Lost Longfleet

Old Longfleet

Old Longfleet

One of the areas which I always have trouble recognising from old photographs is High Street Longfleet between the railway crossing and the George Hotel, an area which changed totally with the building of the George roundabout and the Dolphin Centre not to mention the bus station. There have been various posts on this blog about this bit of High Street including ‘Life before the Arndale’, ‘Research into 181 High Street’ and ‘Now and Then: the Port Mahon Castle Inn’. However this is a basic guide – and I hope it doesn’t confuse anyone even more!

Way back, from the mid 15th century onwards, Poole and Longfleet were separated by the defensive town ditch which cut across what is now Falkland   Square, in front of Argos. By the early 18th century, the ditch was silted up or filled in but wheeled vehicles still had to exit the town via Towngate Street. Pedestrians could walk through a turnstile at the top of High Street (located in the middle of Falkland Square) and out into the Ladies’ Walking Field (Kingland Crescent / bus station area) but they had to cross a ropewalk which operated across the High Street.

Longfleet tithe map 1844

Longfleet tithe map 1844

It was not until the early 19th century that High Street was extended into Longfleet as a proper road for vehicles. The ropewalk was relocated to one side of the new road and houses and villas were built for people who wanted to move out of the crowded and none too healthy old town. As the suburbs spread further, many of the original houses nearest to the town were converted into shops. Then in 1874, the railway was built, creating a new partial barrier between Poole and Longfleet.

By 1911, High Street Longfleet was a well developed commercial community with over 50 shops or other businesses between the crossing and the George. Besides the usual traders – grocers, butchers, bakers, confectioners, tobacconists, fishmongers, ironmongers and outfitters, there were 5 hotels, 2 refreshment rooms, a post office and 2 hairdressers. Traditional trades such as blacksmith, saddler, brass finisher and mason were represented as well as modern ones like photographer and cycle supplier. There was also a dye works, a rope works and a laundry.

The railway crossing with the rope works and laundry beyond

The railway crossing with the rope works and laundry beyond

Taking a walk from the railway to the George the first landmark is of course the crossing. Although the footbridge is the same (just raised), the barriers are automatic instead of being operated by a railway employee, the train when it arrives is electric instead of pouring out steam and smuts and the waiting crowd is made up of pedestrians instead of vehicles. Just beyond the crossing on the right where the Cornish Bakehouse now stands, used to be the entrance to the Longfleet rope works owned at one time by Alfred Balston, mayor of Poole in 1876 and 1877. Three of his daughters married three sons of Jesse Carter, the founder of what became Poole Pottery.

Site of the Electric Theatre and Joyner's shop

Site of the Electric Theatre and Joyner’s shop

Beyond the rope works was the White House Laundry which employed a bevy of women. In the 1930s, the Hants and Dorset bus company needed a terminus north of the railway to avoid the frequent delays at the crossing. They acquired the laundry site and built a ‘bus roadway’ between High Street and Kingland   Road as a terminus for buses on the Bournemouth route. Now this is the pedestrianised Kingland Crescent. Beyond the laundry the old shops followed more or less the same line as the present Falkland Square shops from Argos to Marks and Spencer’s. No 181, (around the site of 3 phone shop) was converted into the Longfleet Congregational Church and in 1911, became the Poole Electric Theatre. This was shut in 1926 when the Regent Theatre opened. Beyond was the curio shop of Thomas Joyner, an interesting character and subject of another post on this blog.

Thomas Joyner's shop on the left and the Ansty Arms to the right

Thomas Joyner’s shop on the left and the Ansty Arms to the right

Above the railway crossing on the left hand side was a row of shops leading up to the junction with Towngate Street. These included a boot maker, greengrocer, hairdresser and Frederick Cann’s confectionery shop with the Ansty Arms on the corner, opposite the Electric Theatre. The site of the pub is now in the middle of Falkland Square. After the junction, High Street continued on the same line as the present shops with the Rainbow Dye Works, a branch of Bacon and Curtis, ironmongers and Frank Holmes’ Temperence Hotel. This became quite an important hotel in the town and the building survived well into the 1980s as the Dolphin Hotel before the present shops (Waterstones, Monsoon etc.) were built.

Snook's and Burden's

Snook’s and Burden’s

Entering the Dolphin Centre and looking straight ahead we are looking up the line of the old High Street. On the right (Marks and Spencer’s) were Caleb Snook’s stationer’s shop and post office and Burden’s grocers and bakers, separated by the narrow side street Longfleet Place. Burden’s were proud of their hygienic bakery, making ‘superior machine made bread’ and many people remember the shop with its delicious smell of roasting coffee beans. Further along were a greengrocer, watch-maker, chemist and a branch of J. A. Hawkes, the boot and shoe-maker.

