In Search of Alderney Manor

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

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

1795 Map

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

1826 map

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

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

John Le Mesurier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grantley Berkerley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Manor as a sanatorium

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

Augustus John Self Portrait

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


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

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


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







The Romans are Coming

H. P. Smith and boys beside an ancient kiln

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


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

Base worked out of shale

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

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

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

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

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

Road cross-section

Patterned Samian Ware including hare design

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

New Forest Ware indented pot

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


Photos taken by courtesy of Poole Museum



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.




Poole’s Ghost Walls

Pause in the middle of Falkland Square, level with the turning into Kingland Crescent, and you are probably standing on the line of Poole’s long-vanished medieval defences. Cutting across this area four hundred years ago was a ditch stretching from Holes Bay in the west to Parkstone Bay in the east, backed by the town walls. To the west near the site of the present railway station was the only landward entrance to the town, the ‘embattled gate of stone’ known as the towngate, reached by a drawbridge.

Map of the defences c.1634

The defences were constructed in the 15th century following a grant from Henry VI in 1433 making Poole a Port of the Staple or customs port for Dorset. Permission for the Poole inhabitants to build defences was included in the grant: ‘The mayor and Burgesses of the said town of Pole propose (as we conceive) sufficiently to wall, embattle and fortify (through our succour and licence) the said town and port for the more safe keeping of merchandizes and other goods coming thither, and also for the fortifying of the places adjacent.’

There is no record of the process of constructing the defences but it must have been a major operation. The chosen line of the wall and ditch took advantage of the geography of the town, cutting across the narrow neck of land joining the Poole peninsular to the main land. Elsewhere the town was protected by the sea and mudflats. Why the towngate was built to the west rather than near the middle of the defences is not clear. Perhaps it was a case of choosing the highest and most solid piece of ground, but its location required the building of an access road from High Street known as Towngate Lane (later Towngate Street). There are several images of the towngate on old maps, showing it as a square castellated gate house flanked by two round towers. There are also many references to it in the archives, as for instance in the town accounts of 1524 when the two new posts and nearly 2 cwt of iron were needed to repair the gate or in 1645 when workmen were paid for mending the chain of the drawbridge. In contrast, the walls are only sketchily depicted and seldom mentioned in the records.

The earliest image comes from a map or bird’s eye view of the Dorset coast dating from 1539 when Henry VIII was planning a series of forts and beacons against attack from the continent (one of which was the blockhouse on Brownsea Island). Confusingly to our eyes, south is shown at the top of the map and an added complication is that some of the depicted fortifications were never actually built. The Poole section shows the towngate with what might be a stretch of wall to the west and a cluster of buildings behind to represent the town. Two circular gun platforms are also shown, one on the Quay and one at the end of the Hamworthy peninsular. We know from the records that a gun platform was built on the quay in 1524, decorated with carved and painted heraldic animals from the royal coat of arms. This platform or its successor may be the one shown on the map, but as space was tight on the Quay it would have probably been removed as soon as the invasion threat was over. The Hamworthy fortification was known as the bulwark and is mentioned in the archives into the 1600s.

The old wall near the Quay

Shortly after the map was drawn up, the antiquary John Leland visited Poole and observed its layout. He described the town being connected to the main land ‘by the space almost of a flite shot’ and mentioned the towngate and the ditch, but not the walls at the north end of town. Instead he claimed that ‘King Richard III began a pece of a Toun Waulle at one end of the Kay; and promised large thinges to the Town of Pole.’ This may refer to a section of wall behind the buildings on Thames Street which still exists. Dating from the late 15th century or the 16th century (depending on which authority you consult) this wall of coursed limestone rubble is about 3m high, 30m long and in places nearly 1m thick. It contains an arched doorway and for part of its length, a projecting castellated top supported by corbels. On the inside are stone steps leading up to a parapet. Whether this was a town wall or a rather over-sized property boundary and whether it was originally longer and was ever finished are among the many questions surrounding the structure. What is clear is that at one time the shingle came up to foot of the wall but over time the shore was reclaimed, leaving the wall high and (literally) dry. By 1609, an inventory of a house on Thames Street describes its two gardens, one within and one outside ‘the battled wall’. In other words, by this date the wall had lost its function as a property boundary, let alone anything as grand as a town wall.

