Weymouth, Wyke Regis and Portland Harbour from the Isle of Portland
|Weymouth shown within Dorset|
|OS grid reference|
|• London||195 km (120 mi) ENE|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||DT3, DT4|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
Weymouth // is a seaside town in Dorset, England, situated on a sheltered bay at the mouth of the River Wey on the English Channel coast. The town is 11 kilometres (7 mi) south of Dorchester and 8 kilometres (5 mi) north of the Isle of Portland. The town's population is 52,323 (2011). The town is the third largest settlement in Dorset after the unitary authorities of Bournemouth and Poole.
Weymouth is a tourist resort, and its economy depends on its harbour and visitor attractions; the town is a gateway situated halfway along the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site on the Dorset and east Devon coast, important for its geology and landforms. Weymouth Harbour has included cross-channel ferries, and is home to pleasure boats and private yachts, and nearby Portland Harbour is home to the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, where the sailing events of the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games were held.
The A354 road bridge connects Weymouth to Portland, which together form the borough of Weymouth and Portland. The history of the borough stretches back to the 12th century; including involvement in the spread of the Black Death, the settlement of the Americas, the development of Georgian architecture, and preparations for World War II.
Weymouth originated as a settlement on a constricted site to the south and west of Weymouth Harbour, an outlying part of Wyke Regis. The town developed from the mid 12th century onwards, but was not noted until the 13th century. By 1252 it was established as a seaport and became a chartered borough. Melcombe Regis developed separately on the peninsula to the north of the harbour; it was mentioned as a licensed wool port in 1310. French raiders found the port so accessible that in 1433 the staple was transferred to Poole.
Melcombe Regis is thought to be the first port at which the Black Death came into England in June 1348, possibly either aboard a spice ship or an army ship. In their early history Weymouth and Melcombe Regis were rivals for trade and industry, but the towns were united in an Act of Parliament in 1571 to form a double borough. Both towns have become known as Weymouth, despite Melcombe Regis being the main centre. The villages of Upwey, Broadwey, Preston, Wyke Regis, Chickerell, Southill, Radipole and Littlemoor have become part of the built-up area.
King 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. Parts of Sandsfoot have fallen into the sea due to coastal erosion. During the English Civil War, around 250 people were killed in the local Crabchurch Conspiracy in February 1645. In 1635, on board the ship Charity, around 100 emigrants from the town crossed the Atlantic Ocean and settled in Weymouth, Massachusetts. More townspeople emigrated to the Americas to bolster the population of Weymouth, Nova Scotia and Salem, Massachusetts; then called Naumking. There are memorials to this on the side of Weymouth Harbour and near to Weymouth Pavilion and Weymouth Sea Life Tower.
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, the famous stone of Portland's quarries. Sir James Thornhill was born in the White Hart public house in Melcombe Regis and became the town's MP in 1722. Thornhill became an artist, and coincidentally decorated the interior of St Paul's Cathedral.
The resort is among the first modern tourist destinations, after King George III's, brother the Duke of Gloucester built a grand residence there, Gloucester Lodge, and passed the mild winter there in 1780; the King made Weymouth his summer holiday residence on fourteen occasions between 1789 and 1805, even venturing into the sea in a bathing machine. A painted statue of the King stands on the seafront, called the King's Statue, which was renovated in 2007/8 by stripping 20 layers of paintwork, replacing it with new paints and gold leaf, and replacing the iron framework with a stainless steel one. A mounted white horse representing the King is carved into the chalk hills of Osmington.
Weymouth's esplanade is composed of Georgian terraces, which have been converted into apartments, shops, hotels and guest houses. The buildings were constructed in the Georgian and Regency periods between 1770 and 1855, designed by architects such as James Hamilton, and were commissioned by wealthy businessmen, including those that were involved in the growth of Bath. These terraces form a long, continuous arc of buildings which face Weymouth Bay along the esplanade, which also features the multi-coloured Jubilee Clock, erected in 1887 to mark the 50th year of Queen Victoria's reign. Statues of Victoria, George III and Sir Henry Edwards, Member of Parliament for the borough from 1867 to 1885, and two war memorials stand along the Esplanade.
