Cataloguing the Skinner Street URC Church Archives

Amongst the many historical records curated by the Local History Centre (LHC), there is an interesting cache for Skinner Street Congregational Church (SSCC), now the Skinner Street United Reformed Church (SSURC). Collectively, they span almost three centuries from 1700, providing fascinating insights into theological disputes and secessions during its early history and religious and social mores and conduct since. Commercial and political history – locally, nationally and internationally – feature too, such as the Newfoundland trade, naval wars with France and Spain, restrictions (later lifted) on nonconformists holding civic positions, Whiggism in Poole and much more.

The Skinner Street church

The Somerset and Dorset Family History Society transcribed and indexed some of oldest of these records, including registers of births, baptisms, marriages and deaths, now accessible on Poole History Online (PHO). Others have been added in the last 18 months, including 18th and 19th century registers of pew subscriptions, a membership and a minute book. They can be viewed by typing ‘SSCC’ into the search box in PHO’s home page.

One of our volunteers became fascinated by the history of SSCC. A visit to the SSURC was arranged in September, turning up further historical records of interest. In November Len Wigg attended a second visit. Len is a local historian with an interest in the history of Congregational churches, (Longham Congregational Chapel in particular), and contacted the LHC with a query about Joseph Notting, further to his research at the LHC.

Joseph Notting, a Poole boot factory owner, became a deacon of SSCC in October 1827 and in 1835 was appointed the Longham Chapel’s lay pastor, (it was one of five SSCC ‘daughter’ churches). Using his business acumen and personal wealth, he oversaw building a new larger chapel, the “village cathedral” of his aspirations (therein lies another story). It continues to grace the Haskins, Longham roundabout to this day.

Afterwards Len volunteered to catalogue the SSURC archive, with the assistance of an LHC volunteer, commencing early in the New Year. Some of it has not been examined for a long time. What treasures might it hold? Well, we will outline our progress periodically, highlighting any historical treasurers we discover.

Thank yous are due to: Gail Nuttall (SSURC treasurer/secretary) and Alan & Tricia Knapp (SSURC volunteers) for allowing outsiders to search (and soon) catalogue their church archive; The LHC librarians for their enthusiasm and encouragement; and Len Wigg for volunteering his expertise.

Kit Pearce


2018 Christmas Quiz Answers

Happy New Year and here are the answers to the quiz:


  1. Bear Wood / Woodes Rogers / Delph Wood / Forest Holme (local names containing wood or forest)
  2. All finds from the Swash Channel wreck.
  3. OfficeS AND BANKS closed / ChoriSTER TElling the Christmas story / TinSEL DOWN the sofa / Kids UP TO No good (concealed local place names)
  4. Keyhole / floating / lifting / twin sails (names for Poole bridges)


  1. Sturt / Chad / Foster / Waugh (owners of Brownsea Island chronologically from 1812 to 1857)
  2. Mary, North / James, South / Peter, East / Michael, West (dedications of central Poole churches – St. Mary’s, Longfleet / St. James, Poole / St. Peter’s, Parkstone / St. Michael’s, Hamworthy.)
  3. Angel / Bermuda Triangle / Cockshell / Poole pub beginning with D eg. Double Six or Dorset Knob.
  4. Morning Glory / Afternoon tea / Evening Hill / Night . . ?shade / ?jar / ?bus

Word Wall

  1. Artists with local connections.
  2. Place names in Hardy’s Wessex.
  3. Terms relating to ships.
  4. Can all be preceded by ‘water’.

Missing vowels:

  1. A Pint of Good Poole Ale / A Portfolio of Old Poole / Book of Poole Quay and the Waterfront / A Winsome Place
  2. Apple cake / Blue Vinney cheese / Cream tea / Salted cod
  3. Eating ice cream / A sail round the harbour / Sea bathing / Touring Dorset
  4. New local authority / Leaving Europe / Twin sails bridge / Poole Hospital reform.

Hope you enjoyed the quiz and got it all right!



2018 Poole & Dorset Christmas Quiz

It’s quiz time once more and the brain cells have been exercised to the absolute limit to bring you the latest local Only Connect style offering. I hope you enjoy it. Drop me an e-mail with your answers or any comments to

Connections: Can you decipher the clues and identify the connections between them?

  1. Habitat for Bruno? / Circumnavigator / Nature reserve near Gravel Hill / Hospice
  2. Bell / merman / wooden shovel / moustachioed face
  3. Offices and banks closed / Chorister telling the Christmas story / Tinsel down the sofa / Kids up to no good.
  4. See below:

Sequences: Work out the clues and say what should come next and why.

  1. Sturt / Chad / Foster / ?
  2. Mary North / James South / Peter East / ?
  3. Hark! the heavenly singer / Swallowing ships out at sea / Seafood heroes / ?
  4. See below:

Word Wall: Separate these into four groups of connected words and explain their connections.

Missing vowels: Reconstruct these words or phrases.

  1. Local history book titles: pn tfg dpll / pr tfl fld pl / bkf plquyn dth wtrf rnt / wns mplc
  2. Dorset food: p plck / blvn nyc hs / cr mt / sl tdc d
  3. Holiday occupations: tng cc rm / slr nd thh rbr / sbt hng / trn gdr st
  4. In the news: nwl cl thrt y / lvn grp / t wns lsb rd g / plhs ptl rf rm

Good luck and best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.


Remembering Poole’s Sons and Daughters

It was on 16th October 1927 that Poole’s civic war memorial was unveiled by Alderman Herbert Carter, Mayor of Poole, nine years after the end of the war and six years after the unveiling of Bournemouth’s fine memorial in the central gardens. Several local churches, schools and workplaces had already produced memorials of their own and the question arises as to why it took the town so long to produce its main memorial. The story of the debate over what form a memorial should take is told on the Poole First World war website at:

Herbert Carter sums it up in his autobiography: ‘Previous mayors had done their best to carry out the wishes of the public, but these wishes were so diverse and contradictory and their advocates so uncompromising that meetings invariably broke up without anything being done. There was a feeling that any formal memorial without any practical intent was unwelcome, yet as soon as some practical suggestion was made it was immediately ridiculed and vetoed. Eventually we persuaded a meeting at the Guildhall to erect something beautiful, modest in its cost and in a suitable site, whilst asking those who preferred something “practical” to earmark their contribution for the use of the Hospital. . . I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but I feel strongly that our Memorial meets a great need of which I am reminded every time I go through Poole Park.’

