Stone Markers at Hamworthy

Here is an appeal for information sent in by a reader of the blog. Do you know anything about these stones on Ham Common? I think there are more than one.

So far the consensus is that the anchor probably represents the Admiralty. Some of the land was acquired for the construction of concrete ships for the navy during World War I. A local company, Hill. Richards & Co., had the contract and a series of slipways were built along the shore from Lake to Rockley. There is an interesting article on the subject at: , Poole, the First World War and its Legacy.

In World War II, the Admiralty bought land south of the old railway line and part of the area was used for HMS Turtle, a base for invasion training. After the war, the navy held on to some of the land because the Royal Marines were being established in the area at the time. (Many thanks to Bryan Gambier for this information.)

So, the markers could define the area of Admiralty-held land during one war or the other; alternatively, they could represent something completely different. Any ideas what they are and what the markings mean?


Tales of Brusher Mills

I am indebted to Michael Stead of Bournemouth Library for this entertaining portrait of a unique local character.

The ‘How to build a golf course’ check list:

  1.  Find a large open space and make sure the cottagers of Throop can no longer graze their goats or cut turves out of the ground to fuel their winter fires. Tick (Poors Common, now Queens Park).
  2.  Bring in a golf professional to advise on the design of a course. Tick (golf Champion J. H. Taylor: thank you I think we can forgive the Queens Park author the oft repeated myth – we’ve all done it – of Bertie, Prince of Wales visiting Lily Langtry in Bournemouth. The PoW didn’t, and in any case it was Emily Caroline Langton Massingberd that he never visited).
  3. Make sure no one breaks the rules governing the land by building a whopping great road across it. Whoops! (Well Wessex Way hardly counts does it? Or Queens Park Avenue, or Queens Park We- look, there’s nothing to see here, move along please. And who’s ever heard of the Bournemouth Corporation Act 1904 anyway?)
  4. Get rid of the snakes. Tick. Wait . . . the what????

Yes, in 1900, the heathland south of Strouden was covered in adders and they were a sufficient problem that many gateposts had a small hollow where snake oil was kept to treat wounds. In the absence of a Saint Patrick to help with step four, the most obvious solution to ensure Queens Park golfers wouldn’t suffer a nasty nip in the rough was to call in Harry ‘Brusher’ Mills, the renowned New Forest snake-catcher.

When Bournemouth Council sought the aid of Brusher, he was famous for clearing snakes, with a tally of several thousand vipers caught. His main tool was a forked stick. Recalling his employment in 1972, the Bournemouth Echo reported ‘He did the job effectively, working weeks in difficult conditions for parts of the area were a swampy morass’. The Echo said he ‘although bitten many times, went on to live to a ripe old age’. He was 65 when he died. You know, the older I get, the farther ahead ‘old’ seems.

On 19th June 1943, the Echo published a painting of Brusher Mills, which had spent 30 years at the Knyveton Road home of Mr Kerrison Preston. The painting was the work of Bournemouth artist Frank Richards.

For 20 years, claimed the Echo, Brusher lived in a hut he had made for himself, far into the forest at Lyndhurst. Some accounts have it that he retreated to the hut following a family row, in 1885. Writing in ‘Hampshire’ magazine in September 1961, Cerita Stanley-Little (née Brown) said that the hut was about a quarter of a mile from the high road between Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst, near Queen’s Bower; it was ‘a cone shaped charcoal burner’s hut furnished with a bed of dry bracken, biscuit tins of fire wood and empty jam jars . . . although poor, he earned enough to rent himself a cottage had he wished. But even when growing old he preferred his lonely independent life in his rough quarters, in the silent forest’.

George Perry, writing about Brusher for the Sunday Times in August 1976, managed to track down (in the possession of Mr A. W. Coysh, of Hurstbourne Tarrant, Hampshire) a picture taken by Lyndhurst photographer ‘Harvey’, in the 1880s, which showed a more sophisticated version of the hut, clad in pads of turf. All the classic elements of Brusher’s attire are there, the gaiters just under his knees, to prevent unwanted incursion by snakes, the tongs hanging from his waistcoat, the stick used to hold down the snakes. And, in his right hand, one of his snakes.

Cerita Stanley-Little observed ‘His strange way of life appeared to suit him, for he always expressed himself content with his lot’. Speaking in 1903 he said ‘I can’t get about as I did. I took influenza 13 years ago and it made me weak. Still I can’t complain. I’m 63 and only bad weather takes me in the chest’.

The Echo described him as short, stocky, bent by old age, with bushy eyebrows, wrinkled mahogany skin, and a thick white beard. He wore several waistcoats, a ratcatcher coat and a battered hat, all suitable forest camouflage. Cerita Stanley-Little said Brusher was ‘an upright figure of a man, old with a grey forked beard and bright keen eyes. He always wore a shovel hat, gaiters and two coats, over two waistcoats. He was hung about with tins for the reception of his snakes and across his waistcoats was slung a pair of scissors bent at the top to pick them up with’ (Echo writer T. P. Hattersley describes these more as angled steriliser forceps). Brusher was said to be a clean man, despite his rough exterior, with great self-respect. He was said to regularly visit a Lyndhurst relation for baths and a change of clothing.

He caught over 5,000 snakes. Most were sent to the London Zoological Gardens (‘where they formed the sole diet of certain fastidious larger snakes’) some specimens went for laboratory research. Cerita Stanley-Little said Brusher claimed to have caught 4,086 adders and 29,396 other snakes, over 21 years. That sounds a lot, but it is just over 4 snakes a day. Some of his snakes were sold for their skins. Brusher’s primary patron was Lord Londesborough, tenant of Northerwood House, Lyndhurst, who paid a shilling for every live ringed snake or adder. Whilst Londesborough presented some snake specimens to the London zoos, it was unlikely that he had benign intentions toward the remainder, for he retreated to Northerwood to train his falcons.

The most widely accepted explanation for ‘Brusher’ Mills’ nickname, credited to Mr R. C. De Crespigny ‘who is one of the first authorities on all matters pertaining to the Forest’ was that in his youth Brusher would enthusiastically sweep the cricket pitch at Bolton’s Bench. Writing for the Echo in July 1973, T. P. Hattersley delicately explained that the cricket pitch ‘suffered from the perambulations of the New Forest ponies’: hence the need for them to be swept clean from time to time, and Harry Mills earned the fond nickname ‘Brusher’ from the locals, in appreciation of his efforts.

‘He was the son of a forester, and the Forest was in his blood’. T. P. Hattersley reported that Brusher was a witness to a debated element of forest lore, saying that he had witnessed on many occasions in July and August, that adders certainly did swallow their young to protect them in times of danger. Doubting the veracity of this phenomenon, the ‘Field’ newspaper (somewhat cruelly) offered a reward of £5 to the first person who could send them an adder with its young sheltering inside.

There was a popular postcard of Brusher ‘decked with tins, carrying a forked stick and scowling at some children’.

He never took to poaching to support his squatter lifestyle in the forest. Cerita Stanley-Little wrote that Brusher ‘would never touch the game of the forest, not even an egg or a bough’ Brusher did carry a green bough in one hand to keep off the flies. And also perhaps to offset the inevitable aroma of one who dwelt free of the usual lavatorial arrangements.

On 19th June 1972, The Echo described Brusher as a self-made legend, hermit and enigma. He used to be seen at Lyndhurst carrying a tin of writhing snakes. He was supposed to have a great knowledge of reptiles, but seldom spoke to people. The following day (20th June) the BBC’s ‘Country Calendar’ told a different story, that Brusher was often found with his snakes near a forest hotel, and in return for the payment of a 2d tot of rum, he would tell stories of his forest adventures. In this way it is calculated that he drank a bottle of rum a day. Cerita Stanley-Little said in 1961 that Brusher was kindly and talkative ‘though it was hard to understand his speech as he had a cleft palate’.