The blacksmith's shop

The blacksmith’s shop

On the left was the old Port Mahon Castle Inn (BHS) and a series of small shops, a tobacconist’s, a coffee house and Frank and Ralph King’s cycle shop with Edwin Swyer’s blacksmith’s forge and Bailey & Beamont, pork butchers where Primark now stands. In 1926, the Regent Theatre was built on the site of the forge and its neighbouring properties. The splendid new theatre, covered with white Carter’s tiles, could seat 1000 people. Change overtook this area when the Arndale Centre was built. In the first stage, the south east side of the street was demolished, including Snooks and Burdens. In the next stage, the north west side disappeared, meaning the end of the Port Mahon Castle and the Regent.

The George Hotel on the left and the Blandford Arms opposite

The George Hotel on the left and the Blandford Arms opposite

At the far side of the Dolphin Centre, the High Street emerges into the open air in front of what is now the George roundabout. This was always a wide open space where the High Street split into two, the Wimborne Road going off to the left and the Ringwood   Road to the right. On the right hand side of the road was the Blandford Arms, opened as a public house around 1873. At the junction of the roads, as now, was the George Inn. The original George dated from about 1823 and was rebuilt in the 1920s. In front of it was the toll house which once controlled the toll gates across the two turnpike roads. The gates were removed in the 1860s and the toll house demolished at the time of the rebuilding of the George. When bus services came in from the late 1920s, the George was a major bus terminus. The site of the toll house was occupied by a small traffic island and during the war an indicator was set up there during War Savings Weeks to show how fundraising was progressing. The creation of the roundabout and the bus station and the realignment of the roads means that the only remaining landmark in the area is the George itself.

Whether this has made anything clearer, I don’t know! I think it has been useful for me to pin down exactly where certain buildings were.



About Poole High Street Project

Contact: Jenny Oliver - j.oliver48@btinternet.com
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9 Responses to Lost Longfleet

  1. Bob says:

    I wonder if anybody can assist me – I have reference to the ‘Electric Theatre, Pooles Stage House’ in a 1911 census for Raymond Sidney Charles Bennett. He is shown as ‘Accompanied to the ‘Grolisques’ Variety Artistes’. Would appreciate any information on this building.

    • Have a look at the post ‘Research into 181 High Street’ on this blog for a bit of background plus a picture of the Electric Theatre in the middle of a row of properties. It was quite a primitive building. This is a bit from my High Street book: In 1911, Mr James Bravery, managing director of Popular Bioscope Syndicates Limited and a pioneer of local cinema entertainment, established the Poole Electric Theatre at 181 High Street opposite the Ansty Arms. At the end of the previous century the building had been a furnishing warehouse and was then transformed into the Longfleet Congregational Church with seating for 200 people before its conversion to a rather basic theatre. Inside, patrons were provided with cloth-covered bench-type seating and if the film was popular, everyone had to squeeze up. Performances were frequently interrupted by the film breaking and having to be hurriedly repaired by the operator. Nevertheless the theatre soon became a much loved venue, particularly for children. Harry Matthews remembered a trip to the Electric Theatre on Saturdays with his 2d (1p) pocket money as the highlight of his week. The matinees for children were rowdy affairs. According to Ernest Bristowe, the audience ‘booed the villain and cheered the hero . . . yelled out the captions in unison . . . stood on the seats and threw peanut shells on the floor’. Cowboys and Indians and the adventures of Pearl White were the usual fare.
      I must say I don’t know anything about live performances. Perhaps a search through adverts in the local newpaper (the Poole and Dorset Herald) might be useful.

  2. Nick says:

    Excellent article on history of Longfleet. I worked in Poole in the mid 1980s and its such beautiful town.

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  4. jason says:

    My wife’s great great grandfather was a saddler in this area in the late 1800s. His surname was Mundon.

  5. Veronique Schutz says:

    Where does the map enclosed here source from? Does your information state the residents of each place. My ancestor and family, surname, Burnand was a master photographer/artist during these times living on High Street in Longfleet. You mention a photographer in one of you other posts. Was wondering if you have any more information. Thank you.

  6. David Langdown says:

    Very interesting. I was probably the last licensee of the ‘Ansty arms’. It was a Hall and Woodhouse Pub, at the same time i was licensee of the ‘Bull’ in Fisherton st Salisbury. I have often wondered about the position where the Ansty used to stand.

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