Map from the time of Elizabeth I

In 1582, a legal settlement with the town’s brewers over taxes made a rare reference to the town walls, describing how Poole’s revenues ‘must of necessity be from time to time employed used and bestowed upon the necessary provision and maintenance of the said town the church the haven the quay the walls and other necessary offices . . .’ Around the same time another map of the harbour seems to show the town completely walled around, with a structure, presumably the towngate, at the northern end of town. The details cannot be taken literally, but the map-maker clearly wanted to show a fortified town. It is not until the early 17th century that maps begin to show the layout of the town with some accuracy for the first time and it is from these that we get most information about the defences and their location.

Map c. 1630s from the Bankes family archive

By the time of the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, Poole’s defences like those of many towns must have seemed like a relic from the past. In changed times, however, they were about to come into their own. Poole had declared its support for Parliament and one of the first actions of the authorities was to make an order that ‘that a constant watch shalbe from henceforth kept for the preservation and the Defence of this towne, by the number of one watch man, one Rounder, and a gunner for the daye tyme att the towne gate, and six ordinary watchmen of the Comonalty, and two rounders for the night watch’. The inclusion of ‘rounders’ or roundsmen suggests a boundary which could be patrolled.

The following year, there was an attempt by the Royalists to take the town by treachery which casts more light on the war time defences. A Royalist Captain Thomas Phillips had been having secret meetings with Captain Francis Sydenham of the Poole garrison to persuade him to betray the town into Royalist hands. Sydenham pretended to accept but revealed the plot to Col. John Bingham, the Governor of Poole. Sydenham as officer of the watch was to blow a horn as a signal and then rush into the town, leaving the gates open for the Royalist troops to enter. On the chosen night the Royalists about 500 strong under the command of the Earl of Crawford approached the town in the darkness and hearing the signal, charged forward only to find the gate closed against them. Worse ‘before the gate was a halfe-moon, at the entrance of which there were chaines to be drawne up at pleasure; the earle with his horse filling the halfe-moon, the chaines were then drawn up, and the muskets and ordnance . . . gave fire upon those that came on, which caused all that were not slaine to throwe downe their armes and runne away.’ The earl barely escaped with his life and the Royalists lost valuable arms and about 50 horses, beside those killed, injured or taken prisoner.

A half moon

Half moons were outworks, usually with two sides coming to a point and short flanks, used as a refuge for defenders outside the main fortifications or to protect a vulnerable spot such as a road or the entrance to a town. Where exactly the Poole half moon was and how it operated, we don’t know but it certainly served its purpose on this occasion. The following year, the town was again under attack when the Royalist Sir Thomas Aston defeated a detachment of Poole horse and chased them to the edge of town ‘where the Rebels’ cannon and small shot played thick upon him from the walls’, according to the Royalist newspaper, Mercurius Aulicus.

There is evidence from the archives for other fortifications used during the Civil War. One was a fort at Hamworthy said to be built from stone taken from the Hamworthy church. It was probably designed to prevent attackers coming down the peninsular and getting too close to the town. In 1645-6 the town accounts mention payments to 4 workmen ‘to unrig the fort at Ham for lading it, bringinge it out & pillinge it & for the cartinge of it all’. It was not entirely demolished because in November 1646, Thomas Smedmore of Hamworthy was awarded compensation of £12 a year for his ‘great losses by fortifications which were made upon his ground’, making it clear that these were still standing. Other defensive structures mentioned in the same accounts about which very little is known are ‘seaman’s battery’ and the ‘western works’, although the latter may be the same as the ‘western fort’ shown on a map of 100 years later near the western end of the ditch.

