The town of Weymouth as we know it today is actually Melcombe Regis. The old town of Weymouth proper is on the other side of the harbour. There are some wonderful legacies left in the Melcombe Regis side of Weymouth, some of which are obscure and not normally noticed by the casual visitor.
Starting at the harbour, a wander into Maiden Street brings forth one of the obscure pieces of history. On the corner of Maiden Street and St. Edmund Street there is a house - it's actually the Ladies - where high up in the wall there is lodged a cannon ball. It is believed to have been fired from the Weymouth side of the harbour, probably from the Nothe, during thecivil war in 1645.
House with the cannon ball, the Guildhall, the Golden Lion, the Crown Hotel
Just around the corner in St. Edmund Street is the Guildhall. This is now the Weymouth and district registry office. This Victorian building opened in 1838 replaced an earlier Guildhall that had survived from 1618. It is on the site of the original Melcombe Regis Town Hall.
Along St. Edmund Street a little further on the corner of St. Mary Street, stands the Golden Lion pub. This building dates from 1721. In a publication by De La Motte in 1789, the Golden Lion, along with the King's Head and the Crown were recommended as hotels for visitors to stay at.
Past the Golden Lion and directly ahead stands the Crown Hotel at the foot of the Town Bridge. In the nineteenth century it was a meeting place of merchants and ship's masters to trade their business. Being quite large and close to the harbour, it was ideally situated as a trading post.
The Black Dog, former Milton Arms, the White Hart
Off St. Thomas Street into New Bond Street, formerly Conygar Lane, where the new shopping area was opened in 2000, there stands one of Weymouth's oldest public houses, the White Hart. The inn dates back in part to the 15th century with later additions. It was the scene of riots against Press Gangs in 1654. In 1675 the artist Sir James Thornhill, known for the painting of the interior dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, was born here. He was knighted in 1720 and in 1722 he was elected a Freeman and became an MP for Melcombe Regis.
Just off St. Mary Street lies the quaint and narrow St. Alban Street formerly called Petticoat Lane. Not long ago this street was still cobbled, but being now brick paved doesn't detract from its charm. It is still a step back in time as you walk down it. Small, mostly specialised, shops line either side and it leads to the Alexandra Gardens along the seafront. About halfway down St Alban Street on the south side at the corner with New Street stands an old building that was the Milton Arms Gallery in recent years, but is now a restaurant. This building is said to be the last part of the old friary to remain and dates back to Tudor times. It takes its name from having been a public house called the Milton Arms.
Further along St. Mary Street is the pub called the Black Dog, built in the 16th century. It is known to be an old smuggling haunt and was once called The Dove. Inside, there is some interesting writing on the ceiling:
Murder.....A murder took place in front of the fireplace when John (Smoaker) Mills, and the son of a local Richard Mills snr., whipped Richard Hawkins to death in 1758. They were caught and later hung at East Grinstead.
This murder took place because Mills, an ally of the famous Hawkhurst gang of Sussex, falsely accused Richard Hawkins of an offence against his smuggling gang. It was only later that it was found that Hawkins was innocent.
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