The designer of the memorial was James Allner F.R.I.B.A., a local architect with an office in Boone’s ironmongers in Poole High Street. As Diocesan Architectural Surveyor to the Archdeaconry of Dorset, Allner had the right credentials. The design is of a tall, slender cross with a Purbeck stone and brick shaft, surmounted by dolphins and scallop shells in a reference to the town coat of arms. It was described at the time as being of 15th century character but also has stylistic links with the 1920s. The cross is set within a formal garden beside the salt water lake in Poole Park, surrounded by low walling and paving with bricks made from local clay. The inscription round the base reads ‘They died that we might live. We will remember them.’

A large crowd of perhaps 10,000 people, including servicemen, the British Legion, the fire brigade, the lifeboat service, scouts and guides attended the unveiling of the memorial on a warm and cloudless day. The proceedings began with a hymn (O God, our help in ages past), with music by three massed bands. The Reverend C. Egerton Williams, Rector of Poole, led a short service followed by an address by Major-General W.H.M. Lowe C.B. and then a disabled ex-serviceman invited the Mayor to unveil the memorial. Afterwards, Herbert Carter commented that ‘the monument itself, with the lake as background, seemed to me to possess nobility as well as beauty.’

The unveiling ceremony, however, was overshadowed (at least in the press) by the visit three days later of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales to lay a wreath at the memorial. It was just one of his numerous engagements that day across Bournemouth and Poole. The distinguished visitor was welcomed at County Gates by the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, the Earl of Shaftesbury and a collection of dignitaries including the Mayor and Poole’s oldest resident, 103-year-old Mr. H. Bening Arnold. A crimson ‘bannerette’ across the entrance to the Borough proclaimed ‘Poole Greets Our Prince’ in golden letters.

The memorial gates, added later as funds permitted

The party then drove to Constitution Hill where the Prince admired the view of the harbour. In the park a large crowd had gathered including ex-servicemen, school children and representatives of many local services. The Prince laid the wreath (handed to him by the Mayor’s daughter, Betty) and inspected the monument, saying that he had never seen one like it. The proceedings ended with the schoolchildren singing ‘God Bless the Prince of Wales’ to the accompaniment of the Bournemouth Gasworks Band. The Prince must have attended hundreds of such ceremonies in those post-war years (and heard that particular anthem) but the royal presence continued to work its magic. As Herbert Carter later wrote ‘I have a very happy remembrance of a young man who wore rosy spectacles, was kind and considerate and anxious to please, and who had caught and understood the humour of the man in the street.’

For the past 90 years, the memorial in the Park has been the focus of commemorative events. Now the memorial and its surrounding area have been repaired and improved in time to feature in the special events to mark the centenary of the end of World War I. I wonder whether it will still be around in 2118?

The End of the Sands – the Haven Hotel Story

Any account of Sandbanks seems to contain an element of nostalgia perhaps because its development has been so extreme. From a lonely spit of sand dunes haunted by smugglers, it was transformed in not much more than a century into the present busy resort with traffic jams, car parks, hotels, luxury houses and (according to the press), millionaires every 50 metres. The story of the Haven Hotel is closely linked to this development and also includes drama, tragedy and scientific achievement.

An early view of the hotel with the coastguard jetty and look-out in the foreground

The hotel was built in 1880 at the tip of the North Haven peninsula with a priceless view of the harbour entrance, passing vessels and Brownsea Island across the water. There was no proper approach road and guests had to make their way along a rough track or be landed by boat to reach it. The original owner, Peter Tuck, soon rented out the building and in the 1881 census John Odlum and his wife were listed as proprietors. At this time there were scarcely any other buildings on ‘the sandbanks’, apart from the coastguard cottages on the other side of the peninsula. In 1887, a writer in the Bournemouth Guardian described a sailing trip out of the harbour, stopping at the Haven Hotel where they ‘put down some of the obliging landlord’s best. The hotel is placed in a rather lonely location for a restaurant, but I fancy Boniface does a good thing out of the visitors who, like we did, generally reach this spot beginning to feel hungry and thirsty.’

The following year, a tragedy occurred as the steam tug Telegraph was moving off after landing a couple of passengers for the hotel. A small boat was moored near the shore with Mr. A. Borrisow and his son Frank on board. Failing to see the sailing boat, the Telegraph hit her, throwing the occupants into the water and resulting in the death of 18 year old Frank. A Board of Trade enquiry found that the captain of the Telegraph was to blame in not keeping a proper look-out and failing to ensure that the lifeboats were ready for immediate use.

By 1889, the hotel was under the management of William B. Mullins and his wife, as a series of press advertisements show. In April 1890, William Mullins and his sister-in-law were driving in a dog cart back to the Haven after taking two gentlemen to Poole. At ‘Glass Cottage corner’ near the junction with Ashley Road, the dog cart was in collision with a brougham belonging to Captain Turner Jones and both William and his passenger were thrown out. The casualties were taken to the Haven Hotel and attended by Dr. Philpotts but William, who had been knocked unconscious, protested that he was not badly injured and did not need medical help. Later that night he died. He was 27 years old and had only been married about 10 months. The license of the hotel was transferred to William’s widow Lilian but in December she was obliged to file for bankruptcy.

Over the next few years the hotel had several different proprietors and in 1895, the owner Peter Tuck proposed that the license should be transferred from the Haven to Sandacres, (now the Sandbanks Hotel) which he also owned. He argued that the Haven Hotel was too remote and vulnerable to ‘parties of roughs’ making trouble. The proposal was turned down in the light of objections from neighbours of Sandacres. Contemporary press advertisements for the Haven show that the hotel was now under the ‘entirely New Management’ of W. H. Witherington and offered ‘Excellent cuisine, Choice Wines, Luncheons, Teas, Dinners always ready. Hot and cold Sea Water Baths. Terms moderate’. It seems quite a sophisticated offer for a rather out-of-the-way establishment. The picture shows that the hotel had already been extended with wings on either side of the original building.

