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.




Lighting Up Poole Some More

Here is another event in February which might be of interest to members. It’s part of this year’s LIGHT UP POOLE festival and should be enlightening in a different way.

Writing Ourselves and Others into the Past by Dr. Janina RamirezPoole Lighthouse on Friday 21st February 2020 at 2.30 pm.

Tickets – Adults: £10,  Under 18s: £5

Dr. Janina Ramirez is well known as the presenter of TV history documentaries such as BBC’s, ‘Raiders of the Lost Past’, and ‘The Treasures of the Anglo-Saxons’. She is a cultural historian, broadcaster and author based at the University of Oxford and she has a passion for communicating ideas about the past.
In this talk, she will give her take on how the past has been documented and why our spectrum of reference needs to be broadened when investigating history.

Book your tickets at the Lighthouse or at https://www.lighthousepoole.co.uk/


Trip to Troy (well, London, actually)

Bridget Spiers of the Blandford U3A has contacted us to tell us about a trip they are planning to London by coach to see the British Museum exhibition Troy: Myth and Reality (or other attractions according to choice).

PMS members are invited to join the trip on  Monday, 24th February, from Tesco’s Blandford  at 8 am. or the Millstream Coach Park, Salisbury, at 8.45 am. The coach will drop people off at the Montague Place entrance to the British Museum at about 11.30; and leave London at 4 pm. (Meeting at the Montague Place entrance at 3.45 for the return journey).

You can see details of the exhibition at www.britishmuseum.org/exhibitions/troy-myth-and-reality .Monday has been chosen to take advantage of the discount of £10.00  per person which the British Museum offers to Senior Citizens for admission to its special exhibitions on Monday afternoons.

Even if you don’t want to see this exhibition, you would be welcome to come for the ride, and do your own thing; for instance there is an exhibition of Tutankhamun’s treasures  at the Saatchi Gallery (see www.saatchigallery.com for further details) and there are many other galleries and museums you might like to visit.

The cost of travel on this excursion is about £23.50 per person depending on the number of people who come (so please don’t send any money yet).  The cost of entry to the Troy exhibition would be an additional £10, or you could book your own tickets for the Tutankhamun exhibition or any other events.

If you are interested, please contact Bridget Spiers –  Tel: 01258 455081 / E-mail: bridgetspiers91@gmail.com by 18th January, with your name and telephone number(s) and say whether you’ll be joining the coach at Blandford or Salisbury. Advance booking is essential so that they can keep an eye on numbers.

The excursion is open to non-members of the Blandford U3A but if anyone is interested in joining, membership application forms and a list of activitities can be seen on the website at www.blandfordu3a.co.uk. The next Open Meeting is at 2 pm at Durweston Village Hall on Friday, 31 January, where Martin Fielding will be speaking about his work as a veterinary surgeon in Dorset. Admission is free, though there is an  ENORMOUS charge of £1.00 for coffee or tea, and a piece of cake.


2019 Christmas Quiz Answers

Here are the answers. How did you do?


  1. Lord Wimborne / Shah of Persia / King Charles / Lord Nelson – (Names of Poole pubs.)
  2. Two on a Tower / Under the Greenwood Tree / Far from the Madding Crowd / The Return of the Native – (Titles of novels by Thomas Hardy.)
  3. Dorset murder victims – John Browne was killed by his wife Martha Browne in 1856 / Doreen Marshall by Neville Heath in Branksome Dene Chine in 1946 / Francis Rattenbury by his wife’s lover, George Stoner in Bournemouth in 1935 / Alice Greene (and her maid, Agnes Beard) in Poole by Robert Hill and probably others in 1598.
  4. Birds Hill / Gravel Hill / Castle Hill / Evening Hill – (All hills in Poole)


  1. Stickland / Tomson / Whitechurch / Zelston – (Winterbourne villages in alphabetical order)
  2. Museum / Tenements / George Inn / Medieval house – (uses of Scaplen’s Court going back in time.)
  3. Six Tolpuddle martyrs + 3 = Nine Barrow Down -5 = Four Ways Day Centre – 2 = Two eg. Twin Sails Bridge
  4. See below:

(The Holly bears a berry as green as the grass).

