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.







The Romans are Coming

H. P. Smith and boys beside an ancient kiln

Working in the Museum stores bagging and recording archaeological finds, we have just been working on a particularly historic dig carried out in Hamworthy in the 1920s by headmaster Harry P. Smith and pupils from South Road Boys School. It started when a Roman coin and some pottery was found on land belonging to Carter’s tile works and H. P. Smith got permission to dig some trial holes in an adjoining field. The finds suggested the existence of an ancient settlement on the Hamworthy shore. Over the next six years, the boys carried out a series of excavations and hundreds of artefacts were unearthed, dating from the Iron Age into the Roman period. Since those exciting discoveries, several fresh excavations have increased our knowledge of ancient Hamworthy.


On the eve of the Roman invasion, several small settlements and enclosed farmsteads with their round houses dotted the shores of Poole Harbour at Fitzworth, Middlebere, Cleavel Point, Shipstall, Hamworthy and elsewhere. The inhabitants belonged to the loosely federated tribe which archaeologists call the Durotriges and were farmers, fishermen, craftsmen and traders. Unlike some other tribes they still maintained their hillforts, some of which were inhabited while others seem to have been used as regional meeting places. They had recently developed a distinctive coinage, used for trading. For the coastal communities salt-making was a major occupation as shown by finds of large quantities of coarse orange salt pan fragments known as briquetage. There is also evidence for working of Kimmeridge shale. Most important of all was pottery making, a local success story since the products of the Purbeck and Poole Harbour potters were found throughout the Durotriges region where they had begun to supersede local types.

Base worked out of shale

The main port in Poole Harbour was originally at Cleavel Point, where large jetties had been built 200-300 years before between the mainland and Green and Furzey Islands, probably originally joined together. Rising sea levels had since created separate islands and reduced the viability of the facilities at Cleavel Point while making the rest of the harbour more accessible to sea-going ships. It was Hamworthy, with its deep water channel and good access to the hinterland, which developed as an alternative port. Finds of Armorican pottery from Gaul, amporae from the Mediterranean and other exotic goods show that active trading with the continent was taking place there. Unlike Cleavel Point, Hamworthy had no large port structures but ships were probably beached in a bay on the eastern side of the peninsula.

During his excavations, H.P. Smith found abundant evidence of late Iron Age Hamworthy including the traces of eight circular houses and deep ditches running across the site, probably for drainage. The soil filling the house foundations was full of animal bone, charcoal, pottery, flint scrapers and the remnants of clay heaths. The presence of iron slag, nails and other objects suggested metal working on the site.

Ever since the days of Julius Caesar a century before, the Romans had contemplated invading prosperous Britain. In 43 AD the invasion finally came with the landing near Richborough of four legions, perhaps 40,000 to 50,000 men, under the veteran commander Aulus Plautius. His first task was to subdue the tribes of the south east and prepare for the arrival of the Emperor Claudius to participate in the crossing of the Thames and the capture of the local capital, Camulodumum (Colchester). The emperor’s presence at this critical point meant that he could claim a military victory to add lustre to his career. When the emperor had left, Plautius could turn his attention to capturing further territory.

The Durotriges and other coastal tribes were probably well aware of the progress of the invasion but could do little except wait for events to unfold as Plautius sent his legions north and west. It was probably the II Legion Augusta under the future emperor Vespasian which attacked along the south coast, fighting 30 battles, capturing the Isle of Wight and 20 towns and defeating 2 tribes according to his biographer. One of these tribes must have been the Durotriges who seem to have retreated to their hillforts armed with slings and shot in a doomed attempt to stop the Roman advance. One by one their strongholds were overrun, being no match for the organised might of the Romans with their ballistae, mechanised catapults firing iron bolts. How long it took the Romans to reach Poole Harbour we do not know but it may have been a couple of years after the invasion. The small settlements around the harbour would have been in no position to oppose the incomers and were probably easily taken.

