Progress Towards Local Government

As Pokesdown continued to grow, residents began to express concern at the lack of such facilities as street lighting, main drainage and satisfactory roads, many of which were in a very poor condition. These concerns were aired at a public meeting early in 1890, when a committee was appointed to consider possible action in regard to these matters. The members of the Committee were Messrs. Bolton, Freak, Joy, Lock, Harris, Jacques, Sturney and Wilcox.

It may be noted that in 1890 Pokesdown was within the area of Hampshire County Council; the then newly formed Christchurch Rural Sanitary Authority was responsible for local services, including drainage, the Christchurch Highway Board was responsible for maintaining public roads, the Christchurch Burial Board was in charge of cemeteries, and the Board of Guardians administered the Poor Laws.

On 18 March 1890, a public meeting was held in the Parish School to consider the condition of the roads and the lack of sanitary drainage, and about sixty people attended. Mr. Freak reported that as a preliminary move a meeting had been called to consider the unsatisfactory condition of the roads, and about twenty residents had been present. It was at that meeting they received information about a possible scheme which was under consideration by the Christchurch Rural Sanitary Board for main drainage for Southbourne, with a possible extension to include Pokesdown, Freemantle and part of Boscombe. This was estimated to cost about £15,000. Commenting on this proposal, the Pokesdown Committee believed that it would add one shilling to the rates for the District; it would not, of course, include any improvement to the roads or establish street lighting.

The general feeling of the public meeting was that Pokesdown would be better served by seeking incorporation into Bournemouth, which was expecting to obtain its charter of Incorporation as a Borough in the Coming summer. The meeting decided to request the committee to take steps to secure the inclusion of Pokesdown into the new Borough, and to raise subscriptions to a fund to defray the preliminary expenses.

Letters had been received from Dr. Compton, who considered it most desirable for Pokesdown to be included in Bournemouth, and he would be glad for Southbourne to be included as well, and from the Rev. T. Anderson, former vicar, who supported the inclusion of Pokesdown in Bournemouth. Mr. Noble proposed "We the owners, ratepayers and occupiers of the district of Pokesdown in the parish of Christchurch, being desirous of becoming incorporated with the proposed municipal borough of Bournemouth resolve that a Committee be formed to take the necessary steps to secure this object, and to raise by means of subscriptions a fund to defray the necessary preliminary expense". Mr. Bolton seconded. He said that if Pokesdown could once get connected with the municipal borough of Bournemouth its prosperity would be assured. Dr. Clegg spoke of the desirability from a sanitary point of view of Pokesdown being included in Bournemouth. Captain Lamb supported. The motion was carried unanimously.

Mr. Pratt proposed "That this meeting of owners and ratepayers of Pokesdown protest against the Rural Sanitary Authority of Christchurch carrying out their scheme of drainage so far as it related to Pokesdown". Mr. Sturney seconded and the motion was carried.

A deputation was appointed to meet the Bournemouth Council to present a case for the incorporation of Pokesdown; the members were the Rev. E. Benison, Mr. Bolton and Mr. Freak, and they were received by the Council on 20 January 1891.

Mr. Benison was spokesman. He said that Pokesdown was devoid of any means of carrying off surface water and of sanitary drainage other than cesspits. Owing to the small building plots many of the cesspits were too near the houses. He mentioned that there were several laundries in Pokesdown where laundry was done for many people in Bournemouth and any serious outbreak of disease might result in infection being carried to Bournemouth by' way of the laundry. The state of the roads, the want of footpaths and the absence of lighting were also referred to. The deputation asked the Council to consider their desire to be annexed to the borough.

The application was referred to a committee of the whole council for consideration and report.

During the succeeding months the Bournemouth Council was giving consideration to a possible extension of its boundaries in other directions, and it was not until 8 February 1892 that the committee of the whole Council considered the Pokesdown request. It was recommended, by a vote of eight for and seven against, that it was desirable that Pokesdown by included within the Borough. Presented to the Council at the meeting on 16 February, this recommendation was accepted. During the discussion which ensued, it was made clear that Southbourne and the Boscombe Manor estate were also included in the area to be incorporated. The council decided to take steps to implement the proposal.