Connecting Wall

  1. Victorian industrialists in Poole.
  2. Local heaths.
  3. Birds that visit Poole Harbour.
  4. Local theatres.

Missing Vowels

  1. Panoramic spots – Sea View / Evening Hill / Pineview / Hengistbury Head.
  2. People and their professions – Isaac Gulliver and smuggler / Mary Anning and fossil hunter / Caroline Cousins and knocker-up / Harry Paye and pirate.
  3. Shakespeare plays – As You Like It / Measure For Measure / Much Ado About Nothing / Romeo and Juliet.
  4. Christmas sayings – Season’s Greetings / Ho! ho! ho! / Deep and Crisp and Even / Bah, humbug!



2019 Christmas Quiz

This Only Connect style quiz is mainly about Poole with a little bit of BCP and Dorset thrown in. Why not grab a mince pie to help with the brain processes and have a go?


Find the answers to these clues and say what connects them:

  1. Came of age at Canford in 1856 / Ousted by ayatollahs / Exiled from France / Killed at Trafalgar.
  2. – Tower / – Tree / – Crowd / – Native.
  3. John Browne / Doreen Marshall / Francis Rattenbury / Alice Greene
  4. See below:

Sequences: What should follow these three clues and why?

  1. Stickland / Tomson / Whitechurch / ?
  2. Museum / Tenements / George Inn / ?
  3. Exiled martyrs +3 / Nominal barrows on the down -5 / Former day centre at road junction ÷2 / ?
  4. See below:

Connecting Wall: Sort the words into four groups and say what connects each group.Missing Vowels: Can you restore the vowels to these words or phrases? (the letter y is usually counted as an honorary vowel)

  1. Panoramic spots: svw / vnn ghl l / p nvw /  hn gs tb rhd
  2. People and their professions: scg llvr nds mg glr / mr nnn gndfs slh ntr / crlnc snsn dk nc krp / hr rpn dprt
  3. Shakespeare plays: syl kt / msrf rm sr / mc hdb tnt hng / rmn djlt
  4. Christmas sayings: ssn sgr tngs / hhh / dpn dcrs pnd vn / bhh mbg

Good luck. I hope you enjoy tackling this and please let me know how you get on. There may even be a prize for the first correct entry.

Happy Christmas ……Jenny


The Pitwines Project

The Pitwines site

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Bournemouth Gas and Water Company was expanding its operations rapidly to meet the increasing demand for gas from a growing population. The Poole gasworks was at East Quay, where all the available space had been utilised and there was no further room for expansion. Other departments were housed at Beech Hurst, former home of Philip Budge, solicitor and three times mayor of Poole. This fine Georgian mansion provided a rather grand location for the company’s district offices and showrooms. Behind Beech Hurst was a wide stretch of marshy land bordered on the north by the Poole to Bournemouth railway line. This area, known as Pitwines, was once bisected by the medieval town wall and ditch on its way to Parkstone Bay, and was used as a dump for the town’s waste in Tudor and Stuart times. In the 1920s it was already the site of a gasholder and was large enough for the needs of company’s development for many years to come.

The outbreak of the First World War put all plans on hold. Men hurried to enlist, including many from the Gas and Water Company. The town had to adjust to women working in various unfamiliar roles, and female gas fitters repairing gas fires, cookers and water heaters. In the difficult post-war world, development plans could at last be revived. The company proposed to increase their capacity by building what was virtually a complete new works at Pitwines. In 1923 the Co-Partner, the company’s works magazine, announced that ‘the ensuing six months will see Pitwines a veritable hive of activity’ and admitted that it was only just in time as a hard winter would ‘very severely tax our existing gas manufacturing resources’.

