POOLE, a borough, sea-port, and market town, being a distinct county of itself, styled “the Town and County of the Town of Poole,” though locally in the hundred of Cogdean, Shaston (East) division of the county of DORSET, 28 miles (E.) from Dorchester, and 104 (S.W. by W.) from London, containing 6390 inhabitants.
This town appears to have risen from insignificance as a fishing hamlet, about the time of Edward III., at which period the port was much frequented; and it furnished that sovereign with four ships and ninety-four men in aid of the siege of Calais: after much fluctuation in its prosperity during the succeeding reigns, about the time of Henry VI, the population had considerably increased, and the immediate successors of that monarch granted various privileges to the inhabitants. Becoming the resort and residence of Spanish merchants, the trade improved greatly, until the commencement of the reign of Elizabeth, and the breaking out of the war with Spain, when a temporary failure in its commercial interests succeeded their departure; but various additional privileges and immunities having been granted, its rising importance was established on a solid and permanent basis. During the great civil war, Poole was fortified and garrisoned for the parliament, and became the scene of severe contests and extensive slaughter, and in the succeeding reign its fortifications, though inconsiderable, were destroyed.
The town is situated on a peninsula, which is connected by an isthmus with the main land, on the north side of the harbour, from which it derives its name, and consists of several good streets, paved under the general highway act, and lighted and watched, according to the provisions of a local act obtained in the 29th of George II.: the houses in general are of a respectable appearance, several of them being of a superior order: the inhabitants are supplied with water brought from a well at Tatnam, about a mile distant, and there are wells of good water belonging to most of the dwelling-houses. Different reading societies have been formed, and a public library has recently been established, for which a building is about to be erected in the High-street, at the expense of the Hon. W. F. S. Ponsonby, one of the representatives for the borough, on ground given by the other, B. L. Lester, Esq. The town-house, a neat structure on the quay, has been recently erected by subscription, and is used by the subscribers, who are chiefly merchants, as a news-room. The trade of the port is principally with Newfoundland, and was formerly more extensive than it is at present: the exports consist of provisions, wearing apparel, and commodities of all kinds useful for the residents there, which are exchanged for cod and salmon, the greater part of which is sent to foreign markets; and oil, seal skins, furs, and cranberries, for home consumption. Considerable quantities of corn are imported and exported. The manufactures of the town and neighbourhood consist principally of rope, twine, and sail-cloth; and in the yards for ship-building many workmen are engaged. The oyster-fishery employs a great number of boats; and, with the abundance of other fish taken in the harbour, especially plaice and herrings, which are remarkably fine, furnishes a large supply for the London market. By charter of Henry VI., who transferred the privileges of the port of Melcombe-Regis hither, a market and two fairs were granted; the former is held on Thursday, there being also another on Monday: one fair is held on the feast of St. Philip and St. James, the other on All Souls' day, each continuing seven days. The butchers' market is held under the guildhall, and there are two adjacent market-places for vegetables and poultry, one of them recently erected by the corporation.
The municipal government is vested in a mayor, recorder, sheriff, four justices of the peace, and an indefinite number of aldermen, with a town clerk, and other officers. The first charter, which is without date, is supposed to have been granted between the 1st and 9th of Richard I., by which William Longespee, lord of the manor of Canford, of which Poole then formed a part, granted to his burgesses of Poole certain privileges, and prescribed the form of government for the borough. This charter was confirmed by William de Montacute, in the 45th of Edward III., and subsequently by Thomas de Montacute, in the 12th of Henry IV., both Earls of Salisbury, and lords of the manor of Canford: these, with all former charters, were confirmed by Elizabeth, by charter dated February 18th, 1559: that sovereign also granted a new one, in the 10th of her reign, which is the governing charter, and re-incorporated the burgesses and inhabitants, by the style of “the Mayor, Bailiffs, Burgesses, and Commonalty of the Town of Poole,” erecting it into a county of itself, entirely independent of the county of Dorset. Other charters, with an extension of former privileges, were granted by Charles II., in the 19th of his reign, and James II., in the 4th. The burgesses are chosen by the corporation at large, and the mayor is elected by the burgesses from their own body, on the Friday before St. Matthew's day; he is a justice of the peace, and the ensuing year is elected senior bailiff and a justice: the number of aldermen is unlimited, as every person who has served the office of mayor becomes an alderman: the recorder and town clerk are chosen by the corporation, subject to the approval of the king. On the day of election for mayor, the burgesses appoint from among their own number, a senior bailiff, four justices of the peace, a sheriff, water-bailiff, and two coroners: the two serjeants at mace are elected by the corporation. The county magistrates have no jurisdiction within the town. A weekly court of record is held under the charter of Elizabeth, in which the mayor and the senior bailiff preside as judges: the jurisdiction embraces pleas of any amount within the town and county of the town, with the same power of personal arrest and attachment of goods as that exercised by the superior courts.
A court of admiralty, formerly annual, is now occasionally held by the mayor, as admiral within the liberties; a jury is empannelled, and a perambulation of the boundaries of the port made, and all nuisances and encroachments are presented. The sheriff holds his Tourn annually, at which presentments of illegal weights and measures are made. Quarter sessions are held before the recorder, mayor, and justices. The guildhall, in which the sessions and public meetings of the corporation are held, was erected, in 1761, at the joint expense of Joseph Gulston, jun., Esq., and Lieut. Col. Calcraft: the chandeliers and sconces with which it is ornamented were given by William Morton Pitt, Esq., formerly one of the representatives for Poole, and late member for the county of Dorset, who also gave a pair of handsome silver gilt maces, now in use. The first return made by this borough was to a council in the 14th of Edward III., and to two of his parliaments, there having been an intermission from that time until the 31st of Henry VI., since which it has regularly returned two members. The elective franchise is prescriptive: the right is vested in the corporation, the number of voters being two hundred and nine, of whom one hundred and forty-seven are resident, and sixty-two non-resident; thirty-two of the residents, whomever, are minors: the sheriff is the returning officer, and the interest of the Garland family predominates. The number of the electors having considerably decreased, and several being non-resident, the corporation, pursuant to a notice-given by William Jolliffe, Esq., then mayor, held a special meeting on the 16th of September, 1830, at which, on the nomination of forty-eight burgesses, ninety-six inhabitants were admitted to the freedom, each burgess being allowed to nominate two.
The living is a perpetual curacy, in the jurisdiction of the peculiar court of Great Canford and Poole, and in the patronage of the Mayor and Corporation. The church, dedicated to St. James, is a new and elegant edifice of Purbeck stone, the old church having become dilapidated. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, Wesleyan Methodists, and Unitarians.
A free school, on the National system, for poor children of both sexes, is conducted by a master, who receives £24 per annum, arising from a bequest of £300 by a Mr. Harbin, in trust to the corporation, and invested in the purchase of land at Corfe-Castle, now producing £60 a year, the residue being distributed among the poor at Christmas. Almshouses in West-street, for twelve poor persons, were founded and endowed, early in the seventeenth century, with an annuity of £18, chargeable on an estate near Longham, by Mr. Robert Rogers, of London. Other almshouses, for a similar number, situated at Hungerhill, were founded in 1812, by George Garland, Esq., who endowed them with £200 and the rent of property in Poole, amounting at present to £26 per annum, appointing the corporation trustees. There are also some almshouses in Church-street, of unknown foundation. Sir Peter Thompson, a Hamburgh merchant, and many years fellow of the Royal and Antiquarian Societies, collected all the known ancient records relating to this his native place, where he almost constantly resided, and where, at his death, he was buried. This was also the birth-place of John Lewis, a divine and antiquary.
Volume 3, page 552