However at the next meeting of the Council, on 15 March, Councillor Fisher moved that the proposal to incorporate Pokesdown was inexpedient. He thought that the ratepayers of Bournemouth ought to be given a chance to express their views. The Council had already approved improvements costing about £137,000 in total, and he felt that this was enough for the time being. In seconding, Councillor Hosker suggested that the district of Pokesdown should put matters in order itself before seeking incorporation. On behalf of Lady Shelley, it was stated that she had no intention of parting with any of her estate and must oppose any proposal to include the estate. After a long debate, the Council decided to carry the motion not to proceed with incorporation by a vote of ten for and nine against.

On the next day, 16 March, at a meeting held at Pokesdown, Mr. Bolton reported the decision of the Council. It was agreed to make a further attempt, and on 17 May the Bournemouth Council received another deputation, consisting of Messrs. Bolton, Freak, Norman, Taylor and Wright. Mr. Freak presented a petition signed by twenty seven owners non-resident in the district, one hundred and eleven owners in occupation and two hundred and fifty two occupiers of houses, asking the Council to reconsider the claims of Pokesdown to be included in the Borough since that neighbourhood was in every way identical with Bournemouth, and also on sanitary grounds. Yet again, the question was referred to a committee of the whole council.

When this committee met early in June a motion to rescind the decision of 15 March was lost, ten voting for and eleven against. Meeting on 7 June the Council accepted this, and took no further action on the petition from Pokesdown.

Undaunted, the Pokesdown committee made one more attempt, and on 22 November a third deputation waited on the Bournemouth Council, the members this time being Mr. Bolton, Dr. Dickie, Mr. Freak and Mr. Hurst. Their spokesman, Mr. Bolton, said that in again asking the Council to incorporate Pokesdown they wished to call attention to the continuing growth of the community. The district had a splendid sea frontage, and every facility for the implementation of a good drainage system. As on the previous occasions, the Council referred the matter to a committee of the whole Council. Meeting on 1 December that committee decided to recommend the Council to rescind the decision of 15 March, and to take the necessary steps to incorporate Pokesdown into the Borough, the voting being fifteen for and four against. The Council approved this at the meeting on 6 December.

It may be thought that this decision, following more than a year's campaigning by the Pokesdown committee, marked the end of the discussion, and that Pokesdown would in the near future become part of Bournemouth. This was not the case, for the Bournemouth Council was still involved in considering possible expansion in other directions, and little was done during 1893 regarding the matter of Pokesdown.

On 23rd November 1893 a meeting was convened at the Cromwell Hall by the Churchwardens of Christchurch to consider the proposed adoption of the Lighting and Watching Act 1833 in so far as it related to street lighting for the district of Pokesdown. About eighty people attended and Mr. Bolton was elected Chairman. Others present included Mr. Freak, Secretary to the Pokesdown committee, and Mr. Linwood Pike, the Vestry Clerk. Dr. Dickie moved That the provisions of the Lighting and Watching Act 1833 so far as it relate to lighting be adopted and put into force in that part of Christchurch described in the notice' - that is, in Pokesdown. He remarked that conditions in the winter months were disgraceful, and they had looked in vain both to Christchurch and to Bournemouth to attend to their needs; it was now left to themselves.

Mr. W. Burt explained to the meeting that if the Act were to be adopted, they would be required to elect three lighting inspectors, whose period of office would be for one year, and there would then be an annual election. The ratepayers would decide how much the inspectors could spend on lighting the district. The inspectors would be directly responsible to the Vestry. The existing rateable value of the area was about twelve thousand pounds, and the cost of lighting might be met by an average rate of live pence in the pound. On taking a vote, there were forty one in favour and thirty four against; as it was necessary to have a two thirds majority, the motion was not carried.

A long discussion ensued, during which the possibility of Pokesdown obtaining an independent board was considered, and it was resolved that a committee be appointed to take steps to form such a board.

There was another public meeting on 29th December to which the committee reported, there being between seventy and eighty present. The committee recommended that the boundary of the proposed board run from the seafront at the Boscombe Manor estate, and follow the boundary line of the Shelley and Portman properties to Warwick Road, then cross the railway and follow the Bournemouth boundary to the Holdenhurst Parish boundary; it would follow the division between the parishes of Holdenhurst and Christchurch to the Sheepwash, thence down the River Stow to the sea at Hengistbury Head.

