In a normal year, there are over 200 Weymouth events, mostly on the Beach or Weymouth Bay. The Seafood Festival takes place on the Harbourside. Harley Davison bikes gather on the Pavilion forecourt. Britain’s biggest New Years Eve Fancy Dress Party stretches right across the Town. Rather than write a massive tome, we thought we would just show images from a few events we enjoyed. (See the index at the foot of the page)
Kite Festival on Weymouth Beach
Sporting events in Weymouth
Dragon Boats in Weymouth Bay
Iron Man Triathlon on The Esplanade
Cultural events in Weymouth
Seafood Festival in Weymouth Harbour
Volleyball on Weymouth Beach
Harbour and Bay events
Powerboat Racing in Weymouth Bay
Veteran and Historic vehicles
Vintage Cars on Pavilion Forecourt
Veterans Parade on The Esplanade
D-Day Landings. A spectacular Weymouth Event
New Years Eve in Weymouth Town
And many, many more…..
|Kite Festival||Autocross||Motocross||Dragon Boats|
|Gig Boats||Iron Man||Seafood||Volleyball|
|Santa Run||Harbour Swim||Powerboats||Vintage Cars|
|Harley Davison||Veterans Day||Military Vehicles||D-Day Landing|
|Civil War||Carnival||New Years Eve|
Weymouth has a long and distinguished history
The town we presently know as Weymouth was originally two towns. Melcombe lay to the North of the shared Harbour and “old” Weymouth was across the water, to the South. The Harbour came to prominence in the 13th Century, mainly trading wool.
The two rival towns united in 1571, by Act of Parliament. This did not succeed in averting hostilities in the English Civil War. A cannonball can still be seen, embedded into a wall in Maiden Street. The resulting “double-borough” may be the reason why there were more councillors than in most UK townships, until recent reorganisations. Later, the Harbour became a busy fishing port.
Some historical events
Previous posts in this “Postcard” series highlight some of our local history. Developments include The Esplanade, contributions to the response to the Spanish Armada, smuggling, piracy and founding of the American Colonies.
Along the way, the “Black Death” entered Weymouth in 1348. Also, King George III effectively put Weymouth on the map as a seaside resort. Stacie’s was the first purpose-built hotel in Weymouth Town, from 1773. The site is currently the Royal Hotel (1899). During the Second World War, over 450,000 troops and 100,000 military vehicles paraded down The Esplanade to embark for Operation Overlord (D-Day).
Weymouth Town Centre
In Medieval times, the burgs of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis were little more than clusters of dwellings, either side of the trading and fishing port. In the 16th Century, a Dominican Friary, dating from 1418, built a jetty from the mainland on the Melcombe side to the approximate site of the current Alexandra Gardens.
Origin of Weymouth’s main thoroughfares
A succession of piers and embankments led to the extension of these lands and the population grew. The present-day St Mary and St Edmund streets were no more than pathways between grassy slopes.
Accommodation in the new tourist spot
By the 18th Century, houses in the growing “Weymouth Town” were a mix of ancient timber frame buildings and stone constructions, with mullion windows. The 1776 Improvement Act resulted in removal of thatch roofs by about 1784. The development of Weymouth as a tourist resort began with the visits by King George III, from 1750 to 1805. During this period, many more visitors, particularly wealthy patrons and gentry, chose to come to the Town but suitable accommodation was scarce.
By the mid-nineteenth century, the Royal Baths, coffee salons, assembly and reading rooms were in regular use and some commercial buildings, such as banks, appeared.
Theatres, banks and open spaces
The Theatre Royal was, in 1771, one of the first purpose-built theatres outside London. Alexandra Gardens became public gardens in 1867, with a bandstand in 1891. In 1924, a concert hall replaced the bandstand.
Roller-skating rinks provided adventurous entertainment at the Burdon Hotel and Grange Road. The coming of affordable rail travel for all in the 1850’s saw rapid development in Weymouth. Trade routes from the Channel Islands added greatly to the wealth of the area. New Town Centre dwellings, shops and inns opened, with many now offering modest rooms for travelers. Weymouth Town had arrived!
