Weymouth History

The holiday cottage “Hector” is in the original port of Weymouth and as you cross the town bridge you enter the old town of Melcombe Regis. Now the whole area is known as Weymouth but at one time there was considerable rivalry between the two ports. The only link between the two towns was by a ferry (or a long journey on poor roads) but by 1597 a wooden bridge had been constructed and by 1606, following a Charter granted by James 1, the area was one town -Weymouth.

However, the Civil War brought more disruption and Weymouth was held by the Parliamentary forces while nearby Portland Castle was a Royalist stronghold. The Royalists took over Weymouth in May 1643 and held it for about ten months before losing it again to the Parliamentary forces. Evidence of the fighting around the area when Parliament defeated the Royalists can still be seen in the cannon ball lodged in the side of a building in Maiden Street.

The Town Bridge was replaced four times by wooden bridges, each with a central drawbridge allowing the passage of tall sailing ships. The first stone bridge was built in 1824 and the bridge we have today was opened in 1930 by H.R.H The Duke of York, later to be King George V1.

In the 18th Century health became a major factor in the rise of Weymouth’s fortunes when Doctors advocated drinking and bathing in the sea water as a cure for all manner of ills. In 1750, The Mayor of Bath, Ralph Allen, purchased a property at 2 Trinity Road, Weymouth and spent many summers there. You can see the house on the harbourside and through his influence many fashionable people were introduced to the town. Turnpike roads had made travel easier and even King George III’s younger brother visited and had a house built here in 1780. Gloucester Lodge later became the summer palace of King George III.

The King became a popular visitor to the town and as a cure for his supposed “madness” would bathe in the sea from a horse-drawn bathing machine. These bathing machines became popular and one can be seen in the centre of the town close to the statue of George III, erected by the “grateful inhabitants”. You can also see an equestrian carving of George III on the hillside facing Weymouth Bay which was cut in 1808.

The coming of the railway in 1857, the Channel Island boats from the harbour and the increase of holidays by the sea when Bank Holidays were introduced all helped to turn Weymouth into a popular holiday resort. The rail link ran right through the town to the harbourside and explains why you can still see railway lines in the road beside the harbour.

The beautiful Weymouth Bay has been the scene for great naval reviews; 1912 when King George V reviewed the Fleet and August 1939 when George
VI reviewed the Reserve Fleet just before the outbreak of World War 2. As an important port Weymouth played its part in that war, receiving troops from Dunkirk and assembling troops and shipping ready for the D-day landings in 1944.

Visit the Timewalk at Brewers Quay for an entertaining journey through the maritime past of Weymouth. Weymouth Museum, Brewers Quay, will also fill in many gaps in this short stroll through time.