The committee prepared a draft memorial to the Hants County Council, the authority would be responsible for recommending whether or not a local board be established. In the memorial the increase in population and rateable value were outlined as follows:

Date Inhabited Houses Uninhabited Houses Population Rateable Value
1871 April 181 12 867 £3,621
1881   265 52 1231 £6,932
1891   588 82 3033 £16,334
1893 December 839 134 4474 £21,254

Only part of Southbourne had drainage; the rest of it and all of Pokesdown were drained by cesspools, and there was no organised system for emptying these. Upwards of thirty roads were not under the control of the Christchurch Highway Board, and there was no public lighting.

During the long discussion which followed the committee's report there were frequent references to the possible cost of a local board. Mr. Bolton said that there was only one object in view, namely the prosperity of the neighbourhood. There had been three deputations to the Bournemouth Council since 1891, and a motion to make a further application to Bournemouth was lost. Instead, a resolution was passed by fifty three to thirteen in favour of confirming the decision made on 23rd November, and finally, the meeting resolved 'That the committee at once proceed with the petition to the County Council for a local board for Pokesdown'.

Another public meeting was at the Parish School on 25th January 1894, attended by about two hundred and fifty people. A motion to make another application to Bournemouth was heavily defeated, only thirteen voting in favour. The meeting reaffirmed that the committee should proceed with all possible speed with the effort to obtain the establishment of a local board.

Consequent upon these meetings, a memorial from the owners and ratepayers of Pokesdown was presented to the Hants County Council on 12th February asking for the formation of a local government district. On behalf of the Bournemouth Council, Mr. J. Druitt said that the Council supported the application; Bournemouth had not refused incorporation, but the Council were considering the whole question of boundaries. Representation was made on behalf of the residents of Southbourne, objecting to their being included in the proposed district. In presenting the Pokesdown case, Mr. J. McWilliam mentioned that as Bournemouth had not felt able to move on the question of incorporation, the Pokesdown people felt they had no alternative but to get a district of their own.

Mr McWilliam proposed that a prima facie case had been made by the memorial, and that an inquiry into the application be held forthwith. As there was even voting on this, the motion was not carried. After further discussion it was agreed to refer the memorial to the Council's general purposes committee.

A meeting was held in Bournemouth at the end of February of the representatives of the various interests, during which it was made clear that the proposal to include Iford, Wick and Tuckton in the district had been abandoned. The representatives of Southbourne opposed the inclusion of that area. It was reported that the Bournemouth Council had on 20th February decided to seek to extend its eastern boundary to take in Boscombe Manor, the Convent in Parkwood Road, and to take the boundary along Harvey and Colville Roads to join the existing boundary at Warwick Road.

The Hampshire County Council decided that there should be an inquiry, and this was held before Mr. Webb, Clerk to the County Council, at the Cromwell Hall on 18th and 19th April 1894.

Mr. Burt explained that the district had largely developed with houses for artisan classes. Steps had been taken in 1890 to get incorporation with Bournemouth. He had been instructed to withdraw the districts of Tuckton, Wick and Iford from the area of the proposed district. Bournemouth Council had originally supported the memorial, but had subsequently sought to incorporate the Boscombe Manor estate; this the promoters strongly opposed. W. Matthews, the Assistant Overseer, stated that the rateable value of the area proposed in the memorial was £21,554; the rateable value of Iford, Wick and Tuckton was £1,515 and that of Southbourne £5,108.

Mr. Bolton, Chairman of the Ratepayers' Association of Pokesdown, grocer and postmaster, had resided in Pokesdown since 1865. The only public roads were then Christchurch Road and Hampden Road; there were no more than thirty or forty houses at Pokesdown, and only four or five in Boscombe, including Lady Shelley's manor, the Palmerston Inn and three or four cottages at the top of Boscombe Hill. The place had enormously developed since then by different societies which bought up estates and sold them for building purposes. Several roads were made public. Now Victoria, Darracott, Stourfield and Woodside Roads were all in a bad condition. Cromwell Road under the Highway Board had been almost impassable during the previous three or four months with mud and water. There was no public lighting and no sanitary arrangements. He said that they were tired of waiting for Bournemouth to act. It was emphasised that the Southbourne residents felt able to look after their own interests and did not wish to be included in the proposed district.