Writer Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald reported seeing Brusher at the Crown and Stirrup, and he was reputed to visit various inns. T. P. Hattersley states that on one occasion, finding his favourite inn so crowded with day trippers that he couldn’t reach the bar ‘he threw a couple of snakes on to the floor and the room cleared in a very short time’. Brusher was said to use similar tactics when charabancs of visitors arrived: he would mingle with the party, drop a harmless snake and when the shrieks started he would step forward, capture the snake and pass his hat round to take a collection from the grateful company.

According to the Echo, Brusher invented an ointment made from adders which served as a ‘vaccine’ for snake bites. T. P. Hattersley wrote that when Brusher sold the skins of certain snakes, he would boil the skinned snakes to render their fat, from which he would concoct his ointment. Cerita Stanley-Little informed her readers that Brusher’s cure for a snake bite was to cut out the area of the bite with a penknife, let the wound bleed freely for a while and then rub it with an ointment compounded from adders’ fat. If you didn’t fancy that, another common remedy was to take a dose of ammonia or hartshorn, before rubbing the bite with oil. Hattersley claimed that Brusher’s ointment was ‘sought after on the Continent where it was reputed to be particularly effective in relieving rheumatic pains’.

The Echo and BBC stories about Brusher Mills prompted Mrs Annie Cherrett, of Columbia Cottages, Ensbury Park, to contact the Echo and tell that she had once lived in a lodge on an estate near Brusher’s hut, which was hidden under a holly tree. She said that despite an unfriendly reputation, Brusher was a good neighbour and was kind to children, making friends with her three year old daughter Louie. Brusher, she testified, treasured a memory of being visited by King Edward VII, who invited him to lunch.

Cerita Stanley-Little related that officials pulled down his hut and forced him into more conventional accommodation where he could be cared for, but he ‘hated this new way of life and died soon afterwards . . . in the open air he loved so well, beneath the summer trees’. This last fond farewell was such an egregious misrepresentation, that it moved John P. Garrad, of Park Lane, Fareham, to write to Hampshire magazine, offering an account of Brusher Mills’ demise, taken from the ‘Hampshire Telegraph and Post’ of 1905, which reported on the inquest into Brusher’s death. There it was written that when the Crown authorities burnt down his hut, Brusher moved into another on the New Park estate, with the permission of the owner Mr Webley, of ‘Webley & Scott’ the revolver firm. Opinion was divided as to whether his hut was burnt down to facilitate his removal to healthier lodgings, or to prevent him from establishing squatters’ rights over the site of his hut.

Rather than poetically dying beneath the summer trees, Brusher had a heart attack on the privy at the back of the Railway Inn, Brockenhurst. He had gone there for a meal of beer, bread, cheese and pickles. Brusher finished his meal, went out the back and didn’t reappear; the landlord going to look for him twenty minutes later, found him dead. At the inquest a doctor related that he had seen Brusher Mills about his heart some months earlier.

As the result of a public subscription, an impressive monument was erected to mark his grave at Brockenhurst’s Saint Nicholas’ Church.

Some of Brusher’s equipment was put on display at the Railway Inn for a while after his death. His forceps were left to a forester Benny Bessant, who continued Brusher’s snake catching, the work being taken over in turn by his son Douglas Bessant, who supplied snakes to all parts of the world. When Douglas emigrated to South Africa, no one took over the New Forest snake catching work.

Brusher came from a large family. His parents were agricultural labourer Thomas Mills (1800-1871) and Ann Stote (1802-1878) who married at Lyndhurst in 1833. Brusher’s siblings were Emma, 1826; Fanny, 1830; Maria, 1832; Ann, 1834; Sarah, 1837, Lucy 1842 and (Joseph) George, 1847.

In 1866, a Henry Mills was acquitted at the Midsummer Quarter Sessions held at Winchester, of uttering counterfeit coin. If this were he, his trial can’t have been the proudest moment for his parents: his father Thomas Mills had improved his lot to become a gardener, living on the Street at Lyndhurst, but the family already had the stigma of one illegitimate grandchild, Edward Mills. By 1871, Thomas had slipped back to being a general labourer and his wife Ann was taking in laundry to add to the family income.

By 1881, with both his parents dead, Henry was lodging with Fanny and Maria Whiteham, at Clay Hill, Lyndhurst.

In 1886, a Henry Mills was convicted of larceny (theft) at the Michaelmas Quarter Sessions at Winchester; with a note that he had a previous conviction for felony, he was sentenced to 6 months’ imprisonment. There is not sufficient information to establish beyond doubt that the imprisoned Henry Mills is the same as our Brusher Mills. What can be said is that before this date he can be found in the records as Henry Mills, the unremarkable Lyndhurst labourer; afterwards as Harry ‘Brusher’ Mills, the New Forest snake catcher.

It was around 1886, that he went off into the woods to live alone in his hut. Later stories of Brusher said that his independent spirit sometimes got him into trouble before he ‘mellowed’. Cerita Stanley-Little suggested that Brusher was ‘difficult in his youth’ and would not talk about whatever troubled events led to his hermit lifestyle, beyond remarking ‘I was born a gardener’. Brusher was said to be antipathetic only toward gipsies for ‘their thieving propensities’. Perhaps he felt he had some reason to blame a gipsy for encouraging his criminal behaviour? It is a calumny often repeated by settled folk against the Romany people.

If we are looking for any single incident to explain the dramatic change in his lifestyle, the shame to a generally honest man, of becoming a convicted criminal, seems quite sufficient. Add to this the harsh economic circumstances of those too poor when the hard times hit, to sell stocks, or raise rents on their tenants, so that their frequent recourse is crime. This, compounded with the misfortune to get caught, makes it reasonable to suppose that the imprisoned Henry, is our Brusher Mills. What made him remarkable was the decision and wherewithal to reinvent himself from a run-of-the-mill labourer, to the most famous and unique New Forest character of his time.

Having been counted in every census since his birth, Henry/Harry/Brusher disappears for the 1891 census – presumably living too deep and too obscurely in the Forest to be found. However by 1901, he was sufficiently celebrated that Lyndhurst enumerator George Charles White sought him out at his hut at Withy Wood, Lyndhurst, to record his details. Harry informed Mr White that he was a single man aged 61, and that his occupation was ‘New Forest Snake Catcher’. He gave his birthplace as Emery Down, Lyndhurst. It was said that he was a tolerably genial old soul in his veteran years.

Brusher’s younger brother George had several children, with his wife Elizabeth Drodge; one of whom Marie Adelaide Mills – Brusher’s niece – married Joseph Jones, who worked as a Crown labourer for the Woods and Forest Department. Marie and Joseph settled at Elsham Cottage, Queen’s Road, Lyndhurst and had six children. One of their daughters Sylvia Nancy Jones, married Arthur J. Puckett, and lived at Gardener’s Cottage, Rushington Lane, Totton. In 1964, Sylvia composed a ballad about her great uncle, Brusher. In 1978, having moved to Exeter, Devon, Sylvia found a local folk singer to record the song; but its release didn’t trouble John Travolta and Olivia Newton John at the top of the pop charts. A copy of ‘The Ballad of Brusher Mills’ is listed amongst the holdings of the New Forest Heritage Centre.

In an earlier age, Brusher might have accrued myths, and shed facts, to fade into legend. As a son of the 19th Century, there are sufficient reliable records of his life that he remains a genuine New Forest character, with a meaningful Bournemouth connection.



Miscarriage and Disorder – Poole in the 1680s Part 2

At the end of the last post on the blog (A Sanctuary to Debtors and Criminals) we left Poole with its charter suspended by a writ of Quo Warranto and without a proper mayor or corporation. A number of loyal Dorset gentlemen had helped to bring this about by describing the inhabitants of Poole as unruly, disaffected, rebellious, unfit, corrupted and dangerous. In November 1684, it was ordered that unless the town’s representatives appeared in court the following term to defend their charter, a judgement might be entered against them. They did not appear, and so the case against the town took its course.

