IT is the stretch of land which is pivotal to the whole history of Poole.

From the days of smuggling to 21st century tourism, Poole Quay has been the focal point for the town.

Poole was a busy port in the early 13th century. By the 15th century, pirates operated from the town, including the infamous Harry Paye, who brought his plundered valuables back to the town.

From the 16th century, fishing voyages to Newfoundland boosted the town’s economy. Some of the first settlers in Newfoundland set out from Poole Quay and the town exported manufactured goods there.

A Customs House was built in 1813 and a Harbour Office in 1820. The trade to Newfoundland came to an end after the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 but Poole continued to thrive, and for some years it had more ships departing to America than did any other port.

The first toll bridge between the north side of the Quay and Hamworthy was built in 1834 and the RNLI built a lifeboat station on the Quay in 1882.

In the 20th century, Poole became the D-Day embarkation point for tens of thousands of troops, many of them GIs billeted in local homes. The US Army took over quays, boatyards and yacht clubs around the town.

After the war, the Quay changed as tourism became a more important part of Poole’s economy compared with industry.

The southern side of the Quay was still devoted to trade and industry. Its most famous occupant today is Sunseeker, which manufactures its luxury boats there for selling around the world.

On the opposite side, Poole Pottery remained the best-known name, making its products there for most of the century. Increasingly, the pottery was a tourist attraction as well as a workplace.

The pubs which served working men on the industrial Quay increasingly welcomed tourists, as did new take-away kiosks and ice cream stands.

Passenger boats offered tours of the harbour and trips to Brownsea Island and Wareham.

The Quay became the focal point for a host of events, including the New Year Bath Race, the Beating of the Bounds, the arrival by boat of Father Christmas, and the St George’s Day parade by Scouts, who march past a statue of the movement’s founder, Lord Baden-Powell.

In 1991, the Quay saw the arrival of a huge sculpture, Sea Music, by Sir Anthony Caro. At the end of the century, the Dolphin Quays building replaced Poole Pottery’s factory.

Today, there are plans for 82 homes plus retail units at the former Poole Pottery shop and Swan Inn, while the restaurant Rockfish plans to take over the Purbeck Pottery building.

They are the latest changes to a Quay which has rarely stayed still for long.