1 Welcome to Weymouth

Welcome to Weymouth! This Dorset town is one of Britain’s oldest seaside resorts, first made popular by King George III in the 1790s. Its natural bay, fine sand and calm waters have attracted generations of holiday makers ever since.

In 2012 Weymouth Marina and the neighbouring island of Portland hosted the Olympic and Paralympic sailing events. Some 380 athletes took part in craft that ranged from sail boards to large yachts, all watched by specatators and media reporters from around the world.

But the Games were not the first time Weymouth has been on the world’s stage. The town has welcomed people from overseas for centuries. This walk traces Weymouth’s international history. We will explore how Weymouth grew into a resort town, look for smugglers in the Old Harbour, meet pioneers of the New World and discover how the sea brought death but ‘cured’ a king.

We will also explore some of the modern town’s international connections, especially the worldwide origins of many seaside objects. All the while you can enjoy fantastic views across Weymouth bay, bask on the beach’s golden sands and even stop for an ice cream! We hope you enjoy the walk.

 

 

 

Welcome to Weymouth
© Rory Walsh

Directions

If you are facing the front of the Weymouth Pavilion, the bay is to your left and the Old Harbour to your right. Go to the right, across the railway tracks in the road, and onto the harbour quayside. Near a one-storey viewing platform, look for a stone pillar with the names Clark and Endicott on it.

2 A new start

We begin our walk around Weymouth with a memorial to some people who left this place behind. From the sixteenth century Weymouth became a passageway to the New World.

The Clark Endicott Memorial is named in honour of Richard Clark and John Endicott. Clark was a ship’s captain who left Weymouth in 1583 to help establish the province of Newfoundland in eastern Canada. Meanwhile Endicott left Weymouth in 1628 and helped create the American town of Naumking in Massachusetts. Naumking later changed its name to Salem and became infamous for a series of witch trials.

Clark and Endicott were not alone in crossing the Atlantic from Weymouth. Over the coming years more of Weymouth’s townspeople moved to America for a new start. Some helped to establish the town of Weymouth in Massachusetts and in the late seventeenth century many others moved to Nova Scotia in Canada.

As we walk along the Old Harbour, look out for other signs of Weymouth’s American pioneers, including a street called Pilgrim’s Way and a memorial stone on the Town Bridge. The stone reads “From Weymouth in New England to Weymouth in Old England”.

 

Clark Endicott memorial
© Rory Walsh

Directions

Continue along the quayside with the water on your left. Take your time to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells as you go. Look on the right for the Harbour Master’s building. There are actually two: go past the first one with ‘Harbour Master’ carved in stone over the door. Stop when you reach the second one, with ‘Harbour Master’ painted on the upper wall.

3 Rivals and rats

The Old Harbour is a fitting place to find out about Weymouth’s origins. The original village developed here on the banks of the River Wey. Archaeological evidence has been found of Roman, Norman and Saxon riverside settlements. By the twelfth century there were towns on either side of the river. The original Weymouth village was on the opposite side of the harbour to where we are now. On this side was the fishing port of Melcombe Regis.

By 1252 Weymouth was an established sea port. The streets around the harbour are some of the oldest in Weymouth and you can still visit buildings dating back to the Tudor era.

Despite being just across the river, Melcombe Regis developed quite separately and by 1310 it was a licensed wool port. French raiders invaded several times though, so in 1433 its trading license was transferred along the Dorset coast to Poole.

For many years Weymouth and Melcombe Regis were trade rivals until in 1571 the towns were united under an Act of Parliament. Afterwards Melcombe Regis became Weymouth’s town centre!

Melcombe Regis has a dubious claim to fame. It has been identified as the port where bubonic plague first arrived in England, probably in 1348. Also known as the ‘Black Death’, the Plague was one of the worst pandemics in history. It originated in China then swept across Europe in the 1350s.

The disease was spread by fleas which lived on rats. Since rats often hid on ships, the disease spread rapidly along trade routes and via port towns. The human cost was an estimated 75 million deaths across Europe. Britain’s population was almost halved.

 

 

The Black Death depicted in the Toggenburg Bible (1411)
Wikimedia Commons

Directions

Continue along the quayside until you reach the Custom House, which is a red-brick building with a coat of arms above the doorway. Stop outside of it.