Weymouth Esplanade is a broad street sweeping around the Bay towards the Pavilion Theatre
A brief history of Weymouth Esplanade
In the late 16th century, there was no sign of what was to become the Esplanade. There was a grassy strip, separating the small town of Melcombe Regis from the Beach. The only “construction” possibly marking the line of the future Esplanade was a defence platform. This guarded against French attacks. By the 1750’s, several bathing “buses” were in use. These allowed visitors to enjoy the health benefits of sea-bathing while protecting from the clay-like sea bed. Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester, built the first notable house along the shore-line (Gloucester Lodge). He urged his brother, KIng George III, to visit and the grand social life of Weymouth took off. The germ of Weymouth Esplanade began.
Georgian Architecture on Weymouth Esplanade
Early on, it became apparent there was not enough accommodation of sufficient standard for visiting gentry. “Promenades” along the sea front became popular as crowds followed the King on his daily walks. Unfortunately, the sea front at that time consisted mostly of rear gardens and a long, thin rubbish dump of sorts. Consequently, visitors stayed in rather poor housing in the Town Centre. Andrew Sproule built the original Royal Hotel. The architect, Hamilton, designed new Georgian terraces, in sections, forming a broad curve along the sea front.
James Hamilton, Architect
The relatively unknown architect, James Hamilton developed the broad sweeping style of the Georgian Terraces. These have become a main characteristic of the Weymouth frontage. From repairs to the inner Harbour in 1797, through to design of the Osmington Hillside Carving in 1802 and George III commemorative statue in 1810, Hamilton gradually came to prominence.
Adapting to tourism
Because of increasing tourist numbers, owners used the terraces to provide lodgings for relatively wealthy guests and the Esplanade was “born”. To maintain consistent appearance, later infills generally matched the standard form of the main Georgian Terraces. Due to these efforts, by 1836, 184 of these buildings offered “superior” acommodation for guests.
Listed building Terraces
Hamilton designed the York buildings in the 1780’s, then Gloucester Row in the 1790’s and, to the South, Devonshire Buildings (1805) and Pulteney Buildings (1810), followed by Johnstone Row. His last work was Saint Mary’s Church in the Town. To match the rounded termination at Johnstone Row, in 1845, the Roundhouse, on the end of the Devonshire buildings, has a distinctive “lighthouse” appearance. The later Beach House on Brunswick Terrace is also in semi-circular form. English Heritage listed most of these terraces. Thus, they require to be of more or less uniform appearance and decoration.
The Great Tempest of 1824 destroyed much of the new Esplanade, but rebuilding and further development quickly restarted. The retaining wall appeared in 1834. In 1887, the Victorians built the Jubilee Clocktower, to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee. Two libraries flourished, along with Assembly Rooms and a Theatre near the present-day Bond Street. The Theatre closed in 1859. Around then, the arrival of railway services to Weymouth saw the advent of seaside holidays for the masses. Goerge Stevenson gifted an area of land (previously used as a communal midden) to the Town and this became known Alexandra Gardens. By 1924, it added a Theatre and then turned into an amusement arcade in the 1960’s.
In 1889, the Victorian shelters appeared along the Esplanade. By 1908, there was a new Theatre, The Pavilion, later The Ritz, sited at the Southern end of The Esplanade. A fire destroyed The Ritz in 1954 and the New Weymouth Pavilion was built on the same site in 1960.
The Esplanade in Wartime
During the Second World War, The Esplanade saw plenty of action, mainly leading up to the Normandy Landings. About 517,000 Allied Troops and over 100,000 vehicles travelled down the Esplanade to reach their embarkation points in the Harbour. A number of the sea front hotels were converted into military headquarters, with interconnecting doors still visible in some cases. In more recent times, the beach retaining wall was realigned and raised, along with broadening of the Esplanade itself.
The modern Esplanade
Currently, the Esplanade is a broad, sweeping road, stretching from Brunswick Terrace for over 800 metres to Weymouth Pavilion, on the Peninsula. There are only about 85 guesthouses and hotels operating currently. However, these are supplemented by various amusement arcades, shops and cafes. Rossi’s Ice Cream Parlour has been operating since 1934. Although the traffic is busy, it is still a splendid walk to enjoy the Georgian architecture on one side and the glorious sea view on the other. Modern additions include illuminated planters, flower beds and the old Lifeguard/Tourist Centre building is being renovated to become a “superloo” for visitors. New art-installation lighting coruscates with innumerable changing light patterns at night. A feast for the eyes!
