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.







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.

Poole and the Press

In 1759 it was reported in the Annual Register that Captain Nickleson of Poole, master of the Thomas and Elizabeth had been awarded the sum of £1,000 with costs in a court case against Captain Fortescue of the Prince Edward man of war. Acting for the impress service, Fortescue had taken so many men from Nickleson’s ship, as she sailed back to Poole that she foundered and was lost. This was just one of the more extreme incidents involving the infamous press gang and the port of Poole.

Legalised by a series of Acts from 1664 onwards, the press had been set up to help supply the Royal Navy with the large numbers of seamen it needed in time of war. Service in the navy was unpopular with many sailors because conditions were poor, discipline harsh and pay usually less than in the merchant service. There was also a policy of paying the men six months in arrears to discourage desertion. The answer of the authorities was a system of forced recruitment, targeting seafaring men between the ages of 18 and 55, (although non-seamen were sometimes taken). It was an offence in law to resist the press, which was therefore both hated and feared. For the merchants and ship-owners who stood to lose their best seamen it was a cause of great resentment.

St James old church

Poole merchants were known to allow their men to disembark before the ships reached port or to hide them on their country estates to escape the press. Local magistrates sometimes delayed signing the Impressment Certificates authorising the press men to operate in the town, so as to give seamen a chance to make themselves scarce. They also issued men with ‘Protections’ or certificates of exemption on various pretexts. In the case of a ‘hot press’ however, these might count for little especially as the press gang members were recruited more for their brawn than for their finer scruples. In February 1762, it is reported that one unfortunate young man was carried off from the door of St. James’ church where he was about to be married.

The press also took men from merchant ships at sea, encircling the coast with their tenders and particularly targeting the main trade routes including those taken by the Newfoundland ships. Sometimes a ship might be dangerously depleted of crewmen. In 1741 the Joseph and Mary was so late in returning to Poole that she was given up for lost. When she finally limped into port it was discovered that she had lost 15 crew members to the press. It was in this context that the disastrous loss of the Thomas and Elizabeth occurred.

The actions of the press also affected the work of the Customs Service. In 1770 local customs officers reported to their superiors that, hearing there was ‘a very hot press’ in Poole, four men took a boat from the Elizabeth and went ashore to avoid being pressed before the ship entered quarantine. Later the same month, five men went on shore from the Nancy to escape the press and could not be traced. The ‘terror of falling into the hands of the impress officers’ seemed likely to undermine the quarantine system to the danger of the public. Customs men themselves were not exempt from being pressed. After one such incident in 1779, local customs men wrote to their headquarters: ‘We waited on Captain Scott to know whether he would release these men which he refused & said he would impress even Extra Tidesmen who was fit to serve in His Majesty’s Navy, that was not on actual duty, which if he persists in doing we are certain the Service must suffer greatly & therefore humbly pray Your Honours’ Speedy Directions what is to be done.’ In 1780 they reported that customs officers could not go into the country to search for run goods without an escort from the military.

Benjamin Lester

Believing that the press was essential to the navy, the national authorities continued to support the system in spite of the antagonism raised in the country. It was this resentment that led to the worst incident of all involving Poole and the press. In 1794, the brig Maria belonging to leading merchant Benjamin Lester was returning to Poole from Newfoundland, having on board a number of passengers, mainly fishermen returning to their homes in Dorset. On the night of Saturday 29th November the brig’s master George Randall anchored in Studland Bay, where the pilot Thomas Allen came aboard around midnight. A tender of the impress service was in the area, commanded by Lieutenants John Glover and Nathaniel Phillips with Midshipman Arthur Oliver. Glover sent a boat loaded with men to board the brig but the passengers and crew of the Maria refused to allow the press on board and continued to resist when the tender also came alongside. The tender anchored near to the brig for the night.

The following day the Maria with Thomas Allen at the helm entered Poole Harbour, closely shadowed by the tender which had on board 20 soldiers besides the impress men. It was ‘between ‘Brownsea and Jack-in-the-Basket’ according to later testimony that Lieut. Phillips told the pilot to come to and anchor, but Thomas Allen replied that the passengers would not allow him to do so. Shortly after, the impress men and soldiers succeeded in getting on board. Captain Randall and some of the passengers including Captain Stephen Pack were confined below decks while the Lieutenants and their men impressed all they could find and took them on board the tender. Hearing shots, Captain Pack ‘broke out of the cabin where he had been confined and went on Deck & cry’d for Quarters & desir’d them to bring the boat for that many people were killed or wounded’. When Captain Randall reached the deck he found that Thomas Allen and two others, Peter Rake and John Housley had been shot dead and several others badly injured, two of whom later died.