After the Civil War some of the defences like the half moon were probably removed fairly quickly while other structures gradually fell into disuse. In August 1653, the Council of State ordered towns to demolish their fortifications and ‘the town of Poole, Ham and all the works adjoining, to be immediately dismantled’. So the walls and the towngate were taken down after 200 years’ existence and the ditch was filled in or gradually silted up. In 1745, at the time of the second Jacobite rebellion, an attempt was made to re-excavate the ditch but this was discontinued after the town had spent around £300, according to the traveller Dr. Pococke.

Map of c. 1760

The defences had gone but their ghostly imprint on the streets of Poole remained. Towngate Street continued as the main road leading out of town and 100 years after the wall and ditch had gone, High Street still came to a stop at the northern end with a ropeworks built across it. When the turnpike trust was set up, the Poole tollgate was built on the site of the old towngate where it remained for another 40 years. It was not until the 1830’s that High Street was extended into Longfleet and the toll gate was relocated there. The coming of the railway in 1874 reinstated a barrier more or less along the same line as the old defences, which remains today.

Over the years, reminders of the lost defences have unexpectedly surfaced. In 1835, workmen digging a well near the site of the wall found a skeleton with long hair still attached. Whether this was a victim of the Civil War or some other unfortunate individual, we don’t know. In the 20th century, shaped blocks were found in a garden in Rigler Road, Hamworthy, perhaps the foundations of the fort.

In the early 1970s it was still possible to race the old boundary line from Holes Bay in the west via the site of the gate at Towngate Street to the reclaimed area north of Pitwines. Later developments would sweep away most landmarks in the area. When the Towngate Bridge was being built in 1971, traces of the old town wall were discovered and some of the stonework was taken to Scaplen’s Court for display. An old boundary stone was also found nearby and mounted on one of the bridge supports with a modern explanatory plaque. At least the name of the bridge preserves the memory of the old towngate and as we sweep over the bridge today we can imagine the deadly fight in the darkness nearly four centuries ago when the townsmen fought off the Royalist ambush.


Main sources: ‘An Old Town Boundary’ Poole Corporation Report 1970 pp. 97-9 / ‘The History of the Borough and County of the Town of Poole’ H. P. Smith / ‘History of the Town and County of Poole’ John Sydenham.




Poole Plaques – How Unfortunate was Monmouth?

alcatraz-plaqueThe number of information plaques in Poole has multiplied recently, giving our next speaker, Steve Roberts, quite a challenge in tackling the subject at his talk on 15th February. The latest crop of bright blue discs adds to the many types and styles of plaques already in existence. In fact the more you look, the more you find. They are mounted on walls and buildings, set into the pavement, on posts and plinths, indoors and outdoors. Some are made of stone, some of metal, ceramic tiles, wood or plastic. A purist might wish that they were all of one style but I think that would be a shame because the style of the plaque says as much about the time they were put up as the subject they are commemorating.

welcome-signSome are consciously antique in style, like the one recording the visit of Charles II in 1665 or the one on the old library. Others are contemporary like the tiled ‘Welcome to Poole’ signs and the decorative plaques round the walls of the Civic Centre which evoke the 1930s. The oldest one I could find is the one on the Guildhall which presumably dates from 1761 and is very much of its period which we are told was during ‘the mayoralty of George Wefton Efquire’. One or two are hard to read like the Sea Music sign which I believe is due to be splendidly restored.  The Overlord plaque on the Custom House is classic and restrained while the 1994 plaque further down the Quay also commemorating D-Day is abstract and artistic.


Wording on the signs is also diverse and interesting. Some are technical ‘. . note the eye-bolt terminals’ or rather convoluted ‘. . . which formerly ran through this point in a direction slightly north of west to the shore.’ There are unexpected nuggets of information: ‘. . . these 83 foot boats, made entirely of wood . .’ or ‘. . . the crew was taken by horse brake to their station at Sandbanks, which is now the site of the Royal Motor Yacht Club’. One plaque is in Latin and another quotes from a document dating from 1579. Some are poetical: ‘. . . a time to love and a time to hate, a time of war and a time of peace’ or religious ‘. . . suffered six months’ imprisonment for conscience sake’. Some express themselves in a way we would not choose today: ‘. . . devoted to the use of the poor for 500 years’ and some allow a little partisan feeling to creep in: ‘King Charles II and unfortunate Duke of Monmouth . . .’.