By the following year, the company were able to list the major contracts that had been awarded. Most important was the retort house itself which was to be supplied by the Woodall Duckham Company. Harold W. Woodall had been the Engineer and General Manager of the Bournemouth Gas and Water Company in the early years of the century with Arthur Duckham as his assistant engineer. The two men formed a partnership to develop systems for the continuous carbonization of coal using vertical retorts. During the war, Harold Woodall joined the Dorsetshire Regiment and later became a Lieutenant-Colonel in the King’s Liverpool Regiment. Arthur Duckham chaired an advisory committee to the Ministry of Munitions and was granted a knighthood at the end of the war. In 1920, they set up a private company which was to become a leading supplier of vertical retorts. Another important contractor was the Mitchell Conveyor Company which would supply the coal handling cableway bringing coal from the Poole works at East Quay to Pitwines and capable of handling 100 tons per hour. They were also contracted to provide the handling system for coke, ash and breeze (fine coke), a ‘telpher’ or automatic aerial conveyor using a trolleys.

The retort house foundations

The reinforced concrete structures such as the main block of buildings and the coal store and coke hoppers were to be built by T. Vale and Son and the plant for producing water gas by Humphreys and Glasgow, an international firm. There were also contractors for boilers, exhausters, condensers, scrubbers and washers, the relief holder for the water gas, storage tanks, railway sidings and a railway weighbridge. Such a complex site needed detailed planning and drawing but by June 1924, the bulk of this work had been done. The raft foundation of the retort house had been laid, starting with a framework of 42 tons of steel rods to reinforce the 5,000 tons of concrete cement. The reinforced concrete stanchions supporting the retort house (some weighing 168 tons each) would interlock with the steel framework and the finished house would measure 116 ft. x 51 ft.

By the end of 1924, some of the buildings were taking shape including the coal store, water gas relief holder, coke bunkers and retort house. The unstable ground of the site posed problems and meant that the foundations for many of the buildings had to be supported by 14 in. square piles 30 ft. long. It had also proved difficult to recruit the number of scaffolders, carpenters and other skilled workmen needed. Nevertheless the company had made progress, levelling and laying roads and building the supports for the cableway and telpher systems. The completion of the railway sidings meant that construction materials could be brought on site more easily and the company had acquired a 5 ton locomotive hand crane to work with their existing petrol driven 45 h.p. Caledon shunting locomotive. The main block of buildings was also rising from its foundations. Here would be housed the boilers, water gas plant, producers and gas engines for producing electricity as well as the fitting shop and messroom. As it would be the main aspect of the works visible from the railway, it was designed in a plain but elegantly imposing style.

That winter there were south easterly gales and serious floods. At Christchurch a gas holder under construction, estimated to weigh 300 tons, was ‘floated off the foundations and moved a considerable distance.’ At Pitwines some parts of the site were flooded but the ground which had been raised to 7 ft. above Ordnance datum was still 6 in. above the water. The company described this as ‘very satisfactory’ while sincerely hoping that such exceptional weather conditions would not occur again in the near future.

On 5th June 1925 a distinguished party consisting of the directors and officers of the Bournemouth Gas and Water Company, including General Manager Mr. Philip G. G. Moon, the mayors of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole and other civic dignitaries and members of the Southern Association of Gas Engineers and Managers (of which Mr. Moon was President) toured the Pitwines works. The party then went to the Branksome Tower Hotel for lunch where they were entertained with a selection of music played by the Gasworks Band, followed by speeches. In a toast to the Bournemouth Gas and Water Company, with which he had previously been associated, Sir Arthur Duckham called it ‘one of the most progressive in the whole country’.

Gas manufacture finally commenced at the new Pitwines Gasworks on the 4th December 1925. It was only just in time to maintain gas supply in the severe wintry weather. The start of the generating process was the cableway, 1230 ft. long, bringing coal in skips from East Quay via two-storey ‘protection’ bridges over South Road and Green Road to Pitwines. The design of having the out-going skips travelling above incoming ones rather than side by side was to ‘reduce the width required for the cableway, and therefore the number of cottages which had to be demolished’. To have open 9 cwt. skips of coal passing over at chimney level every 32 seconds cannot have been very pleasant for nearby householders, especially on washing days. At the new works the coal was delivered either to the hoist of the retort house or to the coal store. The cableway was also used to transport coke, ash and breeze between the two works.

