Dorset magazine talks a stroll down the alleyways of Old Poole Town

PUBLISHED: 14:26 28 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:12 20 February 2013

Hosiers Lane

Hosiers Lane

A unique local partnership is looking to preserve and promote the historic alleys that criss-cross the old town for future generations as Edward Griffiths discovers....

The Alleyways of Old Poole Town

A unique local partnership is looking to preserve and promote the historic alleys that criss-cross the old town for future generations as Edward Griffiths discovers....

During a recent informal Living Histories Project meeting in Poole Museum, some former Old Poole residents were chatting with Community Worker Alison Dalton and Poole Bay Rotary Clubs Don Nutt about the days when they regularly used the old alleys which criss-crossed Old Poole.

Valerie Joey Bilston, who was born near Barbers Piles on West Quay Road, recalled how the alleys used to smell of the fish scraps awaiting collection by the Lytchett Minster pig-swill lorry. Poole people ate a lot of fish in those days, she recalls. Along with the fishy pong, the alleys smelled variously of disinfectant, toffee, acetone and iron-smelting. Former resident, Yvonne Gage, talked about when she lived at 38 Castle Street. Her family shared a single tap and three outside toilets with other families in the communal yard. But Yvonne enjoyed her Old Poole childhood and recorded her environment in splendid water-colours.

Another resident who agreed with Joeys recollections was Pam Coxon, who was born in Green Road near the harbour and the local childrens favourite bathing spot at Baiter. These days, the back lanes and alleyways are much more pleasant, says Pam, whose family moved to the Hamworthy side of the harbour in 1957, a few years after plans for a new bridge were announced in 1952. Redevelopment meant that most residents were moved to Hamworthy or the Waterloo area, and now, 54 years after Pams family moved, the Twin Sails Bridge is actually nearing completion.

Old Pooles Minor Arteries

All Poole maps clearly show that the oldest part of the town occupies a promontory whose major roads run approximately north-east to south-west straight through to Poole Quay and the present Poole to Hamworthy Lifting Bridge. Closer examination shows that, crossing these roads, there are roads and lanes describing partial arcs between West Quay and Poole Quay or Fishermens Dock. But it wasnt always like this. Before 1901, when the roads called Old Orchard and New Orchard were built, most lateral movement across the promontory was on foot. And now, the old alleyways and rights of way offer residents and visitors the chance to explore the old town and walk in the footsteps of ancient mariners, carters, fishermen, sail-makers, chandlers and yes, even smugglers.

You can walk along the alleyway outside the old Crown Hotel in Market Street where locals used to meet up with Poole gypsies on a Saturday evening for the inevitable fight. Yvonne says her step-father, a Londoner, was a regular participant. He would hand my mother his teeth and shed stand by with her handbag in one hand and his teeth in the other! This is real Old Poole. You can feel it beneath your feet, and exuding from the walls of the almost deserted alleyways. These back lanes and alleys, whether in their original form or redesigned through modern residential areas, are still in constant use by local people, and older residents still refer to them by their local names.

Rotary Club of Pooles Report

Having said the alleyways arent on any town maps or guides, we should now say they soon will be. In a unique partnership, the Rotary Club of Poole Bays Don Nutt, Poole Councils Senior Rights of Way Officer, Sophia OSullivan and Accessibility Team Leader, Nick Phillips have been working together since early 2010 with local community groups and organisations as Don explains. We have surveyed the condition of about 185 rights of way and handed the data over to Poole Council. The lasting impression of our surveyors is how fortunate Poole is in having such an extensive network of rights of way and how well many of them are kept. Sadly, this wasnt true in all cases, or at all times, litter was always worst after holiday weekends. Local people really do care for their area, and the rights of way are well maintained by the Council, he says adding. The report also outlines the potential for improvement of some rights of way and makes recommendations on good practice for their future protection and maintenance deriving from what we found in our research.

A report delivered at the end of August marked the end of the first year of the project. This included a proposal for a Five Quays Walk linking Fishermens Quay, Dolphin Quay, Poole Town Quay, West Quay and Lifeboat Quay. At the recent Georgian Fair in Old Town, local people told the Rotary team that they thought the proposals for the pedestrian map and the Five Quays Walk were the best ideas in the report.

Whats in a Name?

The Rotary Club has also been looking into the historic connotations of some of the alley names. For example, why is Prosperous Street so called? Could it be because the Quakers Meeting House was at one end in 1678, and many Quakers set off from Poole to settle in America and make their fortunes? Why Buttons Lane? Was it built by Mr Button, or did they make buttons there? Market Street and Church Street are self-explanatory, but why Sarum Street and Thames Street, both off Poole Quay? Nobody has yet been able to tell me why

St Clements Lane is so called either. Along this lane theres a section of an old corbelled stone-wall which some say was part of the town wall. Others say Poole never had a town wall. And who or what were Ball Lane, Bell Lane, Bull Lane and Hosiers Lane, all leading off Poole Quay, named after?

Just one more to consider, Bowling Green Alley is a very short and very bent alley just off High Street. It seems its no longer on its original route, but where was the bowling green? Probably under New Orchard now but, hopefully, were close to finding the answers to these, and many other, questions. Perhaps you have your own theories and ideas or could throw some light on these ancient alley names?

The Definitive Map

For the next-stage of the consultation process, Rights of Way Officer, Sophia OSullivan has prepared a strategic walking map of Old Poole, based on the work by Don Nutt and his team and findings of a Ramblers Association survey in 2004. This will show all of the alleys which Sophia describes as fundamental to Poole, and all will have footpath numbers allocated.

Nick Phillips key message for the project is accessibility: People instinctively hop in their cars to buy a loaf of bread or take their children to school. In actual fact its often far quicker to walk and explore your local community - and you get some much needed exercise, too. By actively promoting these linking footpaths with new signage, maps and circular routes we hope to encourage a more sustainable, healthier future for residents and visitors to our historic town.

So lets all celebrate the rights of way of Old Poole Town by exploring its lanes and back alleys.

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