Dorset walk: Poole Mansions Trail
PUBLISHED: 11:39 17 January 2017
Edward Griffiths takes a stroll around Poole’s fascinating past in this short history packed walk filled with architectural treasures
From the time of Elizabeth I to the mid-19th century, Poole’s commercial success was mainly due to the lucrative Newfoundland trade in dried salted cod. With all the trades necessary to build, repair and maintain the vessels and their vast acreage of sails, merchants from the surrounding counties were encouraged to move here and make their fortunes. On this short but fascinating walk, we explore old Poole to find the remaining ‘stately homes’ and learn something about their original owners.
• Distance: 1 mile (1.5km)
• Time: 2 hours
• Exertion: Easy
• Start: Sir Anthony Caro’s ’Sea Music’ sculpture, Poole Quay (Grid Ref: SZ009902)
• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195
• Public Transport: South Western Trains Dorchester to Poole Railway Station. Buses to Poole Bus Station - Wilts and Dorset 3, 37. Damory 322 Fridays
• Dogs: On leads at all times during this urban walk
• Refreshments: Several restaurants and town inns en route for lunches and bar meal
1. Walking towards the lifting bridge, cross over to the Harbour Office on the corner of Thames Street. The building was the Merchants’ Meeting House in 1727. The colonnade was added in 1882. Turn right across Thames Street into Paradise Street between left Town Cellars History Centre and right Customs House. The 13th-century Town Cellars were rebuilt in the 15th century, and were mainly used for storing woollen cloth awaiting export. The Customs House was rebuilt in 1813 after the Elizabethan building was destroyed by fire. Emerging into High Street, turn left past Poole Museum and left again at Scaplen’s Court into Sarum Street. Scaplen’s Court was built in the 16th century and, in the 17th century, during its life as the George Inn, it housed Roundhead troops during the civil war.
2. At the end of Sarum Street, facing The King Charles inn, turn right along Thames Street. The King Charles was built around 1550 and is the only building in old Poole still with its timber frontage. Before right Church Street, pass the Mansion House, now Hotel du Vin, on your left. The Mansion House was built in the 1770s by Isaac and Benjamin Lester, Newfoundland trade merchants whose family had operated in Poole since the early 1600s. Next left is Poole House, built in the late-18th century by Robert Slade, another Newfoundland merchant who became mayor of Poole in 1835. Continuing around St James’ Churchyard, pass left West End House in St James’ Close, built for the Slade family in the mid-18th century. Owen Carter, founder of Poole Pottery, lived here around 1900. Emerging into Church Street, turn left.
3. Walk past right St George’s Almshouses, built in the early-15th century by the Brethren of the Guild of St George, originally for priests of the Brethren, but forfeited during the Dissolution by Henry VIII in 1539. In 1586, the buildings were sold to Poole Corporation who administered the Almshouses for Poole’s poor. Then pass left Byngley House and Mary Tudor Cottage, built as a single dwelling by merchant and former Poole Mayor Thomas Byngley in 1567. Byngley House has had its rendering removed to show the original stone construction. Continue along Market Street as far as The Angel Inn on the left and the Guildhall. From The Angel Inn, built in the 18th century, coaches carried mail for Bath, Bristol, Salisbury, Weymouth, Southampton and London. The Guildhall was built in 1761 with market shops underneath and corporation chamber and courtroom above. Past here, turn left. Near the roundabout, cross over New Orchard into Dear Hay Lane.
4. At the Blue Boar inn, turn left into Market Close. Along here, see Poole Mansion on your right. This fine mansion was built in 1746 by Sir Peter Thompson who had left Poole in 1720 to join his brother James in the family merchanting business in London. Before retiring back to Poole, Sir Peter had become High Sheriff of Surrey and MP for St Albans. Then, at right Poole Town Car Park, follow the Tarmac drive through, then continue between two blocks into Dear Hay Lane again. Turn left. Immediately before the car park, cross over into Chapel Lane and continue along the block-paved path into High Street. Turn left. Cross Lagland Street to admire Beech Hurst House on your right after Caffé Nero. Beech Hurst was built in 1798 by Samuel Rolles, gentleman, with the vast White family fortune which came with his wife Amy. The Whites had been sea captains and Poole traders since the early-1600s.
5. Look around the back then walk back down High Street. After left Westons Lane, notice half a mansion, now an Italian restaurant. This Georgian mansion was built in 1704. Reaching New Orchard, cross into High Street and continue through the wide square where Corn Market stalls were erected. Pass between Castle Street and New Street and continue along High Street. Past The Antelope right, another old coaching inn, and the King’s Head, bend left at Poole Museum, returning to Poole Quay and Caro’s sculpture where you started.
• Winter walks in Dorset - When the weather gets colder, there’s not much more refreshing than a brisk walk across the countryside, and there’s plenty of that here in Dorset…