I’ve often wondered what the building which is now Bonmarché (No 127/9) used to look like in the past, as the books say it was built as a mansion house in the 18th century. It turns out that it was right in front of my eyes. It’s strange how you can look at a photo many times and see some things in it but not others. This picture shows the entrance to the Amity Hall (No. 125) in the foreground and that’s what I have mainly noticed whenever I have looked at it. However the photo also shows the Bonmarché building as it was around 1890 as a pianoforte and music warehouse. Beyond them is old Globe Hotel, (No. 131) with its lamp over the door.
The Amity was built in the back garden of an 18th century house, once home to James Oliver. At the end of the 18th century this house belonged to corn merchant, Joseph Garland, brother of the leading merchant and M.P., George Garland. The next door house, (Bonmarché) was occupied by merchant, John Rolles, one of the heirs of Samuel White’s fortune made in the Newfoundland trade, and the Globe was owned by Thomas Strong.
Fast forward to 1841 and we find the house at No. 125 occupied by Thomas Salter and his family. He was a doctor who practised in the town for nearly 50 years and an interesting character (see A High Street Surgeon and Death of a Surgeon on this blog). The Bonmarché building was a school run by Richard Oake and his wife, Caroline. Timothy and Mary Oake, probably Richard’s parents, were also living there plus two younger siblings, the school usher and 21 pupils aged between ten and fifteen. Two servants are shown to cater for this household of 28 people, and all the family was possibly involved in keeping the school running. The Globe was in the hands of innkeeper, Moses Bennett.
Thomas Salter died in 1856 but his widow continued living in No. 125 with her daughters. The 1861 census shows the school at 127/9 as uninhabited but it was probably still operating. In 1869, a Mr. William P. Stickland advertised in the local paper that he was about to open ‘Highbury House School’, a ‘young gentleman’s school for boarders and day scholars. He has taken the spacious premises in the High Street nearly opposite St. Paul’s Church, formerly occupied at different periods for a similar purpose by Messrs Oake and Judd. For some time past the above-mentioned house has been undergoing complete renovation, and it will be very shortly fitted in every respect for the reception of Scholars. Prospectuses will appear shortly.’ The 1871 census shows William living at No. 129 with his wife and five children, an assistant teacher (or ‘preceptress’), pupil teacher, servant and just two pupil boarders. Hopefully he had more day pupils.
No. 125, meanwhile, was home to Alfred Elliot, a bookbinder and then went through various ownerships. In 1882, a large meeting hall was built in the back garden for Ancient Order of Oddfellows. Later it was used by the Amity Lodge of Freemasons and became known as the Amity Hall, a place for meetings, concerts and entertainments of all kinds. The hall was a large rectangular building with tall windows and a gallery at the back. The pew-like seating was hard and upright giving the impression that it was a place for self improvement rather than luxury. The house at the front accommodated the entrance lobby to the hall.
At the time that the old photograph was taken, the Amity entrance was sandwiched between the premises of George West, milk dealer and fruiterer and Henry Pitcher, grocer. Beyond, at No. 127/9, was Charles Smith’s music and piano warehouse and then the Globe. The White Hart, and the wine and spirit business of Joseph Hoskins can just be seen in the distance. In 1896, the Amity would be the venue for the first cinema show in Poole and would later go on to be a theatre and cinema. (See Moving with the Times on the blog). Later the new Woolworth’s store was built on the site to a building line which would allow for widening the High Street. However as none of the surrounding buildings was at this line, the ground floor was allowed to be built forwards. Today the store is This Is It.
Where the White Hart and the Globe once stood are now the premises of Halfords and Peacocks. As for No. 127/9, in the early 20th century it was occupied by William H. Harvey, gentleman’s tailor and outfitter as well as the piano warehouse. In the late 1920’s the two parts of the building were combined as Rego Clothiers Ltd., tailors, who remained until 1955. During the decades it has been very much altered, being first extended in the 18th century while it was still a house. More recently the ground floor has been lowered and new shop windows added together with some 20th century decoration on the façade.