In the 1890s there was concern that the shoreline at Sandbanks was eroding and that the peninsula might be cut in two at its narrowest point. Defensive groynes were needed. Another consequence of shifting sands was the build up of a bar at the harbour entrance which was seriously affecting trade. Impatient at lack of action on the part of Poole Council, an association of merchants presented a bill to Parliament for the setting up of an independent Harbour Board and this became law as the Poole Harbour Act 1895. The new Commissioners, who included representatives of the Council and local business, acquired responsibility for the Quay and Sandbanks. To raise money for the necessary sea defences, they decided to divide part of Sandbanks into 40 plots and sell them for building development. The transformation of the peninsula now began to accelerate.

A map of 1896 showing the hotel and some of the plots for sale

The pier and paddle steamer

Road access was still poor and although Sandbanks was the seaside place of the town, ‘people were jolted out of their lives before they got down there’. In 1898, however, the access by sea was improved with the building of a pier 92ft. long by 26ft. wide, large enough to allow passenger steamers to call there. The pier was sponsored by Messrs. George Habgood and Sons of Wimborne, owners of the Haven Hotel, to meet a long-felt want of ‘excursionists’ and visitors. Passengers were brought from Poole on board the S.S. Lord Elgin for the opening, conducted by the Mayor of Poole. The ceremony was followed by a luncheon in the hotel, hosted by Mr. G. Habgood junior who took the opportunity to stress the need for better roads.

Meanwhile, the Haven Hotel became the site of a cutting edge experiment. The young Italian inventor, Guglielmo Marconi had arrived in England in 1896 and won support for his investigations into wireless telegraphy. His first transmitting station was at the Royal Needles Hotel on the Isle of Wight followed by stations at Bournemouth and Swanage. In September 1898, he arrived at the Haven Hotel with masts and apparatus and set up his laboratory in an east-facing room on the ground floor.

The hotel and Marconi’s mast

One of Marconi’s assistants, Mr. H.M. Dowsett, recalled the wireless room as ‘a business workshop, full of purposeful activity and with signals being continuously exchanged between the Needles station 14 miles away.’ By 1899 it was reported in the press that ‘Marconi’s wireless telegraphy is now far beyond the experimental stage and recent trials of its practical utility have been crowned with success. . . . Recently one of the stations has been removed to the Haven Hotel, Poole and the signalling distance increased to eighteen miles.’ Marconi continued to work at the hotel until 1926. He was a frequent visitor of the Van Raalte family of Brownsea Island and his yacht Elettra was frequently seen moored off the island. When he was in residence at the hotel, there were often convivial meals with his family, assistants, fellow scientists and other visitors, followed by musical evenings with Guglielmo on the piano and his brother Alfonso playing the cello.

The landlord during most of Marconi’s time at the Haven was Frenchman Eugene Poulain, a native of Normandy. Under his management, the hotel gained a reputation for excellent food and hospitality. A lobster tea on the veranda for 40 members of the Yacht Club in 1901 was well within his scope. Over the next few years, guests of the hotel included local gentry, members of the aristocracy and even foreign royalty when the Spanish Infanta Eulalia and her two sons had ‘a most pleasant stay’. The poet Robert Browning was a guest in 1899 and nurse Edith Cavell in 1903. M. Poulain provided motor boats to ferry guests across to Shell Bay and motor buses to bring people from Poole and Bournemouth. There was also a frequent boat service from Poole Quay.

Bus and party in front of the hotel

Articles in the press praised Sandbanks as a ‘breezy and health-giving place.’ ‘The true lover of Sandbanks cannot wish it to become a fashionable resort with all which the term implies of bricks and mortar and suburban conventionality but we scarcely fancy that such will be its fate.’ In 1909, the Bournemouth Graphic gave a glowing account of the Haven. ‘This delightful spot is at the end of the sands, westward from Bournemouth, and can be reached by different means. . . The Hotel, of which Mr. E. Poulain is proprietor, is situated in a charming position overlooking the Harbour, Solent. Brownsea Island and the Purbeck Hills Everything necessary for an enjoyable holiday is to be obtained there, – fishing, swimming, boating &c.

By 1914, Eugene and his wife Francis had acquired a French partner, Raymond Louis Patenotte who later married their daughter, Marguerite. The young couple’s son, Reynold was born at the Haven in 1916. At the beginning of the First World War, the hotel was requisitioned to house Belgian refugees and was left in a poor state with skirting boards and other fittings stripped out for use as firewood. The family continued at the hotel for several more years but in 1921, it was announced that M. Poulain was retiring and revisiting France for his niece’s wedding. Transferring the licence to Mrs. Kate Eliza Dore, the Mayor expressed the hope that it would be run as well in the future as it had been in the past.

In 1925, Mrs. Dore was obliged to sue one of her guests for a debt of £24 18s 9d. The ‘well dressed’ Maurice Friend arrived at the hotel at the end of April for a 6 months’ visit at 21s 6d (£1 15p) a day. Early in his stay, he offered to buy the hotel for £27,000 and started negotiations with Mrs. Dore, probably as a ploy to stay on, even when his bill was in arrears. He also defrauded James Harvey who operated one of the Sandbanks ferry boat services by telling him that he had bought the hotel and would give him a 5 year lease of the pier for £200 a year. Mr. Harvey paid him £70 to seal the deal. Messrs Wyatt, Jewellers of Bournemouth were also patronised (or targeted) by Mr. Friend who bought goods from them on three occasions and in each case, paid by a cheque worth more than the purchase price and received cash as change. All the cheques were returned by the bank. It turned out that Maurice Friend was an undischarged bankrupt with debts of £7,146 and no assets, but he must have been a very plausible trickster to fool so many business people.

Meanwhile, building development in Sandbanks had been proceeding at a pace and an advertisement for the hotel in 1923 mentions ‘Bungalow Town’ near by. Car travel was also on the increase and an Act of Parliament was obtained to allow a car ferry to operate across the harbour entrance to Shell Bay. A steam driven ferry started in 1926, and in its first season carried around 100,000 passengers. The ferry’s journeys to and fro have been a source of fascination to hotel clients ever since.

