Bridport to Weymouth

Bridport is a Saxon town with its original plan still discernible. At that time, the town was centred around the Parish Church of St Mary in South Street. Immediately to the north of the church the street widens, indicating the site of a market place. With its own port, mint and market, Bridport must have been a thriving commercial centre. In the 13th century a new town was established along the line of East and West Street and its prosperity grew due to the rise of the rope and cordage industry.

The rope and net making trade required the establishment of long narrow walks along which rope and twine were pulled, twisted and tightened. The area behind the main street remained undeveloped because of these ropewalks and explains the ‘T’ shape of the town today.

Bridport is not, as the name suggests, on the sea; its port is at West Bay, originally known as Bridport Harbour. Ships were built here until the late 19th century, and it used to be visited by 500 ships a year.

Hardy wrote about it as ‘The Isle of Slingers’ due to the fact that Portlanders used slings to propel Chesil Beach stones at Kimberlins (strangers) to keep them away.

Weymouth Harbour

Weymouth has been a port for many centuries and evidence shows that Roman galleys sailed up the River Wey as far as Radipole, where they could be beached and cargo unloaded for transport to the Roman Town of Durnovaria (Dorchester).

In 1348 its growth and popularity as a trading port with Europe led to its darkest hour when visiting ships brought more than just their cargo, the Black Death, which consequently had a devastating effect on the population of England.

Today, Weymouth is more historically associated with, and had its future as a holiday destination established by, King George III who convalesced there in 1789. For the next 15 years he visited Weymouth regularly, and in 1809 the thankful citizens erected a statue of the King near the beach, at an expense of 200 guineas.

West Bay

West Bay beach was used in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, location filming in the television series Harbour Lights and the town, harbour, and beach are used in the popular ITV series Broadchurch. West Bay has some fascinating buildings, and comings and goings within the harbour are irresistible to the visitor. The unusual harbour entrance creates a turbulent, twisting swell giving endless entertainment for the harbour- side watcher as small craft enter.

To the east, the towering cliffs drop away before West Bexington, where the shoreline merges into Chesil Bank, running into the misty distance to Portland. To the west, the bay curves round past the sandstone pinnacle of Golden Cap, which at one hundred and ninety two metres is the highest cliff in southern England.

In a beautiful setting below the hills you arrive at Abbotsbury. Little remains of the abbey (which was just south of the church) except for the fine tithe barn, the largest in the country.

The village itself is enchanting and full of interest for the visitor and is home to famous ‘Abbotsbury Swannery’. There is so much in and around Abbotsbury that it is a genuine day out in itself. Many of the cottages in the village are centres for busy craftsmen and artists, with several fine displays, such as the ‘Dansel’ gallery of contemporary work in wood and Richard Wilson’s ‘Chapel Yard Pottery’ and nearby gallery.

Take a short journey east and the Isle Of Portland rises sharply from Chiswell some 500 feet before sloping gently down to the southern tip, where the current Portland Bill lighthouse stands at a very visible race at up to seven knots, and a notorious shipwreck area.

A visitor centre at its base provides some fascinating history on the area. Inhabited some 7,000 years, the Romans knew it as ‘Vindilis’ and Thomas

6 Smugglers Inn The Tourist Handbook Wessex 2018-19

Weymouth’s fine Georgian seafront is an impressive backdrop to the long arc of golden sand. Its picturesque harbour is the heart of the town and offers a fabulous selection of places to eat and drink.

At the mouth of the harbour stands Nothe Fort, a restored Victorian fortress built to repel invasion by the French, whose massive cannons never fired a shot in anger. The history of the Fort is explained through the many displays, exhibits and audiovisual facilities on the ramparts, gun decks and underground passageways.

Travel eastwards from Weymouth and you find the picturesque villages of Osmington, and Osmington Mills.

Osmington’s most famous visitor was the painter, John Constable, a good friend of the rector. During many holidays, he painted the famous paintings of the village, Osmington Mills, Portland Bill and Weymouth Bay (now in the National Gallery – and actually Bowleaze Cove). He married Mary Bicknell, and spent his honeymoon here in 1816.

Osmington Mills is away from the village down a long winding road, on the coast high up on the clifftop. Nestled down below the surrounding cottages and houses in its own little valley, The Smuggler’s Inn is in an idyllic spot with a stream running down to the sea. This lovely old pub with parts said to date from the 13th century was once the home of the leader of the most notorious gang of smugglers in the area during the 18th & 19th centuries, Emmanuel Charles.

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40