When the gravel peninsula which is Poole was first settled is unknown but the name derives from the Celtic Pwll, Saxon Pol. The Normans knew it as La Pole.
Much of the history of Poole is connected to that of the unique harbour.
Earlier settlements may lie under the waters here, but the area was certainly occupied bu the Iron Age and, indeed, was the most important port
in the British Isles at the time, trading with Roman Europe and beyond. When the Roman legions invaded the British Isles, they used the harbour
here which was well-known to their mariners as a supply base. The Romans departed early in the 5th century and is is likely that Poole was a
small fishing village during the Saxon period when the area became part of the kingdom of Wessex and was frequently raided by the Danes.
In Saxon and medieval times, Wareham was the chief port of the area but, as its rivers silted up, it decayed as a port while Poole's
dominance of the harbour grew. It served as a port to the extensive manor of Canford Magna
until 1248 when William Longespée, the Lord of the Manor, granted the port its first charter. By the 14th century Poole sent four
ships to the seige of Calais and the Town Cellars was used for storing wool for export - in 1433, the monarch made it Dorset's Staple Port.
Poole had wide-ranging trading links - from the Baltic to Spain and even Italy.
Supporting Parliament during the Civil War, the town was rewarded for its disloyalty to his father by Charles II who ordered the town walls to
be raised. The profitable trade with Newfoundland which commenced in the 17th century allowed merchants to build many fine houses in the
Old Town and during the following two centuries the area took part in the smuggling which was rife along the south coast. At the beginning
of the 19th century some 90% of the workers of the town were employed in the port or harbour and many women and girls knitted woollen stockings.
By the close of the century, better transport and new industries, as well as the decay of the port meant only ten per cent of the workforce were
employed by port or harbour. Both the latter had seriously decayed until the establishment of the Poole Harbour Commissioners in 1895.
see also: Poole Harbour