The rebuilt Haven Hotel as seen from the ferry

In 1925, the hotel had been bought by Sir Arthur Wheeler, the latest owner of Brownsea Island who appointed Major Ruttle to run it. The country was in the midst of an economic recession but  some with the means and confidence were bold enough to invest in the future. Starting with a major rebuild in 1926, the hotel was transformed into a large, luxurious building incorporating the most modern features such as a smoking room, sea water baths in the rooms and a sprung dance floor. Garages were provided for the guests’ motor cars, with rooms for their chauffeurs above.

An article in Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News in May 1928 gives a glowing description: ‘At Sandbanks there has arisen . . . a new Haven Hotel, the like of which I have not quite come across in all Great Britain. . . . As a comfortable, modern, perfectly designed and furnished real hotel, in the best sense of the word, it stands almost in a class of its own, and I have no hesitation in recommending any of my readers who want the best of food and wines and sea air to try it for themselves.’ The writer was particularly struck by the location ‘facing blue water on almost every side, the only exception being the view that looks across the gorse and bungalow-covered ridge to the north. Ships – mostly yachts – pass immediately beneath its windows; across the strait stand up the blue Purbeck hills; within fifty yards one can bath from golden sands in clear water and best of all, there seems always some place where one can sit entirely out of doors and yet out of the wind.’

The Haven had moved into a different league, to be considered side by side with establishments like the Royal Bath in Bournemouth. In the following years it would host big events like the British Rotary annual district conference with 150 delegates in 1930 or the 1935 Parkstone Sailing Club annual dinner dance for 180 members, as well as regular week-end dances.

Haven Hotel c.1940

World War II put everything on hold. Sandbanks was a restricted area and local residents were summoned to the Haven to be issued with special passes. The ‘golden sands’ were strung with barred wire and many buildings were requisitioned for military purposes, including the Haven Hotel. At various times, it was used to accommodate the Green Howards, American troops, the Royal Navy and BOAC staff operating the flying boats from the harbour. During a bombing raid, the hotel kitchen was hit and the boiler thrown out of the building. After the war, work was needed to refurbish the building which was in a poor state and it was not until 1949 that it reopened under Major Ruttle’s management.

The Business Centre

In the postwar world, hotels like the Haven found themselves competing with affordable holidays on the continent. A low point for the hotel was in the early 1970s when plans were put forward to demolish it and replace it with a block of flats. Ironically, it was the recession that prevented demolition, as a developer could not be found. In 1977, the prospects for the hotel improved when it was bought by FJB Group. Press articles announced that the Group planned to spend £250,000, add 25 extra bedrooms (bringing the total to 101) and install an open air sea water swimming pool and a roofed sun terrace. In the 1980s, a leisure club and business centre was opened. The Haven was once again aiming at the luxury market.

Disaster struck in 1988 when, as the press reported, ‘a blaze ripped through the roof and third floor of the Haven Hotel, and over 100 guests had to be evacuated.’ The alarm was raised by pastry chef Dave Holmes who smelled smoke while serving tea. Going outside, he saw smoke coming from the roof. Staff were quickly mobilized to check all the rooms for guests before the fire brigade arrived. No-one was injured but the damage to the hotel was serious as part of the roof had collapsed on to the third floor. It was a serious set-back but the hotel was rebuilt and restored. It went on to become an award winning hotel into the 21st century.

The Haven Hotel story over 130 years has run parallel to the story of Sandbanks itself, once wild and remote and now developed and urban. The hotel’s iconic building represents 1920s Poole archtiecture, a period of optimism against the odds. In spite of dramatic changes, the Haven’s appeal still rests on the location and its simple, but spectacular blend of sand, sea and scenery.


Main sources:  Morris, Iris Looking Back at Sandbanks / Waters, Jeremy Parkstone-on-Sea, Salterns, Sandbanks and Seaplanes. / Newspaper articles







Poole’s Cultural Experiment

Pantomimes, the Poole Proms, roller disco, film festivals, Shakespeare, Reduced Shakespeare, craft fairs, sculpture, Gilbert and Sullivan, rock concerts, tea dances, Ballet Rambert: the Poole Arts Centre (to give its original name) has hosted an enormous variety of events over the years and created indelible memories. In fact it has become such a part of local life over the last four decades that it is hard to realise what a remarkable place it is.

The Kingland Road site

It was back in the 1960s that Poole started to look seriously at providing a large venue for arts and entertainment that the town lacked. With the help of local arts groups, the Council produced a report of what should be included: a large hall for concerts and other entertainments, an exhibition room, meeting room and function rooms. Preliminary plans for a centre on Kingland Road were drawn up in 1968 and presented to the largely enthusiastic public in 1972. It was to be ‘a centre where you can watch a play or a film, listen to music, have a meal or a drink, paint a picture, practice your music, throw a pot, develop your holiday snaps or your interest in say, local history; attend a dance or look at modern sculpture – all in one building.’ Final proposals were approved as the current Borough Council was about to go out of existence under Local Government reorganisation. The contract to go ahead was signed against a background of rising costs and some vocal criticism.

Early plans for the Arts Centre

In February 1978 ‘Poole’s new £41/2m Arts Centre’, operated by the Poole Arts Trust, first opened its doors to the press. The Poole Herald hailed it as ‘a magnificent building, an exciting challenge and a thrilling prospect’ being particularly enthusiastic about the mechanism which transformed the 1,500-seat Wessex Hall from a tiered theatre to a flat-floored show venue by winching the seating into a massive underground hangar. Besides the concert hall, the centre boasted the 600-seat Towngate Theatre, 140-seat Ashley Cinema, the Longfleet Gallery, first floor bar and function rooms. It was to be home to two orchestras, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Bournemouth Synfonietta. On 8th April, the centre opened for business with the Poole Lion’s Club Gala Ball for 1,000 people in the Wessex Hall. The following day, Leslie Crowther ‘launched’ the bar by pulling the first pint and in the evening, lute player Julian Bream performed in front of 600 people in the transformed Wessex Hall.