In the centre of the town lies Weymouth Harbour; although it was the reason for the town's foundation, the harbour separates the two areas of Melcombe Regis (the main town centre) and Weymouth (the southern harbourside) from each other. Since the 18th century they have been linked by successive bridges over the narrowest part of the harbour. The present Town Bridge, built in 1930, is a lifting bascule bridge allowing boats to access the inner harbour. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution stationed a lifeboat at Weymouth for the first time on 26 January 1869. A boathouse was built with a slipway by the harbour and is still in use, although the lifeboat is now moored at a pontoon.
During World War I, approximately 120,000 ANZAC personnel convalesced in Weymouth after being injured at Gallipoli or other theatres of the war. Weymouth and Portland were bombed by German planes in World War II; Portland harbour had a large naval base, and Weymouth was home to Nothe Fort, next to Nothe Gardens. 517,816 troops embarked through the borough to fight at the Battle of Normandy. The Bouncing bomb was tested in the Fleet lagoon to the west of town. The history of the area is documented at the Timewalk museum in Brewers Quay .
Weymouth is situated on the western shore of Weymouth Bay on the south coast of England, 195 kilometres (120 mi) west-southwest of London, at Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:mw' not found. (50.613, −2.457). The town is built on weak sand and clay rock which in most places along the Dorset coast, except for narrow bands at Lulworth Cove, Swanage and Durdle Door, has been eroded and transported away. This weak rock has been protected at Weymouth by Chesil Beach and the strong limestone Isle of Portland that lies offshore, 3 kilometres (2 mi) south of Wyke Regis. The island affects the tides of the area, producing a double low tide in Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour. The maximum tidal range is small, at around 2 metres (7 ft).
There are two lakes in the borough, both RSPB Nature Reserves—Radipole Lake in the town centre, and Lodmoor between the town centre and Preston. Radipole Lake, the largest nature reserve, and mouth of the River Wey before it flows into Weymouth Harbour, is an important habitat for fish and migratory birds, and over 200 species of plants. Radipole is an important tourist attraction; it and Weymouth Beach are situated very close to the main town centre. There are 11 Sites of Special Scientific Interest in the borough, which cover an area of 800.87 hectares (1,979 acres), and there are 37 other Nature Conservation Designations.
Situated approximately halfway along the Jurassic Coast, Weymouth is a gateway town to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, which includes 155 kilometres (96 mi) of the Dorset and east Devon coast that is important for its geology and landforms. The South West Coast Path has two routes around Weymouth and Portland—one around its coast, and one along the South Dorset Downs, which reduces the path's length by 31.0 kilometres (19.3 mi). The path is the United Kingdom's longest national trail, at 1,014 kilometres (630 mi).
Weymouth is the largest town in the area, larger than the county town of Dorchester, which lies just to the north, and hence is a centre of activity for the nearby population. A steep ridge of chalk called the South Dorset Downs, locally known as The Ridgeway, separates Dorchester and Weymouth; they are less agricultural than the valleys in the centre and north of Dorset, but have dairy and arable farms. The nearest villages to Weymouth are part of the built-up area, including Wyke Regis, Chickerell and Preston.
The sand and clay on which Weymouth is built is very low-lying—large areas are below sea level, which allowed the eastern areas of the town to flood during extreme low pressure storms. In the 1980s and 1990s a sea wall was built around Weymouth Harbour and along the coast road in Preston; a rip rap groyne in Greenhill and beach nourishment up to Preston have created a wide and artificially graded pebble beach, to ensure that the low-lying land around Lodmoor does not flood. The defences at Preston, the extended ferry terminal and the widening of the Esplanade have changed the sediment regime in Weymouth Bay, narrowing the beach at Greenhill and widening the sands in Weymouth. A study conducted as part of the redevelopment of the Pavilion complex showed that the proposed marina will contribute slightly to this effect, but sand dredged out of the marina could be used to make the beach up to 40 metres (130 ft) wider.
