Explore Poole’s history (1580-1730) by themes


Poole began the period 1580-1730 having overstretched itself financially a few years before. The grant by Elizabeth 1st of a better status for the Town and County of Poole and its port in 1568 led to spending on water supply, a new fish shambles and new town and market halls. This was followed by a fall in trade through the port with the loss of the cloth trade at a time when the rest of the country had already begun to ‘feel the pinch’ some years before.

Life was like this then

What was it like to live here at the beginning of our period in 1580? Can you imagine it? It is over 400 years ago and there were only 1400 people in the whole town. Just think about that – it is possible that some of them might have known most, if not all, of the others!

International influences

Throughout the period the European nations were often at war with one another while also pursuing their own interests in different parts of the world. It was the era when the New World began became of ever greater interest to the European nations and emigration and trade began to burgeon in colonies in north America and the Caribbean. Trade with the far-east via South Africa and the East Indies also began to grow. Late in C17th the incidence of slavery began to grow.

Security at sea

For Poole, safe seamanship was fundamental to success, security at sea was key. The presence of foreign pirates and privateers along the Dorset Coast was often a problem, and local ones were also a threat always to be taken into account. In some years the Channel and the Narrow Seas were known to have corsairs and Barbary pirates from north Africa, often patrolling in a small fleet and lying in wait for the flotillas of boats from the south west of England on their way to or from Newfoundland.


Our work covered some aspects of shipping in those days but it was not a subject that we were able to explore to any serious extent.

Its importance to Poole is emphasised by the Town’s Seal from 1325 which features a merchant ship with one mast and sail with forecastle and stern castle.

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