The first director, who had the responsibility of launching the complex, was Anthony Covell who had come to Poole from Hampshire County Council Recreation and Arts Service. His report at the end of the first 9 months of the centre’s existence showed the challenge he faced to make a success of ‘the largest purpose-built art complex under one roof in the country’. Besides organising a programme of events in all the different venues he had to fill 2,250 seats on a regular basis, run the restaurants and bars profitably and most difficult of all, develop a regular audience in an area new to such lavish provision. There had been many successes in the first few months; the cinema had made a profit of over £9,000 and Kent Opera and ‘Hair’ had played to a 80% capacity audience. The summer show, however, had not been successful and it would take time to work out the right mix of events.

The centre was not expected to pay its way entirely and Poole Council was intending to support it with an annual grant, but the £375,000 they had to provide at the end of 1978 was hard to swallow and gave the centre’s critics plenty of ammunition. In fact 1978 set the pattern for the next 40 years, a mix of financial highs and lows, drama, entertainment, successes and occasional near disasters.

The Queen’s visit

In March 1979, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the Arts Centre, toured the Wessex Hall and met members of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. The following year, fire broke out in the Wessex Hall in bags of dust collected after sanding the floor. The fire detectors had been switched off in case they were set off during the sanding process and the fire was burning for some hours before it was detected. A watchman believed to be in the building was eventually found to have left. Fortunately the repair bill of over £100,000 was covered by insurance. Later that year, the accounts showed a rise in income, a turn-up in box office receipts and savings in operational costs.

The first floor bar

In 1981, the windows were found to be defective and the firm which had installed them had gone out of business. They had to be replaced at a cost of £40,000. December 1982 was notable for the great brass band competition and in 1983 people queued up in their hundreds when the Antiques Road Show was held at the centre. Two Poole Prom performances were televised and theatre audiences were said to be up by a quarter. Long term critic of the centre, Councillor Mrs Edna Adams, currently mayor, now changed her mind and told the press that attending events at the Arts Centre had convinced her what a wonderful place it was.

The 1984 programme included such varied acts as the London Festival Ballet, the Kinks, Alexei Sayle, Alan Price and a performance of The Winslow Boy. The press reported that income at the centre was up by 27%. A mural by John Liddell representing 60 years of film was unveiled in the passageway leading to the Ashley Cinema. The following year, however, competition from the newly opened Bournemouth International Centre began to make an impact. A display of sculpture and drawings by Dame Elizabeth Frink was one of the triumphs of 1986, but later that year, the centre was said to be facing its largest deficit yet. Performances of Funny Peculiar were attended by three members of the vice squad after complaints from a Bournemouth Conservative Family Group. There were full houses for the show all week.

In February 1988, thieves broke in to the Wessex Hall and stole goods from the Ideal Home Exhibition worth £30,000, prompting an urgent review of security. The 10th anniversary was celebrated with a gala performance by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus which included Bruckner’s Te Deum and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The celebrations culminated with a visit by the Princess of Wales. The centre was said to be ‘on the crest of a wave’ having struggled through the financial crises of the early years.

In 1989, it was determined to meet competition from the new complex at Tower Park by refurbishing the cinema and creating a ground floor café bar. That year was another successful one but the competition soon began to have its effect. By the early 1990s, huge losses were revealed at the Arts Centre and the council warned that the trustees and management would have to take drastic measures to get a grip on finances. The battle of the pantomimes took place against this background. According to centre marketing manager Vivien Bolton, both the Arts Centre and the Bournemouth Pavilion were planning to put on Cinderella over Christmas, forcing Poole to change their programme to the Wizard of Oz. They then discovered that the Pavilion was actually offering Jack and the Beanstalk. Luis Candal, the Pavilion Director denied that Cinderella was ever in their plans.

Over the next few years, the Arts Centre gradually reduced its losses. In July 1995, Anthony Covell left after 18 turbulent years as director. To call his job a challenge would be an understatement but during his directorship the centre had been established as the main venue in the town and had provided entertainment and delight to thousands of local people. As he left, an outline application for lottery funding towards a total refurbishment had just been made.

It was January 1997 before the new director Ruth Eastwood came to take up her post having previously been manager of the Civic Theatre and Arts Centre in Darlington. Her first season’s programme was described as being ‘as striking as any that has come to Poole for many a year’. In April an evening of drama, dancing and music starred Dr. George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury who addressed the audience as part of the performance having arrived by helicopter at Ashdown School. In July, the Royal Shakespeare Company visited the Arts Centre for the first time with a new production of Cyrano de Bergerac. Other shows on offer that year were the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Neil Simon’s play Laughter on the 23rd Floor and Adzido Pan African Dance Ensemble with Under African Skies, blending film, poetry and traditional dance. It was also announced that Poole had won a £500,000 lottery grant to research what improvements the centre needed. Plans would be drawn up to transform the building for the 21st century.

In April 1998, the press reported that prices for theatre tickets were likely to rise because the previous rather generous discount scheme was unsustainable. A Coolio concert in June received a rather cool reception and some of the audience walked out when the support band failed to show and the start was delayed by an hour. The Antiques Road Show with High Scully and Paul Atterbury, however, was a great success. The following year a huge fund-raising effort for the centre refurbishment was launched with £2,000-worth of coins from the Dolphin Centre fountain. The target was £2m and every £1 raised would be matched by £3 from the National Lottery.

The Faraday lectures which came to the centre in 2000 were intended to inspire young people to become scientists and discussed such futuristic ideas as ‘mobile phones showing your nearest bus route and satellites pin-pointing your position to the nearest millimetre anywhere on the planet’. The designs of the proposed new centre were unveiled in May, to an inevitably mixed reception. Some people called the new look ‘industrial’ ‘flavour of the month’ or like a Lego set. Others thought it ‘fantastic and what the town needs’. Part of the plan was to improve air conditioning and natural air circulation and to open up the building to give more of a sense of what was happening inside. In October, an audience of 800 in fancy dress (including an entire row of reindeer) prepared to raise the rafters at the Singalong Sound of Music.

The next two years were taken up with fundraising and centre refurbishments. In September 2001, 50 people including Poole’s Chief Executive Jim Brooks and Eldridge Pope chairman Christopher Pope raised £5,000 by abseiling down the front of the 20m high building. The work was completed at a cost of £8.5m paid for by Arts Council Lottery awards, the Borough of Poole and additional donations. New facilities were added to the centre including a studio performance space, a re-sited cinema, expanded concert hall and photography labs. The first floor foyer and bar was transformed with mirrors and cloud effects. It also had a new name: Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre for the Arts.

