Island in Dorset, England; population (2001) 30 permanent residents and 80 seasonal residents. It is situated at the entrance of Poole harbour and is 1.6 km/1 mi long by 1.1 km/0.7 mi broad. Brownsea Island is owned by the National Trust and part of the island is a nature reserve. It can be reached via passenger ferry from Poole Quay.
There is evidence of early settlement on the island and remains dating from 800 BC have been found. There is also evidence of a 3rd-century AD Roman settlement. In 1318, Cerne Abbey, a community of monks who lived on the island, were granted the sole rights to hunt wildlife on the island. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s, control of Brownsea passed from Cerne Abbey to Henry VIII.
In 1852, the island was bought by Colonel William Petrie Waugh. He constructed a large three-storey pottery on the south shore after discovering china clay on the island, and built a model village named Maryland, after his wife, for the workers. The Branksea Clay & Pottery Company expanded to employ over 200 people.
Brownsea was sold in 1927 to Mary Bonham-Christie. The island reverted to natural heathland and was abandoned by the population. When the owner died in 1961, a nationwide campaign to save the island resulted in its purchase by the National Trust. Robert Baden-Powell held the first Boy Scout camp here in 1907.
Features include the neo-Gothic church of St. Mary the Virgin, which was consecrated in 1854; a Tudor castle dating from the 1530s, which has been rebuilt following a fire in 1896; and, a 10 m/33 ft long log-boat (800 BC), currently on display in Poole Museum.
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