DescriptionThe Poole Borough Archive is the largest borough collection held in Dorset. Although a considerable proportion of the archive comprises modern departmental papers and clerk's files derived from 19th and 20th century governmental functions, the earliest records date from 1248, the year that the Longespée Charter was granted.

The borough's pre-1835 records form the richest section of the collection, covering medieval and early modern charters [DC-PL/A/1], record books dating from the 15th century onwards [DC-PL/B/1], records of the burgesses and mayor [DC-PL/B/9-11], financial accounts [DC-PL/DA], papers concerning parliamentary elections [DC-PL/F], legal case papers [DC-PL/H/1] and title deeds [DC-PL/K]. The borough's role in national defence is well documented, particularly in relation to military and militia activity in the 1580s and the Napoleonic era [DC-PL/B/8; DC-PL/I]. Poole's several courts [DC-PL/C] are also well represented, with records surviving from the Quarter Sessions, Admiralty Court, Petty Sessions, Court of Record and Sheriff's Court, along with a single volume Clerk of the Market's court book, dating to the mid-17th century.

A large volume of 20th century departmental records are held relating to planning, highways, finance and legal services. These records range from council minutes, [DC-PL/B/1] and borough financial ledgers [DC-PL/DB], to photographs, planning files and building control records [DC-PL/L].

The Poole Borough Archive encompasses several small collections of non-borough records. Of particular note are a small collection of title deeds relating to the Lester-Garland Family of Poole [DC-PL/Y/1], papers of the Durell Family of Poole, including deeds and probate documents relating to workers in Newfoundland [DC-PL/Y/2] and a collection of papers originating from Aldridge and Aldridge, solicitors - highlights here include a wealth of election posters, accounts, legal papers and correspondence relating to 19th century politics [DC-PL/Y/5].
AccessConditionsSome personal data is included in the catalogue. We have taken all reasonable care to ensure that we operate within the provisions of data protection legislation. If you believe that any of the data in this catalogue causes or is likely to cause substantial damage or distress to you or any other living person, please contact the Dorset History Centre with specific details
AdminHistoryPoole, once a small port at the southern extent of the ancient manor of Canford Magna, gradually developed into a prosperous town from the 12th century. Although references to Poole as a distinct settlement date from at least the late 1100s, it was traditionally 'founded' by the Longespée Charter [DC-PL/A/1/1/1], granted in around 1248 by William Longespée II, Lord of the Manor of Canford.

Poole's fortunes waxed and waned throughout the late medieval period. It grew in stature as a port and was a source of ships and mariners for the wars of the 14th and 15th centuries. The town sent its first representatives to Parliament in 1340 and gained significant liberties and rights over its surrounding waters, as confirmed by the Winchelsea Certificate of 1364 [DC-PL/A/1/2/1]. Much of Poole was burnt by the Spanish in 1405, traditionally believed to have been in retaliation for seizures of Spanish goods by Poole-based sea captain Harry Paye. However, the town's defensive strength had clearly recovered and its population grown sufficiently by 1433 for Poole to be made by charter Port of the Staple at the expense of the weakened Melcombe Regis [DC-PL/A/1/5/1]. The granting of this charter by Henry VI saw a significant increase in the town's status, through the valuable right to handle exports of staple goods, notably cloth.

Less is known of Poole's history during the turbulent period of the Wars of the Roses and the early Tudor era. The port continued to grow in importance as a centre for trade, though Poole remained a relatively small town throughout; even by 1574 the population was fewer than 1400.

In 1568, Poole was created a County Corporate by the 'Great Charter' of Elizabeth I [DC-PL/A/1/13/2], henceforth styling itself 'The Borough and County of the Town of Poole'. Thus Poole became administratively separate from the County of Dorset and increasingly independent from the Manor of Canford, granted the right to hold General Sessions, to imprison, to elect for themselves a mayor, bailiffs, sheriff, coroner and two constables of the Staple and to purchase land.

In 1684, a writ of quo warranto was issued against Poole, resulting in the effective removal of its charter and of the borough's ancient rights. These rights were restored in 1688 by James II, but during the intervening period no courts or elections were held in the borough.

Although a trade in Newfoundland fish is evident in Poole town accounts as early as the 16th century, the confirmation of Newfoundland as British territory after 1713 massively increased opportunities for Poole merchants in the lucrative cod trade. This industry gave rise to a wealthy merchant class in Poole, with many notable families including the Slades, Garlands, Lesters, Joliffes, Kemps and Spurriers frequently monopolising corporation offices and franchise rights for much of the 18th and early 19th centuries. The Newfoundland trade, along with Poole's profitable oyster beds and a range of maritime-related industries, underpinned the town's prosperity throughout the 18th century and was the impetus for significant population growth, the building of many of Poole's grand Georgian mansions and improvements in its infrastructure system.

The 19th century saw major changes in Poole. The enclosure of manorial lands following the Great Canford and Poole Inclosure Act of 1805 effectively severed all ties between the Corporation and the Manor of Canford. Encompassing for hundreds of years the area roughly co-extensive with the Parish of St James, the 1832 Boundary Act significantly increased the size of the Borough of Poole; Hamworthy, Parkstone and Longfleet were added for purposes of parliamentary representation, forming a fully-fledged part of the borough in 1835. That year's Municipal Reform Act brought widespread change to local government in England and Wales, replacing Poole's old borough corporation with an accountable municipal borough council made up of representatives elected by ratepayers. Major land reclamation projects of the late 19th and 20th centuries, focused on Poole's extensive mudlands, would alter the physical shape of the town. The loss of England's monopoly over world trade and in particular the collapse of the Newfoundland trade in the 19th century led to a period of decline in Poole. Mercantile activities would continue, and the borough saw a degree of resurgence through a number of emerging industries, including pottery, along with its proximity to the prosperous new resort town of Bournemouth.The establishment of Dorset County Council in 1889 following the Local Government Act, 1888, led to Poole Borough returning to non-county borough status. It became part of the administrative county of Dorset, with municipal responsibility for Poole split across the two authorities.

Poole's borough boundaries were again extended in the early 20th century; Branksome Urban District was added in 1905 and Canford Magna Rural District in 1933. Further government reorganisation in 1974 created Poole as a district within the non-metropolitan county of Dorset, and saw the abolition of rural and urban district councils. Poole successfully petitioned to retain its borough status, granted by the charter of Elizabeth II, 1974. In 1997, Poole Borough Council again broke with Dorset to become a unitary authority, regaining responsibility for the full range of municipal functions in Poole.
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