The cableway with protection bridge and angle station

The heart of the works was the 87 ft. high retort house containing 24 Woodall Duckham vertical retorts each of which could carbonize 7 tons of coal in 24 hours in a continuous process. Coal was fed into the retorts from bunkers and supply hoppers on the top of the building and then heated by 4 producers (furnaces) in an oxygen free environment to release its volatile components, leaving coke as a residue. Gases, ash and coke were continually removed while coke to fuel the producers was fed in through chutes. The carburetted water gas plant was located in the main block of buildings. The process involved passing steam (produced in the plant’s water cooling system) through hot coke to produce water gas, a mixture of hydrogen, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Oil was added in the carburetting process to enrich the gas. The water gas was valuable to the supply because it could be produced more quickly and flexibly than coal gas. The output of the plant was 2,000,000 cu ft. of gas per day or nearly as much as the retort house. Both the coal and the water gas then had to undergo further processing in the condensers and scrubbers to remove unwanted elements such as tar, ammonia and sulphides. The three exhausters, supplied by George Waller and Sons of Stroud, were used to increase the gas pressure usually before scrubbing or at another part of the process. They were designed to be used on any gas main by operation of the appropriate valves and were powered by two vertical 43 h. p. steam engines.

The water gas plant and the exhausters were located in the main block of buildings which also housed the boilers producing steam and two gas producers supplying the gas engine dynamo plants to generate electricity for the whole works. Other areas of the buildings were used for a fitting room, messroom and stores. The massive reinforced concrete coal store measured 315 ft. x 100 ft. and when full it could store 14,750 tons of coal loaded to a depth of 20 ft. It was serviced by a 3 ton revolving jib crane which ran along a central gantry. The telpher which transported coke, breeze and ash around the works consisted of a track 1,448 ft. long, supported at a height of 56 ft. above the ground. The whole site was incredibly complex but processes were integrated as much as possible to save and recycle energy and produce saleable end products. Many different forms of power were in use, gas, electricity, steam, petrol, gravity and compressed air. End products included coal gas, water gas, coke, breeze, ash, steam, electricity, tar, gas oil, asphalt, ammonia and sulphate.

The Pitwines site with the coal store in the left foreground, the retort house to its right and the water gas holder and larger existing gas holder behind. The main block of buildings is to the right facing the railway. The telpher supports are visible in the right foreground.

In 1928, the company built a new gas showroom, specially designed to compliment and not to obscure the Georgian splendour of Beech Hurst. The Pitwines works operated for 50 years until the coming of natural gas made coal gas redundant. When the plant came to be demolished in the 1970s, the buildings resisted the efforts of the demolition crew to take them down. After learning something about the works’ construction, this does not surprise me, and it can be regarded as a tribute to the expertise of the 1920s engineers. Beech Hurst survived its noisy neighbour and still graces the upper end of High Street.

Jenny Oliver        Main sources: Co-Partner / Grace’s Guide / Poole Directories





Hill Street Blues, Browns and Reds

The current exhibition of works by Henry Lamb showing at Poole Museum provides a rare opportunity to see some of the output of this talented artist brought together in one place. From early works when Lamb was developing his style to mature portraits, landscapes, observational views and character studies, the exhibition also includes pictures from his six transitional years in Poole, the subject of the following article:

The door of No. 10 Hill Street.

The artist Henry Lamb came to Poole in the spring of 1922 when he bought No.10 Hill Street. At the time Poole, like the rest of the country  was struggling to adjust to post-war life and an economic depression. Although the town had its prosperous suburbs with big houses and scenic views, Hill Street did not fall into this category. Like a lot of streets in the old town, it had come down in the world and its properties now served a variety of different uses. In fact, Lamb described it in a letter as ‘a slum street which was once genteel’. His immediate neighbours were baker Walter Chaffey on one side and on the other, Harry Arnold, a fishmonger. The street also contained two chapels, Charles Brixey’s farrier’s yard, the Temperance Hall, Arthur Knight’s, coachbuilders, Whitbread’s brewery, the Yeoman Inn and J.H. Cole’s furniture warehouse besides many residential properties.

Houses in Hill Street from the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments volume on Poole. No. 10 is on the right

No. 10, once the home of Poole’s venerable Sergeant-at-Mace, George Squibb, was a three storey house with cellars and a porticoed doorway, built in the late 18th century. Its appearance was plain but elegant. At the back of the house was an early 19th century extension and a long narrow garden with a cottage at the far end, which Lamb converted into a studio. Inside, the house retained many original features such as the window shutters and the tall panelled doors, as can be seen in some of Lamb’s later interior paintings. It was quite a large house for one person but had the advantage of providing plenty of room for guests without disrupting his work space.