On February 6th1685, Charles II died. The king’s measures to stifle opposition proved successful and the accession of his brother James to the throne passed without problems. On 16th March came the first mention in the Poole Record Book of Poole’s new mayor, John Wyndham, appointed by commission (rather than election). Allen Skutt, as a local man of suitable loyalty, was made deputy mayor. Wyndham probably did not play a very active role as mayor. From May, when King James’s parliament assembled, he was kept busy as M.P. for Salisbury and a member of several parliamentary committees. Poole’s M.P.s were William Ettrick (who as we know had an extremely low opinion of the town he represented) and Thomas Chafin esq., another loyal pair of hands.

Local inn sign Verwood

On 11th June, Charles II’s illegitimate son, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth landed at Lyme Regis to challenge his uncle to the throne. In a long declaration, he described James as a tyrant and usurper and portrayed himself as the champion of the protestant religion. Several thousand local men flocked to his support but many of them were untrained and poorly armed. While the king was gathering his forces, Monmouth was mainly opposed by local militia regiments, one of which was led by John Wyndham. After initial success in western Dorset and Somerset, Monmouth was defeated at Sedgemoor on 6th July by the king’s army. Monmouth himself escaped from the battlefield but, according to legend, was discovered hiding under an ash tree near Verwood. He was executed on 15th July at Tower Hill. The campaign had lasted less than four weeks.

Sir George Jeffreys

Very few Poole men were involved in the rebellion, perhaps because it was over so quickly. The aftermath took much longer, with the rebels being hunted down and put on trial at the autumn assize, nicknamed the ‘bloody assize’, presided over by Judge George Jeffreys. At Dorchester the trials were held over about four days during which time over 300 cases were heard. Around 74 people were executed and 175 transported, the first executions taking place while the trials were still in progress. To drive the message home, some of the condemned were taken to other Dorset towns, including Poole to be hung, drawn and quartered. Parts of the executed rebels were then boiled in salt, tarred for preservation and sent out to smaller towns to be hung up in public places. A letter from Allen Skutt as deputy mayor to the constable of Upper Lytchett is preserved in the archives. He asks the constable ‘to take into yor Care and Custody Two Quarters of the several psons this day Executed for High Treason within this Town and County . . . And to affix them and put them on poles or Spykes in the most notable and Convenient places’.

A reconstruction of Poole Town House and Court  by Graham Smith

The events of 1685 must have done little to heal the divisions in the nation or in Dorset. A draft document in the Poole archives entitled ‘The State of the Towne of Poole in Dorsett as it now stands in Aprill 1686’, gives us more clues about what was happening locally. One of the complaints against Poole by some Dorset gentlemen was that it was difficult to get satisfaction in a Poole court, particularly for the settlement of debts. (This complaint is hard to prove but would be of a piece with the corruption in the town revealed by William Culliford’s investigation into smuggling a couple of years before.) After Poole declined to appear at the Court of King’s Bench early in 1684, the holding of the Quarter Sessions and other courts stopped completely. At this point ‘the Sheriff of Dorsett by virtue of a writt directed to him seized the saide towne into the King’s hands to the great satisfaction of the County, many of them having considerable debts owed to them from divers of the Towne’. King Charles granted a commission to several Dorset gentlemen to allow the Quarter Sessions to be held twice during the remainder of his reign. When he died, however, this ceased and according to the document ‘in the now King’s reign there hath been nothing done noe Sessions no courts kept by the Mayor.’

Poole’s situation was now dire. The mayor and sheriff were advised that their authority had ceased ‘either by the death of the late king or by the judgment uppon the Quo Warranto’. Trade in Poole was said to be almost lost because of ‘miscarriage and disorder’. Common justice was no longer available through Poole courts. Some had resorted to violence to settle their grievances. Nicolas Cobb had been attacked with a rapier and dangerously wounded, and a visiting attorney, John Willis, was said to have been beaten up in what sounds like a premeditated assault.

At this low point, it would be interesting to get an idea of opinion within the town itself to balance the chorus of criticism, but no such information has come to light so far. The 1686 document seems to be written with the interests of Sir John Webb, lord of the manor of Canford and Poole, in mind. It mentions his ancient right to hold a Court Leet in the town, to charge chief rent and to receive Poole’s petty customs, keyage and cellarage dues. It also states that the ballast quay (which earned the town a useful £40 a year) had been built ‘on a piece of wast ground piece of the Manor of Canford and Poole belonging to Sir Jo: Webb and done without his consent’. Others keen to express their views were ‘his Majties good subjects of Dorsett’ who urged again that Poole should no longer be a county. Sir John did hold his Courts Leet in Poole and tried to resurrect the ancient right of the lord of the manor to appoint the town mayor from a short-list of candidates, but this was successfully resisted by the townspeople.

Meanwhile the king’s policies were causing increasing opposition and discontent. James’ heirs had long been his two Protestant daughters, Mary, married to William, Prince of Orange, and Anne. Now James’ second wife, Mary of Modena, gave birth to a son and heir, and the prospect of a Catholic dynasty caused dismay to many. Some leading statesmen began to communicate with William and an invitation was sent to him to come to England and take the throne. By September 1688, the likelihood of a Dutch invasion was generally known.

On 15th September, Poole received a new charter from the king. It started by describing how Poole’s liberties and honours had been taken away ‘by reason of a certaine Rebellion and ill Government’ of the former mayor and officers, and the town had been taken into the king’s hands. Now its rights were to be restored including its status as a county separate from Dorset. This must have been welcome news, but further on were some much less acceptable clauses. The king reserved the right to remove the mayor, recorder, sheriff and other officers at any time and to require the town to elect or appoint others nominated by himself, thereby removing the town’s independence. This was a real sticking point for Poole’s leading citizens, and they refused to accept the charter, aware that James’s hold on the throne was about to be challenged.

William and Mary

William of Orange landed on 5th November at Brixham with 35,000 men, a large force but still outnumbered by James’s army. At this critical time, the States of Holland and the Princess of Orange needed to send ‘several packets of great consequence’ to William and looked for any English ship’s master in port at Rotterdam who would be willing to act as a messenger. Most refused, being only too aware of the Monmouth episode and its aftermath three years before. The only one to agree was Thomas Hyde, the master of a Poole ship. His wife Elizabeth went to the Hague to meet the princess and receive the packets, with the promise that she and her family would be rewarded. Elizabeth Hyde was the daughter of Poole clay merchant, Thomas Cornell, a woman of courage and an astute businesswoman in her own right. On their arrival back in Poole, she set out with the papers quilted in her clothes, ‘went thro several of King James’s troops & about 30 miles from Pool met the Prince of Orange & delivered into his own hands the letters’. A pension of £50 a year was later awarded to the Hydes for their service.

James’s resistance to the invasion was undermined by desertions from his army and declarations of support for William from leading noblemen. He did not engage with William’s army and after one abortive attempt to flee, was allowed to leave the country on 23rd December and go into exile in France. In the last weeks before he left, the king conceded a new charter for Poole, dated 8th December 1688, releasing the mayor and corporation from the judgement upon the Quo Warranto and restoring all their previous rights and privileges including the right to elect and appoint officers as before. The mayor and other officers in post at the time of the Quo Warranto were all returned to office. The new charter was obtained through the influence of Sir Nathanial Napier of More Crichel who was to become Poole’s M.P. in 1689. It was brought to the town by Sir Nathaniel on 24th December to be read out and for the restored officeholders to be sworn in once more. After five years of uncertainty, that Christmas must have been one to celebrate in Poole.


Main sources: Allen Skutt’s letter – DC-PL/C/H/7 (Dorset Hist. Centre) / The State of the Towne of Poole 1686  – MB/CIV/7 (Poole Museum Collections) / Sydenham, John, History of the Town and County of Poole 1839 / Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, James II


A Sanctuary to Debtors and Criminals? – Power Politics and Poole in the 1680s

The 1680s were tumultuous years for the country and a traumatic period for Poole. In 1682 and 1683, William Culliford visited the town to investigate the integrity of the Poole custom service, and found corruption within the service that went all the way to the top (see ‘Contraband and Corruption’ on this blog). At the end of his investigations he dismissed many of the senior customs officers, but he had no powers to act against the merchants involved, some of whom were aldermen and magistrates.

