Pokesdown and Stourfield before the 19th Century



Pokesdown existed as a separate community long before the formation of Bournemouth, in the shape of an agricultural settlement, the Pokesdown Farm, together with a small number of cottages for the farm workers. In the course of time, the district began to grow in association with the nearby Stourfield House: gradually it became more and more influenced by the phenomenal expansion of Bournemouth itself, so that ultimately in 1901 Pokesdown became incorporated into the then newly formed County Borough. Before that date, however. Pokesdown had already become an Urban District in its own right, mainly through the efforts of its own leaders. It is intended in this essay to give some details of the manner of tills development.


The whole locality can look backwards into pre-history. in as much as men from the tribes living on Cranborne Chase hunted as far as our area, their usual route being down the valley of the River Stour in preference to that of the River Avon, which was more marshy and often flooded. Evidence of them has been found in the form of flint implements in local gravel beds. In 1909 when Mr. F. Eicock was about to develop Lock's field to form Hillbrow Road. Herbert Druitt of Christchurch obtained from him permission to excavate two barrows on the site, and a notable Bronze Age cremation cemetery w as found. A number of urns was recovered, some of which were sent to the British Museum. In 1926 more urns were found around Harewood Avenue, and between Lascelles Road and King's Park entrance.


There is some evidence, also, that people of the Iron Age were present in the locality: an axe head of the period was found near St. James' Church. These early peoples had a major port in the area of Hengistbury Head. with its defensive earthworks of Double Dykes. Later, in the Roman occupation of Britain, Hamworthy became their principal port in this area, so that in their time the main lines of communication ran from there northwards towards Badburv Rings and beyond. When, after their initial raids, the Saxons settled in the country, they formed farming communities along the fertile valley of the Stour, so that in time Twynham, the modern Christchurch, was founded, and settlements were made at Wick. Tuckton, Iford, Holdcnhurst, Throop, Muccleshell, Muscliff, Parley and so on to Wimborne, which was a major centre. 'There was a Saxon chapel at Holdenhurst, to serve some of these settlements.


After the coming of the Normans, a castle was built at Christchurch, and the monastery of the Austin Canons, with its magnificent church, was established. Access to the west was facilitated in the 12th century, when the ford at Iford was supplemented by the building of Iford Bridge, Under the feudal system. Christchurch was established as a Hundred, which included the Liberty of Westover, which in modem terms is the whole of present day Bournemouth with the exception of the Kinson area. The Westover Liberty was itself sub-divided into six tythings. one of which was the Tything of Iford and Pokesdown.


Although the Farm was on the sloping ground running down from the heath to the river valley, most of Pokesdown was on the higher plateau, which formed a tiny pan of the great heath extending over much of eastern Dorset, and to the east beyond the valleys of the Stour and Avon continued far into the New Forest. This heath, covered with gorse and heather, was wild and largely uninhabited. It was crossed by tracks and pathways, frequented by smugglers who were very active in the district during the 18th and early 19th centuries.