4 Sailors and smugglers

We have been walking along Custom House Quay, which is named after this Customs House building. The building dates from the eighteenth century when it was originally a merchant’s house. 

By then Weymouth was a trading port and many goods passed in and out of the harbour here. Look out for warehouses along the quayside which would have stored them (many have now been converted into other uses such as flats).

The job of the Customs officer was to oversee trade and collect taxes on behalf of the government. In order to avoid taxes gangs of smugglers snuck many goods into Weymouth, including spirits, sugar, salt, lace, silk, velvet, coffee and cocoa beans. Most of the contraband came via Europe and the Channel Islands. 

Smuggling was so common by the eighteenth century that it was almost seen as a pastime. Even one of Weymouth’s mayors was a smuggler! The gangs were ruthless and violent and the job of Customs officer was thought to be as dangerous as being a smuggler.

Most of the smuggling on the south coast died out after the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s. Customs officers were given new powers and their numbers were boosted by soldiers returning from the wars.

 

 

Custom House Quay sign
© Rory Walsh

Directions

Continue along Custom House Quay. Shortly before the bridge, look on the right hand side for a stone building with arched windows and doorways. This is the Old Fish Market. Stop outside this building.

5 Fishy tales

The Old Fish Market was built in 1855 and was where fishermen came to sell their daily catches. As you will have noticed there is still a fishing fleet based in Weymouth harbour. You can often see nets, cranes and lobster pots by the quayside. Depending on the time of day many of the fishing boats might be there too.

Although some of the fishing is still commercial, some is recreational. Some fishermen maintain a living by renting out their boats for sea fishing. This is actually nothing new; Weymouth has been a popular site for sea fishing since the 1800s and has held many international competitions.

The warm waters of the south coast here attract some interesting fish species. Among the most striking sights are Porbeagle sharks. These scary-looking but harmless creatures are native to many countries worldwide including Bermuda, Morocco and African countries around the Gulf of Guinea. Another unusual sighting is the ocean sunfish. These giant flat fish can grow up to 11 feet long and weigh up to two tonnes. They normally live in warm waters such as the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Besides commercial and leisure fishing, we also associate the seaside with eating fish and chips. Fish and chips became popular from the nineteenth century when trawler fishing began in the North Sea. The most popular fish at British seaside resorts is Atlantic cod which breed in the North Atlantic Ocean, Norwegian Sea and the Bay of Biscay between Spain and France.

There are many fish and chip shops along the walk route and you may wish to stop to enjoy some later!

 

Fish and chips
© Andrew Dunn via Wikimedia Commons

Directions

Continue along Custom House Quay and under the bridge. Take care to watch for traffic. Follow the quayside as it curves round to the right and becomes Commercial Road. Continue as far as a wide slipway (on the opposite side of the road is a multi-storey car park). Stop and overlook the marina.

6 Ships ahoy!

These days Weymouth harbour and the surrounding sea are used more for recreation and sport. You may have seen various signs advertising boat hire, sailing trips and diving excursions. Here in the marina the larger private boats are berthed.

In fact, Weymouth and Portland boast some of the best natural sailing waters in Britain. The bay’s location creates reliable wind levels from several directions. It is also sheltered from large waves and currents.

As a result Weymouth attracts seafarers from far and wide. In the marina look out for boats registered in overseas ports or with exotic foreign names. In recent decades Weymouth has hosted many international sailing events, including for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Weymouth is the only town that has hosted the start of the international Tall Ships’ Race three times. The first ever Tall Ships Race was held in 1956 and ran from Torbay in Devon to Lisbon in Portugal. The race has grown in popularity ever since and the route takes in ports throughout Europe. The last time the event came to Weymouth was in 1994 when it attracted 300,000 spectators.

 

Luxury boats at Weymouth Marina

© Rory Walsh

Directions

Continue along the path with the marina on your left and Commercial Road on your right. Shortly after the Marina office building, turn right opposite the bridge. Use the pedestrian crossing over Commercial Street and continue along Westham Road. At the end, turn left. On a traffic island on your right is a statue. Stop where you have a good view of it.

7 A royal resort

This statue commemorates a man who changed the tide of Weymouth’s history. King George III was crowned in 1761. Like his father and grandfather who had preceded him as king, he was from the House of Hanover, a German noble family.

