Poole, a seaport town, a parish, and a municipal and county borough in Dorsetshire. The town stands on a neck of Poole Bay, adjacent to the E end of a quondam Roman road to Wareham, and has stations on the L. & S.W.R. 113 miles from London and 22 E of Dorchester. It took its name from the pool-like bay on which it is situated; was held as part of Canford by William Longespee; passed to the Plantagenets, the Lacys, the Montacutes, and others; went afterward to the Webbs and the Guests; sent four ships in the time of Edward III. to the siege of Calais ; wab only a poor fishing village in the time of Henry VIII.; rose to importance and was walled in the time of Elizabeth; took a strong stand for the Parliament in the Civil Wars of Charles I.; suffered demolition of its walls by Charles II., and was ravaged by plague in 1665. It was long a haunt of daring smugglers and buccaneers ; figures specially in the history of the notorious pirate Harry Page, commonly called Arripay; and was the landing-place of Charles X. of France in 1830. It numbers among its natives the theologian K. Gibbon, the antiquary Sir P. Thompson, the Thanet historian Lewis, and the heroic W. Thompson. The town consists of several chief streets running parallel to one another and numerous minor streets; presents on the whole an irregular and intricate appearance, somewhat similar to that of Sheerness; is environed on the land side by extensive heaths commanding fine views of sea and land. A number of villa residences have been erected at Parkstone on the hills, which are covered with fir trees, affording an excellent shelter from the wind. (See PARKSTONE.) Poole is a port, a seat of sessions, and a coastguard station; publishes a weekly newspaper; and has a head post office, two banks, a guildhall and market-house of 1761, a town-house or exchange of 1822, a custom-house of 1813, an Oddfellows' hall of 1863, a wooden bridge to Hamworthy of 1837, two churches, six dissenting chapels, a Roman Catholic chapel, a literary and scientific institution, founded in 1859, an interesting museum connected with that institute, a public library and school of art, a cottage hospital, an endowed school, three suites of almshouses, and large-charities. There are three public parks or pleasure-grounds within the borough. The Town Park and Parkstone Park are both well laid out, and contain band-stands, shelters, and cricket pavilion. Constitution Hill is not laid out, but simply left in its natural state, and from the summit of the hill, the sides of which are covered with heather, beautiful views are obtained.
Markets are held on Mondays and Thursdays; fairs are held on 1 May and 2 Nov.; rope-making, sail-making, sack-making, net-making, shipbuilding, and oyster-fishing are carried on; and a considerable commerce, at once colonial, foreign, and coasting, exists. The number of vessels registered as belonging to the port in 1895 was 50 (3200 tons). The entries and clearances each average 1550 (210,000 tons) per annum. The chief imports are skins, firs, fish, oil, timber, flax, tar, hides, wine, and fruit; and the chief exports are British manufactures, corn, and Purbeck clay. Spacious and convenient quays extend round the lip of the greater part of the town's peninsula. The harbour is a lagoon, 6 miles in extreme length from E to W, and 4 ½ in extreme width from N to S; is entered at a distance of about 3 miles SSE of the town by a bar-passage only a quarter of a mile wide; has numerous peninsulations, islands, and sandbanks; presents the appearance at high water of a beautiful inland lake; is so curiously related to the exterior sea as to have four tides a day, the tidal waves up and down the English Channel meeting here. The harbour has been much improved in recent years. The town was chartered by William Longespee; sent members to Parliament in the time-of Edward III.; sent always two from the time of Henry VI. and under the Reform Act of 1832 ; was reduced to the right of sending only one member by the Reform Act of 1867, and under the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885, it was merged in the eastern division of the county. It is governed under the Municipal Act by a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors, and as a county it has also a sheriff. The town council is the urban district council. The borough prior to 1832 was conterminate with the parish, but it now includes Longfleet and Parkstone tithings. Population of the municipal borough, 15,438. The parish comprises 153 acres of land and 454 of water and foreshore; total population, 14,765; population of the ecclesiastical parish of St Paul, 3467; of St James, 4423; of Longfleet, 2750; of Parkstone, 4125. The livings are vicarages in the diocese of Salisbury, both valued respectively at £350 and £170 per annum. The church of St James is a stone building in the Tudor style erected in 1820 and restored in 1871; it has a richly decorated exterior. St Paul's was erected in 1833, and is a small building in the Grecian style. The workhouse is in Longfleet, and has accommodation for 200 persons.