Poole Harbour, and the adjacent town of Poole, are in the southern area of England known as Dorset. Formed at the end of the last Ice Age, the harbor has been an important human settlement since the before the Romans used it as an invasion point.
The Romans not only used Poole Harbour as an invasion point, they also developed it as a port used to support their continued conquest of England. A settlement was developed, Hamworthy which is now part of Poole, and transportation hubs were established. Most notable of these hubs was that extensive road which ran north to another Roman hub by the name of Badbury Rings.
Proof of the harbour’s importance to the Roman’s was discovered during a 1964 dredging operation, when a 10 metres logboat was discovered. Duped the Poole Logboat, this 33 metres low freeboard vessel is the largest of it’s type found in Britain and would have been used specifically within the harbor.
By the time of the Norman Conquest Poole was but a small fishing village, however, it would once again see a place in international trade. By 1433 it harbour was home to the Port of the Staple and a leading source of wool with trade routes stretching as far as Italy and the Baltics. By the 17th Century these trade routes included North America, which resulted in the town’s growth both in importance and wealth.
The harbour’s importance continued through the 18th century, as it remained the principle British port for trade with North America. By the end of the century almost 90% of the population was employed in direct support of these trade operation. However, by the end of the 19th century this figure had dropped significantly, to less than 20%, due to the harbour’s inability to accept deeper draft cargo freighters and competing rail service. Thanks to regular dredging the harbour has recently regained some of it’s former fame.