George III was the first Hanoverian king to be born in England. His rule spanned a perilous period in Britain’s history. He was on the throne during the American War of Independence and there were constant battles with France, including the Napoleonic Wars that culminated in the Battle of Waterloo.

George’s health was not very strong and in 1788 he suffered an attack of porphyria, a physical and mental illness. To aid his recovery, physicians suggested he go to the seaside. In the Georgian era, sea bathing wasn’t seen as a leisure activity but a medicinal cure. Sea air was thought to have reviving properties and patients were prescribed visits to the coast.

So in 1789 the king came to Weymouth. He chose Weymouth because his brother, the Duke of Gloucester, had a house on the seafront. We will see this house at the next stop.

George enjoyed his visit so much that he returned thirteen times over the next 15 years. He helped to popularise Weymouth as a seaside resort. This statue was built in 1810 for his Golden Jubilee. It was funded by public subscription from the town's “grateful inhabitants”.

 

 

King George III statue
© Rory Walsh

Directions

Continue along the pavement with seafront buildings on your left and the road and sea on your right. After the first terrace, cross over Gloucester Street. Stop outside Gloucester Lodge, a large redbrick building.

8 Royal residence

This large building is where King George III used to stay in Weymouth. It belonged to the his younger brother, the Duke of Gloucester, who first visited Weymouth in 1780. The King eventually bought this grand house himself and so Gloucester Lodge became a royal residence.

Whenever the King was at Gloucester Lodge, effectively the British Empire was run from Weymouth!

The building is a fine example of Georgian architecture. Georgian architecture was a style that became popular between 1720 and 1840. The name comes from Britain’s four Hanoverian kings who were all called George.

Look at the building’s front and you can see many typical Georgian features – square sash windows, pairs of chimney stacks at each end of the roof and symmetrical design. Georgian architecture spread across the world as British architects used it throughout the Empire. There are examples throughout the United States and surprisingly large numbers in Jamaica, where many public buildings and railway stations were built in Georgian style.

Georgian architecture also experienced a revival in the 1900s when it became known as Neo- Georgian. As we continue, see if you can spot other examples of Georgian buildings.

 

Gloucester Lodge
© Rory Walsh

Directions

Continue along the left hand side of the Esplanade. When you reach King Street on the left, use the pedestrian crossing to cross the Esplanade and go to the clock tower. Stop by the clock tower and look along the row of seafront buildings.

9 The sands of time

During their stays in Weymouth, King George III and the royal family took daily walks along the seafront. Such walks, ‘promenading’ up and down the seafront, are still an essential seaside activity. 

While visiting in 1799, the King was told that his naval forces had defeated those of the Netherlands. George III was apparently so pleased with the news that during his walk he stopped to tell every passer-by that he met.

George III is not the only monarch whose Golden Jubilee is celebrated in Weymouth. Within sight of his statue this is the Jubilee Clock. It was built in 1887 to mark the fiftieth year of the reign of Queen Victoria. The clock originally stood on the beach but is now in line with the main road. In fact, the clock never moved, rather the promenade and road have widened around it. Queen Victoria appears again later on the route: see if you can spot her.

From the Jubilee Clock we can look left and right to see the full sweep of Weymouth’s seafront road. This road is called the Esplanade. There are examples of Esplanades at coastal resorts around the world including The Esplanade in Singapore, Esplanade at Nova Scotia in Canada, St Clair’s Esplanade at Dunedin in New Zealand, and the Redondo Beach Esplanade in California.

 

 

Jubilee Clock on The Esplanade
© Rory Walsh

Directions

Head back along the Esplanade the way that you came, this time with the beach on your left and the road on your right. Look across the road for the rather grand Royal Hotel. Immediately to the right is the Royal Arcade. At the time of creating this walk, the central part of this building was an amusement arcade and the right hand part was Rossi’s Ice Cream Parlour. Stop opposite Rossi’s.

10 Melt in the mouth

No trip to the seaside is complete without having an ice cream! The popularity of ice cream in Britain owes everything to the Italians. In 1851 Carlo Gatti, an Italian entrepreneur, opened the first ice cream stall in London. It stood outside Charing Cross railway station and sold scoops of ice cream in shells.

Before the mid-Victorian era ice cream was an expensive and rare luxury food. The development of fridges, plus large imports of ice from America and Norway, soon meant that ice cream took off and became a staple at seaside resorts.

