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Your Borough Of Poole

Charles Van Raalte


Charles Van Raalte (1835-1908) - A non-Councillor Mayor.

Charles and Florence van Raalte brought to their ownership of Brownsea Island a quarter of a century of self-sufficiency. Rich from the jute and tobacco industry and with a home in Brook Street, London, they were greatly welcomed as purchasers of the island in 1901. It was at that time possible for the Council to elect as their First Citizen someone who was not an elected member - indeed he was not even a resident! Even though Charles van Raalte's politics were Tory, he gained Liberal support to become Mayor of Poole in 1902.

The van Raalte's entertained on a grand scale - from Battenbergs to Bourbons, many of the European royal households visited their island for house parties, at which the guests could play golf on the 9 hole course to the west of the castle or go pheasant shooting. One visitor was Marconi, whose yacht "Elettra" was moored in Brownsea Roads near his transmitting station at the Haven Hotel. It was van Raalte who allowed Baden Powell to hold the first camp on the island, which was to lead to the birth of the Boy Scout Movement.

Many servants attended the guests' needs and at the end of a hard day's work would don bandsmen's uniform and play for the guests on the castle terrace. A milk herd provided for dairy needs and cattle were reared for sale at market. In hothouses even tropical fruit like nectarines, peaches and grapes were grown and at the castle laundry linen was laundered even for the van Raalte's London house.

Charles van Raalte died on 11th February, 1908. His widow Florence remained to carry on maintaining the estate until 1925, introducing a bulb industry which supplied early daffodils by train for the Covent Garden market in London.

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