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Weymouth’s Top 10 Historical Facts!

  1. The Black Death

The Medieval port of Weymouth was once made up of two rival trading ports either side of the River Wey. In the summer of 1348, it is believed that the Black Death was brought to England via Calais on a merchant ship and arrived on the Melcombe Regis side of what is now known as Weymouth. The Black Death quickly spread through the ports and into nearby towns and villages and is said to have killed up to 50% of the population.

A plaque to commemorate the Black Death entering Dorset can be found close to the harbour.

 

  1. Greenhill’s Grisly Past

Whilst recording the bounds of the parish in 1582, the rector of Radipole, James Marwell describes the site as ‘where ye pyrate was hanged’. It is also believed to be the site for the displaying of the gruesome remains of a Monmouth Rebel, condemned by the infamous Judge Jefferies in 1685.

 

  1. Thomas Hardy

One of the most renowned novelists and poets in English literary history, Thomas Hardy arrived in Weymouth in 1869 aged 28 and is believed to have taken up lodgings in Wooperton Street up until 1871.

Known as Budmouth in his novels, Hardy continued to visit Weymouth throughout his life.

 

  1. 2012 Summer Olympics

In 2012, the newly-constructed Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy played host to both the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games.

A total of five race areas were set around Weymouth Bay with sailors from all over the world competing for 30 medals in the Olympic Games and 18 medals in the Paralympic Games.

Originally constructed to house the competitors, the Olympic Athletes Village on Portland is constructed of seventy-seven residential units. The development went on to win many awards including the prestigious Housing Project of the Year Award for the whole of the UK at the 2012 Building Awards.

 

  1. D Day

Now known as D-Day, the Normandy landings of 6 June 1944 was the largest seabourne invasion in history.

The harbours of Weymouth and Portland were one of the biggest departure points for US troops. It’s recorded that over 500,000 military personnel, including support staff, and 144,000 vehicles were part of the fleet.

It’s believed that the total allied casualties on D-Day itself are estimated at 10,000, including 2,500 dead.

A D-Day Memorial on Weymouth Esplanade remembers those who were during D Day itself and the preparations leading up to D Day.

 

  1. The Crabchurch Conspiracy & The Weymouth Cannonball

During the English Civil War in 1640’s, royalist plotters loyal to King Charles I conspired to take control of the parliamentary run ports formally known as the twin towns of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis.

 

Theory has it that King Charles I wanted to land a French army on the south coast to help him win the War. On the 9th February 1645, Royalist soldiers and local conspirators attacked the Nothe and Chapel of St Nicholas Forts.

 

It’s believed that there were over 500 fatalities, some even say that cannonball lodged in the wall of the building at the corner of Maiden and St Osmond Street is evidence of the battle!

 

  1. Sir Christopher Wren

Architect Sir Christopher Wren was most famously known for rebuilding 52 Churches in London after the Great Fire in 1666 and St Pauls Cathedral, completed in 1710.

It is claimed that Wren used nearly one million cubic feet of Portland Stone to rebuild St Pauls Cathedral.

He was a Member of Parliament for Melcome Regis in 1702 and controlled Portland Quarries from 1675 -1717.

 

  1. The Earl of Abergavenny

One of the most famous shipwrecks off Weymouth Bay is the Earl of Abergavenny. In 1805 whilst sheltering from the storm in the English Channel, the crew were waiting for a pilot vessel when the ship struck Shambles Bank off Portland.

 

The extend of the damage to the ship was so bad that the ship sunk on the way to Weymouth Beach, just 1.5 miles from shore.  261 members of the crew and passengers died and 141 survived by hanging to the masts that were above water for many months.

 

 

  1. Weymouth’s First Theatre

Weymouth’s first theatre performance is recorded as taking place on 8th July 1771 in what was later known as the Theatre Royal. It was one of the first, purpose-built theatres outside of London.

 

It was situated on the seafront near where Bond street meets the Esplanade and had the capacity of around 300-400 people. The theatre’s very last performance took place on 4th December 1859.

 

 

  1. The Floating Bath

In 1800 a more exclusive bath was built, a floating one. This floating bath was moored alongside Weymouth Pier and included three small pools. Especially created for the Royal Family, the largest of the three pools was reserved for the king and all around the baths were various dressing rooms.

 

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