Mr. Webb's Report on the Inquiry was issued in June, and the following is a summary. It was conclusively shown that Pokesdown was in urgent need of some efficient form of government invested with urban powers. There was absolutely no system of drainage and the want of this was a very serious matter. He was of opinion that it was desirable that Pokesdown should be included in the Borough of Bournemouth as he thought that the inhabitants of Southbourne had made out a strong case against being included in the proposed urban district. Therefore the rateable value of Pokesdown, exclusive of the Boscombe Manor part which was likely to be added to Bournemouth, would not be sufficient to enable a local board to carry out the necessary improvements in the district except at a considerably increased rating. The inclusion of Pokesdown in Bournemouth appeared very desirable from a sanitary point of view, as the present state of Pokesdown may easily become a source of danger to Bournemouth.

He recommended the County Council to oppose the eastern extension of the Bournemouth boundary unless Pokesdown be included. If Pokesdown was not added to Bournemouth, then the necessary urban powers should be granted to the Rural Sanitary Authority for the district.

At a public meeting in Pokesdown on 6th July this Report was discussed, and it was again resolved to petition the Bournemouth Council to take Pokesdown into the Borough. At the meeting of the Town Council held on 17th July a petition signed by three hundred and seventy one owners, ratepayers and residents of Pokesdown was presented. This was referred to the general purposes committee of the Council. Mr. Webb's Report was accepted by the Hants County Council on 7th August.

The Bournemouth Council meeting on 4th September passed a motion 'That the Council proceed no farther with the inclusion of Pokesdown, without prejudice to the proposed eastern extension of the Borough to include the Boscombe Manor Estate'. The voting was ten in favour and seven against. This decision marked the end of the protracted efforts to secure the inclusion of Pokesdown within the Borough.

By September 1894 a new factor had entered into the matter, namely the Local Government Act 1894, which radically changed local government apart from the County Councils and the County Boroughs. District Councils were to be established to take over the duties of the rural sanitary authorities and the highway boards, and in addition to be given a number of miscellaneous powers. There were also to be Parish Councils, which would receive the powers, duties and liabilities of the vestries, apart from purely church affairs.

The County Councils were to be responsible for making orders to establish the new district and parish councils. When the Hampshire County Council were considering the areas of these new bodies, it was decided that a Parish Council for Pokesdown be appointed, to include Stourfield, Stourwood, the Clarence Park and the Boscombe Manor Estates, with a rateable value of £15,355 and a population of two thousand two hundred and sixty six people, with eight hundred and eight houses. It was ordered that a Parish meeting be held in December 1894 for the election of the parish councillors.

This decision of the County Council was formally reported to a public meeting held at the Cromwell Hall on 2nd October. The meeting then considered the possible courses of action now that Bournemouth had finally refused incorporation. Whilst assured of a parish council by the end of 1894, they wished to have wider powers, particularly in regard to roads and sanitation. It was decided to appoint a committee to take the necessary steps to form an urban district, the members of which were the Rev. E. Benison, Dr. Dickie, Messrs. Bolton, Faraday, Fall, N. Clarke, Brind, Elcock, Golton, Freak, Hook, Sturney, S. Taylor, Scott and Sutton. Mr. Burt was appointed solicitor to the committee.

The Committee prepared a new memorial, signed by more than five hundred owners and ratepayers, and submitted this to the County Council. At the meeting on 5th November 1894 the Council decided to hold a further inquiry, and this took place at the Cromwell Hall on 18th December under the Chairmanship of Mr. Webb. Mr. Burt presented the case, pointing out that practically nothing had been done since the previous inquiry to improve conditions. The result was that in January 1895 the County Council made an Order to establish Pokesdown as an Urban District, and this Order was confirmed by the Local Government Board in the following March.

As an interim measure, the Local Government Board had established a Parish Council for Pokesdown on 13th September 1894. Following the election of members of that Council the first meeting was held on 3rd January 1895. The Parish Council continued to function until 24th September of that year when it was superseded by the Pokesdown Urban District Council, which first met on 22nd October. Under the Urban District Council Pokesdown received quite wide powers, subject to some oversight by the Hampshire County Council. Mr. William Bolton was elected the first Chairman of the Council.

During its quite short life from October 1895 until October 1901, when the District was amalgamated with Bournemouth, the Pokesdown Council carried out a series of major works which included the establishment of a system of main drainage, the provision of street lighting, and the making up and maintenance of many of the local roads.