One of the most detailed maps of Poole is the 1888 ‘5 foot plan’ or 1:500 scale map. Following the map down High Street from the George Inn to the Quay we can find many vanished buildings and institutions. The first is the Poole turnpike house which was built in front of the George Hotel in the early 19th century. The original 18th century Poole turnpike gate was on the site of the old town gate (now underneath the Towngate Bridge not far from the station). The High Street ended in a lane and a turnstile. Eventually the turnpike trustees realised that if they opened up the High Street and relocated the gate, it would give traffic a straighter run into town. This project was talked about for a long time before it was actually implemented and I am not quite sure when it finally happened, but after 1817, I think. (More research needed here!) The turnpike house was a small structure with windows angled so they could see vehicles coming from all directions. Today the rebuilt GeorgeHotel occupies the site.
Walking south down High Street in 1888, you would have passed a row of villas, originally built for better-off Poole residents who had relocated from the crowded and dirty streets of the old town. These are now long gone and replaced by the George roundabout. Beyond were a number of shops including the shop of Caleb Snook, picture-framer, Wesleyan preacher and sub-postmaster and Burden’s the grocers and bakery. On the other side of the road was the Port Mahon Castle Hotel, an old inn dating from at least the early 18th century, run by William Hartnell and his wife. The area where these used to be is now covered by the Dolphin Centre, with Marks and Spencer on the site of Snook’s and Burden’s and BHS where the Port Mahon used to be.
The next landmark was the Ansty Arms on the corner of High Street and Towngate Street (now the middle of Falkland Square) with the footbridge and the level crossing gates of the railway beyond. Just before the railway on the left hand side was the White House Laundry, run in 1891 by Delia Baker as matron with 20 laundry maids, and then the leafy entrance to the Longfleet Ropeworks built beside the railway line where the shops of Kingland Crescent now lie.
Beyond the railway crossing, the High Street, though changed, would be much more recognisable. A little way down on the left, on either side of Globe Lane, were two old public houses, the White Hart and the Globe. Opposite, set back from the street, was St. Paul’s Church more or less on the site of the present Macdonald’s. This was a neo-classical structure, opened in 1833 to relieve the congestion of St. James’ Church which had been rebuilt only 10 years before. St Paul’s had seats for 700 and helped to cater for the rapidly growing (and church-going) population of Victorian Poole.
Further down at the junction with Hill Street, on the site of This Is It (formerly Woolworth’s), was the High Street’s entertainment centre, the Amity Hall. The front of the premises had been a large house, built in the 18th century and the hall itself was built in the back garden. It was used for lectures and theatrical performances – in 1888 its role as a cinema still lay in the future. The rather severe frontage of the London Hotel was further down on the opposite side of the street, where the Globe Café is now located. This inn dated from the mid 18th century, rapidly becoming one of the most important in the town. Once a coaching inn, it took advantage of the railway trade by providing omnibuses to meet the trains at all the local stations. Thomas Norbury, the landlord in the 1880s, was also the agent for the London and South Western Railway Company.
Opposite the London Hotel was the Wilts and Dorset Bank (now Ginali’s Italian restaurant), occupying half of one of the grandest 18th century High Street mansion houses, home to Newfoundland merchant, William Barfoot. The house was originally built in 1704 and subdivided in the 1770’s when it proved too large even for the rich Poole merchant families of the day. In the early 19th century the Ledgard family established a bank in the southern half of the building, but after the death of Richard Ledgard in 1860, the bank failed and was taken over by the Wilts and Dorset Bank, who agreed to settle with the creditors. In 1888, the whole of the original building could still be seen, but later Poole’s first department store Bon Marché was to be built in front of the northern half of it. Today this building is Yates’ Wine Lodge.
On the other side of the street was the old town’s last thatched cottage where No. 78, the former Pam Purred Pets now stands. This small, low, stone-built cottage probably dated from the 16th century giving an idea of what most of the High Street houses would have been like 300 years before. In 1891, it was home to Arthur James, bill poster and Town Crier and his family. On the other corner of Carter’s Lane was the Post Office, run by Postmaster Joseph Fabian Street who also lived on the premises.
At No. 73 was the Bull’s Head Inn, kept by Henry Merrick. The building had been an inn since the early 1600s and was depot for carriers’ wagons in the early 19th century. The building is still there today, currently vacant. Beyond Old Orchard, where Sainsbury’s local and Orchard Plaza stand today was a row of shops, some of them dating from the 17th century. The area was cleared and excavated in the 1970s when a series of buildings were discovered on the site, the earliest dating from medieval times. Where the street widens was an area used for many centuries as the corn market. Stalls would be set up here for the sale of grain brought in from the countryside or into the port on board ship. This was an important trade for Poole into the 19th century.
The buildings of the lower part of High Street have probably changed the least since the 1880s. One vanished building is No. 15 which in the late 1880s was the Red Star Coffee Tavern, run by James Hibberd. In 1978, the building became very run down and started to collapse. For safety reasons, it had to be demolished, leaving a vacant plot which still remains today. The shops of what is now called ‘The Grand Parade’ occupy the lower floor of what was in 1888, a large corn store and mill, under the direction of miller John Compton. This large industrial building had a wagon entrance from High Street into a yard at the back and must have generated a lot of traffic in the street.
At the end of High Street, before the turning down to the Quay, was the Library and Literary Institute, built in 1830 on land donated by one of Poole’s M.P.s, Benjamin Lester Lester. The other M.P., the Hon. W.F.S. Ponsonby funded the building. This was a subscription library and although it survived for over 50 years, it was never a flourishing institution. In 1888, it had just been superseded by the public library built in Mount Street for Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, 1887. Today, the modern museum entrance stands on the site.