Former Borough of Poole Municipal Buildings and boundary walls


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Statutory Address:
Parkstone Road, Poole, BH15 2RU


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Statutory Address:
Parkstone Road, Poole, BH15 2RU

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Municipal offices. 1931-32 for Poole Borough Council, designed mainly by L Magnus Austin working under Borough Surveyor, E J Goodacre. Late-C20 extensions and minor alterations of the late C20/early C21.

Reasons for Designation

The municipal buildings and boundary walls at the intersection of Sandbanks Road and Parkstone Road in Poole, constructed 1931-32, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest: * a prominent and accomplished civic building which has distinct quality and presence. It is well suited to its site, and is well-handled and carefully detailed; * for the decorative and symbolic elements which are integral to the building and its design such as the bas relief panels by Percival Wise and floor mosaics by Carter & Co; * despite some minor alteration and mid- to late-C20 extensions, the building retains all the essentials of its original plan and a high proportion of its original fittings.

Historic interest: * as a symbolic expression of Poole’s civic identity during the inter-war period.


Poole, a staple port since the mid-C15, gained further significance in 1568 when it was made a County Corporate by Elizabeth I, becoming distinct and separate from the County of Dorset. In 1926, the new Borough Engineer, EJ Goodacre, was asked to draw up preliminary plans for a town hall and municipal offices to centralise the administration of the Borough and County of the Town of Poole. Goodacre’s assistant, L Magnus Austin, was responsible for much of the final design, though the town hall and a tower included on preliminary plans were not constructed on cost grounds. The new building was to be erected to the north-east of Poole Park, at the intersection of Parkstone Road and Sandbanks Road on land described in the local newspaper as ‘an unlovely triangular plot’. Construction began in 1930; the main contractors were Whitelock and Co, a local company from Branksome and the first foundation stones were laid on the 16 May 1931 by Sir William Phene Neal, Lord Mayor of London, and Alderman John Arthur Rogers who was the Mayor of Poole at that time.

The opening ceremony attended by the Earl of Shaftesbury took place on Saturday 28 May 1932. Incorporated within the design of the building were decorative details and symbols that reflected the history and natural environment of Poole, and included works commissioned from Carter & Co and the Principal of Poole School of Art, Percival Wise. Some of the stained window glass depicted Poole in various guises, as an old town, a port and a holiday centre; other windows incorporated old glass taken from the staircase window of the former municipal building. The council chambers, courtroom (since Poole held Courts of Justice independent of those in Dorset) and entrance were located within the main central block and the departmental offices in the two wings that extended from the central block. The offices of the Borough Treasurer’s and Weights and Measures Departments were located on the ground floor of the south wing; the first floor provided accommodation for the Mayor and Councillors, committee rooms and a dust-proof room to store council robes. The north wing included the Borough Engineer’s Department, which had a ‘capacious fire and thief-proof strong room’, and offices for Building Inspectors and Clerks. The floor above provided offices for the Town Clerk, Education Officers and Medical Officer. All the building’s internal clocks were electric and controlled from a master clock in the Mayor’s parlour.

A large extension of similar design and materials was added to the rear (east) in the 1980s which created an enclosed courtyard at the centre of the building. Two- storey, flat-roofed extensions have also been added to the courtyard elevations of the side wings. To the south and east of the municipal building, situated on the same plot, are a police station (now residential accommodation), magistrates’ courts and administrative buildings which were added at various dates from 1935 onwards.


Municipal offices. 1931-32 for Poole Borough Council, designed mainly by L Magnus Austin working under Borough Surveyor, E J Goodacre. Late-C20 extensions and minor alterations of the late C20/early C21.

MATERIALS Steel-framed, brick and ferro-concrete construction, faced with white, reconstructed Empire stone under pantile and felted asphalt roofs; rendered stacks. Roof to part of main block has been recovered and modern protective glazing has been added over the original roof lanterns. Steel-framed, Crittall casements windows with margin glazing; cast-iron rainwater goods. PLAN The original building has a V-shaped plan consisting of a west-facing main central block that is flanked by angled side wings of equal length which terminate in short return blocks. A late-C20 rear (east) extension built between the return blocks has created an enclosed courtyard to the building; also later additions to the courtyard elevations of the side wings and returns.

EXTERIOR Built in a restrained neo-classical style and incorporating some modern detailing, of two and three storeys with a basement beneath the south wing and southern half of 1980s extension. There is a moulded plinth, a cornice and deep eaves. The west-facing front elevation has a central gabled entrance block of three storeys which breaks forwards. It has an open pediment with a faience plaque of the coat of arms of Poole by Carter & Co, a keyed semi-circular arch that breaks the second-floor level, a moulded dentil and an impost band. The first-floor balcony has a curved, panelled balustrade that has a relief carving of the coat of arms (crest) and is carried on a large bracket with seaweed carving which doubles as the keystone to the doorway below. French casements open onto the balcony. The entrance has a shallow, bowed porch inscribed: POOLE MUNICIPAL BUILDINGS, architrave decorated with shells, starfish, crabs and geometric-designs, recessed double doors with raised and fielded panels, and flanking narrow lights overlaid with bronze vertical grilles and lanterns, with letter boxes beneath. To either side are tall, narrow windows with margin lights to the ground and first floors and small square lights to the second floor. The flanking, two-storey outer sections are canted and of three bays. They have two paired inner windows and triple outer windows to each floor, projecting plain pilasters extending between the floors and rectangular inset panels beneath the windows; the ground-floor panels have pierced fretwork embellished with a sail boat at the centre and there are fluted panels to the end bays. The side wings have projecting two-storey outer bays under hipped roofs which have pilasters, triple windows and fluted inset panels and a projecting three-storey central bay also under a hipped roof that has a first-floor balcony. The six bays to either side of the central bay have paired windows, full-height pilasters and inset panels. At the east end of each side wing is a five-bay return block that has a triple window to its outer bay; a projecting bay of three storeys that has an entranceway with double doors with raised and fielded panels, a deep architrave, flanking narrow lights and narrow triple lights to the upper floors topped by a parapet; the other three bays have paired windows to the ground and first floors and two-light dormer windows under flat roofs. There are carved square bas relief panels below the eaves of the side wings’ central bays, to both faces of the corner bays and on the return blocks. There are 24 in total, designed by Percy A Wise, Principal of Poole School of Art, and depicting scenes from Poole's history such as the granting of the Elizabethan charter, the Civil War, the visit of Charles II and so on.

