, after which declines occurred. The high point came in September. This month plus August and October accounted for about forty percent of the annual arrivals’ total. These figures illustrate how many parties chose to arrive during the temperate months. On the other hand, a fifth visited Bournemouth during the months November to February. Thus, the resort did indeed experience a winter season and, hence, its tourist economy did last the entire year.

Tourist volume

The figures used consist of ‘arriving parties’. Enough information has survived to show that different numbers of individuals comprised each type of party. Some came alone, both males and females. Others consisted of couples. Families made up the rest. In some cases, both parents attended their children, in others only one parent escorted them. At other times, young adults, signified by ‘Miss’ and ‘Master’ arrived to join either or both parents and their younger siblings. Thus, an estimating factor must apply to arrive at an idea of how many people visited Bournemouth during 1864. A multiplying factor of three results in 10,000 for the actual number visiting. A commercial directory of 1865 reported the resident population at almost 2,500. Hence, for every four people walking around the town, only one lived there. Most of Bournemouth’s population, therefore, consisted of strangers, visiting for a specific period.

Victorian Bournemouth (96): social factors

Different seasonality for singles and families

The arrivals’ volume patterns for families and singles differed. Family volume occurred in three distinct sections: winter months, spring and early-summer, mid-summer and autumn. Around eighty arrivals a week occurred during the last section, about fifty for the spring and early summer, but only around twenty during winter. In contrast, the pattern for single arrivals shows much more regularity. Volume increased in the summer and autumn period, but not to the extent of that found for families. In the high period, the volume for singles’ arrivals ran around twice the winter level. Thus, the singles’ market had different dynamics to family holidays. In this respect, therefore, two distinct markets or categories existed within Bournemouth’s tourist trade during 1864. On the one hand, families came in such a way to create specific seasons, while, on the other, the singles’ market seemed much less affected by times during the year.

Change in social profile of visitors

Directories described early Bournemouth as a place for better people: at least affluent, but often aristocratic. During 1864, however, whereas such people continued to visit the resort, they seemed to account for only about an eighth of arriving parties. People in this group included military officers, clergymen, physicians, people having the title ‘honourable’, and ‘top people’. The latter included British and foreign aristocracy and knights. Hence, almost all arriving parties belonged to a different social group. The males used the term ‘Mr’, the females ‘Mrs’. Insufficient information exists to identify these people using genealogical analysis. Nevertheless, since they lie apart from both privileged and labourers they would fall into that broad category of middling people. Thus, a clear development has occurred since the resort’s foundation, when, according to press accounts, only fashionable and aristocratic people attended. During its second period, therefore, Bournemouth’s tourists have undergone a pronounced social change.

Victorian Bournemouth (96): main venue types

Rise of lodging-houses

In the beginning, most visitors would have stayed at the Bath Hotel. The Belle Vue appeared not long afterwards. Westover Villas, which came into existence soon after the Bath Hotel, marked the beginning of choice between venue types. At this stage, perhaps, most Bournemouth visitors used the hotel. The data for 1864 shows a very different pattern. Now, most parties stayed at lodging houses, renting all or part of a property. Hotels’ share of arrivals had shrunk to about a quarter. Nevertheless, a higher proportion of affluent than middling people continued to patronise hotels. Even so, some members of this social group chose lodging-houses, appearing to use a very short list of available venues. According to the 1864 data, more than 150 venues other than hotels recorded at least one visiting party. Thus, property developers had perhaps hedged their bets by investing in houses rather than hotels.

Top lodging-houses

Throughout 1864 some of the lodging-houses, for example South Cliff Villa, always took visitors. In contrast, others, such as Kelydd or Ivy Cottage, took a single party each during the entire year. On average, two parties per week arrived at South Cliff Villa. Eleven other venues took around a party a week. In addition to South Cliff Villa, the top five ranked venues consisted of Sea View House, Madeira House, Brookside, and Moorland Cottage. Seasonal volume increases occurred at the top dozen lodging-houses occurred before the others. Three terraces or parades of villas attracted many arrivals as well: Westover Villas, Clifton Terrace, and Richmond Terrace. Each consisted of several buildings. On average around five parties per week arrived at Westover Villas, about three each for the others. Together these venues accounted for almost half of all arrivals to the resort during 1864.


Victorian Bournemouth (96) has shown through analysis of 1864 arrivals that resort visitors came in three distinct seasons. The majority appeared to consist of middling  people. Only a quarter stayed at hotels. Most chose one of over 150 lodging-houses built by developers during this period.


For references and engagement, please get in touch. Main primary sources: here and here (subscriptions needed). See also here, here, and here for other aspects of Bournemouth’s tourism in the Victorian period.


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