Due to its location on the south-west coast of England, Weymouth has a temperate climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb), with a small variation in daily and annual temperatures. The average annual mean temperature from 1981 to 2010 was 11.2 °C (52.2 °F). The warmest month is August, which has an average temperature range of 14.1 to 20.1 °C (57.4 to 68.2 °F), and the coolest is February, which has a range of 3.7 to 8.4 °C (38.7 to 47.1 °F). Maximum and minimum temperatures throughout the year are above England's average, and Weymouth is in AHS Heat zone 1. Mean sea surface temperatures range from 7.0 °C (44.6 °F) in February to 17.2 °C (63.0 °F) in August; the annual mean is 11.8 °C (53.2 °F).
|Climate data for Weymouth|
|Average high °C (°F)||8.6
|Daily mean °C (°F)||6.4
|Average low °C (°F)||4.1
|Rainfall mm (inches)||78.5
|Avg. rainy days (≥ 1 mm)||13.0||9.9||9.4||8.3||8.4||7.0||6.6||7.5||7.9||11.5||12.4||12.4||113.9|
|Source: 1981–2010 averages for Wyke Regis climate station. Sources: Met Office and Cefas|
The low-lying nature of the area, and the ameliorating effect of the lakes and mild seas that surround the town, act to keep night-time temperatures above freezing for much of the winter, though frosts are recorded. The lowest temperature of −9.8 °C (14.4 °F) was recorded on 13 January 1987. Days with snow lying are equally rare: on average zero to six days per year; almost all winters have one day or less with snow lying. It may snow or sleet in winter, yet it rarely settles on the ground; low-lying coastal areas on the South Coast of England such as Weymouth experience milder winters than the rest of the United Kingdom. The growing season in Weymouth lasts for more than 310 days per year, and the borough is in Hardiness zone 9b.
Weymouth and Portland has one of the sunniest climates in the United Kingdom, along with many south coast towns. The resort averaged 1869.8 hours of sunshine annually between 1981 and 2010, which is 43% of the maximum possible, and 40% above the United Kingdom average of 1339.7 hours. December is the cloudiest month (62.9 hours of sunshine), November the wettest (88.7 millimetres (3.5 in) of rain) and July is the sunniest and driest month (243.6 hours of sunshine, 35.9 millimetres (1.4 in) of rain). Sunshine totals in all months are well above the United Kingdom average, and monthly rainfall totals throughout the year are less than the UK average, particularly in summer; this summer minimum of rainfall is not experienced away from the south coast of England. The average annual rainfall of 730.3 millimetres (28.8 in) is well below the UK average of 1,125 millimetres (44.3 in).
The mid-year population of Weymouth in 2011 was 52,323, in a built-up area of 18.5 square kilometres (4,600 acres), giving an approximate population density of 2,800 residents per square kilometre (11 per acre), in 25,174 dwellings. The population has grown steadily since the 1970s, mainly as a result of migration. There is an above average number of residents aged 60–84 (27.4%), however this is less than the Dorset average of 30.2%, and the proportion of the population between 18 and 59 is also above the Dorset average. The population is largely native to England—94.9% of residents are White British, slightly below the Dorset average of 95.5%, and well above the England and Wales average of 80.5%. The most common religious identity in Weymouth and Portland is Christianity, at 61.0%, which is slightly above the England and Wales average of 59.3%. The next-largest sector is those with no religion, at 29.3%, slightly above the average of 25.1%.
House prices in Weymouth and Portland are relatively high by UK standards, yet around average for the south of England—the average price of a detached house in 2010 was £303,622; semi-detached and terraced houses were cheaper, at £204,647 and £203,207 respectively, and an apartment or maisonette cost £155,056. The crime rate in Weymouth of 7.6 burglaries per 1000 households is lower than that of England and Wales (11.6 per 1000), but above that of Dorset (3.6 per 1000). Unemployment levels are low, particularly in summer, at 2.5% of the economically active population in July 2011, compared to the UK average of 7.7%.
