Eating out in Poole High Street gives you the chance to visit properties with histories which span at least 500 years. Sadly, few period interiors survive, but you still have the choice of Tudor or Edwardian, Georgian elegance or Art Deco style.
The Courtyard Tea Rooms are housed in the outbuildings surrounding a tiny courtyard, tucked away behind one of Poole’s remaining 16th century buildings, a part of the High Street we rarely get to see. Another 16th century property, No. 14, now houses R’s Kitchen. This building with No. 12 next door was built as a single house, possibly in the reign of Henry VIII and is believed to have been the home of Tudor merchant and Mayor of Poole, Thomas Byngley. Its half-timbered construction can best be seen from the back in Cinnamon Lane. Inside there is a curious painted ceiling, probably dating from the early 19th century. (Read more about Thomas Byngley and the painted ceiling in this blog). Pizza Express also has the distinction of occupying a 16th century property.
Other Tudor buildings in the lower High Street are the Antelope and the King’s Head which have been inns since at least the 17thcentury. They can therefore claim to be the oldest catering establishments in High Street. Some very early features, fireplaces and beams can be seen in the rear wing of the Antelope which has a distinguished history as the town’s principal coaching inn (see previous posts on the blog). The King’s Head was once known as the Plume of Feathers and still retains its ancient roof structure.
The troubled 17th century was not a great period for building in the town but the 18th century definitely was. The earliest mansion to be built on High Street by one of Poole’s rich 18th century traders now houses Nos 87 and 89, Ma’s Pizza and Pasta restaurant and Yates’ Wine Lodge. Built in 1704 for the Barfoot family, the house is tucked away and half hidden but once had made a very impressive statement. In its original form it was 3 storeys high and 7 bays wide with projecting wings at the front and rear and an ornamental garden stretching down to Lagland Street. It was divided into two houses in the late 18th century to accommodate later generations of the family. In the 19th century, descendents of the Kemp merchant family lived in one of the houses and the other was Ledgard’s (later Wilts and Dorset) bank. Some elegant 18th century features can still be seen in the pizza restaurant.
At the end of the 19th century, a department store was built incorporating half of the original house, a typical late Victorian shopping emporium. In the 1920s it was Butler and Sons, drapers and then became Bon Marché, drapers and outfitters, which many Poole people remember with affection. At its height, the store also boasted a restaurant. In 1941, its windows were blown out by a bomb which destroyed the shop opposite. Today, the building houses Yates’ Wine Lodge.
Another Victorian shop now house Burger King. For many years, it was Bayley’s and then Butler & Sons, ironmongers, house furnishers and suppliers of hardware, china and glass. I remember it as Newbery’s furniture store before it was converted to a restaurant.
Across the road the Bournemouth Gas and Water Company built its district office and showroom in the 1920s. Gas appliances were the latest thing and the company’s adverts made much of the idea of a warm bath without having to stoke up the kitchen fire! The showroom was suitably modern and striking, a circular building with windows all round, which now makes an ideal home for Café Nero. Another stylish 20th century building is the cafe on the corner of Dear Hay Lane, once Thorogood’s leather shop, with its chrome, glass and Art Deco windows.
These are only a few of the High Street cafés and restaurants housed in historic properties. If you have any information or stories about others, we would love to hear them.