|Area: 64.88 kmē|
Poole is a coastal town, port and tourist destination in the ceremonial county of Dorset in southern England. The town has a population of 141,128 and is famed for its large natural harbour, situated on the shores of the English Channel.
Prominent employers in Poole include Barclays Bank, Hamworthy Engineering, Poole Packaging, and Ryvita. The town is home to the headquarters of Sunseeker, Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and the 'worldwide freeride' clothing company, Animal.
The Poole Harbour area has been inhabited for well over 2,000 years. The local tribe were the Celtic Durotriges who lived in Dorset in the Iron Age, particularly around Wareham, five miles to the west. The earliest significant archaeological find in the harbour itself is the Poole Longboat, a 10 metre boat made from a single oak tree and dating to 295 BCE. At the time the harbour was probably shallower and any settlement would now be under water. During the last few centuries before the Roman invasion the Celtic people were moving from the hilltop settlements, such as Maiden Castle and Badbury Rings on the chalk downs to the north, and onto the lower vales and heathland around the River Frome. It may be this marshy area which gave the Durotriges, "water dwellers", their name. The Durotriges probably engaged in cross-channel trading at Poole with the Veneti, a seafaring tribe from Brittany.
In the Roman invasion of Britain in the 1st century, Poole was one of a number of harbouring sites along the south coast where the Romans landed. The Romans founded Hamworthy, an area just west of the modern town centre, and continued to use the harbour during the occupation.
Poole was a small fishing village at the time of the Norman Conquest, but grew rapidly into an important port exporting wool and in 1433 was made Port of the Staple. By then the town had trade links from the Baltic to Spain. However, in 1405 the Spanish burnt Poole to the ground because local pirate, Harry Paye, kept attacking Spanish vessels. The town, however, continued to grow in importance despite the effects of piracy and, in 1571, was made a county corporate. In the 17th century transatlantic trade and travel developed and at the start of the 18th century Poole was beating rival Bristol as the busiest port in England. The town grew rapidly during the industrial revolution as urbanisation took place, and the merchants put up tenement buildings, most of which were demolished during the ill-advised slum clearance activities in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Poole was granted exclusive rights to fish off Newfoundland by Queen Victoria, which drasticly improved the importance and wealth of the town; however, when this right wore off, other ports were quick to get their share in the trade which negatively affected the importance of Poole.
At the turn of the 19th century, nine out of 10 workers in Poole were engaged in harbour activities, but as the century progressed ships became too large for the shallow harbour and the port began losing business to the deep water ports at Liverpool, Southampton and Plymouth.
In the 19th century the beaches and landscape of south-west Hampshire, as well as the Isle of Purbeck district of Dorset, began to attract large numbers of tourists and the villages to the east of Poole began to grow and merge until the holiday town of Bournemouth emerged. Growth accelerated and Poole and Bournemouth (along with Christchurch to the east) have become a large built-up area. This area is known by some as a conurbation, although this not a view held by the populations of either Poole or Christchurch. Although the three towns are well known as popular holiday destinations, each has its own individual character and attracts different types of holidaymakers. Despite the growth in leisure activities, Poole retains a considerable part of its industrial heritage.
The Town Centre retains a few of the old buildings put up by the wealthy merchants, such as the 1761 market house and Sir Peter Thompson's 1746 town house designed by John Bastard. The 18th and 20th century buildings hide earlier buildings, such as the mediaeval Wool house, Scaplen's Court and the Tudor almshouses. However, the town suffered from both bombing in World War II and the utilitarian town planning of the economically drained post-war Britain, and consequently has lost many old buildings. In recent years, however, some regeneration has taken place, with the demolition of Hamworthy (Poole) power station and the redevelopment of the old town gas gas-works.
On April 1, 1997 the town was made a unitary authority, once again administratively independent from Dorset, after a review of the Local Government Commission for England. The Borough's name was officially changed at this date to Borough and County of the Town of Poole, which recalled its status as a county of itself prior to the implementation of the Local Government Act 1888.