Poole Quay

& Baiter

A BRIEF HISTORY OF POOLE, DORSET, ENGLAND     (Above old Poole high street)

By Tim Lambert


Poole quay has a long history dating back to Roman times, from the 16th to the 19th century many fishing vessels sailed from Poole to fish off Newfoundland for cod.


Poole was founded in the Middle Ages. At the time of the Domesday Book, in 1086, England was divided into areas called manors. The area where Poole now stands was part of the manor of Canford. However there was no record of a settlement at Poole at that time. There may have been a handful of huts but no substantial settlement.


The town of Poole was probably founded in the late 12th century. Merchants from nearby Wareham, which was burned in 1139 during a civil war, may have founded it. Perhaps merchants from Wareham moved to Poole because it was easier to defend. Poole was built on a peninsula. Since it was surrounded by water on 3 sides it was, of course, easily defended. However it begun by the early 13th century Poole was a flourishing port.


In 1239 the people of Poole were given a charter (a document giving the townspeople control over their own affairs). The people of Poole were allowed to elect 6 men to form a town council. The Lord of the Manor of Canford chose one of the 6 to be a Reeve (an official similar to a mayor). The men of Poole were also allowed to have a court where people who committed minor offences in the town were tried.


The people of Poole were also given the right to hold a weekly market and an annual fair. (In the Middle Ages fairs were like markets but they were held only once a year for a period of a few days. People would come from all over Hampshire and Dorset to buy and sell at a Poole fair). In 1453 Poole was granted the right to have 2 fairs.


In the Middle Ages wool was England's most important export but only certain ports called staples were allowed to export it. In 1433 Poole was made a staple port. However Medieval Poole was a small town with a population of less than 1,500. To us it would seem tiny but towns and villages were very small in those days.


In 1377, during a war with France, Frenchmen landed and burned part of the town. In 1405 a combined Spanish and French army attacked Poole. At first the French were afraid to land but the Spanish did. They landed and attacked a warehouse. The men of Poole fought them in the building but they were forced to retreat through the rear. The rest of the Spanish and the French then landed and they looted the warehouse.


However the people of Poole regrouped. They were armed with longbows and they used doors taken off their hinges as shields. From behind the doors they were able to shoot at the enemy and they prevented the enemy from advancing into the town. Eventually the raiders burned the warehouse and fled. Later in the 15th century stone walls were erected around Poole.




About 1540 a man named Leland visited Poole and wrote a description of it. (I have changed his words slightly to make them easier to read). He wrote: 'Poole was not, in the past, a trading town but it was, for a long time a poor fishing village. There are men living who remember when all the buildings in the town had thatched roofs. It now has many more substantial buildings and much more trade. It stands like an island in the harbour and is joined to the mainland by a piece of land no wider than an arrow shot. It also has a ditch (outside the town walls), which is often filled with water from the harbour. There is a stone gate at the entrance of the town. The town lies north to South. There is a substantial stone house by the quay'.


In 1524 a wooden platform was erected on the quayside and cannons were mounted on it. In 1545 a fort was built on Brownsea Island.


During the 16th century many fishing vessels from Poole sailed to the waters off Newfoundland. There was also a flourishing brewing industry in Poole.


In 1568 Queen Elizabeth gave Poole a new charter. This one made Poole completely independent and gave the townspeople complete control over all their own affairs. In 1574 a census showed that Poole had a population of 1,373. It would seem tiny to us but by the standards of the time it was a small town.




In 1642 civil war between king and parliament began. The walled town of Poole firmly supported parliament. The royalists made one attempt to take Poole. In 1643 a captain called Francis Sydenham agreed to leave the gate open in return for 40 pounds (a large sum of money in those days) and a pardon.


However it was a trap. In front of the gate was a semi circular earthwork called a half moon. Across its entrance were chains. The gate was left open and the chains were lowered. When the royalist cavalry entered the space created by the half moon the gate was shut and the chains were raised trapping them. However most of them managed to escape.


Poole suffered an outbreak of plague in 1645.

In the 18th century Poole was still dominated by the Newfoundland trade. Ships went to fish off the coast there. Some of the first settlers in Newfoundland came from Poole. Furthermore manufactured goods were exported from Poole to Newfoundland. As Poole lived by shipping it is not surprising there was an important shipbuilding industry at Hamworthy. There was also a rope making business in Poole. (Since sailing ships required miles of rope).