Mixed bag or not, the streets of Poole are richer for their plaques and I am looking forward to finding out more about them.



Wallace – Collector and Scientist

ARW butterfly

Golden birdwing butterfly

On 9th October 1852, the Hampshire Advertiser reported that the brig Jordeson, just docked at Deal, brought news of ‘the total destruction by fire of the English vessel Helen, bound from Para, South America.’ Captain Venables of the Jordeson had rescued the crew and single passenger of the Helen in mid Atlantic after 10 days in open boats, exposed to the fierce sun. However, their ordeal was not over. Supplies on board the Jordeson were low and the extra mouths to feed meant that food had to be severely rationed. In fact they might have starved if they had not managed to obtain supplies from a passing ship. As a final trial, the ship had to battle storms in the channel before finally docking at Deal.

Wallace as a young man

Wallace as a young man

The sole passenger from the Helen was 29 year old Alfred Russel Wallace, returning to England after four years exploring the Amazon basin, observing and collecting natural history specimens. When fire broke out he had managed to save only a few of his possessions in a tin box but had lost all of his precious specimens of the last two years, which he believed to be worth £500, including his private collection with hundreds of new species of insects and birds. He had also lost most of his notes and drawings. It was a disastrous end to the trip.

Wallace’s family were not well off and he was obliged to earn his way from a young age. His formal education at Hertford Grammar School lasted only to the age of 13 and consisted mainly of learning facts by rote. He was however a keen reader with a practical and enquiring mind. After leaving school he worked in various jobs including land surveying with his brother William, a life which suited him. He developed an interest in astronomy and botany and started a collection of plant specimens. In 1844, he took a teaching post in Leicester which gave him the opportunity to learn mathematics and to use the Leicester Library where he read some of the major scientific works of the day. He also met Walter Henry Bates, a keen entomologist, specialising in beetles, who inspired him to start his own insect collection.

ARW beetlesIn 1847, inspired by ‘A Voyage up the Amazon’ by W.H. Edwards, Wallace and Henry Bates planned a trip to South America to observe and collect the wildlife. They were assured by Edward Doubleday of the British Museum that there were many new and rare species to find and that they could cover their expenses by selling what they collected. They also found an excellent agent in Samuel Stevens, himself a keen collector. The Victorian passion for collecting was partly based on the ‘cabinet of curiosities’ fashionable in the previous century. With the spread of exploration, trade and empire, scientists and the general public alike became increasingly fascinated by foreign artefacts and exotic wildlife. Cases of stuffed birds, trays of butterflies and beetles and tableaux of animals in lifelike poses were to be found in many private houses, institutions and museums. Rare species were much in demand and could command high prices.

Wallace and Bates sailed from Liverpool in April 1848. Wallace was 25 and Bates a couple of years younger. Both largely self taught, they epitomised the enterprising amateur naturalists exploring the world in the early 19th century. In Para they were excited by the abundance and variety of the local fauna. They quickly established a routine, hunting birds in the early morning and then insects until two or three in the afternoon. In the evening they preserved their specimens. Ironically, to a modern way of thinking, Victorian naturalists spent a lot of their time killing wildlife, although they did also observe the habits of the living creatures around them.ARW Amazon

After a successful few months, the pair decided to separate to cover more ground. Wallace travelled further up the Amazon to the Rio Negro and Uaupes regions, observing the people and the wildlife and pondering ideas about the evolution or ‘transmutation’ of the different species. He also used his surveying skills to map the area. In 1849, Wallace’s brother, Herbert came out to Brazil to work with him but after a year it was clear that he was not cut out for the life, being of a more literary than scientific turn of mind. Herbert prepared to return to Para and England while Alfred set off on another trip up river. Sadly, Herbert caught yellow fever in Para and died after a few days, a fact not known to his brother for several months. In 1852, weakened by bouts of fever, Wallace finally decided to return to England and so embarked on the unfortunate Helen for what would prove to be a near fatal voyage.

