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Poole's Maritime History

Poole has an enormously rich nautical heritage stretching back thousands of years. From humble beginnings the town centre grew up from the quay, as it became one of the South Coast’s most important medieval ports.


Medieval Poole

Throughout the medieval period, Poole was an important port trading with most of the maritime nations of Europe. Substantial stone buildings such as the Town Cellars date from this period.


Poole Harbour had the reputation as a nest of pirates. In 1405 the town was attacked by a combined Franco-Spanish force retaliating for the exploits of Harry Paye of Poole, one of the more important sea captains who raided their coasts in the late 14th and early 15th century. He intercepted hundreds of French ships for gold, wine, exotic fruits and brought it back to the people of Poole.


Georgian Poole

Poole has a splendid heritage of Georgian mansions which can be seen in and around Poole’s Old Town. These were largely the product of the wealth created by the Newfoundland trade. Poole ships sailed to Newfoundland where salt cod was loaded and taken to Spain, Portugal and Italy. Back from these countries came valuable goods such as olive oil, wine and salt.


One of the most famous and daring smuggling incidents, The Custom House Raid, took place in Poole in 1747. Sixty armed smugglers broke in to regain a contraband cargo of tea that had been seized. 


Victorian Poole

The end of the Napoleonic Wars was the beginning of the end for the Newfoundland trade. The 19th century was a period of decline and political bickering. Gradually the town regained its prosperity, trade and industry increased and residential suburbs spread beyond the Old Town.


20th Century 

Poole played its part in both World Wars and was one of the points from which Operation Overlord was launched for the invasion of Europe in 1944. After the war, Poole gathered momentum as an industrial and commercial centre and developed its name as home to many cutting edge industries in the marine, banking, engineering and Tourism sectors.

Modern Poole

Since 2000, Poole has seen rapid development across the town with considerable investment by hotels, a new Boat Haven and RNLI College and boat building facilities. Most significant was the building of the iconic Twin Sails Bridge in 2012. More recent investment has included the new £10million cruise berth at the Port of Poole to service medium sized cruise ships as part of the growing UK cruise market.  


Many world class brands call Poole their home including Sunseeker International, Lush, the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI).


Our Poole Christmas Maritime Light Trail celebrates this nautical heritage, so come and visit us and take in the history of Poole whilst enjoying all the festivities that are on offer!

Poole Trails 

You can immerse yourself in Pooles rich history even more by following a number of guided historic trails, for more information please visit the Poole Museum website

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