This Christmas, Poole Museum are selling some special Christmas cards which celebrate Poole and the High Street in the 1930’s. The cards show the lower High Street with H.P. Smith and others examining the walls of Scaplen’s Court. There is also another High Street connection. The image originally comes from panels which once decorated the lounge bar of the London Hotel, now the Globe Café at No. 88.
It was in 1761 that a certain John Butler decided to go into the profitable trade of licenced victualler and converted his property in High Street to an inn, known as the Angel. It was a time of expansion in Poole. The Newfoundland trade was bringing more and more people into the town and the streets were getting increasingly built up. A good inn could count on plenty of trade and John Butler’s success is shown by the way his property increased in value in rating lists. By 1766, the Angel was one of the most valuable properties on the street and Butler decided to change its name to the French Horn and Trumpet. The relevance of the musical theme is now lost in history.
In the 1770s, the inn was possibly rebuilt or refurbished and by 1777 it was known as the London Tavern, owned by John Calcraft a rich and influential army agent. From relatively humble beginnings, Calcraft had prospered under the sponsorship of the Whig leader, Henry Fox. It was a period when holders of public office and government contracts were expected to make money for themselves and Calcraft became immensely rich. He bought the Rempstone estate in Purbeck and other property and used his local interest to obtain Parliamentary seats for himself, his brother, Thomas who was M.P. for Poole in from 1761, and his son, John junior. Although married, he was separated from his wife and had several children by two mistresses, both actresses. His son John by Elizabeth Bride was his main heir. It was the custom of the time for political candidates to provide lavish hospitality to their supporters and the London Tavern became a centre for the liberal interest in Poole.
In the next few decades, the London established itself as a rival to old-established High Street inns such as the Antelope, the Bull’s Head and others. By the 1830’s, the London had seized its share of the coaching business as the departure point for the Independent coach which carried passengers between Weymouth and Southampton. It was also used in 1830 to house some of the entourage of King Charles X of France when he arrived in Poole on his way into exile.
When the railways came to Hamworthy, the enterprising landlord of the London, William Furmage, established a horse-drawn omnibus to meet every train and bring visitors across the old harbour bridge into Poole. The Furmages also collected parcels arriving by train, and provided a dispatch point for out-going packages. In 1897, the London Hotel celebrated Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee with a display worthy of a leading hostelry. ‘The whole of the windows were marked out with fairy lamps, with a flag floating from each, the letters “V R” standing out prominently’.
In 1936, the London was demolished and rebuilt in a modern style with Art Deco windows and ‘the suggestion of hops in the Purbeck stone over the entrances’. During the demolition, a foundation stone with the date 1725 was discovered and incorporated into the garden wall. Inside the new hotel, the lounge bar was furnished in green hide and the walls carried the frieze ‘depicting the daily life of Poole High-Street . . . humour is introduced by the entertaining pictures of the level crossings, the buses, Scaplen’s Court and other local landmarks.’ Also depicted were local characters like H. P. Smith, Tom Hockey the fish-seller, Harry Cole, undertaker and Councillor, Alderman and author Herbert Carter and Joseph Bright the High Street baker and war-time mayor. The paintings were done by Cecil Todd and students from the Poole Art School. The new hotel was designed and built by local firms, with paint supplied by Boone’s of High Street and furnishings by Harvey Nichols.
Only a few years later, the new London was badly damaged by bombing and after the war it had to be extensively rebuilt. It continued as the London until about 1966 when it became the Old Harry, named not after the rocks but after Harry Paye the late 14th/early 15th century Poole pirate. Today it is the Globe Café. The panels were gradually removed from the lounge walls and put into store. A few are now on view in the Poole History Centre and others are in the Museum stores.
Sources: A Pint of Good Poole Ale by Andrew Hawkes / Poole and Dorset Herald / Street directories.