Back in England, Wallace’s position seemed rather grim. The specimens sent back to England early in the trip would only cover his expenses, providing no profit, and the loss of his notes and drawings was a major blow. However, the insurance which Samuel Stevens had advised him to take out did provide £200 compensation and there were the letters which he had written home during the trip. Armed with these, his recollections and the notes that he had saved, he wrote ‘Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro’, part travel book, part naturalist’s guide. Published in 1853, it did not make much of a profit but passages were quoted quite widely in the press:

ARW Amazon 2‘Every night, while in the upper part of the river, we had a concert of frogs, which made most extraordinary noises. There are three kinds, which can frequently all be heard at once. One of these makes a noise something like what one would expect a frog to make, namely a dismal croak; but the sounds uttered by the others were like no animal noise that I ever heard before. A distant railway train approaching, and a blacksmith hammering on his anvil, are what they exactly resemble. They are such true imitations, that when lying half-dozing in the canoe I have often fancied myself at home hearing the familiar sounds of the approaching mail train, and the hammering of the boiler-makers at the iron-works.’

Wallace made some useful contacts in London. He had gone out to the Amazon an unknown, but now he was in a position to meet eminent scientists like the biologist, Thomas Huxley. He attended meetings of the Zoological Society, Entomological Society and the Linnean Society and visited the British Museum and Kew gardens for his research. He also read a paper on ‘The Rio Negro and the Head Waters of the Amazon’ at a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society and presented his map of the area. When he came to plan his next trip, he was able to ask the President of the Royal Geographical Society, Sir Roderick Murchison, if he could arrange a free passage for him to Singapore.

Sir James Brooke

Sir James Brooke

The destination that Wallace had chosen was the Malay Archipelago which he thought would be a rewarding place to study. He set off in the spring of 1854 for what was to be a trip of great significance to his own career and to the development of science. Over the next eight years, Wallace travelled to the different islands in the group, observing and collecting. In Sarawak he was welcomed by the Rajah, Sir James Brooke, a colourful British adventurer who had been appointed Rajah by the Sultan of Brunei after helping restore that monarch to his throne.

Wallace’s next objective was Sulawesi, via Lombok and Bali and from Sulawesi he took trips to the Moluccas and New Guinea. Later, he visited Java and Sumatra. Some of the smaller islands had never been visited by a European collector before and everywhere, Wallace found a wealth of new and interesting species. In each new location, he was quick to establish an efficient routine of collecting and preserving specimens but he was also interested in the lives and customs of the native people amongst whom he was living. In all, he travelled over 14,000 miles and collected around 125,660 specimens of which about 5,000 were new to European science. Several of these like the flying frog of Sarwak and the beautiful golden birdwing butterfly of the Maluku islands, would later be named after him.

ARW lineDuring his travels he began to notice that neighbouring islands contained ‘two different faunas rigidly circumscribed which differ as much as do those of Africa or South America’. He concluded that the eastern islands of the group had once been much further away from the western islands and closer to Australia. The boundary between the areas of different fauna was later to become known as Wallace’s Line. Wallace’s daily observation of different species also gave him a lot of material upon which to base his ideas about evolution. In 1855 he produced an ‘Essay on the Law which has regulated the Introduction of New Species’ which concluded that each new species to emerge required the presence of a ‘pre-existing closely-allied species’. He did not, however, attempt to explain the mechanism by which a new species was created. It was a bout of fever, leaving him too weak for the daily routine of collecting, which gave him the leisure to come up with a possible solution, as he later described:

‘At that time I was suffering from a rather severe attack of intermittent fever at Ternate in the Moluccas, and one day while lying on my bed during the cold fit, wrapped in blankets . . . the problem again presented itself to me, and something led me to think of the “positive checks” described by Malthus in his “Essay on Population”, a work I had read several years before, and which had made a deep and permanent impression on my mind. These checks – war, disease, famine and the like – must, it occurred to me, act on animals as well as on man. Then I thought of the enormously rapid multiplication of animals, causing these checks to be much more effective in them than in the case of man; and while pondering vaguely on this fact there suddenly flashed upon me the idea of the survival of the fittest – that the individuals removed by these checks must be on the whole inferior to those that survived. In the two hours that elapsed before my ague fit was over I had thought out almost the whole of the theory, and the same evening I sketched the draft of my paper, and in the two successive evenings wrote it out in full, and sent it by the next post to Mr. Darwin.’