Today, 12 years after this refurbishment, the Lighthouse is once again planning to upgrade its facilities, improve the studio theatre, the foyers, performance and rehearsal spaces and increase the environmental efficiency of the building. In its 40 years, centre has seen many millions of people come through its doors to be entertained, amused, inspired and transported. It has become central to the town’s identity and in the words of the current Chief Executive, Elspeth McBain a testament to the visionary cultural thinking of our forefathers’.


Main sources: Poole Herald / Bournemouth Echo / Poole’s Pride Regained by John Hillier and Martin Blyth.


In Search of Alderney Manor

With the forthcoming Augustus John exhibition at the Poole Museum, I have been trying to research the history of Alderney Manor, the heathland property on the edge of Poole where Augustus, his family, assorted livestock and artistic guests led a bohemian and rather chaotic existence. The manor itself is described by John’s biographer, Michael Holroyd, as a ‘curious, low, pink building, an elongated bungalow with Gothic windows and a fantastic castellated parapet’. Several sources state that it was built by an eccentric Frenchman. Besides the manor, there were other buildings on the site including a stable, a coach house which Augustus used as a studio and a cottage larger than the manor where guests stayed. Gypsy caravans and tents housed the overflow.

Looking into the background of the property, several questions came to mind: who built the cottage and the manor and when, where did the name Alderney come from and who was the eccentric Frenchman? So far I have not managed to answer any of these questions! I have however unearthed some curious details and larger than life characters associated with the property. All the evidence suggests that the cottage preceded the ‘manor’. The site was beside the road from Poole to Ringwood, between Knighton Bottom and Howe Corner. On Isaac Taylor’s map of 1795, the road is shown as ‘New Turnpike Road’ and there is no sign of the cottage or of any location in the area with the name Alderney. By the time of Greenwood’s map of 1826, the cottage has appeared, surrounded by plantations of firs.

1795 Map

The first text reference I have found is in 1808 when William Beaumont Esq. of Alderney Cottage near Poole is listed as a contributing member of the Society, Instituted at London, for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce. In 1810, an inquest was heard on Ann Hogg, a servant of Beaumont’s. He and his servant Charles Burt gave evidence that Ann had been ‘much addicted to liquor’ and had been drinking heavily the previous afternoon. The jury brought in the verdict that she met her death ‘by excessive drinking and not from any other cause whatsoever’. No other details are provided about the tragedy.

1826 map

I have not discovered whether William Beaumont built the cottage or had any connection with the island of Alderney but he does seem to have been involved creating the plantations. In November 1811 the Salisbury and Winchester Journal advertised a sale of part of Beaumont’s farming stock and household furniture including 80,000 pinasters (maritime pines), 840,000 Scotch firs and some white thorns of one or two years’ growth. These were said to be ‘admirably calculated to be set out on heath land, having been raised on it’. The goods for sale suggest a working farm with a comfortably furnished gentleman’s residence. They include cart houses, a wagon, plough shares, harrows and drags as well as four-post bedsteads, white dimity furniture, Venetian carpets, a mahogany dining table, a brace of pistols and a ‘Pipe of excellent PORT WINE’. In July 1813, Beaumont announced another sale, this time of all his household furniture, his ‘capital Norman Cow in full milk’, and other effects. He may have moved out, but continued to be listed at the cottage until at least the Waterloo year of 1815.

The next resident I’ve found definitely did have a link with Alderney. He was Colonel (later General) John Le Mesurier who was listed, address Alderney Cottage, as one of a number of people issued with game licenses in 1829. Le Mesurier was the last in the line of hereditary governors of Alderney, the position having been granted to his family by Charles II and confirmed by George III. Born in 1781, he had joined the army as a boy of about 14 and served in Ireland, Malta and Egypt before retiring on half pay and taking over the Governorship of the island on his father’s death in 1803. As the war with France came to its climax, he petitioned to get back into the army but was told that he could serve the country better in his present position. He finally signed over the governorship to the British Government in 1824, having served for over 20 years.

John Le Mesurier

Why Le Mesurier came to Alderney Cottage is another unknown but he was probably attracted by the hunting available in the area, frequently mentioned in local newspapers of the time. In the late 1820s and early 1830s, ‘Mr Lester’s harriers’ were often reported as meeting at the back of Alderney Cottage and ‘the Charborough hounds’ also met there to take advantage of the game in the plantations and the heath. The new resident may not have stayed for very long. In September 1831 the cottage was put up for let or sale. Also for sale were two hunters, a grey mare, a chestnut filly and a ‘Stanhope’ (a light, open carriage) besides 233 dozen of superior old wines in port, claret, sherry etc. The advertisements in the local press provide a description of the property with its 200 acres of land including arable, pasture, heathland, fir plantations, orchards and walled gardens. The cottage contained ‘dining, drawing, breakfast and sleeping rooms, all 9ft 3 high, on the same floor. The basement storey contains a good kitchen, coal and beer cellars and an excellent wine cellar.’ There were two labourers’ cottages, a coach-house, dairy, barn, five-stall stable, brew-house, farm yard and piggery. Altogether it sounds like an attractive property for a country gentleman.

The next resident was Cornwall Jolliffe, the brother of the Rev. Peter Jolliffe, Rector of Poole, and a descendent of important family of Poole and Newfoundland traders. He had previously lived at Ensbury and in April 1832 advertised his Ensbury house to let. Maybe Mr. Jolliffe was also interested hunting as the hunt continued to meet regularly at the cottage, apparently undeterred by a disaster which occurred in 1833. On 10th April a fire broke out near the cottage and ‘about 200 acres of firs were wholly consumed’. In 1841, the first detailed census recorded the household at Alderney as consisting of Cornwall Jolliffe, aged 60 and Frances Humphrey, 70, both listed as being ‘of independent means’ and four servants Mary Jolliffe, 60, James Cropp, 30, Sarah Cropp, 35 and Elizabeth, aged 13. Cornwall died in 1847 at the age of 67. He was a bachelor and left effects of under £20.