The Antelope Inn

That night Benjamin Lester noted in his diary that when the brig was brought to the Quay there was such an outcry that it was only through the presence of soldiers garrisoned in the town that the magistrates managed to save the Lieutenants from harm. Two inquests were held in the following week, the first at the Poole Arms on Thomas Allen and the other at the Antelope Inn on Rake and Housley. With feelings running high, verdicts of murder was found against Glover, Phillips and the Midshipman Oliver, who was alleged to have shot Housley through the head. Believing that the three could not receive a fair trial in Poole, the Admiralty intervened and they were tried instead at the Old Bailey. In June 1795 they were acquitted of the charges.

Following this tragedy, feelings must hardened even more against the press in Poole but there were times when even service in the navy was better than the alternatives on offer. In 1800, with famine in the countryside, young men flocked into Poole and were pressed in large numbers. Washed, cheaply clothed and given a knife, spoon, comb and a piece of soap each, they found themselves on board where they could at least be sure of avoiding starvation. Four years later in 1804, Captain Walbeoff and Lieutenant Osmer, with a midshipman and eight press gang men broke into the house of mariner William Trim to press him. Trim tried to escape, hitting the midshipman with a red hot poker, but was overpowered and disarmed. His sister going to his aid was also assaulted and when his father, a man of around 70, came rushing in, he was stabbed in the back and beaten. Following this incident an Admiralty inquiry was held into the conduct of the impress officers.

With no signs of an end to the long war with France, the demand for men to supply the navy was unrelenting. In 1805, the local impress men complained that the customs officers showed an ‘unjustifiable’ inclination to obstruct them in their duty. The customs officers were refusing to inform the press when a ship was released from quarantine and stood on their dignity when asked to explain: ‘We beg leave to observe that we are not aware of its being customary at any of the out-ports for the Office of Customs to give such information to the Office of the Impress Service’.

A couple of incidents involving Robert Gillet, landlord of the Lion and Lamb in Salisbury Street, were more farce than tragedy. On one occasion Lieutenant John Marshall of the impress service had pressed a seaman in the taproom of the inn. Gillet’s wife and daughter assaulted Marshall and then followed him out into the street shouting abuse. A crowd quickly gathered and Marshall escaped with difficulty. Another time an impress midshipman, Michael Ryan, was passing the inn when Gillet grabbed hold of a gig which was standing in the yard and tried to run Ryan down. According to the court report: ‘on being asked why he did it, defendant said “If you don’t like it you may kiss my arse” which he frequently repeated and used many other opprobrious and insulting expressions.’

For a long time the impressment system had been justified by the authorities on the grounds that it was supporting Britain’s freedom by helping to maintain naval supremacy. By the end of the Napoleonic wars the system was seen as clearly unjust and oppressive and was at last discontinued.


Main sources: Poole Custom House Letter Book / Hutchinson The Press Gang Afloat and Ashore / Beamish and others The Pride of Poole 1688-1851. /  Poole archives – Coroner’s Inquests


The Physician’s Art and the Surgeon’s Skill

In the 17th century, the journey from the cradle to the grave could often be a very short one as a browse through contemporary burial records reveals. In nine months during 1668-9, for instance, 47 of the 70 burials recorded at Poole St. James’ church, were of children. Childbirth, even if attended by an experienced midwife, was a dangerous time for infants and mothers because of poor sanitary conditions and lack of knowledge. Those who survived the trauma of birth were all too likely to succumb to one of the infectious diseases which regularly broke out, including measles, typhus, smallpox and plague. Outbreaks of the dreaded plague killed up to 150 people in Blandford and Bridport in 1626 and 500 in Salisbury in 1627. Woodbury Fair was cancelled for three years to avoid spreading the infection. In 1628, Shaftesbury suffered from an outbreak with only 20 fatalities but 10 years later, as many as 400 people may have died at Wimborne. In 1645 it was the turn of Poole when the plague struck in the middle of the Civil War and probably took about 118 lives (see the post ‘Epidemic!’ on this blog).