During the 18th century Poole was a prosperous and growing town. (Although as in all towns there were plenty of very poor people). A new town hall was built in 1761



At the time of the first census, in 1801, Poole had a population of 9,276. By the standards of the time it was quite a large town. Poole grew at phenomenal rate in the 19th century. The population reached 12,310 in 1881 and was approaching 20,000 by the end of the 19th century. Part of the reason for the growth was the creation of a new seaside resort at Bournemouth which created a vast demand for the goods made in Poole.


As Poole grew its amenities improved. A new Customs House was built in Poole in 1813. A Harbour Office was built in 1820. St James Church was also built in 1820. In 1859 a private water company was founded to supply Poole with water. (The council took over the company in 1906). However no sewers were dug till the end of the 19th century.

In 1834 a toll bridge was built linking Poole with Hamworthy.

In the 19th century the old Newfoundland trade came to an end. When the war with France ended in 1815 fishermen from Poole were suddenly faced with competition from other nations. Furthermore some countries imposed import duties on dried fish to help their own fishermen. The result was the death of the Newfoundland trade in Poole.


There was also a coastal trade to and from Poole in the early 19th century but it went into rapid decline when a railway was built to the Hamworthy side of the bridge. Businessmen could now transport goods to and from Poole by rail. Another railway was built to the centre of Poole in 1872.

Life in 19th century Poole gradually improved. The first public library in Poole opened in 1887. Poole Park opened in 1890. Parkstone Park opened the same year.


It is not certain why Lilliput has that name. Lilliput was the name of a land in the novel Gullivers Travels. According to some accounts there was a house called Lilliput House in the early 19th century (the first resident had the surnamed Gulliver) and the house gave the area its name.


In 1901 electric trams began running through the streets of Poole. But buses soon replaced them. The last trams in Poole ran in 1935.

The first cinema in Poole opened in 1910. Civic Offices were built in Poole in 1932.

At the beginning of the 20th century the population of Poole was only 19,000. But it grew at a phenomenal rate.

The old industries of shipbuilding, brick making and brewing declined in Poole in the 20th century. However the pottery industry survived.

The Dolphin Centre opened in 1969. (At first it was called the Arndale Centre). Also in 1969 Poole General Hospital opened. The Dolphin pool opened in 1974. Poole Lifeboat Museum also opened in 1974. An Arts Centre opened in 1978. (It was later renamed the Lighthouse). In 1997 Poole became a unitary authority.

Today there is a Pottery Centre in Poole, which is a thriving tourist attraction. Poole thrives on tourism




Baiter is part of the Parish of St James, and much of it is open space, part given in exchange for Ladies Walking Field.

Baiter was an island linked to the mainland by a causeway which over time and reclamation became an isthmus, and with the creation of Poole Park and the arrival of the railway, the allotments at Scratchcraft, and infill in the latter half of the 20th century, we have the Baiter (NOT BAY-TOR that Poole Council erroneously named it) of today.


In the latter half of the 20th century housing appeared south of the railway, but previous to this the only buildings on Baiter itself were the

site of the old windmill (1542), the town Gallows from 14th century until 1759, the Powder House where gunpowder was stored in the

Napoleonic wars and the isolation hospital for infectious diseases (started 1645/4 as fever hospital, was an isolation hospital for Poole from circa 1893, the hospital became the site for naval personnel based in Poole in 1914/18 war from Feb 1915 till Jan 1919. It was used again for infectious diseases from 1927 until it ceased to be used in 1941). The Powder House was again used in the second World War for ammunition etc offloaded from military shipping between the Quays and the whole of Baiter was under the control of Major Arthur Butler and the Home Guard. The Powder House was demolished circa 1963 and only part remains today on the edge of the sea.


Go back far enough and it was the site for burial of victims of the Black Death which you know entered Britain through Weymouth.(1645) In Stuart times there were 4 Pest Houses.


Close by you have the fishermens cottages of Ballard Road, South Road, Green Road etc, and before the reclamations it was possible in my lifetime to row a boat up to the back of Emerson Road.


On the end of the road you had the first swimming baths in salt water near the fishermans hard and fishermans dock.


 Thanks to :-Brian Galpin:

cottage became the site for the First Woolworth in