The origins of ice cream though are debatable. In ancient Rome and the Persian Empire people made desserts by pouring fruit juices over snow. Snow was either saved in underground chambers or collected from mountains. However ice cream as we know it today – made from frozen milk or cream – has been traced to China.

A Chinese mixture of frozen milk and rice was documented in around 200 BC. It has been suggested ice cream arrived in Italy after explorer Marco Polo brought the recipe back from China in the late thirteenth century. Some 300 years earlier, frozen milk desserts were also widespread in the Middle East.

Weymouth boasts one of the oldest ice cream parlours in Britain. Rossi’s was established in 1937 by Italian businessman Fioravanti Figliolini. The shop has been family owned ever since and the current third generation have been running it for over thirty-five years. Ice cream is freshly made on the site, including a natural variety with no flavouring.

 

 

Ice cream cone
© Rory Walsh

Directions

Continue a short way along the promenade until you are opposite Gloucester Lodge. There should be a fortune-teller booth and a flower bed with palm trees on the seafront. Stop beside these.

11 Palm to palm

You have probably noticed that Weymouth’s Esplanade is lined with palm trees. These trees became popular in English seaside resorts for their associations with Florida, California and the French Riviera. On the south coast of Devon, the palm lined beaches of Torbay (Torquay, Paignton and Brixham) are marketed as the ‘English Riviera’.

The palm trees in Weymouth are rather small by comparison to ones found in hotter countries but they still complement the golden sands of the beach. There are over 2,000 species of palm tree and they live in hot climates ranging from rainforests to deserts. As a result they are associated with many countries around the world. For example the wax palm is the national tree of Colombia. 

We can also find another kind of palm here. The colourful booth belongs to ‘Zara – A Renowned Palmist’. Palm reading, or palmistry, is thought to come from Hindu astrology in India. It gained popularity in Western Europe in the nineteenth century and is something often found at fairgrounds and the seaside.

Zara’s booth emphasises her credentials as the daughter of “a true Romany gypsy”. The term ‘Romany’ describes people from many different ethnic groups who are members or descendants of the Romani. The Romani people live throughout the world especially across eastern Europe. The English term ‘Gypsy’ comes from the Greek word for ‘Egyptian’ in the belief that the Romani originated from Egypt.

 

 

Chiromancy model
© Malcolm Lidbury via Wikimedia Commons

Directions

Continue a little further along the promenade. Look on the opposite side of the road for a light blue-painted building with the name Bluebird Coaches (it is to the left of Gloucester Street). Stop opposite this building.

12 Wings and wheels

As seaside resorts became more popular a whole transport industry grew to help visitors get to them. By the early 1920s many resorts were accessible by charabanc.

Charabancs were open-top buses, often converted trucks. The word comes from the French char à bancs (‘carriage with benches’). With railway travel expensive, charabancs offered many people affordable trips to the coast for the first time.

Over time, many of the charabanc routes developed into fully fledged coach companies. Bluebird Coaches can trace their history back to 1924 when local entrepreneur Frederick Hoare began a charabanc route in Portland. The company is still owned by the Hoare family today. Subsequently Bluebird grew to offer coach tours across Britain.

Like many coach operators they have expanded into overseas routes in recent years. You can now take a Bluebird coach trips across Europe, including Christmas trips to Germany and Switzerland. Newer destinations include Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina – all from here in Weymouth.

 

 

1920s charabanc
Wikimedia Commons

Directions

Continue along the promenade. When you are just about level with the side of the statue of King George III, look on the beach for a booth painted in red and white stripes. If you are visiting out of summer season, a small picket fence stands in its place. Stop by the booth or the fence.

13 That’s the way to do it!

This small booth hosts another classic seaside activity. The origins of the Punch and Judy show come from Italy. The story of Mister Punch can be traced to the sixteenth-century Italian theatre style called commedia dell’arte or ‘comedy of craft’. Mister Punch derives from an Italian jester character called Pulcinella.

Punch and Judy shows in Britain can be traced back to the 1660s. The first written account comes from diarist Samuel Pepys, who saw a show in May 1662. Although Punch and Judy shows are now seen as entertainment for children, they were initially very popular with adults.

By the 1880s most of Britain’s fashionable seaside resorts had a Punch and Judy show. The puppet operator, traditionally called a Professor, effectively busks on the beach and makes money from a live audience.