Weymouth railway station is the terminus of a route from London Waterloo and of a route from Westbury and Bristol. There used to be a station to handle summer tourist traffic, but this traffic declined and it was demolished in 1986. A smaller station took up part of the site, and the rest was given over to commercial development. Part of the South West Main Line west of Moreton Station to east of Dorchester South Station has been reduced from dual to single track. Local councils lobbied the Department for Transport, in connection with the 2012 Olympic Games, to relay the double track and increase services . Services to London Waterloo began running every 30 minutes from December 2007, but services through Bristol to Cardiff were reduced.
An unusual feature of the railways in Weymouth was that until 1987 main-line trains ran though the streets and along the Weymouth Harbour Tramway to the Quay station at the eastern end of the harbour, to connect with ferries to mainland Europe. Due to declining business, goods traffic ceased in 1972, but passenger services continued until they ceased in 1987 from lack of use.
Local bus services are run by First Hampshire and Dorset, which bought the local Southern National company. Buses run from Weymouth to the Isle of Portland, Dorchester, Bournemouth, Wool, Beaminster, Axminster, and to other villages and the town's holiday parks. Weymouth is connected to towns and villages along the Jurassic Coast by the Jurassic Coast Bus service, which runs for 142 kilometres (88 mi) from Exeter to Poole, through Sidford, Beer, Seaton, Lyme Regis, Charmouth, Bridport, Abbotsbury, Weymouth, Wool, and Wareham. This service is convenient for walkers who can ride the bus to connect with the South West Coast Path for a walk along the coast.
The A354 road connects the town to the A35 trunk road in Dorchester, and terminates at Easton on the Isle of Portland. The A353 road runs east from Weymouth to the south of Warmwell, where it connects with the A352 to the Isle of Purbeck and Wareham. The B3157 road runs west from Weymouth to the south of Bridport where it terminates and connects to the A35. In the 1980s the town centre was bypassed by the A354 to Portland, but the government's road building policy changed before a proposed relief road could be completed. Before completion of the relief road, the A354 followed its original route through Upwey and Broadwey, where traffic problems were common at peak tourist times, particularly on event days such as the carnival.
The relief road's construction was delayed by opposition from residents and environmental groups, including Transport 2000 and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, who objected to the route's partial destruction of a nature reserve, which is an AONB and SSSI. With Weymouth and Portland scheduled to host 2012 Olympic sailing events the project reopened; the local authorities favouring a more environmentally friendly proposal than in the 1990s. On 5 April 2007, Dorset County Council granted planning permission for a modified proposal including a single carriageway running 7 kilometres (4 mi) north, and a 1000-space park-and-ride scheme, costing £84.5 million. Work commenced in 2008; and was completed by mid-2011, in time for the 2012 Olympic sailing events. During archaeological excavations carried out in advance of the relief road construction, a burial pit containing 51 dismembered skeletons of Viking men was discovered on Ridgeway Hill.
Thomas Hardy lived and worked in Weymouth in 1869, and in 1871-2 lodging at 1 West Parade, now Park Street, returning to the Bockhampton cottage to complete Under the Greenwood Tree. Diggory Venn in Hardy's The Return of the Native describes the excitement of Weymouth, where "out of every ten folk you meet nine of ’em in love". Weymouth's Esplanade, the Gloucester Lodge Hotel and Old Rooms are featured in The Trumpet-Major (1880), renamed Budmouth in the 1895 edition, to bring the novel within fictional ‘Wessex’. Thomas Hardy walked on Chesil Beach many times, and it is featured in The Well-Beloved (1897).
Joseph Drew wrote a historical novel The Poisoned Cup "a quaint tale of old Weymouth and Sandsfoot Castle" (1876), The Rival Queens, an account of the life of Mary Queen of Scots (1880), and several other popular works on religion, history and science.