James, Duke of York

On the national scene, there was fierce division between the loyalist Tories and the Whigs, who had campaigned for the exclusion from the succession of the king’s brother James, a Catholic convert. Rumours of conspiracies were rife and the Rye House Plot against the lives of Charles and James was foiled early in 1683. Having seen off plots and exclusion threats for the moment, the king took steps to control opposition in the country. One measure was to pressurise boroughs to surrender their charters. Charles could then grant fresh charters containing new clauses giving him the right to appoint and dismiss key office holders and ensure that towns and cities across the country were led by men loyal to his interests. Many boroughs agreed to this process, but a few did not, and Poole was amongst them.

Under what warrant . . .?

Poole’s local government operated through a series of charters, the latest of which had been granted by Charles II himself in 1667, following his visit to Poole in 1665. This charter confirmed all the rights granted in previous charters including Poole’s status as a county, granted by Queen Elizabeth in 1568. The king reserved to himself the right to approve the appointment of the town clerk and recorder. Now, through defiance or perhaps naivety, the town decided to resist the attack on its ancient rights and privileges. The result of Poole’s refusal to surrender its charter was a writ of Quo Warranto issued against the town in June 1683, demanding to know under what warrant or authority it exercised its powers and in effect suspending them, pending judgement in court.

Extract from the 1667 charter

On 19th September mayor James Hallybread and the Corporation produced a humble petition to the king thanking God for his preservation from the ‘Late Barbarous and Bloody conspiracy’ and assuring him of the town’s loyalty. They begged that he would not ‘Ruine soe Ansient (and may wee prsume to say itt) Loyall Corporacon . . . for the Miscarriages of some few Disaffected prsons’ and asked him to continue the town’s ancient liberties, reserving to himself the right to approve the appointment of the main office holders. The delivery of the petition was entrusted to Benjamin Skutt, member of a leading Poole family, now a prosperous merchant in London. Skutt’s letter to the Poole corporation on 4th October described how the petition was received. Having obtained an audience with the king at his council ‘wee Acquaynting him wth the Occasion of our Attendance uppon our knees Delivrd the Addresse into his Majts hands’.  A clerk read out the petition to the king who gave a ‘Gratious Answer’, that he would tell the Attorney General to settle the matter as they prayed for. So, all seemed to be well. The charter was referred to the Attorney General to make the needed changes, Benjamin Skutt offered to see to the completion of the matter in London and the grateful Poole corporation promised to reimburse him for any costs incurred. It was not to be so easy, however.

The inhabitants are so universally corrupted . . .

It turned out that there were plenty of groups and individuals in Dorset who were happy to condemn Poole as disloyal and rebellious and see it deprived of authority. Even as Benjamin Skutt was presenting the petition, William Ettrick, of Holt Lodge near Wimborne, was writing to London. He was the son of Anthony Ettrick who had retired in 1682 after 20 years as Poole’s recorder. He assured the authorities that the county was loyal ‘except in Poole, where the late conspiracy, the Quo Warranto against them or any other means have not made the least amendment. The people there have so long lived with impunity from the laws by reason of their being a county and being sure of true Protestant juries that they . . . are resolved to defend themselves to the last.’ He went on to explain that the town planned to use the revenues of their ballast quay (£40 a year) to pay for their defence against the Quo Warranto. Might it be feasible, Ettrick asked, to remove the ballast quay and give the license and the revenues to someone else? There were two ‘very honest and loyal gentlemen’ that he had in mind, Alderman Skutt and Mr. Draycott.

The ballast quay at Hamworthy (marked X), from a map of 1751

Poole had been granted a licence in 1664 for the mayor, or someone deputised by him, to manage everything relating to ballast, so as to prevent unregulated dumping of ballast in the harbour. A group of Poole merchants had paid over £125 (borrowed at interest) to erect a ballast quay at Hamworthy. This was quite an elaborate affair with stages, winding tackle and blocks, a ‘Crabb wth barrs’ and a small house to heat pitch for the careening of vessels. Over the years, the ballast quay had become quite a good earner for the town which is why it was now a target. Alderman Skutt was probably Allen, nephew of Benjamin and son of William Skutt who according to Ettrick ‘was in arms for the king and before the restoration had a commission from his Majesty to raise a regiment’. Francis Draycott was the agent for Sir Robert Clayton’s alum works on Brownsea Island.

Other voices were raised against Poole. In January 1684, a petition was received in London from the justices and Grand Jury of Dorset against the incorporation of Poole ‘and especially against making it a county . . . which has always been of the greatest inconvenience to co. Dorset, the said town having never afforded persons fit to put the laws in execution within it, which has always been a sanctuary to debtors and criminals. By the long settling of a Nonconformist preacher in their church, who has kept alive in them their old rebellious principles, the inhabitants are so universally corrupted that it will be impossible to find loyal men to support a corporation therein.’ The Dorset gentlemen were asking that when the judgement (as they hoped) went against the town, the king should grant it no special privileges and particularly that it’ be not again created a county’. The fact that Poole had a nonconformist preacher was another point against it, as nonconformists were seen unruly and potentially disloyal. The preacher in question was probably Samuel Hardy, a controversial figure, beloved by many but detested by others, who was ejected from the Poole living in 1682. Allen Skutt was one of those who had complained about him, that he did not wear the surplice, omitted the sign of the cross in baptism and ‘did divers other things contrary to the rules of the church of England’.

With bad press like this, it is not surprising that the king and his council changed their minds on Poole’s charter. A summary of the progress of the case in the state papers hints at behind the scenes deals. It says that Benjamin Skutt acted for the town in return for the settling of a dispute between the authorities and his nephew (presumably Allen) and ‘as it is said, on their promise of choosing him their member of parliament.’ It also states the first draft of Poole’s petition was ‘filled with false protestations of loyalty but without a word of submitting their charter’. Benjamin judged that this would not be acceptable and drew up a new version himself to present to the king. Whether this was true or not, the Dorset Tories were keen to point out that ‘things have been misrepresented to his Majesty’ and ‘there are not honest men enough in the town for magistrates and officers or, if there were, there is no loyal party to stand by them’.

The writ of Quo Warranto was not withdrawn and in November 1684 it was ordered that unless the town’s representatives appeared in court in the Spring, judgement would be entered against them.

Disaffected and unruly people

An undated and anonymous document recently acquired by the Dorset History Centre appears to relate to this period. It is addressed to Lord North, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, and lists points to bolster the case against the town. The first item concerns Poole’s defences. The ancient fortifications consisted mainly of the towngate, ditch and walls, constructed in the 15th century. They had served the town well when it was a garrison for parliament during the Civil War, but from the 1650s onwards various orders had been issued for them to be demolished. A warrant of 1665 ordered ‘immediate completion of demolishing the works at Poole, levelling the fences, ramparts etc.’ and according to the document, two Dorset Grand Juries had since pressed for their removal. The fact that at least part of the defences still existed in the 1680s, could be seen as evidence of the disobedient and rebellious nature of the townspeople.

Poole’s defences shown in a map of c, 1634

The second point concerns the ballast quay. The author says that he has petitioned the king that ‘there being now no mayor’ he could deputise someone else to take over the management of ballast, along with its revenues and as a candidate for this, he suggests ‘our Mr Draycott’. The fact that there is no functioning mayor seems to date the letter between November 1683 when James Hallybread last signed himself as mayor in the Corporation Order Book, and March 1685, the date of the first mention of the new mayor. The third paragraph of the document deals with a proposed candidate for mayor. The writer asserts that ‘there being in Poole a great number of disaffected and unruly people it will be impossible to keep them quiet without making Col. Wyndham Mayor by Commission’. John Wyndham was a suitably loyal Wiltshire gentleman, M.P. for Salisbury and colonel of militia. As Collector of Customs, the writer proposes Mr Constantine, presumably Henry Constantine of Merley, the son of Poole’s one-time recorder, ‘his competitor Skutt being allso notoriously unfitt.’  Whether this was Allen Skutt is unclear but it sounds as if the writer thought him just as bad as the rest of the Poole population.

