Frederick Charles WilliamsMagistrate, coal merchant and businessman1797 to 1872August 26, 2016
Harry EdwardsMagistrate, coal merchant and businessman1797 to 1872August 27, 2016
Bristol born James Poole was the eldest son of Ruth (née Latimer) and James Paul Poole who established a coal merchant’s business on Hotwell Road in 1808.
As a young man, James worked alongside his father, trading together as James Poole & Son. For most of his life he was known as James Poole jun. because his father lived to such an advanced age. The company’s premises included Poole’s Wharf, a large private wharf with an extensive frontage to the Floating Harbour, and St Stephen’s Wharf near the Drawbridge on Quay Head. Regular supplies of coal were imported from South Wales, including house coals for domestic customers and smokeless steam coals for use in factory furnaces and the bunkers of steamships.
An important figure in Bristol
James eventually took over the firm which thrived under his management. He became very wealthy and acquired several positions of influence in Bristol. For many years, he represented St Michael’s Ward as a Conservative on the city council, holding that office until his death. He was also a magistrate, a president of the philanthropic Grateful Society and served as Mayor 1858-59. In 1848, he was appointed a member of the newly formed Bristol Docks Committee and was its chairman from 1859-72. His business interests on the Floating Harbour meant that initially he was opposed to the building of new docks at either Avonmouth or Portishead but in later years, he concluded that more modern docks would and should be made at the river mouth and considered it expedient for the council to provide financial support for such schemes.
An interest in transport
James was also chairman of the Taff Vale Railway Company, and a director of the Bristol and Exeter Railway, the Penarth Dock Company and the Bristol Steam Navigation Company.
He married Frances Prichard in Swansea in 1819, and they had a family of nine children. During the earlier part of the C19th, they lived in Dowry Parade, just a short walk away from Poole’s Wharf, but later moved to Wick House on Durdham Down where they entertained their large circle of friends extensively. He died on 24th December 1872, aged 75, from “a malignant affection of the foot “, leaving £60,000 in his will.
By then, James Poole had handed over the running of the business to his sons who traded as Poole Bros. In 1919, they merged with William Galbraith, who also had premises at Poole’s Wharf, and the new company operated as coal, sand and gravel merchants. The coal side of the business ceased in 1966 – more than 150 years after its foundation and during which time it came to be regarded as one of the best-known commercial institutions in Bristol.