Weymouth is one of Britain’s busiest fishing ports
A (very) brief history
There has been a fishing port at Weymouth since Roman times (strictly at Radipole via the River Wey). The Port moved to Melcombe Regis in the mid-13th Century, trading spice and other goods. A century later, the port was the entry point for the Black Death. The two towns of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis united in 1571.
In 1635, the Ship Charity carried pilgrims to the new land of America, founding Weymouth in the present-day state of Massachusetts. Weymouth made many contributions to history over the centuries. Probably the biggest was embarkation of over 500,000 troops heading to the Normandy Beaches in WW2. Today, we are highlighting Weymouth fishing fleet.
Fishing in Weymouth
The Sea near Weymouth is relatively sheltered, tending to circulate (nutrients) more or less gently around the Bay. The habitats range from sea grass meadows and kelp, to rocky ledges, gravel dunes and erosion beds. This mix of environments couples with the stream of food sources from the English Channel. This sustains a rich and varied marine fauna.
Protecting the Environment
Much of the Dorset inshore area falls under the Marine Conservation Act. As a consequence, the impact of more aggressive industrialised fishing methods has been minimal. Most inshore fishing uses a more traditional style, with smaller boats, having pots, traps, hand-lines and static nets.
Mirroring commercial activity, Sea-angling from Chartered boats has become a major local industry. The sport contributes a significant portion of the National £1.3 Billion National sea fishing recreational industry. There are 11 local charter boats and thousands of anglers visit Weymouth every year for wreck and deep sea angling.
Weymouth also houses the second CEFAS Laboratory (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science). Here, the principal work invlolves operating the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI). Additional work includes that for numerous UK and International organisations. The FHI monitors and enforces restrictions on fish and shellfish imports.
The Fishing Fleet
In a recent survey in 2018, there were 39 fishing vessels in the regular fleet. Of these, 36 were under 10 metres and average age was 28 years. Most were using nets, traps, pots or lines (for bass). Weymouth lies close to Poole, Brixham, good fishing grounds and Ferries to the EU. This makes the port popular for numbers of “nomadic” crabbers and whelkers. Over 40 species of fish and shellfish are common sights at Weymouth. The annual catch value is about £4 million pa and weighs about 8000 tons. Crabs and whelks make up about 85% of the total weight. The smaller boats tend to catch more bass.
Fish transport and processing
Normally, Live crabs, scallops and lobsters are transhipped by lorry (e.g. MacDuff’s) to Poole for ferrying abroad. Whelks typically serve Asian markets. Weymouth is the second largest port for landing line-caught bass, while the processing of the catch occurs on Portland before auction in Brixham. Major UK fish processors benefiting from Weymouth catches are Samways (Bridport), Dorset Fish and Shellfish (Poole), MacDuff (Mintlaw) and Weyfish (local).
There has been a Fish Market in Weymouth for 150 years. In recent times, Weyfish took over the building and renovated throughout. Up to 40 species of fish and shellfish may be found, depending on conditions and season. Specialties include fresh bass, mackerel, pollack, plaice, oysters, clams and lobsters. The company owns 3 boats in the Weymouth fishing fleet (Ellie Ann, Shaman and Cheetah Cat). The catch is fresh and never frozen. Our neighbours tell us the bass is to die for – superb quality.
Blue sky and sea, with boats
Weymouth Bay is an oasis of blue sky and sea, with excellent sailing conditions. This is because it shelters from the worst of the English Channel weather behind the Island of Portland. The Bay includes Portland Harbour, Weymouth Beach, Studland Bay and Lulworth Cove. It is home to the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy as a result of being the site for the 2012 Olympic sailing events.