Those who survived into adulthood would rely mainly on folk remedies which every good housewife knew how to concoct. In the 17th century, some of these were collected and published in guides such as Gervase Markham’s ‘The English House-wife’, published in 1615. Many were based on common herbs like this cure for headache: For the Head-ach, you shall take of Rosewater, of the iuice of Camomile, of warme milke, of strong wine vinegar, of each two spoonful, mixe them together well upon a chafing dish of coals: then take a peece of drie rose cake and steepe it therein, and as soone as it hath drunke up the liquor and is thoroughly hot, take a couple of sound Nutmegs grated to a powder, and strew them upon the rose cake, then breaking it into two parts, bind it upon each side upon the temples of the head, so let the party lye down to rest, and the paine will in short space be taken from him.’ It was only in serious cases (and if they could afford it) that people turned to the apothecary, the physician or the surgeon.

At the beginning of the century, medicine was still based on the medieval theory of illness resulting from any imbalance in the four fluids or humours of the body, but some physicians began to challenge aspects of the theory, based on their observations. In 1628, William Harvey published a well-argued thesis proposing that blood circulates round the body, but it took many years for the idea to be generally accepted. Epidemics of infections diseases, including the plague, gave doctors the chance to study symptoms and the efficacy of remedies, and the Civil War provided many examples of trauma for surgeons to improve their techniques.

Richard Wiseman

One of the most noted surgeons of the century was Richard Wiseman who became Sergeant Surgeon to King Charles II. As a young man, recently trained as a barber surgeon, he served on the Royalist side of the conflict and was present during the battle of Weymouth in 1644-5. In later life, he published several ‘Chirurgical Treatises’ dealing with many surgical procedures including some honed during the war. On treating gunshot wounds with fracture he advises ‘if the Wound be not large enough, make it so that you may the better pull out the extraneous bodies, whether Slug, Bullet, Rags, Splinters, or Shivers of Bones, so shall the Extension be made the easier and less subject to Inflammation . . . Whereas if the Wound be not so cleaned, these extraneous bodies, nay the smallest Shivers of Bone, will raise such disturbance as will render it incapable of Digestion . . . Make your Extension so soon as you may, and restore the Bones to their former place with what gentle dexterity and lenity you can.’

Thomas Sydenham

Also involved in the battle at Weymouth but on the Parliamentary side, was Thomas Sydenham, one of the Sydenham brothers of Wynford Eagle, Dorset. Although badly wounded, Thomas survived and went on to become a famous physician, his Observationes Medicae’ being regarded as a standard text book. Among many other diseases, he wrote about the plague, basing his arguments on close observation of patients and treatment. He claimed that ‘an enquiry into the manner of curing diseases may proceed very successfully, tho’ we are ignorant of their causes, because the cure of most diseases is not effected by this kind of knowledge, but by a suitable and experienced method’. Today’s doctors would not agree with him but would probably approve his detailed observations as a basis for treatment.

Blessed Thistle

For plague and pestilential fevers, he recommended moderate bleeding followed by the raising of a sweat in the patient for twenty four hours. Then he administered a sudorific (sweat inducing) bolus or pill: ‘Take of Venice treacle, half a dram; the electuary of the egg, a feruple; Gascoign’s powder, twelve grams; and the juice of the kermes enough to make the whole into a bolus; to be taken every six hours, drinking after it six spoonfuls of the following julep: take of the distill’d water of carduus benedictus, and compound scordium water, of each three ounces, treacle water, two ounces; syrop of cloves, an ounce: mix them together for a julep.’ Venice treacle was ‘theriac’, an ancient concoction regarded as a cure-all, an electuary was a medium to make medicine more palatable, Gascoign’s powder contained various powdered substances including pearls, and both cochineal and juice of kermes were red coloured dyes made from crushed insects. I haven’t managed to work out how much a feruple was! The refreshing julep was made of spiced and sweetened herbs, carduus benedictus (‘blessed thistle’) and scordium (water germander). After a further twenty four hours, the patient was given a purge made of an infusion of tamarinds, senna leaves, rhubarb, manna (from the manna ash) and syrup of roses. By this treatment, Sydenham claimed, ‘I recovered several persons who were seized with a pestilential fever . . . and did not lose a single patient after I began to use it.’

As a garrison town for the Parliament during the Civil War, Poole must have seen many injured soldiers requiring the attention of a surgeon. Although we know the names of several 17th century doctors practicing in Poole, there is very little information about their treatments and whether they would have been similar to those used by Wiseman and Sydenham. During the plague outbreak of 1645-6, the sick were isolated at Baiter in the town windmill and several purpose-built pest houses. Here they were attended by Dr. John Spence who was paid a salary of 30s (£1.50) a week by the town. From the accounts we know that he used pitch and tar to fumigate the houses and ordered a lot of vinegar, perhaps to wash the patients. He also obtained ‘cuill oyle’ and a box of drugs from Salisbury, but what they were and how they were used is not explained.