Operating in hostile territory, it was important to the Romans to secure their supply lines and it seems that they decided to use Hamworthy as a supply port for the next stage of their drive westward. Excavations in 2000 near the shore in Hamworthy revealed two sets of double ditches at right angles to each other, protecting the port on the landward side and enclosing a building which may have been a barracks. From here the Roman engineers laid out a road up the peninsular to a site at Lake Farm where a camp, later replaced by a fort, was constructed near a crossing of the River Stour. The line of the road was traced in the 1930s by H. P. Smith who also dug a cross section of it on Ham Common. It ran northwest up the peninsular before turning north to Corfe Mullen and Lake Farm, crossing the Stour and then running northwest to Badbury Rings. The flat top of the road was about 10 ft (3m) wide with a ditch on either side and it was constructed of layers of bracken and heather, clayey sand and then shingle topped with fine gravel. From here the Romans moved forward to mop up the Durotrigan strongholds including the largest of all at Maiden Castle, and continue their conquest of the west.

Road cross-section

Patterned Samian Ware including hare design

The coming of the Romans was a traumatic event for those who lived through it, but evidence suggests that Hamworthy had a prosperous existence after the invasion. The incomers provided a market for local produce of salt, pottery, stone and shale goods. Even after the military had moved on, the settlement, which was now connected to the wider Roman road network, may have continued as a port trading with the continent. In his excavations, H.P. Smith found imported pottery including Terra Nigra and Samian Ware from Gaul and many fragments of flagons and amphora, probably used for the import of wine or oil. The discovery of a kiln showed that pottery making continued and in fact locally produced Black Burnished Ware became popular all over Roman Britain. Other finds included Roman glass, loom weights, roof and flue tiles, pots of New Forest ware and a hoard of 3rd century Roman coins. A dig in 2003 discovered several burials from the Roman period.

New Forest Ware indented pot

Today, Hamworhty is still the location of the cross-channel port in Poole Harbour. The old Roman Road forms Poole’s western boundary for some miles. Since the time of H. P. Smith’s excavations there have been many finds in the Hamworthy, some chance discoveries and some the results of organised digs in advance of development. Although the area is now much more built up than in the 1920s, there may be still more to find there to tell us about its ancient past.


Photos taken by courtesy of Poole Museum



Gas Technology Update

Gas lighting came to Poole streets in the 1830s and then was gradually introduced into local homes. The agents of the change were the ironmongers who set themselves up as gas fitters to introduce this new technology. Gas burners were brighter than candles or oil lamps but brought new dangers of their own – hence this set of instructions from the Poole archives:-

Christmas Quiz Medley Answers

I hope you had a bit of fun with the quiz and did not find it too easy or too obscure (it’s hard to know when you’re compiling it). Here are the answers:Chain – Who or what?

Herbert Carter

Writer: John Le Carre / Square: Falkland Square / Island: Green Island / Jetty: Salterns Pier (subject of a court case between Poole Corporation and George Jennings) / Court case: the Tichbourne claimant case / Name: Granny Cousins / Woman: Lady Cornelia / Hospital: Baiter Isolation Hospital / Beach: Sandbanks / Bridge: rustic bridge, Poole Park / Naval HQ: Alcatraz building, Poole High Street / Head quarters: Royal National Lifeboat Institution /  Institution: Society of Poole Men (now the Society of Poole) / House: Beech Hurst, Poole High Street (or Sir Peter Thompson House, Market Close) / Coat of Arms: West Lodge, Poole Park / Pottery founder’s descendant: Herbert Carter.


Line 1: Bassett Green etc.  (Names of Poole Lifeboats).  Line 2: Gravel Hill / Broadstone / The Woodman / Sandbanks (All contain types of construction materials).  Line 3: Branksome 1893 etc. (Poole railway stations with their opening dates).  Line 4: Henry Price / Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon / Harry Peace Smith / Henry Farmer (All Henrys or Harrys).


