Apologies for not blogging quite as much as usual but we have been a bit busy recently. Katie and I have been engaged in a project to write a book on the High Street and its history and it’s taking up a lot of time. The idea is to start in earliest times and come up to the present day, incorporating building history, stories of notable characters, accounts of dramatic events, a dash of social history, a whiff of scandal, a dollop of humour and a soupçon of nostalgia. We also hope (with their permission) to include a few choice morsels from people’s reminiscences. The master plan is for me to start at the dawn of time and work forward towards the Georgians while Katie gets to grip with the Victorians before progressing by stages into the 21st century. Then we’ll work on blending it all into a seamless and hopefully entertaining whole.
In reality it’s proving a difficult task. The problem with my dawn of time scenario is that there is very little at that date to be found on Poole let alone on High Street. Even into Tudor and Stuart times, it’s very tricky trying to pin people down to such a precise location. A few – very few – lists of residents exist, but where did they live? Or if someone owned a High Street house, where was it and did they actually live in it? Trawling through the archives has been a labour and occasionally a joy. All sorts of fascinating things turn up, such as ructions in the Tudor town hall and riots in church, hints of family scandal and a delightful description of the town’s cows going to feed on the heath. It’s all too easy to be distracted from the High Street into other interesting alleys and byways. Just once in a while there is a Eureka! moment when two snippets of data link up to make sense out of something previously obscure.
Katie has an opposite set of problems to mine – too much information. The Victorians were indefatigable record keepers with their censuses and their local newspapers, their council minutes, parish registers, officer of health reports, and maps, their railway documents, business records and bankruptcy proceedings. So much to select from – where do you start? Then there is the invention of photography. The 19th century is such an important time of transition for High Street with the rise of retail and the coming of libraries, churches, newspapers, railways and a water supply. There’s a really great story to tell but only a couple of chapters to tell it in.
However the great work plods on! At the moment the date of completion is over the horizon but it should eventually heave into sight. I hope you will let us relieve our feelings occasionally with a progress report on this blog and if anyone has a nugget of information on High Street, please contact us.