Extract from the document

For the time being the town found itself in legal limbo. The Mayor elect, William Phillips, could not take office and neither could any of the other officials for what would normally be the start of a new mayoral year. How could the town manage its finances, charge port dues, collect rents, raise taxes, pay workers, take care of the poor, elect officers and burgesses, hold court sessions, in fact carry out any of its normal functions without the powers to act? Would the town have to submit to the direction of an unelected mayor and officers?

To be continued . . .


Main sources: The text of the Quo Warranto, Poole’s petition and the correspondence with Benjamin Skutt is written in the Poole Record Book 1589-late 18th cent. (DC-PL/B/1/1/1 (in Dorset History Centre with a copy in the Poole History Centre). / Calendar of State Papers, Domestic. Charles II 1684-4, 1684-5.


Who, What & Where Answers

I hope you knew some or all of the answers. Here they are:

Lady Cornelia

  1. When Augustus John leased Alderney Manor in 1909, his landlady was Lady Cornelia, wife of Lord Wimborne of Canford. (She signed the lease for her husband who was then described as ‘mentally infirm’). In earlier years they had both been involved in good works locally and Lady Cornelia was responsible for the founding of Poole Hospital.
  2. The 17th century house referred to is Hamworthy Manor (also known as Hamworthy Rectory), one of the few local buildings to survive reasonably intact from this period. It is situated behind Hamworthy Library next to the grounds of Carter Community School.
  3. This is a description of Brownsea Island from Mate’s ‘Dorsetshire Illustrated 1900’ (Chantry Press 1986). The clay deposits were worked to make bricks and pipes by two owners of the island, Colonel Waugh and Mr. Cavendish Bentinck, but eventually proved unprofitable. The description was written after the fire which destroyed the castle in 1896.
  4. The natural scientist Alfred Russel Wallace lived in Parkstone before moving to Broadstone where he died in 1913. He developed theories about evolution at the same time as Darwin and was in correspondence with him. Wallace’s grave in Broadstone Cemetery is marked by a fossil tree.
  5. The ruins of ‘Simpson’s Folly’ were at one time quite a visitor attraction at Canford Cliffs. It was built close to the sea in the 1880s by a Poole sea captain (presumably of the name of Simpson) and was one of the earliest concrete houses in the area. Unfortunately, the ground gave way beneath the foundations within days and it was eventually blown up as an unsafe structure. The ruins remained well into the 20th century.
  6. This extract from ‘The Crystal Cabinet’ by Mary Butts describes Sandbanks as she knew it in her childhood in the 1890s. High Horse Manger was the name given to the highest sand dune of all.
  7. Woodes Rogers was the Poole born sailor who made his name by circumnavigating the globe in 1708-11 and later writing about his adventures. During his voyage he rescued Alexander Selkirk who had been stranded on a deserted island (initially at his own request). Selkirk’s story was later fictionalised by Defoe in ‘The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe’. Rogers served two terms as governor of the Bahamas but found his time in office financially ruinous.
  8. Poole’s pre-historic port, the so-called Green Island causeway, was constructed just inside the harbour entrance between Cleavel Point and Green Island in the mid to late Iron Age. It consisted of two massive moles or jetties, one extending from the mainland and one from the island, with a deep water channel flowing between them. A rise in sea level gradually made the port structures no longer viable and when the Romans arrived, they made their port at Hamworthy.
  9. This is a description of the 17th century Quay from Henry Harbin’s house in the east to the quay head in the west. A few interesting details are mentioned such as the wall used for heating pitch and the steps in the middle. A similar description in 1558 mentions James Measurer’s house being at the east end of the Quay. His daughter Edith married George Dackombe and one of their daughters, Mary, married Henry Harbin so this is probably the same house which came to them by inheritance.
  10. John Le Carré (real name David Cornwell) was the writer, born in Poole, who drew on his time in the foreign service to write his famous spy stories such as ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’ and ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’.
  11. On 21st June 1988, an explosion in a chemical store stated a massive fire at BDH which fortunately did not turn into a major disaster. The black cloud of smoke, billowing flames and exploding chemical drums were certainly dramatic as I can bear witness, having had a bird’s eye view over the rooftops from the windows of the reference library.
  12. Poole Park was opened in 1890 and since that time has provided local people (and birds) with a marvellous facility to enjoy, especially during the recent weeks of restrictions. Its station and cafés are still closed but life is now beginning to return to some sports facilities.
  13. Louie Foote (later Louie Dingwall) was a woman of great energy and many talents who helped to develop the community at Sandbanks. As a woman in the 1920s she was unusual in setting up and running a number of businesses including training racehorses on the sands. She had been a trainer for years before the law allowed her to get a licence in her own name.
  14. The old town beam was constructed and set up in 1947 as a replica of the balance used to weigh goods coming through the port. Some of the iron structure may have been original. The plaque fixed to the front quoted from the old regulations in the Poole archives.
  15. This couldn’t be anything else but Old Harry Rocks!

Who, What & Where

What is nearly 150 years old, was built by Ransomes and Rapier and allows you to pass even when the gates are closed? Answer: the High Street footbridge over the railway. Can you identify the following people, places and things from the descriptions?  they are all connected to Poole and the pictures may give a few clues (or they may not!)

  1. Once Augustus John’s landlady, she and her husband had a luxurious lifestyle but were also extremely charitable. Their generosity helped to provide Poole with churches, schools, a golf course, park and hospital.
  2. It was built in the 17th century in a Flemish gabled style and was temporally confiscated from its Royalist owner during the Civil War. It may have been used for nursing wounded soldiers and once housed clergymen and their families. It now sits between a secondary school and a modern library.
  3. It is about five miles in circumference, and besides its many attractions of wood and dell, breezy moor and sequestered valley, it has a distinct commercial value in its beds of clay (one of which, a white clay, is nearly 50 ft. thick). At one time it belonged to Cerne Abbey and is said to have been the dwelling-place of a hermit. Sombre fir woods clothe its sides, and at its extreme eastern point stands, in majestic solitude, its now burnt out and partially destroyed castle. (Description of 1900)
  4. He lived in Parkstone and Broadstone and although largely self-taught, was the author of many books and contributed to a scientific theory of great importance. His grave marker is around 146 million years old.
  5. Built of concrete it became a landmark of the Canford Cliffs shoreline and its ruins demonstrated the folly of building on sand.
  6. A pale sand and couch-grass wilderness, honeycombed with rabbits; and the tallest dune, High Horse Manger, a two-hundred foot slide on a tea-tray into the soft, pure drift at its foot, now levelled down for a planting of bungalows, in winter derelict, their blind windows silting up with the ceaseless spin of the sand. (Description of 1890s)
  7. A native of Poole, the account of his exploits during a voyage of 1708-11 was a best seller and his rescue of a stranded sailor inspired a famous novel. He was a successful colonial governor but ended his career in poverty.
  8. Built of thousands of wooden stakes and paved with stone slabs this structure was state of the art at the time of construction but old before the Romans came. One arm was 55m x 8m and the other 160m x 8m, surely a source of admiration to all who docked there.
  9. ‘It is 192 feet long, beginning at the dead wall, commonly used for heating pitch, adjoining to Henry Harbin’s house and land, and WSW to the head thereof, with a pair of stone steps about the middle, being in depth at the said head, 42 feet.’ (Adapted from a description of c.1660)
  10. His grandfather was a Poole alderman and he taught at Eton before joining the foreign service. He is best known for his novels revealing the sordid and treacherous world of international espionage.
  11. It melted the chrome on cars parked nearby, threw chemical drums hundreds of feet into the air and sent a huge cloud of toxic smoke billowing out to sea but fortunately caused no serious injury.
  12. A favourite with local birds, it is 130 years old. Its 90 acres are at least two thirds water, but it also contains roads, a station, bridges, cafés, flowers beds, trees and sports facilities.
  13. She made a great contribution to the development of a popular area of the town. In her remarkable career she set up a motor bus service, ran a hotel and garage and became one of the first women to become licenced as a racehorse trainer.
  14. This replica was probably 70 years old and may have incorporated original ironwork. After decades of sea winds, it succumbed to a storm and has disappeared from the scene. We hope it will return as a reminder of the balance of trade in the port.
  15. Carved into the rock by the action of the sea at the eastern end of the Jurassic coast the formation is named after a pirate, or the devil himself.

