From popularity to dereliction, justice to murder – the iconic Poole Guildhall has a varied history, reflecting the changing fortunes of the town itself.

In the mid-18th Century, Poole was flourishing thanks to trade routes across the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

The Guildhall was built in 1761 and funded by public subscription, with prominent local figures Joseph Gulston and Thomas Calcraft as major contributors.

Public subscription wasn't the only interesting aspect of the funding. There's a story – although its veracity is often debated – that a lottery was held to raise additional money for the Guildhall's construction.

The grand building was built in the Georgian style with red brick and stone dressings for £2,250.

Bournemouth Echo: Poole Guildhall.

The style chosen for the building reflected the architectural trends of the time, its features adding an air of sophistication.

The following century saw myriad changes to the iconic building that was rapidly becoming the beating heart of the town.

While nearby St James' was being rebuilt from 1819 to 1821, the Guildhall served as the church.

It became the principle meeting place for the newly formed municipal borough of Poole in 1836.

Various legal functions were housed there throughout this time; court of record, magistrates' court, Court of Admiralty, and the venue for Quarter Sessions.

Bournemouth Echo: Poole Guildhall.

In 1886, a local man murdered a councillor outside the Guildhall due to a dispute over a harbour pilot license.

John King, killed the councillor, Horatio Hamilton, after he had advised him that, unless he found the funds to purchase a boat, his licence would be withdrawn.

Up until May 1932, the building functioned as the central office for the borough council. The council relocated to Poole Civic Centre situated at the intersection of Parkstone Road and Sandbanks Road.

During the Second World War, it functioned as a gathering spot and dining hall for American soldiers gearing up for the French invasion.

Showers and washing amenities were set up to accommodate the troops, which were eventually repurposed into communal baths which were still in use until the 1960s.

Poole Museum moved from its original location on Lagland Street to the guildhall in 1971.

For nearly two decades, the museum was housed on the first floor of the building before transitioning to a new location in the Lower High Street area in 1989.

Bournemouth Echo: Picture by Richard Crease  - 20/06/14  -  RC200614PooleNow19 -     Then and Now book.  Poole . Guildhall.

The Guildhall's purpose faced uncertainties in later years.

It went unused and fell into disrepair from 1991 to 2007, but thankfully, it received a new lease on life and found a fresh purpose.

An extensive programme of refurbishment works was carried out at the cost of £800,000, and involved the conversion of the building for use as a register office and a venue for weddings and civil partnership ceremonies.

It was officially re-opened by the Princess Royal in October 2007.

The Guildhall’s history reflects Poole's development and serves as a reminder of the building's enduring importance to the town.