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PIRATES,
CASTAWAYS
& CODFISH

Poole’s Maritime Heritage from 1580 to 1730

Our Story

a Brief introduction

In 2010/2011 Poole Bay Rotary Club did a project to map the rights of way in Old Town. People were curious as to how some of the Alleys on the Quay got their names, some research was done and the names of 3 mariners stood out in the C17th. Could they perhaps have lent their surnames to three of Poole’s Alleys?

The lives of these three mariners are documented and span the period we studied (1580-1730). This was a very important and formative era in the development of Poole. We decided to re-visit Poole’s maritime history in those times through the lens of their extraordinary lifetimes and experiences.

So began our project Pirates, Castaways & Codfish. Our application for support to the Heritage Lottery Fund was accepted and with further support from Rotary and Bournemouth University we began the project in 2017, completing it successfully by August 2018..

Project Scope

a Brief introduction

The project explores what was going on in those days nationally and internationally of relevance to Poole and its development as a town and port. Poole’s development set the context for the project and in particular the importance of the following were examined:

  • coastal shipping and regular trade nationally and internationally
  • fishing for cod, its processing and sale
  • maritime ‘in-security’, particularly from piracy

The project also featured the lives of the three mariners Button, Bennett and Rogers. Their activities spanned the globe and ranged from public and private ‘national service’ to the pursuit of personal interests that span the full range relevant to the times; some played out within the laws of the day, but not all.

Sharing Our Findings

and How we share our findings

An important condition of our funding support for the project was that we should share our findings as widely as possible. We produced a project video, wrote a story reflecting life in Poole in 1623 and engaged two local actors, one to tell the story and the other to play Woodes Rogers at the various events we created. We also prepared and delivered several presentations of material to over 25 local clubs and societies about the project and its outcomes.

Other ‘products’ of the project included:

  • a set of seven free-standing pop-up exhibition panels,
  • a booklet describing the findings, and
  • this blog/ website – pirates2codfish.com  

During the project we held several events, including the following:

  • Launch event – Poole Museum
  • Sea shanty festival support – Scaplen’s Court
  • Poole re-discovered seminar – First findings from the project– a series of presentations from the project team – Thistle Hotel
  • Trip to Newfoundland seminar – Local historians shared their thinking in this workshop to imagine what the trip must have been  like – Hotel du Vin
  • Boat show display – Poole Quay

Drama

In 2019, to share our findings more widely, we also agreed to host an Family Fun Day event on behalf of Poole Museum at Scaplen’s Court, a C15th building near the Museum. For the event we wrote a short play ‘Mayhem at the Inn’ to re-enact an event in Poole in 1623. We were lucky in that Carole Allen, volunteered to take on the role as our producer. Carole helped us by introducing director Jo Puttick; casting the play and bringing it into being for the event. Carole’s husband Roger was Club President at the time.

That is how ‘The Scaplen’s Court Players’ began their life. After several rehearsals they put on three performances of the play to great reviews and acclaim.

One of the Players, Paul Mole, was struck by the fact that the play in 2019 was set in the ground floor kitchen that was once part of the George Inn on that very same site where Scaplen’s is today. ‘It was an extraordinary experience looking back on it’ he says today, ‘there we were, bringing to life what it must have been like then, in the very place where it may have happened’. ‘It was an experience that will stay with me for ever’, he said recently. 

This year on 14th & 15th August 2021 The Players, once again led by Carole will perform. This time it is a short play set in Poole, 1688  – ‘Elizabeth Hyde, Poole’s Glorious Revolutionary’. There will be six performances across the weekend.

Storytelling

Our stories are all set in Poole and area:

Beth’s story – Kinson/ Poole 1590 – Beth’s new baby brother is born in Kinson and she visits Poole with her older brother, to deliver the spun wool the family have worked on so hard.

Robert’s story – Kinson/Poole 1618 – Robert is thirteen and has worked for a year on a farm in Wimborne; now he’s off to Newfoundland as a fishing servant for six months or more. What will the voyage be like?

Jane’s story – Poole 1632 – Jane reflects on her earlier life in Upton and more recently in Poole; she has a job at the Antelope Inn on High Street.

Actors belonging to The Scaplen’s Court Players tell our stories written about life in Poole in those times at our events. The three stories we tell are all about the early days of the period. We wrote Jane’s story ourselves and have adapted two stories written about life on the south coast of England and for the fishermen going to catch and process the cod in Newfoundland in those days, from a book written by Jenny Moon a visiting lecturer at Bournemouth University.

Jenny is a friend of the project who took part in our Poole Rediscovered seminar during the project to tell of her experiences in Newfoundland exploring her story. Jenny is from Lympstone in Devon, near Exmouth. Jenny’s book, Devon Boy, a story of village life, and fishing in Newfoundland set in 1590, was published in partnership with Lympstone History Society. The book perfectly illustrates what life was like in those days and we are very grateful for her agreement to let us adapt her story to Poole’s situation.

Exhibition Materials

A set of seven pop-up banners feature aspects of our findings in the project. These can be used on a stand-alone basis or as a backdrop to other activities to do with the period of Poole’s history.

Booklet

Poole’s Maritime Heritage 1580-1730 is the title of our booklet describing the results of our work in re-visiting the importance of this period in Poole’s history. Written to appeal to younger readers the booklet looks at:

  • Poole then and trade through its port,
  • the maritime activity across the period – herein Poole, in Newfoundland and elsewhere,
  • hazards faced by seamen in those days both natural and man-made, including pirates and smuggling;
  • the better days brought about by Poole’s development during the period, in early Georgian times.
  • to provide context for the times there is also a fold out timeline of relevant events to Poole’s development covering the whole period of the project.
Join Us

WANT TO GET INVOLVED?

If you’d like to hear more of our activities or perhaps get involved then we’d love hear from you. Please email Rotarian Project Manager Don Nutt at don_nutt@hotmail.com for all inquiries.