Weymouth has been a popular holiday destination since the late 18th century when George III made the town his summer holiday residence on numerous occasions between 1789 and 1805, staying in what is now the Gloucester Lodge Hotel. Following in his footsteps, wealthy holidaymakers descended on the town in droves, seeking the health benefits bestowed by fresh air and sea bathing. This was a period of tremendous growth for the town, and the predominant architectural style of the esplanade and the streets behind were established at this time. A statue of the King was erected on the seafront in 1910 in recognition of his connection with the town.
Weymouth sits in a wide bay which affords it protection from the sea on three sides. It benefits from a beautiful shallow, sandy beach, behind which the esplanade runs for almost the entire length of the town.
At the southern end of the town lies the harbour, which is where Weymouth's real roots lie. Records of the use of the harbour as a port date back to Roman times when galleys would sail into the port as far as what is now Radipole Lake, and there, unload cargoes for onward transportation to Dorchester (Durnovaria). Radipole Lake is now an important RSPB nature reserve.
The port at this time actually separated two settlements - Weymouth to the South/West and Melcombe Regis to the North. There were constant disputes about the ownership and operation of the port, and these were to continue until the situation was settled in 1571 by Elizabeth I, who decreed that the towns should merge and be known as the Borough of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis. Weymouth has strong ties with the Channel Islands, the first record of a regular service between the two dating back to 1794. This developed into an important route for both trade and the leisure industries, and contributed to a significant revival of the town. Having established services to the Channel Islands, and later, to Cherbourg on the northern coast of France, the Great Western Railway became interested in running a connecting line to the town. In 1865 this was extended down onto the jetty itself so that cross-channel passengers could step straight onto the ferries from the train, and vice-versa. Equally, the transfer of freight between ship and train became significantly easier.
The link with the Channel Islands continued, and during the Second World War, Weymouth was the landing point for the entire population of Alderney when the island was evacuated on 23rd June 1940 due to the German invasion of the Channel Islands. Today, the port continues to support a reasonable sized fishing fleet, and still hosts cross-channel services to Cherbourg, St. Malo, and the Islands. It is very much a focal point for the town, and many of Weymouth's attractions can be found in or very close to the port area. A new marina nearby has also been very successful and now supports a thriving community of recreational sailors.
Amongst the many attractions in Weymouth you will find:
The Nothe Gardens and Fort provide a great day out for the family. Spectacular views from the ramparts, secret tunnels and the many exciting displays cannot fail to stimulate the imagination. It's not just for little boys you know!
Radipole Lake RSPB Nature Reserve provides a tranquil setting right in the centre of Weymouth. It is one of the most important reserves in the country, and is often frequented by exotic birds from far away.
Brewers Quay is an excellent example of redevelopment done well. Former brewery buildings have been transformed into a maze of alleyways and courtyards, featuring many specialist shops such as arts and crafts, collectibles, furniture and so on. There are several cafes, pubs and a restaurant for sustenance, a village store, and even a microbrewery. There's also a children's zone for when the little people become tired of shopping.
The Weymouth Timewalk can be found in Brewer's Quay, and is a fascinating interactive trip through Weymouth's turbulent past.
Also near the quayside you can find Tudor House. This is one of Weymouth's few remaining Tudor buildings, and is operated by the Weymouth Civic Centre. Guided tours are available during the summer months.
The Deep Sea Adventure is a great venue for active children, telling the story of underwater exploration through the ages. It is currently featuring a Titanic Exhibition. Under the same roof you will find Sharky's - an action-filled children's play zone.
Continuing the nautical theme, Weymouth is also home to The Sea Life Park. This is a huge attraction, featuring a mix of indoor and outdoor features. Recently a turtle sanctuary has been added, offering incredible views of these endearing, ancient animals and helping to raise awareness of the desperate plight of wild sea turtles.
The beach and the promenade are safe and family-friendly. They retain many of the traditional features of the British seaside town - including Punch and Judy shows, trampolines, merry-go-rounds and beach pedaloes. The beach itself is very fine sand and is maintained to a high standard. Unusually, it is home to an art form known as sand modelling, in which huge and intricate structures are created entirely from sand.
All pictures on this page are copyright ©2006 Chris Eaves, and are provided courtesy of Weymouth Panorama