How well do you know Dorset’s History?


Known as the Jurassic coast, visitors come to the Dorset coastline looking for natural beauty, a sandy beach and most importantly a good day out by the sea. But there is more to uncover when you visit Poole and Swanage, as the local Dorset area is filled with an abundance of history from Kings, to local legends and 20th century happenings.  
Take a quick sail around Poole and Swanage to discover some of its history.

Brownsea Island

Civilisation on Brownsea Island dates back to the 9th century when a solitary monk would live in a small chapel, blessing vessels coming in and out of the harbour. Between the 10th and 15th centuries, the island was in the ownership of the Catholic Church under the monasteries. This was seized by King Henry VIII when he introduced the Church of England into Britain as our national religion. Purchased by a private owner in 16th century and then the National Trust in 1961, the island is now famous for being home to our native red squirrel. Nowadays, there are only a handful of places across the British Isles where you find red squirrel living on their own in the wild.
Brownsea Island also hosted the first-ever Scout camp, organised by Robert Baden-Powell in 1907, which was an experimental camp with 20 young boys from different social backgrounds. In 1910 Baden-Powell founded the Scout organisation that we know today. Both the Scout and Girl Guides flags are hung up on either side of St Mary’s Church and, throughout the summer months, groups from across the nation still come to camp on the island.

Green Island

There are a number of islands off the coast of Dorset which you will sail past, including Green Island which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty due to the site being of special scientific interest and a protected area. Visited by Channel 4’s Time Team in 2003, they discovered the foundation stones of a furnace, houses and the remains of pottery and jewellery. They theorised that Green and it’s neighbouring island Furzy were once one larger island that was a well-established trading post with vessels coming from the Mediterranean, Northern Africa and continental Europe.

Old Harry Rocks

Old Harry Rocks, a three-chalk formation standing proudly at Handfast Point on the Isle of Purbeck, mark the most easterly point of the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Old Harry Rocks used to be part of a long stretch of chalk between Purbeck and the Isle of Wight and there are a number of legends as to how the rocks gained their name. One legend says that the Devil, traditionally known as ‘Old Harry’ slept on the rock, whilst another believes it was named after the infamous Poole pirate, Harry Pye whose ship hid behind the rocks waiting for merchantmen. The final legend is of a 9th century Viking raid which was thwarted by a storm and Earl Harold who drowned was turned into a pillar of chalk. Whichever legend might be true, they are local sea landmark.

Poole Harbour

Despite Poole Harbour being one of the largest naturally occurring harbours in the world, the entrance is only 270 yards wide. Connecting both sides of the harbour entrance is the Sandbanks Chain Ferry which provides a valuable connection between Sandbanks and Purbeck Isle. Sandbanks Peninsula is known as ‘millionaires miles’ and is the fifth most expensive place to own a property in the world, as the average house price is between £14 to £18 million – more expensive than property in Beverly Hills, California!

Swanage’s Piers

Swanage is home to two piers with the original Swanage Pier constructed in 1859 by James Walton for the Swanage Pier and Tramway company. The pier was built primarily for shipping stone with horses pulling carts full of stone along the tramway pier and seafront to connect quarries in Langton Matravers. Then in 1874, George Burt launched a streamer service between Swanage, Bournemouth and Poole to bring day trippers to see the original Swanage Pier. However, it soon became clear that the pier could not handle both tourists and shipping movements, so a second pier was built and opened to the public in 1895.