The courtyard elevations are plainer and partly masked by later additions. Some attention has been given to the design of the rear (east) elevation of the main block, being divided into three bays by full-height pilasters and with three pairs of metal-framed French casements (two pairs are modern replacements) with margin glazing, flanking narrow lights and deep toplights to the ground floor, tall painted panels above and small triple windows below the eaves. There are flanking lower, outer bays of two storeys under flat roofs.

The attached late-C20 extension which adjoins the return blocks of the side wings is of a similar design, materials and ornamentation as the original building. It is not of special architectural or historic interest.

INTERIOR: a vestibule leads to a large entrance hall from which the side wings and upper floors are accessed. The geometric-patterned terrazzo floor includes a hexagonal mosaic by Carter & Co depicting the Quay and High Street and some of the town’s historic buildings, and there is a compartmental ceiling with decorative cornices. To each side of the hall is a wide dogleg staircase with battered newel posts decorated with small scallop shell motifs, probably bronze, wrought-iron balustrade in the form of stylised waves and bronze pierced scallop shells below the handrail, also bronze. The former courtroom/conference room, now the Cattistock Room, beyond the hall has timber entrance doors and above the doorway an inset clock and two chevron-patterned, leaded glass panels. It has a raised platform on three sides of the room, although this was originally on all four sides; an oak-block floor; stylised triglyph dado with wooden panelling below; an open oak balustrade to the seating area which has been modified to provide ramped disabled access, and a compartmental, corniced ceiling.

The first-floor landing, which serves as an ante-room to the council chamber, has a floor mosaic of the Borough’s coat of arms by Carter & Co. The octagonal council chamber has distyle in antis piers to the recessed side bays and an entablature with triglyphs; public galleries with timber fronts to either side of the room and accessed from a half-landing between ground and first floors, and a small balcony carried on four consoles accessed from the second floor. The oak panelling is decorated with carvings of pine cones, scallop shells, rhododendrons, dolphins, and mayoral chains and maces, and is inset with bronze ventilation grilles enriched with a pattern of stylised waves and a central motif of either a Viking long ship or Roman trireme. The furniture is oak and red leather. The clerestory windows incorporate reset stained glass panels brought from the previous municipal building and also depictions of Poole scenes in coloured glass. The ceiling has a circular, domed lantern with decorative leaded panes, some with blue glass, and the cornices are enriched with carvings of rhododendrons, pine cones, pine needles and palms. The second-floor landing has an oak-block floor that has a circular open-well with wrought-iron balustrade identical to those on the staircases. The rectangular, metal-framed rooflight has a geometric pattern and decorative scrollwork to the sides. The side wings and return blocks are generally more functional in character, and have a corridor plan with a subsidiary staircase at the far end. Several first-floor rooms such as the Mayor’s former parlour, Members’ waiting rooms and committee rooms have dado rails with mouldings, painted wall panelling, bronze ventilation grilles (painted) and plasterwork ceiling roses, friezes and cornices, some enriched with pine cones, palms and rhododendrons. The Mayor’s former parlour has a fireplace with four-centred arched surround and a herringbone-patterned tiled inset. Other original fittings include doors to several designs, architrave, door furniture and skirting boards.

There have been some late-C20/early-C21 alterations such as the removal of some of the room partitions to create larger offices, and the addition of some fire doors, inserted ceilings, secondary glazing and a modern lift. The attics (not inspected, 2019) and third-floor areas contain accommodation for a caretaker (unoccupied), meeting rooms and storerooms.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES Around the outside of the building are low boundary walls which form part of the design. They are probably of rendered artificial stone, with chamfered caps and squat, square piers with chamfered caps.

Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the late-C20 extension forming the rear (east) of the building and the late-C20 water feature, raised planting beds and fixed seating within the courtyard are not of special architectural or historic interest and are excluded from the listing.


Books and journals
Hill, M, Newman, J, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England. Dorset, (2018), 477
Poole's Centre of Civic Pride, Poole Museum Society Blog , accessed 5 June 2019 from
Bournemouth and Southampton Graphic, June 3 1932
Poole and East Dorset Herald, June 2 1932
Souvenir Programme of the opening of Poole Municipal Offices, May 1932


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building(s) is/are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building but not coloured blue on the map, are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act. However, any works to these structures which have the potential to affect the character of the listed building as a building of special architectural or historic interest may still require Listed Building Consent (LBC) and this is a matter for the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to determine.

End of official listing

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