So following on from my previous post here, I continued my walk into Poole, the town from which Poole Harbour takes its name. But this is not the oldest town in the harbour, that accolade falls to Wareham which is further inland and came to the fore in Saxon times. Wareham was the main port in the harbour until Poole took over that mantle after the Norman Conquest – in fact, Poole does not exist as an identifiable entry in the Doomsday Book.
It was in the 16th century that Poole started to really grow in importance as a port with a lot of its wealth being based on trade with the North American Colonies, especially Newfoundland. Its most prosperous period was in the 18th and early 19th centuries, a time when it had more ships trading with North America than any other English port, and there are many Georgian Mansions in the Poole Old Town which were built by the wealthy merchants.
Fishing has also been a feature of Poole and at one end of the quay is what we called Fisherman’s Hard, although this has now been remoddled.
The quay itself is still much as it used to be and even in my day, I can remember large ships mooring there to load up with coal and other goods. I remember too the railway lines that ran along the quayside, and more than once, as a child, I managed to get my bike wheels stuck in them……with the usual consequences 🙂 !
These days, it is mostly pleasure craft and tourism that feature along the main part of the quay although there is a separate area for the cross-channel ferries to berth, and for more industrial activities. Some of the pleasure craft are somewhat exclusive, with Sunseeker being based here so I guess its fair to say that the super-rich are still being catered for although their once functional ships have been replaced with something much more ostentatious!
One of the famous buildings along the quay is the Customs House with its semi-circular curved steps up to the first floor. The current building was erected in 1813 after the previous building was destroyed by fire. This is now a cafe but it is a reminder of the heady days of prosperous Poole.
I finished my walk as the sun was setting, throwing everything into silhouette. The beautiful light reflected off the water and the cranes in the more industrial part of the port added their potency in the background. Despite the cold, it was a lovely way to end my walk. Nevertheless, there were still many people out either walking or cycling, enjoying this rare January evening, as I was.
Having been born in a suburb of Poole and having worked in the town centre for over 20 years, I know the town pretty well and it would take a book to do it justice. What I have put up here is just a snapshot of the fascinating town and maybe I will put up a full blog entry on the Old Town which is where most of the interest lies. Many years ago, I put together a walk around historic Poole which was featured in The Dorset Life magazine – it is undoubtedly one of those places that rewards a bit of time spent exploring.
Thanks for stopping by.
Until next time,
The Dorset Rambler
If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@– comments and feedback are always welcomed.
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