Isolation Quiz Answers

I hope you got all or some of the answers and I’m sorry if I’m telling you things you already know. Here are the solutions plus any extra details or stories:

  1. A section of a Welcome to Poole, Dorset sign, now in the Museum. A number of these were made in the 1950s by Poole Pottery and put up at the boundaries of Poole. The only one I know which is still in place is one near the Sandbanks ferry.
  2. A Horse-drawn fire engine of the Poole Fire Brigade in the Museum collection. Ernest Bristowe describes a similar engine in his book Poole Was My Oyster’. ‘The Poole fire engine was stored in King Street, a horse-drawn vehicle manned by a volunteer brigade. The procedure was to take two horses from any garbage vehicle which was near to the station and men, horses and engine were ready in a very short time.’ He describes a fire in Sandbanks in 1913 which threatened a camp of closely packed tents.‘The engine passed me in Sandbanks Road as I was cycling to the camp, nine men on board wearing brass helmets and axes hanging from their belts and the captain resplendent in a silver helmet. The men were seated three a side on the body of the engine, with the captain in front beside the driver who brandished a whip. Strapped to the rear of the vehicle was Tommy Phillips, all five feet of him, whose job was to stoke the fire that raised the steam in the boiler to run the pumps. . . . The driver urged his charges to greater effort but it was the horses that were the heroes of the day . . . foaming at the mouth, their manes matted with sweat, they charged on.’
  3. The Ceiling in Scaplen’s Court in the room known as the parlour chamber. This is thought to date from the 15th century, which would make it the oldest surviving  ceiling in the house. It is possible that this part of the house was originally open from the ground floor to the ceiling. The floor is made up of boards arranged in squares to a 16th century design and the fireplace has graffiti initials and dates, some from the 17th century.
  4. A Dutch cockerel bowl, probably one of several found during the excavation on the corner of High Street and Old Orchard, dating from the late 17th to early 18th century. The colourful cockerel  seems to have been popular design throughout the 17th century. These examples were found in a pit near the site of Peter Hiley’s house where King Charles II was entertained to dinner on 15th September 1665. It may even have come from the house and been seen by the king on his visit – or is that a stretch too far?
  5. The date on the front of Scaplen’s Court marking the reconstruction of the front range of the building after sixty years as a ruin. The reconstruction was done as far as possible with appropriate materials and methods. The restored part of the building contains an entrance hall on the ground floor and a large function room above with a modern stained glass window.

    The Upper Room

  6. The Poole logboat found off Brownsea Island in 1964 dates from around 300 BC and therefore takes the history of navigation in the harbour back about 23 centuries. It had already been sunk in the mud for a couple of centuries when the Romans arrived in Britain. The boat was hollowed out of a single oak trunk and is about 10 metres long, the largest such boat found in southern England. After 30 years in a tank of water, the boat was finally conserved in a sugar solution before being dried out. The view shows the stern which has a slot for a transom.
  7. A carved medieval head from the old Ship Inn, which was on the site of the Museum. The building was thought to date from the 15th century and its first floor originally consisted of one large room with a hammer beam roof, each beam ending in a carved head. Before it became an inn the building was a warehouse, known as the Paradise cellar with its ceiling probably concealed by an added loft. Before that, the function of the building is unknown but it must have been important because of its prime position on the Great Quay. The Ship Inn was demolished by Messrs Oakley, corn and seed merchants, around 1870 before they built a new grain store (now the Museum) on the site. Several of the carved heads were saved and are now in the Museum collection. So the mystery associated with the heads is what events or proceedings did they witness during the first 200 years of their existence?
  8. ‘The Doler’  a portrait by Henry Lamb of an anonymous Poole man, on display in 2019 as part of the ‘Out of the Shadows’ exhibition of his work. Times were hard in the 1920s when Lamb lived in Poole and Poole had its share of unemployment. The story is that the young man pestered Lamb, considering him a member of the privileged classes, and eventually the artist agreed to do the portrait more or less to keep him quiet. It would be interesting to know who the sitter was and what happened to him.

    Henry Lamb self portrait also on show in the exhibition

  9. A carved face from the rudder of the Swash Channel Wreck. The ship is believed to be the Fame from Hoorn in northern Holland which was wrecked at the mouth of the harbour in 1631. Taking shelter from a storm, the ship dragged her anchor and ended up on the sands where she began to break up. The crew all escaped to Poole.The rudder which is 8 metres long lay on the sea bed for nearly 400 years before it was raised, conserved and put on show in the Museum with other examples of carving from the wreck.
  10. The view through the upstairs back window of Scaplen’s Court, showing the sundial in the garden. Not long after the house was opened as a museum in 1929, the garden was designed in an old world style by garden designer and plantsman George Dillistone who worked on the gardens at Castle Drogo. More recently the Scaplen’s Court garden has been revitalised by volunteers as a herb and physic garden.
  11. A blocked up window and modern steps in the Poole History Centre. If the planned refurbishment of the town cellars building goes ahead, the original features of the building can be high-lighted and modern additions removed.
  12. View through the rear ground floor window of 10, Hill Street, shown in the Henry Lamb painting ‘The Tea Party’  which was part of the Lamb exhibition in 2019. The portrait is believed to be of the artist Stanley Spencer.
  13. Detail from ‘Washing Day’ by Augustus John showing Dorelia McNeill in the garden of Alderney Manor, Poole. Dorelia is wearing a typically colourful and unconventional outfit. This was one of the paintings on display in the Augustus John exhibition ‘Drawn from Life’ in 2018.
  14. A curfew on display in the Museum. Curfews were used to cover a fire at night and this one was found in an excavation in Thames Street, in pieces but fairly complete. It may have come from somewhere else in the town because the site was infilled with rubbish
  15. A stuffed hornbill displayed in the 2016 exhibition ‘World of Wallace – Alfred Russel Wallace and his Life in the Field’.  Wallace studied these birds and wrote about them in his book ‘The Malay Archipelago’.
  16. The Poole History Centre sign on the wall of the town cellars, based on a Poole seal found on a document of 1325. The chosen image is probably the pride of Poole’s 14th century merchant fleet, a single masted, square rigged ship, showing several modern features for the period. For instance it has a rudder, rather than a steering oar and an early upper deck in the form of a forecastle and stern castle. These would be used for fighting in case of attack. The words round the seal read ‘Sigilum Commune de la Pole’ – common seal of Poole. The matrix of the seal is in the Museum collection.
  17. The lock-up behind the town cellars, traditionally known as the ‘Salisbury’. Whether this dates from the time when the Lord of the Manor of Canford and Poole was the Earl of Salisbury, I don’t know. References in the archives to the Salisbury go back as far as 1496 but the present building dates from 1820 as a date over the doorway shows.
  18. A coat of arms on the wall of Scaplen’s Court courtyard. In his 1949 guide to the house, H. P. Smith says: ‘Note the dates 1554 and 1729 and the initials WP (William Phippard ?). The earlier date, the second year of Queen Mary’s reign, doubtless marks the time when some forgotten Poole building was erected, while the latter was in all probability the year when Sir Peter Thompson, an ardent Poole antiquary, rescued the stone and had it built later on into the garden wall of his beautiful Georgian mansion in Market Street’. He goes on to say that the coat of arms was moved to its present position in 1931.
  19. Detail from the mural on the wall of the Poole History Centre. This was created by the artist Henry Haig for the National Westminster Bank in Kingland Road and shows a melange of images reflecting Poole, its history, buildings, transport and maritime connections. It was removed from the bank when it closed in 2015 and then it was a question of finding somewhere with a wall big enough to take it.
  20. Sea Music, a sculpture by the artist Sir Anthony Caro, specially designed for its quayside location and finished in 1991. This is the the artist’s only site specific piece of public art and it has divided local opinion from the start. It has recently been refurbished after a quarter of a century’s exposure to the sea air.
  21. A detail of a portrait of T.E.Lawrence in Arab dress, painted by Augustus John and on view in the 2018 exhibition. John was living in Dorset at the same time as Lawrence and also knew and painted Thomas Hardy.And that’s the lot. I hope I haven’t included any non deliberate mistakes but I can’t nip down to the History Centre to check anything at the moment (or that’s my excuse).


