Museum Trail

Pirate Attack

One boy, two men, and plenty of pirates...

Audio Transcript:

Over a century of plays, novels and films have handed down a romantic view of pirates and smugglers. They’ve given us stories of swashbuckling adventurers who embodied freedom and answered to no one but themselves and the sea.

The reality was very different for the people who lived in fear of pirate and privateer attacks. The best outcome that they could hope for was the complete loss of their property. The worst outcome was the loss of their lives.

In 1695 French privateers were circling the waters around Poole. The Mayor of Poole, Joseph Wadham, wrote, ‘At present it is very difficult and dangerous for any ship or boat to go in and out of this harbour for fear of being taken’.

In May, William Thompson was out fishing with one man and one boy when they were attacked by a French Privateer. Thompson had on board two small mounted guns and other small arms so he decided to fight rather than be captured. The Poole men managed to wound the Captain, lieutenant and six men on board the French ship, they then pursued the vessel and captured it. Thompson took the Captain and 15 pirates prisoner.

The Lords of the Admiralty rewarded William Thompson with a gold chain and medal worth £50 (about £4000 in today’s money). He was also given the vessel he had taken!

Going outside?

Try on the streets. To find out more about Poole pirates and smuggling gangs enter code QUAY or visit the GREAT QUAY trail stop where THAMES STREET meets POOLE QUAY.

Inside the museum?

Take a closer look at the exhibits. Can you see the story of Peter Jolliffe who also received a medal from the Admiralty for his bravery?

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