The novelist John Cowper Powys's novel Weymouth Sands (1934) is set in Weymouth, where he "was more at home than anywhere else in the world". Powys's paternal grandmother lived in Weymouth and the family lived in nearby Dorchester from 1880 to 1885.
The novelist Gerald Basil Edwards spent the last years of his life in Weymouth. In nearby Upwey he met the art student Edward Chaney, who encouraged him to complete The Book of Ebenezer Le Page.
Westcountry Television and Meridian Broadcasting are the local ITV television franchises. Westcountry is received from the Stockland Hill transmitter or from one of its three relay transmitters in the town (Wyke Regis, Bincombe Hill and Preston). Meridian is received from the Rowridge transmitter. The local newspaper is the Dorset Echo. Weymouth was used as location to film The Boat That Rocked, alongside nearby Portland Harbour, and Channel 4's Hugh's Fish Fight.
Sport and recreation
Weymouth's wide and shallow sandy beach is used for swimming and sunbathing during the tourist season, and for beach sport events throughout the year, including beach motocross, the International handball championships and the beach volleyball classic. The international kite festival, held in May each year on Weymouth Beach, attracts around 40,000 spectators to the esplanade from around the world.
Weymouth Cricket Club is sponsored by local business and runs in partnership with nearby schools.
The local football club, Weymouth F.C. or 'the Terras', are outside the Football League but, in common with some other non-league clubs, they became professional in 2005. The team enjoyed erratic success at their level; twice playing in the third round of the FA Cup, the highest club competition level. At the end of the 2005–06 season the team became champions of the Conference South (the sixth level of English football) and moved up to the Conference National (the fifth level) for the first time since 1989. However the club were relegated at the end of the 2008–09 and 2009–10 seasons and now play in the Southern League Premier Division (the seventh level). The Terras' ground is the Bob Lucas Stadium; its record attendance is 6,500 against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup 2005–2006 season.
The Wessex Stadium is out of town, but until 1987 the team played at a ground near the town centre, which is now an Asda supermarket. The club's move pre-dated the move to new out-of-town grounds by professional league clubs, and was the first football stadium opened in England in 32 years. Motorcycle speedway racing was staged at the stadium from 1954 until the redevelopment; Weymouth's team was revived in 2003, and 'the Wildcats' race at a track adjacent to the stadium. However, the club closed early in 2011, following disputes with the landlords owning the stadium. In 2005 a scheme was proposed to rebuild the Wessex Stadium to occupy a pitch-and-putt golf course, coincidentally with Asda building on the previous stadium site. Although the plans were to move by August 2007, the scheme was shelved before construction could begin.
On the shores of Portland Harbour, 3 kilometres (2 mi) south of Wyke Regis, is Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, where the sailing events of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games were based. The main reason that the resort was chosen to be an 2012 Olympic venue was because the National Sailing Academy had only recently been built, so no new venue would have to be built. However, as part of the South West of England Regional Development Agency's plans to redevelop Osprey Quay, in which the academy is built, a new 600-berth marina and an extension with more on-site facilities was built. Weymouth and Portland were one of the first locations in the United Kingdom to finish building a venue for the Olympic Games, as construction started in October 2007 and finished at the end of 2008.
The waters of Weymouth and Portland were credited by the Royal Yachting Association as the best in Northern Europe for sailing. Local, national and international sailing events are regularly held in the bay; these include the J/24 World Championships in 2005, trials for the 2004 Athens Olympics, the ISAF World Championship 2006, the BUCS Fleet Racing Championships, and the RYA Youth National Championships. Tall ship Pelican, built as an Arctic fishing trawler in 1948, offers sail training voyages for youth. Weymouth Bay is a venue for other water-sports—the reliable wind is favourable for wind- and kite-surfing. The sheltered waters in Portland Harbour and near Weymouth are used for angling, diving to shipwrecks, snorkelling, canoeing, jet skiing, water skiing, and swimming.
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