The cottage was again advertised to let, this time with the added inducement of newly built railway stations not far away at Wimborne and Poole (Hamworthy). The new tenant was the first of several medical men to be associated with the property. John Basset, came from Devon and had qualified in Edinburgh. The census of 1851 describes him as a surgeon, not practising, and shows him living in the cottage with three servants, Thomas Tuckey, Elizabeth Berry and Jane Austin.

By 1854, the cottage was uninhabited again and was leased out by Lady Charlotte Guest of Canford Manor to a new tenant. (Whether the Canford estate had owned the property all along or bought it sometime in the preceding decades, I don’t know.) Lady Charlotte was the widow of Sir John Josiah Guest, a rich ironmaster, who had purchased the Canford estate in 1846 and died in 1852, leaving his wife to manage the estate until their eldest son, Ivor Bertie, came of age. Alderney’s new occupier was Scotsman William Petrie Waugh, the owner of Brownsea Castle and Island and Lieutenant Colonel in Her Majesty’s Regiment of South Hussars. He had bought Brownsea in 1852 believing that the island contained rich deposits of fine china clay. In the next few years he spent lavishly in Brownsea, setting up clay pits and a pottery with a tramway, draining the lagoon on the north east side of the island, refurbishing the castle, building a church and creating a village for his workmen. In 1954, he leased the ‘full and exclusive right of hunting, shooting, coursing, sporting, fishing and fowling’, over 2,100 acres of the Canford estate, including parts of Longham, Alderney, Longfleet, Parkstone and ‘the sand banks at North Haven Point’. The lease also included Alderney Cottage, its garden, stable and appurtenances. The term was 15 years and the rent, £40 a year. This must have seemed modest compared with what Waugh was spending elsewhere. How much time he spent at Alderney or hunting on the estate, we don’t know. The clay deposits on Brownsea turned out to be only suitable for coarsewares, such as bricks and chimney pots, and Lt. Col. Waugh’s debts began to mount. In 1856, he fled to Spain to escape his creditors.

Alderney’s second medical resident was Richard Elgie. Born in Spitalfields, London he had previously practised in Holdenhurst at a time when Bournemouth was developing as a health resort. In the 1861 census, Elgie, aged 49, was described as a surgeon, not practicing. He lived at Alderney with his son, Walter, daughters, Margaret, Louisa, Alice, Gertrude, Clara, Helen and Edith and maid servant, Louisa Willis. How the young ladies liked the isolated cottage, surrounded by heath and dark plantations we don’t know, but it was probably a contrast to life in Holdenhurst.

Being on the edge of thinly populated heathland, Alderney was prone to petty theft and vandalism. In April 1860, Samuel Jeffrey, a small farmer from Kinson was sentenced to one month’s hard labour for stealing hay from Richard Elgie. As quantities of hay had already gone missing, P.C. Brown was on watch at the cottage and caught Jeffrey in the act. Jeffrey’s excuse, that he was just borrowing the hay, failed to convince. More serious was a massive fire that broke out the following month. It started near Bournemouth and spread rapidly, fed by an easterly wind. ‘On Tuesday evening the inhabitants of Poole and neighbouhood were attracted by a lurid glare which seemed spread over the whole sky in the direction of Ringwood and Bournemouth’. At one time the flames extended over an area of 10 miles and could be seen from 40 miles away. Strong winds ‘hastened the progress of the fire, driving it in every direction, causing it to leap from bank to bank and igniting the heath in adjoining fields’. On Wednesday morning it attacked the plantation near Alderney Cottage. Men struggled to bring the flames under control but the destruction of heathland and woods was considerable. Evidence suggested that the fire had been started deliberately as it had broken out in four separate places.

Perhaps it was the fire which decided Richard Elgie and his family to move elsewhere, and not long after they relocated to Parkstone. Alderney Cottage was once more available for a new tenant. Enter the Honourable George Charles Grantley Fitzhardinge Berkeley, earl’s son, soldier, Member of Parliament, writer and sportsman. Grantley Berkeley was the sixth son of the fifth earl of Berkeley. He served in the Coldstream Guards for five years before retiring on half pay at 21. He married Caroline Benfield in 1824, the couple having two sons, and was Member of Parliament for West Gloucestershire from 1832 to 1852. He also wrote several books and pamphlets including novels, works on sport, travel and natural history, poems and an autobiography.

Grantley Berkerley

One notorious incident illustrates his impulsive and occasionally violent character. His first book ‘Berkeley Castle’, a romantic novel based on his family history, was the subject of a scurrilous review in Fraser’s Magazine of August 1836 which included some offensive remarks on the author’s parents: ‘Mr Grantley Berkeley’s mother lived with his father as his mistress, and that she had at least one child before she could induce the old and very stupid lord to marry her’. Grantley and his brother Craven (both of them Members of Parliament) went round to the bookshop of the magazine’s publisher, James Fraser, in Regent Street to demand the name of the reviewer and when Fraser hesitated to tell them, Grantley knocked him to the ground and beat him savagely with a whip while his aristocratic brother held the door closed. For this attack the brothers had to pay £100 damages. In a counter suit for libel, Grantley was awarded £2. Meanwhile the reviewer, Dr. Maginn, made himself known and met Grantley in a duel where shots were exchanged but no-one was hit. The incident tended to divert sympathy from Grantley Berkeley to Fraser and also ensured that the review was repeated in dozens of newspapers.

Berkeley continued to write, travel and participate in sports. He regularly spent his summers near Highcliffe from where he observed with some scepticism the transformation of Bournemouth into an ultra respectable pretty but dull’ resort, poking fun at town worthies in his writing. He was in his early 60s when he took the lease of Alderney, where he was able to live a sporting life, entertain friends and write:

D-BKL/H/N/29: Copyright National Trust: Bankes of Kingston Lacy family & estate archive, deposited with Dorset History Centre

‘I have again a hut of my own, or a little shooting-lodge, surrounded by forest and moor – a castellated structure by the way . . . Nevertheless it is more a hermitage than a castle, and to anyone fond of seclusion must possess unusual attractions; for there are no neighbours to peep beneath the bushes. Indeed, so completely out of the way is it, that that evidence of civilisation, the postman, will not venture within two miles of the place. Here, however, as the tenant of Sir Ivor Guest, I am content to remain, pursuing my customary recreations in shooting and fishing, and studying the characteristics of animated nature on a wide expanse of land that is bounded on one side only by the sea’.