Weymouth’s is one of the few professional seaside Punch and Judy shows still operating. Since 2005, the ‘Professor’ in Weymouth has been Mark Poulton. Shows are held daily during the Easter break and summer season. 

 

Weymouth Punch and Judy show
© Chris Sampson via Flickr.com

Directions

Continue a few metres further along the promenade and look for shops on the opposite side of the road selling seaside toys and goods. Stop opposite these.

14 Tools for the tide

In the shops across the road plus in stalls on the sand you can buy a range of seaside toys and objects. Many of these items have surprising international connections.

If you buy a bucket and spade today, like many modern toys, they are probably plastic and made in China. Plastic hula hoops meanwhile were developed in the 1950s by the American toy company Wham-O. Toy hoops have existed for thousands of years, often made from dried grass or vines. The name ‘hula hoop’ refers to Hawaiian hula dancing; the body movements of the dance and playing with the hoop are very similar.

The Wham-O company also developed the Frisbee. These plastic discs have their origins in 1930s California. Designer Walter Morrison got the idea after playing with a cake tin on Santa Monica beach. The name came from the Frisbie Pie Company, whose pies came in disc-shaped metal tins. Children kept them to play with and shouted ‘Frisbie’ with each throw - in the way golfers shout ‘fore’ as a warning before a shot.

In the shops and stalls we can also buy flip-flops. Worn throughout the world, their origins as beach wear have been traced to 1920s Japan. After the Second World War they were popularised by returning soldiers in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. They are also very common in India and Pakistan where they are the cheapest form of footwear.

 

 

Flip-flops
© Jairo via Flickr.com

Directions

Continue along the promenade. Stop when you find one of the many viewing telescopes on the promenade railings.

15 Sea sightings

As we continue along the seafront we can see the gentle sweeping curve of Weymouth’s bay. When King George III and his family first came to Weymouth in 1789 they were accompanied by writer Fanny Burney. She kept a diary of the visit and described the beach: “The bay here is most beautiful – the sea never rough, generally calm and gentle and the sands perfectly smooth and pleasant”.

These attributes have earned Weymouth the nickname the ‘English Bay of Naples’. The name is very fitting as Naples was used for the sailing events at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. For the 2012 Games, two giant screens on the beach allowed people to watch the action. Many of the boats were too far out to see with the naked eye – though you could possibly have tried to use one of these telescopes.

The earliest astronomical telescopes were made in the Netherlands in the 1600s. These devices were improved by Italian astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei. The name ‘telescope’ comes from the Greek for ‘far-seeing’.

They became popular at the seaside in Victorian and Edwardian Britain. Intended for people to look at the sea views, young men also used them to catch a glimpse of ladies promenading along the seafront!

 

 

Seaside telescope
© Rory Walsh

Directions

Continue a little further along the promenade. Where the road forks, stop opposite the statue and look onto the sand. In the summer season there should be a sand sculpture hut here.

16 Enter sandman

Each summer Weymouth beach becomes a showcase for the skills of Mark Anderson. Since 1988 he has been Weymouth’s sand sculptor.

Sand sculptures are made by mixing sand with water to make a sort of dough. This mix can be carved into large and intricate shapes, which dry out to preserve the sculpture. The sand at Weymouth is ideal for this craft as its granules are very fine.

This has made sand sculpting a pastime in Weymouth for many years. Mark Anderson’s grandfather, Fred Darrington, first made sculptures on this beach from the early 1920s. Other sand sculptors based here included Swift Vincent and Jack Hayward. 

Mark also creates sculptures at the International Sand Sculpture Festival, Sculture di Sabbia. This competition takes place each June and December at Jesolo on the Adriatic coast of Italy. Twenty sand sculptors attend and have twelve weeks to create a sculpture. 

Back in Weymouth you can also visit Sandworld. Each year this Sand Sculpture Park hosts an international festival. Sandworld contains sculptures up to 5 metres high by sculptors from around the world. If you visit you can also have a go at making your own sand sculpture!

 

 

Sand model Cheshire cat
© Rory Walsh

Directions

Continue along the promenade for a short distance. As the beach begins to curve to the left, stop in a convenient place and look out over the flat sand.