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

What followed is famous scientific history. When Darwin received the letter, he was dismayed to realise how closely Wallace’s ideas mirrored his own unpublished work. He consulted his friends, Sir Charles Lyall and Dr. Joseph Hooker who proposed a compromise. At a special meeting of the Linnean Society on 1st July 1858, part of Darwin’s work and a letter outlining his theory was read, followed by Wallace’s essay. Wallace did not hear about the meeting until later but his only regret was that he had not been able to correct and proof-read his work. At the time, the theory did not create much response, but the following year, Darwin produced his book ‘On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection’ which produced an increasing storm of controversy.

One of the main confrontations between supporters of Darwin’s (and Wallace’s) ideas and those who opposed them took place in Oxford at a meeting of the British Association on 30th June 1860, as reported in the Athenaeum:

‘The Bishop of Oxford came out strongly against a theory which holds it possible that man may be descended from an ape,—in which protest he is sustained by Prof. Owen, Sir Benjamin Brodie, Dr. Daubeny, and the most eminent naturalists assembled at Oxford. But others—conspicuous among these, Prof. Huxley—have expressed their willingness to accept, for themselves, as well as for their friends and enemies, all actual truths, even the last humiliating truth of a pedigree not registered in the Herald’s College. The dispute has at least made Oxford uncommonly lively during the week.’

Birds of Paradise

Birds of Paradise

By the time Wallace returned to England in 1862 (bringing with him two birds of paradise never before seen alive in Europe), enough time had passed for the public and the scientific community to get used to the ideas if not accept them. His return was very different from his previous return from Brazil. His name was now well known and respected in scientific circles and he had a store of notes and specimens to work upon and information to present. In December 1863, for instance, he gave a paper to the Leeds Literary and Philosophical Society ‘On the Varieties of Man in the Malay Archipelago’ in which he contrasted the Malays in the western islands with the Papuans in the east, as being very different in appearance and character. He suggested that the islands could be divided ‘by a vertical waving line through the Moluccas. . . This division was in harmony with that which had been shown to exist in the animal productions of the same region.’

ARW Malay AIn 1866, Alfred Wallace married Annie Mitten, the daughter of a keen botanist, William Mitten. They were to have three children, Herbert, Violet and William, although Herbert died as a child. After spending some time sorting out his collections, he wrote possibly his most important book ‘The Malay Archipelago’, published in 1869. The Times’ review described it as ‘a careful and deliberately composed narrative, the fruits of 60 or 70 journeys made within the Malay Archipelago, journeys which occupied nearly eight years of time, and extended over a distance of 14,000 miles.’ Mr. Wallace had delayed publication while he sorted his collection of specimens ‘and scientific readers will all agree that this judicious delay has greatly enhanced the value of his work. Every page contains matter of interest; we shall there fore only attempt such a cursory survey of the numerous topics discussed as may induce those of our readers who have not seen the book to get it for themselves.’ One can imagine that Wallace was pleased with this review.

Wallace was to go on to publish a total of 22 books and innumerable papers, articles and essays. He remained an enthusiastic supporter of Darwinism and embraced many other interests including land nationalisation, socialism, and spiritualism. In 1882 he was present at Darwin’s funeral and acted as a pall-bearer, sharing the honour with two dukes, an earl and several eminent scientists. In 1885, he went on an extended lecture tour of the United States and Canada, even meeting the American president, Grover Cleveland. It was a far cry from the circumstances of his early life. He never became a wealthy man but a Civil List pension gave him some financial security. It was a kindly, enthusiastic and enquiring man who came to spend his retirement in Poole.