Weymouth Visitor Guide
Weymouth in Dorset, a brief insight into its history.
Weymouth began as a settlement to the south and west of Weymouth Harbour which was a remote part of Wyke Regis. There is evidence that Roman ships sailed up the River Wey as far as Radipole where they could beach and unload their cargo for transport to the Roman town of Durnovaria (Dorchester). The port is mentioned for the first time in 1100 when the ports belonging to the two towns of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis were given to the Convent and Prior of St Swithin of Winchester. By 1252 it was recognized as a seaport and became a chartered borough. In 1347 it supplied 15 ships and 263 mariners for the siege of Calais. During the 15th century it prospered partly as a result of a significant trade in pilgrims travelling to Spain.
Melcombe Regis grew independently to the north of the harbour and was recorded in 1310 as a licensed wool port. Some historians claim it was the first port at which the Black Death came into England in June 1348. Early on Weymouth and Melcombe Regis were competitors for trade, but the towns were united in an Act of Parliament in 1571 to create a double borough. Both towns have become known as Weymouth, despite Melcombe Regis being the main town centre.
Henry VIII had two Device Forts built to protect the south Dorset coast from invasion in the 1530s: Sandsfoot Castle in Wyke Regis and Portland Castle in Castletown, one of the best-preserved of the king’s coastal defences. In 1635 around 100 emigrants from the town, on board the ship Charity, crossed the Atlantic Ocean and settled in Weymouth, Massachusetts. Approximately 250 people were killed in the local Crabchurch Conspiracy in February 1645 during the English Civil War.
The architect Sir Christopher Wren was the Member of Parliament for Weymouth in 1702, and controlled nearby Portland's quarries from 1675 to 1717. When he designed St Paul's Cathedral, Wren had it built out of Portland Stone.
Weymouth had started as a fishing village but it gradually developed as one of the first modern tourist destinations in the 18th century. King George III visited Weymouth regularly between 1789 and 1805 and this led to the town becoming a fashionable holiday resort. He bought Gloucester Lodge on the seafront as his holiday home.
Weymouth's esplanade was constructed in the Georgian and Regency periods between 1770 and 1855, designed by architects such as James Hamilton. These terraces formed a long, continuous arc of buildings which faced Weymouth Bay along the esplanade,
Nothe Fort is another defensive building, erected on a headland jutting into Portland Harbour in 1860. It was in service until 1956.
One of Weymouth's most famous residents was the acclaimed author Thomas Hardy. Although Hardy is mainly linked with Dorchester, his love of Weymouth comes through in his writing.
500,000 US troops embarked through the borough to take part in the Normandy invasions in 1944 and the Bouncing Bomb was tested in the Fleet lagoon to the west of town. Weymouth and Portland were bombed by German planes during World War II as Portland harbour had a large naval base.
Disclaimer: The information in this Tourist Guide has been researched from a variety of sources including books, articles and online information. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information the reader should check any specific facts for themselves before making any decisions based upon the said information.
Weymouth Tourist Information Centre
3 Melcombe Avenue,
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015