Isolation Quiz

This post comes with apologies to the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum for brazenly stealing their idea of a picture quiz of museum paintings. To pass an idle moment during enforced isolation see how many of the following you can identify. They are  images of Poole Museum buildings, structures, exhibits or paintings and in some cases, paintings from recent visiting exhibitions. Answers to follow in a week or so . . .

 1,2 & 3 4, 5 & 6
7, 8 & 9 10, 11 & 12 13, 14 & 15 16, 17 & 18 19, 20 & 21

Good luck!  Jenny            

Hamworthy – A Whereabouts Guide

Swirling round the George roundabout and up over the Towngate Bridge, it’s interesting to remember that you are flying over the place where, one night in late September 1643, 500 Royalist soldiers attempted to storm Poole’s ancient towngate. The Civil War was a year old and Poole was an isolated Parliamentarian stronghold in what was then a largely Royalist county. Lord Crawford, the local Royalist leader, had bribed a soldier of the Poole garrison, Captain Francis Sydenham to open the gate to the Royalist forces. However Sydenham had revealed the plot to Poole’s governor from the start.

Directly in front of the gate was a half moon, a defensive outwork with chains across its entrance which could be rapidly drawn up. On the chosen night, Sydenham blew a horn, the agreed signal. The silently waiting Royalists surged forward into the half-moon expecting to charge on into the town. Instead the gate was suddenly shut in front of them and the chains rattled up, catching them in a trap. A few seconds of confusion was shattered by a cacophony of noise, the thunderous detonations of guns, the rattle of musket fire from the walls and the shouts and screams of men and horses struggling to escape.

It was said that ‘divers cartloads’ of men died that night. Lord Crawford barely escaped with his life and the garrison captured some 20 prisoners, 50 horses and about 300 weapons belonging to the attackers. It was perhaps the most dramatic and tragic incident in the 250 years or so of the towngate’s existence. Today the location of the gate is marked by a couple of plaques on one of the supports of the present bridge, although all the surrounding landmarks have changed.

Thinking about this attack, made me wonder whether it would be interesting to try to pin down the location of other events or ‘lost’ buildings and structures that have played a part in Poole’s history – a very open-ended project! The following is a whereabouts guide to just a small selection of these in the Hamworthy area.

The towngate stood on Poole’s northern land boundary. Its southern land boundary crossed what is now lower Hamworthy since the tip of the Hamworthy peninsular was claimed as part of Poole. Whether this was originally for reasons of defense or commerce, I don’t know. On or near the boundary was a place called Broomhill, traditionally used for the annual open-air meetings of the Admiralty Court of Poole. The location is described in the 1611 court proceedings as being ‘att and verie close to the now Dwelling house of John Adams roaper in Hither ham . . . close to the banck of oare [seaweed] now invironing the same place’. The area had once been open land but had been enclosed ‘within theis fortie yeares’. At the 1613 court it was mentioned that when the land was open, the local people used it to ‘daylie hange and spread their lynen clothes to drye them in winter and summer’.

There was also an area or route in lower Hamworthy called ‘Maiden Way’ that I haven’t been able to locate, which might be associated with this trip out with the washing. In the 18th century, people perambulating the land bounds of Poole used to visit ‘Old Hart’s Grave’ the furthest westerly part of the boundary near Broomhill. According to John Sydenham this was where ‘one Hart, who hung himself in the town of Poole, about the year 1710 was buried.’ The laundry ground, the pile of seaweed and John Adams’ house and ropeworks have now long vanished as landmarks but at some point a stone was set up marking the spot of Broomhill. It was shown on Sir Peter Thompson’s map of Poole c.1751 and a replacement stone, dating from 1823, can be seen today in a little area set back on the south side of the road with an explanatory plaque nearby.

Another Hamworthy landmark was the fortification built on the tip of the peninsula and known as the bulwark. This was probably built around the same time as the blockhouse on Brownsea Island as part of Henry VIII’s coastal defences because it is shown on the 1539 ‘Bird’s Eye View of the Dorset Coast’. It was still there when the first street map of Poole was drawn up around 1634 and appears as a round stone tower or gun platform. There are frequent references to the bulwark during the Civil War but no descriptions of it that I have come across and it was probably swept away with the rest of Poole’s defences in the 1650s and 1660s. In the 18th century the area was modified for maritime industries and a new quay called the bulwarks was created, extending south from the end of the peninsula. The name is still used today and the site of the old bulwark is probably on the north side of the road, opposite the Freightliner Terminal.

Left: Bird’s Eye View 1539 showing the Towngate and (top right) the bulwark. South is shown at the top.        Right: Map showing the bulwark c.1634

Sir Peter Thompson Map c. 1751 showing lower Hamworthy. W= Shipwrights’ yards, X= Ballast Quay, Y= Bulwarks Quay, Z= Passage boat. A ropewalk is shown along the southern shore and the symbol of the Broomhill stone is just above this, below Ham Corner at the end of the road.

A passage boat has probably plied between lower Hamworthy and Poole Quay since medieval times. When the antiquary, John Leland visited Poole around 1540, he came ‘from Lichet to the Fery’ and crossed the passage to reach the town. It operated from the great quay near the town cellars to what is now Ferry Road on the Hamworthy side. In the 17th century, the passage service and passage house was leased out to individuals by the corporation at an annual rent of £6 to £7. The tenant was also responsible for the passage quay as shown in 1607 when a complaint was made against Jefferie Hudson that he had allowed the quay to lie ‘most ruinous’ and gravel and stone to fall into the sea and block up the channel. The passage boat was large, certainly big enough to hold a horse, as we know from a fatal accident in 1613 when Joseph Long was knocked into the water by a mare he was taking across and subsequently drowned. In his History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset, John Hutchins describes the passage boat ‘large enough to hold eighty persons, which continues to ply all day, and is hauled by a rope stretched from one side to the other, for which every family pays only 4d a year, and every stranger a halfpenny each time’.

Poole Quay from the Hamworthy shore

It was not until 1835 that a bridge was built to span the narrow waters between Hamworthy and Poole. This steep wooden bridge was replaced in 1885 by an iron swivel bridge, superseded in its turn by the 1927 lifting bridge which still remains. All three were more or less in the same position at the furthest west point of the Quay. The ferry boat continued to operate into the 20th century. Ernest Bristowe recalled that the boat was always crowded when the men of Hamworthy Engineering were going on shift. ‘The boat was wide and men used to jump from the Quay desperate to arrive on time. Occasionally someone would fall into the harbour, and I have been in the boat with the water within an inch or so of the top of the rail.’ The latest Twin Sails Bridge, opened in 2012, is located further round the shore at the southern end of Holes Bay, leading from the former Wilkins Way and connecting with Rigler Road on the Hamworthy side.

The Twin Sails bridge

Further up the Hamworthy peninsula are several other sites of historic interest. The Carew family owned land in Hamworthy from Tudor times and had a manor house at ‘Higher Ham’. At the beginning of the 17th century the head of the family was Henry Carew, a staunch Catholic who was often in trouble with the authorities and had some enemies locally. When the guns were fired at Poole Quay as part of the celebrations for the accession of James I in 1603, some of the shot landed dangerously close to Henry Carew’s house, breaking the branches of trees ‘to the great terror of [him], his wife and familie & to the great danger of beatinge downe [his] house’. He accused the merchant Edward Man as being responsible and even took his case to the Star Chamber but without success.

The present manor house is thought to date from the 1620s or 1630s and if so must have replaced the earlier house, but whether it was built on the same site is not known. The new house was of a striking Flemish style, one of the first large mansions locally to be built of brick. During the Civil War, the Carew estates were sequestered (temporarily confiscated) and it is believed that the attic room of the mansion was used to nurse wounded Parliamentarian soldiers. There is also a tradition that Oliver Cromwell once visited. The war damaged the fortunes of the Carew family and at the end of the century they sold their Hamworthy estate to Sir John Webb of Canford. The mansion house became a rather grand farm house and later Hamworthy’s rectory. It now stands sandwiched between Carter Community School and the modern Hamworthy Library.