Those whose ailments were beyond the aid of medical treatment were advised to seek help from their faith. A letter of 1687 in the Poole archives from Dr. John Tillottson (Doctor of Divinity not Medicine) is an example. Having heard that his friend Mr. Nicholas Hunt of Canterbury was suffering from a fatal cancer, he wrote to console him and urge him to resign himself to God’s will: to renew your Repentance for all the Error and miscarriages of your Life and earnestly to beg God’s pardon & Forgiveness . . . to exercise Faith and Patience for a little while; and be of good Courage since you see Land; the Storm wch you are in will soon be over.’ In an age when religion was so central to people’s lives and disease would be seen as a punishment from God, faith could also be a consolation when science failed.



Fame and Disaster: Swash Channel wreck update

Back in July 2014, we posted an article on this blog about Poole at the time of the Swash Channel wreck. Now with the release of the likely identification of the vessel by the wreck team (see News and video), more details can emerge.

Lying in 7-9 metres of water at the entrance to Poole harbour for nearly 400 years, the wreck has been excavated by a team from Bournemouth University. The investigation revealed a large carvel-built merchant ship of around 300-500 tons lying on her port side and broken in 2 pieces. The harbour mud had preserved the port side right up to the forecastle and stern castle rails as well as parts of the rigging. Below what would have been the waterline, the hull was covered with a layer of hair and tar sheathed with thin planking, a device used by Dutch ship builders to protect the hull from tropical ship worm. The main timbers are of Dutch or German origin and are thought to have been felled around 1628.

The number of gun ports on the ship indicates that she may have carried at least 26 guns although only 7 cast iron cannon and 1 gun carriage have been found, suggesting that many more were salvaged. There were also no signs of a cargo or of the possessions or remains of passengers, suggesting that the ship could have been operating as a warship or sailing in ballast. The many high quality carvings on the wreck around the rails and gun ports and on the rudder now on display in Poole Museum indicate an important, high status ship.

Many ships were wrecked off the Dorset coast in the early decades of the 17th century as merchants vied for the profits of long distance trade, but the most likely candidate for this wreck, based on date, location and nationality, is a vessel mentioned in the records of the Poole Admiralty Court in 1631. The court met, in theory, every year, to regulate all matters to do with the port and harbour including moorings, the channel, buoys, fishing, pilotage, pirates, felonies and shipwrecks. At the meeting on 24th June 1631 under Thomas Smedmore as Mayor and Admiral of the port the following item occurs: ‘Item: wee present that Mr Newland doth undertake for the ffleming to cleere the harbour of the wracke of the ffame of Horne castawaye before Studland, we do therefore enioyne him to place a coupple of boyes on that wracke by the first of August next on payne of forfeiting of two hundred pounds.’

 This suggests that the wreck was partially submerged and dangerous to shipping entering the port. A year later it appears that this massive fine had not been effective (if in fact it had been extracted) because at the meeting of 21st May 1632 before Mayor George Skutt there was a further mention of the wreck: ‘Item we present that Mr Robert Newland the younger of the Isle of Wight hath not cleered the channel of the fflemish wracke and not placed the two boyes thereon and therefore he is enioyed to doe it viz to cleere the channel thereof and to place two boyes thereon by the xxxth of Julye next on payne of forfeiteing CCli.’

Either Newland then complied with the ruling or the ship sank into the harbour mud out of harm’s way, but no more is heard of the wreck in the records of the court.

The ship’s home port, Hoorn in North Holland on the Martermeer is about 35 km north of Amsterdam. During the 1600s, it was a major trading port, an important base for both the Dutch East India Company and the West India Company and a prosperous centre of trade. On a voyage of 1616, an explorer from Hoorn, Willem Corneliszoon Schouten, rounded the stormy tip of South America and named it Kaap Hoorn after his home town. Hoorn is also credited with developing the Dutch fluyt, a very successful type of broad beamed merchant ship with a large cargo carrying capacity.

According to High Court of Admiralty records, the Fame was not owned by a trading company but by merchants Hercules Garretson, Cornelius Vene and their associates. She set sail from Hoorn in early 1631 bound for the West Indies. Anchoring off Poole in February, perhaps to take shelter in Studland Bay, the ship was overtaken by a storm, dragged her anchor and was driven on to the sands where she began to break up. The captain Jacob Johnson Botemaker and the crew of about 45 had to abandon their splendid new vessel to the sea, but at least they managed to get ashore safely. Their survival meant that the ship was not a wreck in the legal sense and still belonged to its owners. However, the presence of such a large vessel so close to the shore was too strong a temptation for the locals. As soon as the seas subsided, small boats started to go out from Poole and other places nearby, plundering victuals, tackle, munition and whatever they could find from the ship.

