Wartime Stories

Part One- The Second Boer War

In December 1899 the second Boer War caused an outburst of strong feeling in Poole.  High Street ‘was […] in a state of great excitement, and some lively scenes were there enacted.’  The agitation and unrest was caused by the alleged comments of two High Street traders; Henry Dorsett, Grocer from number 81 and Mr Cox from the High Street Dairy.  The Poole and Dorset Herald reported that these men did not agree with the war and that Mr Dorsett had ‘expressed himself in very outspoken language’ allegedly commenting to the effect that ‘he hoped the English would have a good licking, and that only one would be left to come home to tell the tale.’  The general public were outraged, many of them had sons and relatives fighting and ‘feelings of resentment naturally arose within their breasts.’  The story was passed on and ‘much indignation was aroused.’  This eventually led to a crowd gathering outside 81 High Street and by the evening ‘it assumed such dimensions that the street became entirely blocked.’

Henry Dorsett's shop is at the front right hand side of the picture

Henry Dorsett’s shop is at the front right hand side of the picture

Mr Cox and Henry Dorsett strongly denied these allegations, publically by issuing statements to the newspaper, however the public did not believe Henry Dorsett and he was once again targeted by a mob.  On a Saturday night at around 10:00pm ‘a crowd gathered around the front of Mr Dorsett’s shop, in an almost imperceptible manner, and before the police were aware of it they found themselves surrounded by several hundreds of persons.’  The mob passed the time by singing and cheering for the Queen ‘the noise of the shouting and singing, which were carried out to the accompaniment of squealing concertinas was at times deafening and must have been a great annoyance to the inhabitants all round.’

At one point ‘there was a report as of the discharge of a firearm, causing a little excitement, some in the crowd believing that it was a pistol that had been fired.  This turned out incorrect.  Some roguish lad, who ought to have been in bed hours before, for it was nearing the midnight hour, had let off a harmless squib or cracker.  One or two stones were discharged, it is believed from a catapult, and broke a square of glass in the upstairs window of Mr Dorsett’s but beyond this’ no damage was done.

Imagine this part of the High Street containing a rowdy mob of up to 1500 people

Imagine this part of the High Street containing a rowdy mob of up to 1500 people

The Poole and Dorset Herald estimates that at one point there must have been around 1000-1500 people on the street but after midnight numbers dropped and by 2:00am the final few protesters were dispersed by police.

Henry Dorsett had been a grocer at 81 High Street for over ten years, the 1901 census taken a few years later shows that he is still there with his family; wife Emily, daughter Emily Maud, son Harold and daughter Hilda Irene.  The 1911 census establishes that the family remain in the premises.  Harold has left home- he later went to Canada and Emily Maud is his assistant in the business.  Youngest daughter Hilda Irene is a drapers assistant.

In 1923 the families of two High Street traders joined when Emily Maud married William Emmanuel Snook.  In 1911 William is assisting his father in their Picture Frame Makers and Stationers at 201 High Street.

Sadly Henry Dorsett died in 1929 and left his effects of £954 in the capable hands of his daughter Emily Maud Snook.

Snook's premises

Snook’s premises



About Poole High Street Project

Contact: Jenny Oliver - j.oliver48@btinternet.com
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