Weymouth-Dorset.co.uk Local History

Weymouth Harbour

Weymouth's harbour has always been the hub of activity whether serving as a major port in times gone by or more for pleasure as it is now, alongside the fishing industry. The harbour has two main parts as well as the ferry terminal. Custom House Quay is on what was the Melcombe Regis side (left of the picture below) and the Old Harbour is on the Weymouth side (right). The two harbours didn't always exist in harmony however. The two sides were often opposed over trading rights until eventually by Royal charter of Elizabeth I the two were officially united. The Borough of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis came into being in 1571. Harmony was not achieved immediately however and it was to be several years before the act of unity became a reality in practice.

Weymouth Harbour, Weymouth, Dorset

A bridge linking the ports of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis was first built in 1597. There have been a few more built since then with the most recent opened in 1930 as in the picture below. The bridge today is of a drawbridge that opens at two-hourly intervals during the summer to allow ships to pass through that are too high to pass under it. A plaque on the bridge reads:

This bridge replaces a swing bridge constructed in 1824. The first bridge erected in 1597 was a wooden structure of 17 arches with a draw-bridge and completed the unification of the two ancient boroughs of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis to effect which Queen Elizabeth granted a charter in 1571. The present bridge was built by the corporation, the cost being borne jointly by the borough, the Ministry of Transport and the Dorset County Council.

The Town Bridge over Weymouth harbour beginning to open

Town Bridge

There is a small rowing boat ferry that crosses the harbour near the Ferry Terminal at the seaward end of the harbour. It is situated alongside the Pavilion theatre on the pier. The first ferry service between Weymouth and the Channel Islands was launched in 1794 with a packet steamer service. Although this was originally for trading between England and the Islands, it also gave rise to many Dorset families settling in the Channels Islands. Many instances of Dorset families are recorded in the parish registers and census returns of St. Peter Port, Guernsey. As quarrying in Dorset was a common occupation, particularly on Portland and in Purbeck, and Guernsey quarried granite for use in buildings, it would seem that this would be a likely draw to the island.

Ferries to the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey, and on to St. Malo, Brittany in France, operate all year round from the Ferry Terminal. The Condor catamaran service takes approximately two hours in crossing to the Channel Islands. For further information and booking online: Condor Ferries

Weymouth Pavilion Theatre and The Ferry Terminal at the Harbour, Weymouth, Dorset 2003

Weymouth Pavilion Theatre and the Ferry Terminal

The Pavilion Theatre, shown on the left of the picture is a replacement, built in 1960, after the previous one was destroyed by fire in 1954. The old theatre, known as 'The Ritz', had been built in 1908 and although it stood on the same site, old pictures of it show that it was jutting out into the bay. Much land has been reclaimed since then and the length and breadth of the pier has greatly increased.

The Ritz was a much more elegant structure than our 1960s built Pavilion of today, as can be seen here in an old picture. Note the Ferry Terminal on the right. The harbour steps in the foreground are where the little ferry across the harbour runs from.

The Ritz Theatre, built in 1908 on the site of the present day Pavilion Theatre, Weymouth and the old Ferry Terminal of Weymouth Harbour

The Ritz Theatre and the old Ferry Terminal

Melcombe Regis Harbour - Custom House Quay

Old Harbour Weymouth - Hope Square and Hope Street

Old Harbour Weymouth - Trinity Street and Trinity Road

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