History of the Bay
In 2019, the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth II anchored in the Bay, in order to allow disembarkation of a squadron for Yeovilton. In 1805, the year Aaran House was built, the Earl of Abergavenny sank in the bay, costing 261 lives. 1824 saw the ‘Great Tempest’, which destroyed much of the Esplanade. Most famously, King George III popularized the concept of sea-bathing for health reasons and effectively launched the Holiday Industry, here in Weymouth.
Fishing and marine life
Anyone who has ever “crunched” along the Esplanade in early Spring will realise there is plenty of marine life in the Bay. Gulls and crows/rooks regularly leave captured shellfish on the pavement. Lacking the powerful beaks of larger gulls, crows have developed a method to break into these tough little meals. They can be seen dropping shelled creatures from a height before leaving tens of thousands of “shelly” corpses for people to walk upon.
As well as shellfish, there are plenty of crabs and lobsters while various locations prove to be excellent spots for fishing. However, those nervous of crabs or larger fish around them while paddling can relax. It is fairly rare to see any of the marine life unless one hires a fishing boat for the day. Of course, the types of fish vary depending on location. Luckily, local Charter Captains are very skilled and can usually find any of those below.
Nearby Studland Bay is one of the largest breeding grounds for sea horses, due to extensive beds of sea grass.
Formation of Weymouth Beach
Weymouth Beach is a wide, long arc of golden sand, stretching from the Pavilion Theatre towards Bowleaze Cove. From approximately the Jubilee Clocktower northwards, the beach increasingly contains pebbles. Some of these are thought to arise from weed-rafting. Fine and medium sand make up the wider, softer end of the beach (outside Aaran House).
These sands derive from tidal (reverse-)flow and wave action scouring the seabed in the Bay. Adding to this are sediments from the River Wey and Jordan. These sediments “washed up” against the harder outcrop at Nothe and formed the original strand. Extensions to the Harbour piers reinforced this sedimentation process. This broadened the beach near the current position of the Theatre.
Weymouth Beach – Best in Britain
The result is that the Beach comprises a safe, shallow bathing environment, with soft fine sand, ideal for making sandcastles and sunbathing. The Beach was a major factor in the development of Seaside Resorts and coastal holidays, following visits by King George III. It is possibly the most important attraction for visitors to Weymouth.
The Beach was crowned “Best Beach in Britain” and one of the best in Europe in 2017, and it is easy to see why.
Among the attractions on Weymouth Beach, we have Donkey rides, a Helter Skelter slide, miniature golf, bungee rides, pedaloes and one of the last Punch and Judy shows in Europe. Paddleboarders and windsurfers launch from the beach most weeks. There are up to 27 concessions along the front, including shops, Sand World sculpture display booth and two cafes. The Beach is regularly cleaned during summer and there are RNLI lifeguards, First Aid, Lost Children services and Beach attendants available.
Weymouth Harbour has been a port since Roman times and played a role in many historical events. These included contributing vessels for the Siege of Calais, capture of San Salvador from the Spanish Armada, the English Civil War and D-Day. There is a plaque on the Harbourside denoting the site where Bubonic Plague (The Black Death) is thought to have entered Britain in 1348. Emigrants aboard The Charity founded Weymouth, Massachusetts.
Fisn and chips, peace and quiet
Today, the Harbour is a quiet and relaxing area to stroll or maybe sit and eat fish and chips while the boats go past. There are several excellent chippies to hand plus numerous fine pubs and restaurants. We especially like The Marlborough for fish and chips. However, Bennett’s is also good, as is Fish and Fritz. We find the gulls are not fussy and like everyone’s chips.
Benches have been added in recent years along the Eastern side of Weymouth Harbour. They are placed along the raised portion of the old railway platform. This makes for a restful location, above the traffic and bustle of the street. During the recent Covid-19 outbreak, the benches have provided rest, great views and an air of solitude for elderly walkers.
The old railway tracks are still there, dating from 1865 (cyclists beware!) The Fish Market has recently been refurbished and is becoming a Mecca for seafood connoisseurs. The Rowboat Ferry crosses the water to the Nothe Fort and Gardens – another haven of peace and quiet. The ferry ride across Weymouth Harbour affords excellent views of the Port from an unusual angle. One may also hire charter fishing boats or water taxis to Portland.