Floor plans of No. 10 from the Royal Commission volume.

Before the war, Henry Lamb had been making his mark as an artist. As a young man he had abandoned medical studies in Manchester to enrol at the Chelsea School of Art and study under Augustus John and William Orpen. Here he met aspiring artists and writers and moved in Bohemian circles. The same year he also married Nina Euphemia Forrest, artist’s muse and model, although they soon separated. During visits to France and Ireland he began to develop his style as an artist and produced some successful work. At the outbreak of war in 1914, Lamb, then 31, completed his medical training and enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He went on to serve in Macedonia, Palestine and France. In September 1918 he received the Military Cross for ‘conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty’, tending to troops suffering heavy casualties from enemy shelling. The following month, he was badly gassed in France and spent the final weeks of the war in hospital in London.

Detail from ‘Advance Dressing Station . . ‘

After the armistice, Lamb was demobilised with impaired health. In fact as much as 20 years later he was described in the notes of an electoral register as ‘RAMC Captain discharged – permanently unfit’. At 36 he had to pick up the threads of his artistic career. After convalescence he began a large war painting,‘Irish Troops in the Judean Hills surprised by a Turkish Bombardment’,  one of a number commissioned by the Imperial War Museum from contemporary British artists. Completing the picture acted as a kind of therapy. In 1920 he found a quiet location at Stourpaine where he worked on another large war picture ‘Advance Dressing Station on the Struma 1916’, this time for Manchester City Art Gallery.

Lamb began to look around for a quieter place to live and work than his studio in Hampstead. He knew Dorset from working at Stourpaine and from visiting Augustus John at Alderney near Poole where the John family had lived since 1911. Lamb was in love with Augustus’s mistress, Dorelia McNeill, and they had a long relationship, although Dorelia’s devotion to Augustus never wavered. He probably chose Poole, because it was small, quiet and close to Alderney while being accessible to London where he retained his studio.

A Street in Poole

After settling in to Hill Street, Lamb soon found inspiration in the streets of the old town with glimpses of the sky, the bulk of the warehouses and other buildings and the jumble of rooftops around him. He started a series of townscapes in dark warm tones of brown, terracotta and slate blue which are among his most successful works. It was not necessary to go far from home to find inviting views. One of the earliest of these paintings was ‘View from the Artist’s Studio’, also known as ‘The Coffin Shop’ which was painted looking from the first floor window of his house across the garden to the uneven roofs and chimneys beyond. A large workshop, used by a neighbouring undertaker, was the main feature. The painting called ‘A Street in Poole’ showing dark buildings silhouetted against a glowing sunset sky may depict Lagland Street a short walk away and another painting was of Dear Hay Lane, just behind Hill Street.

Although Henry Lamb was finding subjects to inspire him, he was still suffering from poor health and insomnia and periods of depression. In the summer of 1922, he had his first one-man show at the Alpine Club Gallery. One work on show was a large portrait of his friend, the writer Lytton Strachey, showing the sitter as an immensely long, lanky figure, draped in his chair. The correspondent of the Pall Mall Gazette, C. Lewis Hind, called the painting ‘a subtle, courteous caricature’ adding that ‘it is satanically clever but if I were Mr. Strachey I would assassinate the artist. No jury could possibly convict.’ This edgy quality in Lamb’s work appealed to Hind and the general verdict on the exhibition was favourable and encouraging.

The Doler

In Poole Lamb continued to explore the local scene. At the time it was commonplace to see dole queues and unemployed men in the streets and around the Quay. One pugnacious character took to pestering Henry Lamb until he arranged to paint his portrait. Called ‘The Doler’, the painting shows the young, anonymous sitter in cap and neckerchief turning an uncompromising face to the world. Another portrait of Augustus John’s son 16-year-old Romilly John, speaks of visits to Alderney. Lamb also entertained at Hill Street. In 1922 and 1923, he had visits from fellow artist Stanley Spencer who tended to rely on Henry Lamb for advice and support, both moral and financial. At the Poole house Spencer met art patrons, Jean-Louis and Mary Behrend who offered him a commission to paint a picture for their planned memorial at Burghclere. Other visitors included Dorelia McNeill, T. E. Lawrence and friend and confidant, Dora Carrington. A talented musician, Lamb liked to play the piano for himself and friends. He also attended performances of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Dan Godfrey whose portrait he would later paint.

