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MARKET TOWNS OF DORSET (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Poole in 1840

POOLE, a corporate town on the coast of Dorsetshire, 98 miles in a direct line south-west by west of St. Paul’s, London, or about 116 miles from the General Post-office by the South-Western Railway to Southampton, and thence by Ringwood. The origin of Poole is unknown ; it is supposed to have been an ancient demesne of the crown granted to William Longespee, a natural son or descendant of Henry II. Longespee gave a charter to the burgesses of Poole, the date of which is not ascertained. This charter was confirmed by William Monteacute, earl of Salisbury, 45 Edward III, and by subsequent earls or by the crown.

In 1365 Poole was made a magazine for the wars of Edward III in France. After this period it decayed, but in the reign of Henry VI it revived. It is likely that its early prosperity depended upon the vigour with which the war in France was carried on. In Leland’s time it flourished, and in the reign of Elizabeth was resorted to by Spanish merchants. In the civil war it had a garrison of parliamentarians, who were troublesome neighbours to the royalist detachments in the county.

The town is upon a considerable inlet of the British Channel, which forms the harbour, and opens into the bay that lies between Hengistbury-head and Durlston-head. This inlet has a very narrow entrance which faces the east ; it extends several miles inland, forming, when the tide is up, a large sheet of water, but presenting, when the tide is out, an assemblage of mud-banks divided by narrow channels. In the harbour are several islands; one of them, Brownsea island, having an area of several hundred acres, handsomely laid out, and some good buildings on it.

The town occupies a peninsula on the north side of the harbour, and consists of several streets irregularly laid out, the principal of them running from north to south. The borough is co-extensive with the parish of St. James, and comprehends an area of 170 acres. The number of inhabited houses was, in 1831, 1,315, besides 76 uninhabited and 11 building. The number of families was 1,426, of persons 6,459, besides 1,119 mariners employed in registered vessels belonging to the port.

The town had outgrown in some parts the corporate limits, and it may be calculated that its population in 1831 (exclusive of the mariners) was considerably above 7,000, and has since then increased. A small suburb has grown up, separated from the town by an inlet of the harbour, over which there is a bridge. The houses in Poole are generally of respectable appearance, and some of them are of a superior class.

The streets are paved : they are lighted and watched under a local Act. The guildhall was built in the middle of the last century, and there are a neat subscription and news room erected of late years, and a building for the public library. The church of St. James has been rebuilt of Purbeck stone ; and there are an Episcopal chapel and several dissenting meeting-houses. There are a tolerably large gaol and house of correction for the borough, a custom-house, and an edifice of some antiquity, the king’s hall or wool-house.

The trade which was formerly carried on with Newfoundland has much declined, but the coasting trade has considerably increased. The quays have been much enlarged and improved, and the harbour is one of the safest and best on the Channel coast. The number of vessels from foreign parts which entered inwards in the years 1831, 1832, and 1833, averaged for each year about 100 with cargoes, and 20 in ballast ; the average number which cleared outwards for foreign ports was above 110 with cargoes, and 45 in ballast ; the number of coasters entered inward on the average of the same years was about 590 with cargoes, and nearly 350 in ballast ; cleared outwards, nearly 1,500 with cargoes, and 95 in ballast. The number of registered vessels belonging to the port in 1833 was 158. The clay found in the island of Purbeck is shipped here for the use of the potteries in Staffordshire or elsewhere ; from 25,000 to 30,000 tons are shipped yearly. A considerable trade in corn is also carried on ; and there are building-yards for vessels, and rope and twine walks. Sail-cloth is manufactured, and an active oyster and other fishery carried on.

The corporation of Poole, under the Municipal Reform Act, consists of 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. As the town is a county of itself, there is a sheriff annually elected by the burgesses. The borough had been much extended for parliamentary purposes, and the parliamentary limits have been adopted for municipal purposes until altered by parliament : it is divided into two wards. Quarter-sessions for the borough are held, and a weekly Court of Record, having unlimited jurisdiction in all cases, real, personal, or mixed. The sheriff holds a county court when necessary.

Poole returned two members to parliament in the 13, 36, and 42 Edward III ; it then discontinued sending them until 31 Henry VI, when the privilege was resumed, and has been continued ever since. The number of voters registered in the year 1835-36 was 498. The living of St. James at Poole is a perpetual curacy, of the value of £307, with a glebe-house ; it is in the peculiar jurisdiction of Canford.

There were in the parish of St. James in 1833 twenty-nine infant or dame schools, with 455 children ; an endowed free school with 22 boys ; two Lancasterian schools, with 155 children ; fourteen other day-schools, with 272 children ; three boarding-schools, with 48 children ; and five Sunday-schools, with 809 children : three of the Sunday-schools have lending libraries attached.