The Lord Wimborne (old library)

Top row: Rolls coat of arms, on the pediment of Beech Hurst, Poole High Street / RLNI Memorial sculpture, West Quay / Old Town wall, St. Clement’s Lane / Date on the old lifeboat station, East Quay.

Bottom Row: Bay window, Lord Wimborne pub, Lagland Street / Blockhouse on Brownsea Island  / Gold medal awarded to Peter Jolliffe by William III in 1694, Poole Museum / Modern plaque near to Robert Rogers house, New Orchard with wording from the old plaque on Rogers’ Almshouses.

Best wishes for the New Year.



Christmas Quiz Medley

Here is our annual quiz offering and I hope you get some fun out of it. To make it easier to compile and solve (in theory) we have a mixture of quiz styles this year and the answers are local or festive. If you complete any of the sections, send me your answers at: to receive a PMS Christmas Quiz certificate!

(Note: you can print out the tree by clicking on it and then right clicking on the image.)

The Chain – Who or What around Poole?

A writer who called himself a square / A square named after islands / An island with a prehistoric jetty / A jetty that featured in a court case / A court case over a claim and a name / The name given to an early-rising woman / A woman who founded a hospital / A hospital beside a shingle beach / A beach with a nearby floating bridge / A bridge that was destroyed in wartime / The wartime Poole naval head-quarters / The head-quarters of a life saving institution / An institution set up to save a medieval house / A house surmounted by the family coat of arms / A coat of arms in terracotta from a local pottery / A pottery founder’s grandson who was a mayor and a writer.


Can you solve each set of clues and say what links them?


Can you identify these snippets?Good luck and happy Christmas.




Wartime Christmas 1917

Europe bitterly divided, war in Iraq, controversy over Jerusalem, suspicions over developments in Russia – is this 2017 or 100 years ago? Browsing the local newspaper in the run up to Christmas 1917, there are clear parallels with the situation today but also massive differences.

The year 1917 had been momentous, with the loss of over a million tons of shipping to U-boats, disasters for the French on the battlefield and terrible casualties at Passchendaele. One ray of hope for the allies was the U.S. declaration of war on Germany in April. The British were using new destructive tactics such as the detonation of huge mines at Messines Ridge and a mass tank attack at Cambrai. In Russia, the Tsar had abdicated and a Communist government was installed under Lenin. Jerusalem had been captured by the British, General Allenby entering the city on foot out of respect.

After three years of a terrible war, Poole people had become used to shortages, fear and loss. They were familiar with the names of distant places where their husbands, sons and brothers were serving and were eager for any scrap of war news. One grim feature of every edition of the Poole and Dorset Herald was the weekly Roll of Honour column, reporting injuries or deaths in action of local men. In contrast, up-beat letters from servicemen writing home were frequently printed. In early December, the newspaper contained a letter from the son of Mrs. Whitley of West Street serving with the Dorset Regiment in Mesopotamia who was having a rest after being in action. He had had ‘a warm time’ but he and another Poole man, Herb Rigler, had managed to get through without a wound although three or four Poole men had been killed or injured.

Not all the news was about the war. The Poole Sanitary Committee was debating the condition of houses in Old Orchard and Church Street in response to a report from the Medical Officer of Health. The owners had been served notices to give good reason why the defective premises should not be demolished. The Committee was also concerned about the White House Laundry which was emitting black smoke, and sceptical over the owner’s claim that he was having great difficulty obtaining smokeless coal. The laundry was not the only offender. Councillor Stevens complained that people were sometimes unable to see each other in East Street because of smoke from the gas works.