17 Seaside classics

The harbour end of Weymouth beach is the widest part and the sand is especially flat. These features make this area an ideal place for a range of seaside games and activities.

One of these is volleyball. Each July, the Weymouth Beach Volleyball Classic is held here. This international tournament attracts over 100 teams from across Europe and the United States. Players include a team from Weymouth’s twin town, Holzwickede in Germany.

Rather different seaside classics are Weymouth’s donkeys. Donkey rides have been a favourite at British seaside resorts for generations. Used as working animals for over 5,000 years donkeys were probably first domesticated in ancient Egypt. There are an estimated 40 million donkeys worldwide with 96 per cent living in developing countries as working animals.

We may also be able to spot people enjoying another classic out in the bay. Pedalos have been traced to Italy after a Leonardo da Vinci drawing of a pedal-powered boat. Weymouth’s pedalos have a name rather than a number. Some are named after local landmarks and the others are named after the NATO spelling alphabet, which is used worldwide in aviation and naval communication. Look out for place names such as Quebec, India and Lima (the capital of Peru).

 

 

Donkey 
Wikimedia Commons

Directions

Remain on the promenade and look out to sea.

18 Making waves

Whether the tide is in or out, there are bound to be people paddling at the water’s edge. During his visits King George III certainly got his toes wet. He didn’t walk across the sand though; instead he made use of an early ‘bathing machine’.

These were huts on wheels that could be towed across the sand and into the water. They allowed for privacy to change into bathing clothes and meant that the King could make a dramatic entrance on the beach. As George III stepped into the sea a band hidden inside another bathing machine played ‘God Save the King’.

Early British holiday makers tended to be bathers rather than swimmers. Swimming as a pastime only became popular in the late Victorian era after the exploits of Cross-Channel swimmers, such as the fittingly-named Captain Matthew Webb. In 1875 he became the first recorded person to swim the English Channel.

The first book on swimming was written by a German, Nikolaus Wynmann, who published The Swimmer or A Dialogue on the Art of Swimming as far back as 1538. Swimming as a sport was popularised in the 1800s. It was a founder event at the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896 and has featured in every Games since. The international swimming federation, FINA, is based in Switzerland and includes 202 federations from around the world.

Many popular swimming strokes also have international connections. The front crawl was first introduced to the West by John Trudgen. He was an English competitive swimmer who learnt the style from Native Americans after a visit to Argentina in the 1870s. Meanwhile the butterfly stroke was developed by Australian Frederick Cavill in the 1930s especially for swimming competitions.

 

 

 

London 1908 Olympic swimming
Wikimedia Commons

Directions

Follow the promenade as it continues to bend round to the left. Look on the right hand side for a small fairground in the triangle of Alexandra Gardens. Stop opposite the fairground.

19 War and peace

In the summer children are never short of something to do at Weymouth. You may have already seen swing boats and trampolines on the beach. The first modern trampolines were developed in the United States in the 1930s while the earliest swing boat rides date from the 1880s.

Here in Alexandra Gardens are various fairground rides and amusements. The centrepiece is the carousel. Amazingly the origins of these popular amusement rides are from war. The word ‘carousel’ comes from the Italian garosello and Spanish carosella which both mean “little battle”.

They describe machines used in the twelfth century by Turkish and Arabian horsemen for battle practice. After the Crusades in the Middle East, these rotating machines with model horses on spread to Europe. By the seventeenth century they replaced jousting at court and wedding festivals. The ‘riders’ would try to pick up rings on the outside of the machine.

Carousels as we know them had developed by the early nineteenth century. They were rotated by live animals or groups of men pulling a rope. Many of the grandest carousels were built in the United States from the 1850s. Firms often employed German and Italian craftsmen to carve and decorate the horses. In Europe the oldest working carousel is thought to be in Letná Park, Prague in the Czech Republic.

 

 

Carousel, Alexandra Gardens
© Rory Walsh

Directions

Continue along the promenade to the end of the beach. Follow the promenade towards the large Weymouth Pavilion building where we started the walk. Stop when you have a good view of the Pavilion.

20 The butterfly tent

Weymouth Pavilion represents yet another example of seaside entertainment. By the Victorian era venues along the length of Britain’s coast put on musicals, variety and comedy acts for large audiences.

Weymouth’s original Pavilion was built in 1908 as The Ritz Theatre. In 1956 it burnt down and was replaced by the building we can see today.