It seems to have been during Grantley Berkeley’s tenure that Alderney Cottage underwent a transformation into Alderney Manor, not as far as I can tell by any rebuilding but simply by assuming a more aristocratic status. It was from ‘Alderney Manor’ that Grantley fired off his many letters to the press on hydrophobia, politics, the value of rabbits, an exhibition of Berkeley family jewellery, management of the New Forest, game laws, the wages of labourers and other topics. He also wrote a number of books and pamphlets including his autobiography ‘My Life and Recollections’ in 4 volumes.

It was perhaps inevitable that Grantley came into conflict from time to time with some of the more lawless local residents. In 1867, William Sherwood of Kinson was charged with assault on Harry Toovey, Grantley’s gamekeeper. According to Toovey, he caught Sherwood throwing stones at pheasants on the Alderney estate and challenged him. Sherwood who was drunk then struck Toovey, who knocked him down. Sherwood was fined 10s. In 1869, Mr. Cutler, a farmer of Howe, brought an action against Grantley Berkeley for seizing and detaining a dog. Toovey had taken the dog from Mr. Cutler’s son, Edmund, accusing him of being after game but the Cutlers denied that the dog was ever used for hunting, except over the land they rented. A fine of £7 11s 6d was awarded against Grantley Berkeley. In the dry summer of 1870, a serious fire broke out across the heath which ‘nearly surrounded Alderney Manor, totally destroying the game preserves of the Honorable Grantley Berkeley’ and threatening Newtown and Messrs Howell’s foundry at Waterloo. It was suspected that the fire had been started by arsonists.

The 1871 census lists Grantley Berkeley J. P. aged 71 with two maid servants and two man servants including the gamekeeper, Henry Toovey. The two cottages on the property housed another gamekeeper and a groom with their families. Grantley continued to live at the manor for the next decade, still writing to the newspapers, relating his anecdotes, feeding his birds and observing local wildlife. In 1880, being in poor health, he took a ‘one of Mr. Darnford’s new villas’ in Longfleet for the winter where he died in February 1881.

Map 1900 from: D-WIM/JO-887B: Courtesy of Dorset History Centre

For a while the manor was unoccupied and then it seems to have been rented by William Abbott a farmer and brickmaker who was living there by the time of the 1891 census with his wife Mary Ann, his 17 year old step son, Reginald Atkins and his son, William junior aged 14. Dairyman Frederick Warren and his wife Mary Jane lived in one of the cottages. By 1900, a new tenant was in negotiation with Mr. Paterson, the agent for Lord Wimborne of Canford Manor. Dr. Walter Denton Johns was the third medical practitioner to lease Alderney and intended to open a sanatorium to treat tuberculosis patients by a fresh air system using huts in the grounds. The property to rent consisted of the dwelling house, vegetable garden, grounds, outbuildings, 16 acres of rough grassland and about 500 acres of shooting. Dr. Johns clearly wanted to attract wealthy patients by offering the facilities of a country estate as well as a healing regime. The favourable rent of £75 a year was an acknowledgement of the fact that all the buildings were in a state of disrepair and the tenant undertook to put them in good order within 12 months as well as refurbishing the main house and the caretaker’s house. The huts were laid out and the sanatorium set up. Dr. Johns asked for dangerous trees to be felled in the ‘sun garden’ and Paterson said he would send the Wood Manager to take down the trees but advised caution. ‘Trees don’t grow in a day; and were it not for the Trees, Alderney Manor would simply be a ‘Bleak House’ standing on a no less bleak Moor!’

The Manor as a sanatorium

Dr. Johns’ story at Alderney Manor is told in detail in the excellent Poole’s health record blog. The sanatorium continued at Alderney for a decade attracting quite a number of patients but probably not proving as successful as Dr. Johns had hoped. By 1911, the manor was empty once more, and the Canford estate seeking a new tenant. In September of that year a lease was signed between Lady Cornelia, Baroness Wimborne (for her husband Ivor Bertie who was described as mentally infirm) and Augustus Edwin John of 153, Church Street, Chelsea, artist.

Augustus John Self Portrait

Alderney Manor had been recommended to Augustus John by his friends, the Everetts who lived not far away at Wool. Katherine Everett described it as ‘an unusually attractive house built by a Frenchman, set in woodland, on the Wimborne property’. After alterations and repairs had been completed, the family moved in, Augustus, his mistress, Dorothy (Dorelia) McNeill and seven children, five by his wife Ida who had died four years before and two by Dorelia. Augustus spent much of his time in London, coming down to Dorset at week-ends so it was Dorelia and her sister, Edie who probably created the ‘colourful and artistic interior’ described by Katherine, revived the garden and tended the cats, cows, pigs, donkeys, ponies, horses and bees.


Guests tended to drop in and stay for days or sometimes weeks sleeping in the cottage, caravans or gypsy tents. One visitor was the artist Henry Lamb who described the manor as ‘an amazing place, a vast, secluded park of prairies, pine woods, birch woods, dells and moors’. The children lived a fairly free existence running barefoot about the gardens and the heath, only occasionally hauled in for a telling-off or to pose for their father. It was an unconventional household which would have amazed those military and sporting gentlemen John Le Mesurier, Col. Waugh and the Hon. Grantley Berkeley. Some things did not change however. In his autobiography The Seventh Child, Augustus’s son, Romilley John describes how the bell that was rung to summon the family and guests to lunch would also alert the local ‘poachers, stealers of wood, and other malefactors’ to enter the Alderney woods while the coast was clear.

The John household occupied the manor until 1927 when they moved to Fryern Court in Fordingbridge. They were to be the last tenants of Alderney Manor which was later demolished and replaced with a housing estate.


Main sources: Articles and adverts from the Salisbury and Winchester Journal, Dorset County Chronicle and other newspapers, many located thanks to Mr. Gambier. Documents at the Dorset History Centre: Inquest on Ann Hogg 1810 D-WIM/JO-1349, Lease to Col. Waugh 1854 D-WIM/JO-827, Agreement with Dr. Johns 1900 D-WIM/JO-877, Letter from Mr. Paterson 1901 D-WIM/JO-877D.