A community-wide effort to entertain the soldiers

A pleasant weekend had been spent by the soldiers at the Poole Soldiers’ Home. As one of them remarked when ‘taking a hot cup of coffee prior to starting out for a 16 mile cycle ride to camp’, “Whatever we fellows would do without this place, I can’t think.” The Sunday night social consisted of selections on the piano by Mr. Benboe of London and songs to the accompaniment of the auto-harp by Miss C. Reed and Miss Senior. The audience sang ‘O God our Help in Ages Past’ in memory of Lance Corporal Arthur Gritten of Maple Road, Poole. Donations to local hospitals for the benefit of wounded soldiers included socks, gloves, mittens, biscuits, apples and even bottles of pickles. Entertainment was also on offer at the Amity Palace of Variety with Miss Evelyn Brewster and Co. in a novelty all lady sketch entitled ‘The Real Lady Raffles’ and ‘star pictures’ including The Heart of Norah Flynn, a dramatic silent film starring Marie Doro and directed by Cecil B DeMille.

Scene from ‘The Heart of Norah Flynn’

Some Christmas spirit was appearing in Poole. The newspaper reported that ‘the purveyors of the good things of this life, in Poole as elsewhere, are beginning to exhibit their stores in great abundance and variety. The butchers as usual stocked to overflowing, make a most tempting display.’ (Although a 21 lb turkey sold in Wareham for £3 6s 0d provoked the paper into mutterings about ‘mugs’ and ‘excessive war profits’.) The International Stores was urging people to drink coffee for breakfast to help the Food Controller to cope with the shortage of tea, and the Borough Studio reminded customers not to forget the Boys’ Christmas: ‘have your photo taken now with Xmas Greetings, Special Price 4/- doz’.

Blake’s butchers

For most shops the theme of their Christmas advertisements was usefulness. S. M. Silverman of 60, High Street was offering ‘a fine selection of useful household requisites suitable for presents at prices within the reach of everyone’ while H.W. Jordan and Son, general drapers, proclaimed ‘Useful Xmas Presents’ and simply advised their readers to ‘see our windows’. Ladies’ outfitter, M. Prankard also felt that her coney and musquash coats, fur ties and muffs would be useful Christmas gifts.

Freddie Guest M.P.

On the political scene, the paper reported a speech made by Freddie Guest, the M.P. for East Dorset, to the House of Commons on behalf of the War Aims Committee. The third son of Lord Wimborne of Canford, Freddie Guest had been a regular soldier and returned to active service on the outbreak of war. In 1916 he received a D.S.O. for service in East Africa and then was invalided out with a serious illness. In his speech he defended the activities of the War Aims Committee which had been set up in industrial areas ‘where patriotic citizens asked the Government to take the platform from those who were holding it unpatriotically and against the interests of the nation’. Their work consisted of holding meetings and distributing literature, in fact acting as a propaganda organisation for the Government against disruptive elements. The committee was a cross-party body, not sectionalist and, he argued, did not cost very much considering its effectiveness, although it was not appropriate to disclose exactly how much.

In the December 20th edition of the paper, a Christian message was published under the headline ‘What shall Christmas be?’ The writer acknowledged the burden of celebrating a fourth wartime Christmas but maintained that the country had much to be thankful for. Britain had not lost the war and its shores had not been invaded ‘by the foot of a foul and murderous foe’. There was cause to celebrate because the country was fighting, sacrificing and dying for the very cause that ‘the Babe of Bethlehem was born to work out and fulfill’. (Would we see things in quite that way today?) The occupation of Jerusalem had made the story of Christ’s birth closer to us than ever before. Merriment might be inappropriate but quiet celebration was not and the paper concluded by wishing its readers all that Christmas means to ‘a Christian nation in the grip of war.’

Reading about the preoccupations of Poole people 100 years ago, it is impossible to ignore the shadow that the war cast over every aspect of everyday life. In contrast, squabbles between politicians over Brexit seem very minor problems!


Main source: Poole and Dorset Herald November and December 1917.

From Pickaxe to Paver

Recently I came across an estimate from 1843 for repairing and ‘Macadamizing’ parts of the High Street and it made me think of the difference between the process of road surfacing today and in early Victorian times. Everyone who has been into Poole in the last few months must have noticed that there have been a few road works in progress. Drivers into the town centre found themselves waiting in queues or undertaking unexpected little tours, directed by lines of red barriers and bollards. At first the pattern changed every week but once the resurfacing started, it was every half day or even every couple of hours. Bus stops were in and out of use like yo-yos and pedestrians learned to watch out for traffic on the wrong side of the road, smoking tarmac beneath their feet and rapidly approaching rollers.