The name ‘Pavilion’ is French - from papilio the Latin word for ‘butterfly’ or ‘tent’. This reflects how pavilions originated as small decorative structures used to host or provide shelter for outdoor entertainment.

Pavilions became popular in 18th century gardens and were often designed to look like temples or follies. These garden pavilions originate from China and Thailand where they are common in parks.

Today the name ‘pavilion’ also describes large entertainment buildings and you will still find examples at many British seaside resorts. 

 

 

Bang Pa-In pavilion in Ayutthaya, Thailand
© Dan Smith via Wikimedia Commons

Directions

Continue a short distance along the promenade. Stop by the large anchor on the ground.

21 Channel hopping

This large anchor was placed here in 1980 to celebrate the opening of Weymouth’s car ferry terminal. Ferries run from Weymouth to the Channel Islands and Brittany off northern France, allowing visitors to extend their holiday overseas. Look out for road signs in French giving instructions to arriving drivers to keep on the left hand side of the road.

Do you remember the railway tracks in the road that we followed in the first part of the walk? They are also linked to European travel. Weymouth’s railway station was built in 1857 but in 1889 the line was extended to the harbour. This meant that trains could take passengers right to the ferry terminal.

These trains ran until the 1980s. Since they shared the road with traffic, two men walked in front waving red flags to warn car drivers!

 

 

Weymouth cross-Channel ferry
© Rory Walsh

Directions

Continue along the promenade and under the Pleasure Pier arch. Head towards the tower. Pass the tower and stop at the corner of the sea wall. Look back towards the beach.

22 A towering end

This is the latest seaside attraction in Weymouth, the Jurassic Skyline Tower. It opened in June 2012 and allows up to 70 passengers at a time to enjoy stunning panoramic views of Weymouth Bay and the Jurassic Coast beyond – including Chesil Beach and Portland.

The finished tower stands 53 metres above sea level and was built by local firm TG Cruse. During construction parts were transported from France and Hungary.

This is also a fitting place to end our walk. From the Tower we can see both sides of this historic seaside town. On the one side is the old harbour that put Weymouth on the world map. There we heard about two villages united by trade, fishing and smuggling.

On the other side is the royal resort with its sweeping Esplanade, popularised by George III and still popular today. There we heard about seaside activities, entertainments and sports.

During our walk we have found links to 67 different countries from around the world. Maybe you spotted more. These connections - from buildings and landmarks, to food and toys - are a reminder that many of the things we think of as British have worldwide origins. The ‘great British seaside’ is truly international.

 

 

Jurassic Skyline Tower
© Rory Walsh

Directions

From the sea wall you can retrace your steps back to the beach or the Old Harbour where you started the walk. Alternatively, you may like to go into the Tower or follow the sea wall to the Nothe Fort and gardens for spectacular views of the town and coastline.

The way of the bay

Weymouth bay © Rory Walsh RGS-IBG Discovering Britain

Weymouth walk Dorset

A circular walk in Weymouth Bay on the Jurassic Coast

The Dorset town of Weymouth is one of Britain’s oldest seaside resorts. This medieval fishing village became a fashionable holiday town in the 18th century, when King George III visited for health reasons.

Weymouth has remained a popular with holidaymakers ever since and many visitors still enjoy traditional seaside activities; swimming and bathing, walking along the promenade, donkey rides, beach games, ice cream...

But how British are these features of the ‘great British seaside’?

From buckets and spades to fish and chips, this walk uncovers the surprising origins of some of our holiday favourites. All the while you are walking, you can enjoy fantastic seaside views, bask on golden sands and even stop for an ice cream!

Follow the walk by clicking on the map pins or
downloading the guides below

Location: Weymouth, Dorset
Start point: Outside Weymouth Pavilion, DT4 8ED
Finish point: Jurassic Skyline Tower, DT4 8DX

Weymouth walk Dorset credits

Thank you to - 

Rory Walsh for creating the walk, providing photos and the audio

Jenny Lunn and Caroline Millar for editing the walk materials

Rosemary Clarke for assistance and audio

Jacob Cooke and Nisha Alberti for additional research

Other photos reproduced under Creative Commons Licenses

“The bay here is most beautiful – the sea never rough, generally calm and gentle and the sands perfectly smooth and pleasant” - Fanny Burney