Poole Museum is housed in a former Victorian flour mill and grain warehouse on Poole Quay. It tells the town’s story through artefacts and displays, some static, some interactive. It opens daily from 10 am to 5 pm between April and October and is free to enter. There is a fee for temporary exhibition.
Exhibits are housed across four floors. The museum is entered via a modern glass and steel atrium where you will find a gift shop and also Poole’s Tourist Information Centre. The remainder of the Ground Floor starts Poole’s story with the the formation of Poole Harbour. On display are some artefacts discovered in the harbour, like the 8 metre long carved rudder from 17th Century shipwreck, The Fame. On a nearby screen, the rudder’s talking head tells its own story.
The Poole Logboat
Dominating the ground floor is The Poole Logboat; a 10 metre long boat carved from a single oak tree over 2,300 years ago. Apart from being incredibly old, it is also unique in that, after many years of trying to work out how to preserve it, experts came up with the idea of soaking it in sugar and immersed the boat in a solution similar to that used to make cola.
The First Floor tells the story of the development of the town and port of Poole. Displays include this collection of seaside souvenirs though the ages.
The First Floor also focuses on the town’s maritime history with more old boat parts on display, like a 17th Century binnacle (housing for a compass) adorned with sea creatures which was salvaged from a locally based ship.
The Second Floor tells the story of the people of Poole in general and focusing on some of the area’s most noteworthy figures. Displays include an interactive 1950s kitchen together with some products of the era. I was particularly intrigued by the Quaker Oats which are so simple that ‘even a bride can prepare’!
People connected with the history of Poole include Robert Baden Powell, who set up the Scout Movement with a camp on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour in 1907.
The Third Floor displays pottery either found or manufactured in Poole. The bulk of the exhibit tells the Story of Poole Pottery. Pottery was made by hand on the quayside for over a century, starting in 1873. The company started out manufacturing tiles and and architectural ceramics, before branching out into decorative pottery. I’m sure, like me, most locals have a piece or two of the iconic art deco pottery displayed in their home. And those that don’t are likely to have seen its works displayed, as Poole Pottery tiles were used to tile many of the stations of the London Underground.
The cafe and toilets are also located on the Third Floor.
Temporary Exhibition – Hardy’s Wessex
The current temporary Exhibition; Hardy’s Wessex is part of a larger exhibition spread across four museums. In Poole, the focus is on the coastline which inspired Thomas Hardy’s writing. There is an additional fee of £5. We haven’t been to this exhibition yet, but it “explores the coastal themes in Hardy’s life – from first meeting his wife Emma on the wild cliffs of Cornwall, to his fascination with the Napoleonic wars.” The key piece is a Constable painting of Weymouth Bay.
Across the road from the Museum is Scaplen’s Court, a medieval house with herb and physic garden. Scaplen’s Court is managed by the museum and opens during the summer to visitors. Although, with a shortage of volunteers, its opening is not guaranteed. When we visited at the weekend, it was closed.