A Brief History of Waterfront Weymouth
The port of Weymouth was once two communities, Weymouth on the south side and Melcombe Regis on the north. Arguments over the harbour were, for centuries, so bitter that in 1571 Queen Elizabeth I intervened and proclaimed that the two unite, becoming the Borough of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis.
In 1348 the Black Death was brought into Weymouth via a sailor from Gascony. The disease quickly spread throughout nearby villages and as people fled further afield to escape the infection they only succeeded in spreading it over a wider area. A plaque commemorating the plague's arrival in the port can be seen on the wall of Vaughan's restaurant.
In the mid 1880s one of the most successful businesses to operate from the harbour was Cosens and Company. Joseph Cosens and his brother William capitalised on the need for good sea links to the new naval dockyard on Portland. From taking sightseers to see the dockyard they expanded their service to carry passengers by paddle steamer to towns along the coast, becoming the largest excursion company in the area.
The port prospered and in the 1880s the railway track was extended to carry trains right along the quay to the waiting cargo vessels. Much of this trade was with the Channel Islands and in the last century the harbourside was awash with imported tomatoes, flowers and vegetables.
Weymouth's harbour increased in size with various reclamation schemes at the seaward end, which enabled the construction of two piers. In addition, a dam was built across the upper reaches of the harbour to ensure an adequate depth of water at all times. In 1921 the current tidal dam and Westham Bridge was built, with the old dam finally being removed in the winter of 1995/6 when the harbour was dredged to allow keel boats to use the inner harbour at all tide depths.
Today, the small fishing fleet thrives alongside the many pleasure craft that have helped to make the harbour the tourist destination that we see today.
The new marina is a great success story and ensures that the area will continue to attract keen recreational sailors.