Newport from Speed’s map of 1610

The owners of the Fame were quick to petition the High Court of Admiralty for the recovery of their goods and the arrest of those responsible for plunder, but it is notable that they made no mention of a cargo. The Poole court records indicate that they also appointed Robert Newland to salvage the ship. The Newlands were an important merchant and shipbuilding family on the Isle of Wight with warehouses, yards and wharves at Newport and East Cowes, well placed to serve ships travelling out to the new settlements in the Americas. In the early seventeenth century, investment in Virginia was a fashionable business venture and Robert Newland senior was a member of a consortium to set up a plantation in the area of the James Rive under Captain Christopher Lawne. Newland was not one of the settlers but opened a new shipyard at Cowes and built a ship, the Bonnie Bess of 90 tons, to support the colonisation efforts, winning praise for his practical support of the venture: ‘This man (Mr Newland) an honest sufficient & a moste indevoring man for Virginia is he that cann & will searve you for victualling or maning or any other imployment to further ye plantacon, he is so well reported of, & his late indevors for Capt: Lawne (who had ells sunck) hath approoved him a ventrous charitable marchant…’ He was also given five shares in the Virginia Company in gratitude for his services and Robert junior acquired ‘lands and estate in Virginia’ as his will, of 1642 shows.

Besides having important contacts, the Newlands were also experienced in salvage operations. In October 1627 seven ships of the Dutch East India Company loaded with Dutch silver daalders and Spanish ‘pieces of eight’ were caught in a gale, near the Needles. One of them, the Campen, sank just south of the Needles and Robert Newland joined forces with a Dutch salvor, John Jacop Jansen, known as ‘Jacob the Diver’ to recover five cannon, 6,660kg of lead, and 2,635 coins from the ship. In 1631, Robert junior and William Newland were involved in the salvage of a wreck at Chale Bay in the south of the Isle of Wight and in 1635 William Newland would help to salvage the Bird Phoenix, wrecked in Compton Bay. Given their background and expertise, it was therefore natural for the Newlands to be called in to salvage the Fame.

It is possible that Robert Newland again joined forces with Jansen to work on the Swash Channel vessel. The Dutchman’s special skill was ‘a playne and manifest way of diving deepe under water’ to bring up ‘sunck ordinance, wrackt goods and moneys upon His Majesty’s Coastes of England and Ireland’. The precise details of salvage operations at the time are a mystery but they probably involved weakening the structure of the ship so that the hull could be forced apart to give access to the gundecks and hold. In deep water, primitive diving bells may have been used, as they were later in the century to salvage guns from the Swedish warship, Vasa. It was a difficult and potentially dangerous process. In the case of the Fame the salvors had the advantage of relatively shallow water and the fact that the vessel was already damaged by being battered on the sands.

In the absence of cargo, the most salvageable items were probably the guns, particularly bronze guns, sails and tackle, tools, instruments, victuals for the voyage and the clothing and belongings of the crew. The relatively small number of items found on the wreck suggests that the salvage process was quite thorough. Objects found in the excavation include a ceramic drug jar, leather shoes, pewter spoons, a skillet, cattle bones, barrels, the remains of a galley, ballast, a lead for sounding, a small bell and different kinds of shot, beside the 7 iron guns. Presumably these items were either of small account or inaccessible to the 17th century salvors.

Assuming that the identification of the Swash Channel wreck as the Fame of Hoorn is correct, there are still many unanswered questions about the vessel. What was the purpose of her voyage to the West Indies and what if anything was she carrying? What can she tell us about ship-building, maritime equipment and daily lives on board ship in the early 17th century? Whose image is carved on the head of the rudder? More information will emerge in the next months and years, but some questions will probably never be answered.


Main sources: Minutes of the Poole Admiralty Court  DC-PL/C/F/1/1/1 (Poole and Dorset History Centres) / Will of Robert Newland 1637 PROB11/174/100 (National Archives) / Will of Robert Newland (junior) 1642  PROB/11/192/104 (National Archives) / Friel, Ian: The Mercy of the Sea: Identifying the Swash Channel Wreck 2013 Unpublished (Poole History Centre)