At one stage, the resurfacing vehicles were parked at the end of our road in all their colourful splendour. The most intriguing one was a strange hybrid beast with two sets of tracks, an extended body and a long conveyor belt stretching out in front. Each morning, the kitchen cabinets would start to vibrate as this machine trundled past, like some pre-historic creature from a dead-end branch of the evolutionary tree. Some minutes later it would trundle back in reverse, but the precise purpose of this excursion, I never discovered. However, I would get to see the beast in action a couple of days later.

Workmen in upper High Street

Back in 1843, the stone paving of the High Street was in a poor condition and the Borough Surveyor had requested a specification for resurfacing, using the relatively new technique of macadamizing. John Loudon McAdam was an experienced road engineer who had learnt his trade on the turnpike roads of Scotland and the West Country. Adapting the techniques of road builders like Thomas Telford, he believed that massive foundations were unnecessary as long as the road surface was strong and waterproof. An underlying 20cm layer of stones 7.5cm or less in diameter was covered by a 5cm thick layer of stones only 2cm in size, much narrower than the iron wheels of the carts and carriages that travelled over it. This top layer was spread very carefully and evenly with only a slight rise to the centre of the road. No binding material was applied and it was found that the passage of the traffic alone would create a strong weatherproof surface.

The corn market fountain later in the century

Twenty years or so after the first macadamized roads were laid down, Frederick Easton of Oakley wrote out his specification and estimate for the High Street job. The stretch to be resurfaced was from Weston’s Lane to the Quay and Easton proposed that the present paving should be broken up ‘and the stones cracked on the spot to a size not exceeding one Inch & a half in Diameter’. The road as far as the corn market was to slope at least six inches from the centre to the sides with new border stones for the gutters where necessary. The top layer of stones was to be carefully laid ‘at the rate of Eight yards in every perch and to have at least one yard of clean sand mixed with it’. From the corner of the corn market to the Quay, the road (being narrower) would slope not more than 3 inches from the centre to the sides. The corn market was ‘to be curved and formed to the pleasure of the Surveyor’ and there were some adjustments such as lowering the road near Morcom’s house about 6 inches and eliminating a dip near Fish Street (now Castle Street). The cost for the whole job, ‘to be performed in a workman like manner and to the satisfaction of the Surveyor’ was £140.

If the present road works have caused some inconvenience, imagine the situation of the High Street residents and shop-owners in the 1840s. The road in front of their premises was to be torn up, presumably by a team of men with pickaxes and then the area would become a stone breaking yard with men hammering away all day long to reduce the stones to the size of small pebbles. How long they and their customers would have to put up with the disruption, dust, mud and noise is anyone’s guess.

Today the process of breaking up the road surface is much more streamlined as I discovered the day I saw the beast at its work. Hitching itself up on its tracks it manoeuvred into place and then with an unseen claw, started carving away the surface of the road with amazing speed, sending the broken fragments of tarmac up its conveyor belt neck into a truck moving slowly in front. No pickaxes, shovels or wheelbarrows needed. As I understand, this creature is called a road planer or as I like to call it, planersaurus.

Roller and paver on Longfleet Road

To resurface to road, the paver is brought into action. These square tarry machines move forward at a snail’s pace, emitting steam and leaving a trail of sticky black tarmac behind them. The amazing thing is how such cumbersome vehicles manage to avoid grids and manhole covers so skilfully. Then the rollers are deployed to compress and smooth the final surface. The truth is of course that the machines are operated by men as skilled at their different jobs as the workmen of the 1840s. Nevertheless it was somehow reassuring to see a few awkward sections that the vehicles could not reach being tended by men with wheelbarrows, long-handled shovels and hand rollers.