In 1927, the Poole and East Dorset Herald announced the death of long-time High Street trader, Thomas Joyner, who kept an antiques and curios shop at No.185 just opposite the Ansty Arms. According to the newspaper he died in his 99th year, and as a tiny child in 1830, was held up by his father in the crowd assembled to greet the dethroned King Charles X of France as guns fired a salute from the Quay. The official record is confusing on the subject of his age and it’s possible that this story was a family legend, but there is no doubt that he was in his 90s when he died – an excellent age for the period. He lived through the reigns of five monarchs and could remember a time when Bournemouth was wild undeveloped heathland.
Thomas was the son of Francis Joyner, a tinsmith and brass worker. He was educated in Christchurch where he witnessed the celebrations for Queen Victoria’s coronation. At the end of his school days he returned to Poole and became an apprentice to the iron and brass trade in his father’s workshop. In 1851 the family, consisting of Francis, his wife Elizabeth and their two children Thomas and Maria, were living in West Butts Street. Once he had learned his trade, Thomas became a skilled craftsman and ‘did much important work in the borough, one of his best examples being the weather vane on the dome of the Poole Free Library’.
Outside his profession, Thomas had a tremendous range of other interests. He was a good violinist, played in and at one time led the Poole Town Band and composed much of their music. One of his patriotic compositions entitled ‘The Honour’d Flag of England’ was a favourite in local primary schools. He was also a talented painter and many of his oil paintings were added to the Poole Museum collection. His ingenious mind led him to invent, among other curiosities, a pipe with a nicotine trap and a racing yacht that would sail to windward without the need to tack!
He had strong views on Poole Harbour and its development and proposed a scheme to create a new harbour entrance by cutting through the Sandbanks peninsular as a solution to the problem of silting. To promote this, he conducted a long campaign in the Herald, backed up by plans, drawings and oil paintings. His ideas were so well argued that the Harbour Commissioners considered forwarding his letters to the newspaper to their consulting engineers. Thomas was a reader of the Herald for over 81 years from its first issue in 1846, and a prolific writer of letters and articles for the paper.
Thomas married Sarah Burge in 1858 and they had one son, Francis William (or Frank). At first the family lived in Union Buildings near Hunger Hill but by 1875 they were living in High Street, Longfleet near the Port Mahon Castle Inn in the premises that became No. 185. In the 1881 census, Thomas was described as a brass founder, while his son was learning the trade of a tinker or tinsmith. Sadly, Frank died in 1888 at the young age of 27.
As the Longfleet end of the High Street became more developed, Joyner’s shop became a familiar feature with its sign of a giant key to advertise his craft. By 1891, Thomas had added gas fitting to his repertoire of practical skills. Later, he developed the antique and curio side of the business. He retained his faculties almost to the end. Although he had to take to his bed for a few weeks ‘he refused to believe he was seriously ill, and his buoyant spirit prolonged his life. He rapidly sank on Thursday [3rd Feb 1927] . . . and lost consciousness, passing peacefully away about 7.30 pm.’
Sources: Poole and East Dorset Herald Feb 10th 1927 / Census returns / trade directories.