In Henry Carew’s time, Hamworthy had a chapel, attached to the parish of Sturminster Marshall. The minister before the Civil War was Mathias Melledge who was later accused of being a go-between in the plot to betray Poole to the Royalists (which is where this article began). In the war, some of its stone was used to build a fort to protect the southern approach to Poole. Henry Carew’s tenant, Thomas Smedmore received compensation for ‘great losses by fortifications which were made upon his ground and by the rummage of his dwelling house’. We don’t know exactly where the fort was but, some shaped blocks found in the 20th century in the Rigler Road area may have been a remnant of it.

Hamworthy St Michael’s 1826

A description of the old chapel is given in The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset by John Hutchins, published in 1774 when the ruins were still standing: ‘The chapel stands at the east end of Higher Ham, near the mansion house, and appears to have been a small ancient fabric, consisting of a chancel, body and a small turret at the west end. It is 84 ft long by 17 and was ruined in the Civil Wars, and only the walls remain. The inhabitants bury in the chapel and chapel yard.’ A mound in the churchyard nearby was said to be the burying place of Parliamentarian soldiers. It was nearly 200 years later before the ruins of the old chapel were cleared and a new church built on the site. It was consecrated by the Bishop of Bristol in August 1826 and described in the newspapers as ‘a neat, even elegant structure, capable of accommodating five hundred persons’ in a delightful setting close to Holes Bay. This church was replaced by the present St. Michael’s church, built on adjacent ground in 1959.

There are many interesting locations in Hamworthy; these are just a few of them. I would love to hear any stories you know behind other places in the area and I hope to do another whereabouts guide in a week or so.


Main sources: Bristowe, Ernest, Poole was My Oyster 1998 / Hutchins, John, History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset, 1774 Smeaton Ann, A History of Hamworthy, facts, fables and folk, 2005 / Sydenham, John, History of the Town and County of Poole, 1839 / Maps: Bird’s Eye View of the Dorset Coast 1539, Pythouse Map of Poole c.1634, Sir Peter Thompson Map of Poole c.1751



Dung Hills and Disorderly Houses

Walking through Poole in the 1780s and ‘90s, especially at night, was a perilous business. A series of man-made hazards lay in wait for the unwary pedestrian, while the authorities fought a losing battle against the casual dumping of rubbish and other items in the streets. Some of the more noxious of these obstacles would have made their presence known from some distance away; other dangers would only be revealed by coming into painful contact with them.

A view of 18th century Poole

Poole’s success in the Newfoundland trade and increasing prosperity had brought people flocking to the town for employment and business opportunities. The Quay was lined with shipping. Reclamation of the shoreline, both legal and unofficial, was proceeding apace. Private quays, warehouses, boatyards and rope-walks were springing up and new houses appearing along the main streets. So many people packed into the old town produced a lot of rubbish and the scavengers employed to collect it struggled to cope, not helped by those who ignored the regulations and dumped their waste wherever was easiest. A list of presentments at the Court of Quarter Sessions between 1787 and 1791 gives an idea of the problem.

Corner of Levets Lane and Church Street

One of the most frequent charges was of making dung hills in the street. Mark Richards, for instance, was brought to court in 1788 for making a dunghill in Market Lane and Isaac Frampton and John Seally were accused of ‘throwing Dirt & Rubbish in the New Orchard’.  In 1789, Mrs Elizabeth Strong was charged with ‘throwing her Slops and Cinders & Filth in Levets Lane & also suffering her Trucks & Dunghills to remain there’. Other places to be avoided were Hill Street, Fish Street (now Castle Street), Cinnamon Lane, Perry Garden and Leglane (Lagland Street). Even the High Street and the Quay were not immune. The offenders came from all levels of society and included the Collector of Customs, John Lander, the Rector of Poole, the Rev. William Davis and leading Newfoundland merchants George Kemp and William Spurrier. The chief offender and Prince of dung heaps, however, was corn factor Joseph Garland who found himself in court eight times over the four year period. His favourite place for waste disposal was Hill Street but he also dumped rubbish in Leglane, Perry Garden and New Quay.

We can only guess at the composition of these rubbish heaps but they probably contained the sweepings of stables, barns and byres as well as market, household and industrial waste. With regular coach services, private carriages, carts and wagons, the town was home to many horses and other animals. There were also industrial premises such as breweries, slaughter houses, tanneries and tallow chandlers adding to the mix of waste. The state of the streets must have encouraged rats and other vermin and helped to spread disease such as the ‘putrid fevers and sore throats’ mentioned in the press in 1788.

Salisbury and Winchester Journal 14th April 1788

Thames Street, formerly Key Street

Dung hills were not the only obstructions left by Poole inhabitants in the streets and lanes. John Rowman’s offence was ’erecting a pigsty in Bell Lane’ which surely must have blocked this narrow alley off Fish Street completely. Carts and trucks were often left in the road, like Mary Frampton’s water cart found obstructing Perry Garden. Francis Perry, Isaac Frampton and cooper Adam Wadham were accused of leaving casks in Key Street, and John Hiscock, stone mason of ‘suffering Sand and Rubbish to remain opposite to his Stone Yard in Hill Street’. The landlord of the Antelope Inn, William Whittle left a ‘pavement’ opposite the gateway of the inn. An open space on the west shore known as West Butts Green seems to have been a popular dumping ground for timber which was also sometimes left at ‘Cutler’s Gallows’ at Baiter. Some particular items could only have be discovered on the streets of a seaport, like the ‘piece of a sloop at the corner of the Key’, abandoned by John Anderson and the anchor which William Barter left ‘in the road in the lower part of High Street’.

The authorities were also concerned about the state of some of the property in the town. In January 1788, Mr. Thomas Young Bird, draper and mercer (cloth merchant) was charged with ‘not providing a conveyance for the Water from the Lead Gutter of his House’. The house was probably in High Street near the present Orchard Plaza. Also in trouble for neglected guttering were the proprietors of the theatre in the lower High Street opposite the Antelope Inn. The charge was ‘that there is a Spout for conveying the rain from the top of the Theatre which descends upon the Heads of foot passengers passing thereby’. A few months later, the repairs had still not been made. Adam Wadham was accused of ‘suffering his shop to remain in a ruinous condition’ and Mary Pearce was summoned to court twice for letting her house in Strand Street become ’ruinous’.

Obtruding steps, No. 94 High Street

The town at night seems to have been both lively and dangerous. As well as the hazards of dung heaps and other items in the unlighted streets, there was the risk of falling down uncovered cellar steps, according to charges against the Widow Smith and Mr. William Young.  Pedestrians had to take care passing some houses (probably newly built) at the upper end of High Street, ‘for that the porches of the said Houses, stand out in the foot road to the great inconvenience and annoyance of passengers’. There was also the danger of falling into bad company. Mary, the wife of John Legg was presented in 1789 for ‘keeping a disorderly house in High Street and breeding riots’ and Mary Watson for ‘keeping a house of Ill fame at Bayter Green’. Another disorderly house was kept by Jane Weymouth in West Street. The nuisance these could present was made clear in the case of basket maker Benjamin Meade, accused of keeping a disorderly house and ‘rioting and Drinking to the Disturbance of the Neighbours and others particularly Saturday nights to Sunday mornings’.

The mansion house built by Sir Peter Thompson bought by George Kemp in 1788

Poole may have had fine mansions and houses, a Quay lined with warehouses and an elegant new Guildhall, but it also had a dark, dirty and disorderly side. As there was no  upper class quarter as in larger towns, the wealthy found themselves close neighbours with workmen and tradesmen. Everyone, whatever their status, must have had to pick their way through the frequently squalid streets. In fact it would be 100 years and several outbreaks of infectious disease later before people became really concerned about the health dangers of poor waste disposal and at last cleaned up their act.