Paradise Street, Poole

More Poole townscapes date from 1923, including a view of the lower High Street and another of Paradise Street showing a block of port warehouses in warm reds and browns and figures hurrying towards a narrowly glimpsed Quay. In 1924, he received very welcome recognition when George Kennedy published a monograph on his work in the Contemporary British Artists series. There were also commissioned portraits of eminent figures such as one of Sir Michael Sadler. In 1925 he exhibited works, including ‘The Doler’ at a Tri-National Exhibition at the Chenil Galleries. A relaxed and informal self portrait in Hill Street from 1925 shows Lamb from behind lying back in a basket chair by the fire, one foot on the mantelpiece, books scattered on the carpet and the cat sitting by his side.

In 1926, discontent with the economic situation culminated in the General Strike. In Poole the authorities tried to avoid confrontation while organising volunteers to keep essential services going. To Lamb the streets looked little different from the normal dole queues and idling unemployed men. A large picture of 1926 entitled ‘Football Edition’ shows groups of men in the evening light eagerly clustering round copies of the evening paper to check the football results, perhaps a rare moment of excitement in a rather dreary existence. The scene is the junction of High Street and Towngate Street in front of the Ansty Arms (now the middle of Falkland Square). Living in the centre of town, Henry Lamb would have been well aware of local events, both grim and light-hearted. That year, a photographer recording the start of the Beating the Bounds ceremony caught a rare picture of him in the market place with his bicycle, chatting to a man in uniform.

The Tea Party

Another painting of 1926 is ‘The Tea Party’. This interior shows five people sitting round a tea table in the ground floor dining room of No. 10. Open double doors allow a view of the sitting room at the back with its bow window looking on to the garden. One of the guests at the party is Stanley Spencer, who is talking animatedly and another has been identified as art critic, Leverton Harris, listening with concentration. The other three people are probably two neighbours and Henry Lamb himself, seeming strangely detached and isolated from each other because of the exaggerated size of the table. The uncomfortable atmosphere is very different from his relaxed self portrait of the previous year.

Lady Pansy Pakenham

In 1926 Henry Lamb met Lady Pansy Pakenham, the sister of the Earl of Longford, who was working in the office of his friend, architect George Kennedy. In spite of nearly 20 years difference in age, their relationship progressed and they became engaged. Lamb and his first wife Nina had lived apart for years but they were still married and he had to sort out a divorce before he could marry Pansy. Meanwhile, an exhibition at the Leicester Galleries early in 1927, where he showed both ‘Irish Troops . . .’ and ‘The Tea Party’, confirmed Lamb’s growing reputation. The West Sussex Gazette called him ‘a painter of originality, breadth and distinction who treats art seriously’. The following year, the forthcoming marriage was announced and was reported in the press under the headline ‘Brilliant Artist to Marry. Engagement to Earl’s Sister’. The couple bought a house at Coombe Bisset in Wiltshire.

Henry Lamb’s time in Poole had come to an end and he was to move on to a happier phase of life with his wife and family. Nevertheless, the years in Poole had been a time of recuperation, inspiration and development when he had built his reputation and produced some of his most distinctive works. Over 20 years later he was to paint a picture ‘The Level Crossing, Poole’, suggesting that his memories of the town were pleasant ones.


Main sources: Clements, K. Henry Lamb: The Artist and his Friends Redcliffe Press 1985 /  Davies, Peter Art in Poole & Dorset Poole Historical Trust 1987 / An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset Vol II South-East Part 2 Royal Commission on Historical Monuments 1970 / Moore-Gwyn, Harry. Henry Lamb. Out of the Shadows Paul Holberton Publishing 2018 / Directories of Poole 1922-7 / Press reports.