March 2014

Jeremy Waters ‘Parkstone on Sea- salterns, sandbars and flying boats’
March 2014

The speaker at the March meeting of the Society was Jeremy Waters whose subject was Parkstone-on-Sea – Salterns, Sandbars and Flying Boats. In a well researched, professional and interesting presentation the speaker, mainly with a series of old photographs took the audience through the history and development of Parkstone primarily during the last 200 years or so.

However, the story of the Parkstone area dates back certainly to the 16th and 17th centuries with the mining of copperas (ferrous sulphate), a chemical essential in the dyeing of textiles. Also a of alum was mined for the treatment of woollen textiles. Although no evidence remains of this industry, the processing of copperas at Parkstone is accepted by many as the earliest example in England of continuous chemical processing.

Eventually the area reverted to sand dunes and scrub which during the 18th and early 19th centuries was the haunt of smugglers (notably Isaac Gulliver and his gang) providing suitable terrain on which to land their contraband. During that period a small area of the coast was occupied by salt workings and although salt production would have been tiny compared with that of Lymington, one advantage that Parkstone had was that turf (freely obtained from close by) was used for fuel as opposed to coal at Lymington.

The 1811 Ordnance Survey map showed little development of the area. In the case of industry, it showed two saltings (in decline) and a small ironworks, soon to become a major industry. The ironworks was the precursor of the South Western Pottery Company formed in 1856 which quickly became a major industrial complex, producing a wide range of bricks, stoneware drainage pipes and terracotta facing blocks. The company became a major employer in the district. A pier was built to improve access and in the 1870s a steam engine, using permanent rails was introduced which operated until after World War I.

In 1896 a wireless station was established, above Alum Bay adjacent to the Needles which was used by Marconi to receive experimental radio signals from the mainland and it was interesting to learn that Parkstone also played a crucial role in the early development of wireless communication with equipment and aerials established at Sandbanks.

By the turn of the 20th century the area began to develop slowly and in a small way with the building of one or two ‘grand houses’ but more particularly was the erection of huts and small cottages. In the 1930s The Royal Motor Yacht clubhouse was built followed by a small church and shops and dinghy sailing became a feature of the ‘Blue Lagoon’.

A major development during the Second World War resulted in the harbour becoming the principal flying boat terminal in the country. It was operated by Imperial Airways (latterly BOAC ) flying regular services to New Zealand by way of West Africa; Egypt; India; the Far East and Australia. This was very much a VIP service used by heads of state; Senior Service Officers and various celebrities.

After the war the area developed more rapidly and by the 1960s the huts and other temporary ‘residences’ had disappeared being replaced by fine expensive house and by parks and extensive leisure facilities – now sometimes referred to “as a millionaires’ playground”. Of the once important heavy industries little evidence now survives.

The presentation brought a fitting end to the current season of talks and was much appreciated by the audience.