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Weymouth History

Weymouth originated as a settlement on a constricted site to the south and west of Weymouth Harbour, an outlying part of Wyke Regis. The town developed from the mid 12th century onwards, but was not noted until the 13th century. By 1252 it was established as a seaport and become a chartered borough. Melcombe Regis developed separately on the peninsula to the north of the harbour; it was mentioned as a licensed wool port in 1310.

Melcombe Regis is thought to be the first port at which the Black Death came into England in June 1348, possibly either aboard a spice ship or an army ship. In their early history Weymouth and Melcombe Regis were rivals for trade and industry, but the towns were united in an Act of Parliament in 1571 to form a double borough Both towns have become known as Weymouth, despite Melcombe Regis being the main town centre. The villages of Upwey, Broadwey, Preston, Wyke Regis, Chickerell, Southill, Radipole and Littlemoor have become part of the built-up area.

King Henry VIII had two Forts built to protect the south Dorset coast from invasion in the 1530s: Sandsfoot Castle in Wyke Regis and Portland Castle in Castletown. Parts of Sandsfoot have fallen into the sea due to coastal erosion. During the English Civil War, around 250 people were killed in the local Crabchurch Conspiracy in February 1645. In 1635, on board the ship Charity, around 100 emigrants from the town crossed the Atlantic Ocean and settled in Weymouth, Massachusetts. There are memorials to this on the side of Weymouth Harbour and near Weymouth Pavilion.

The architect Sir Christopher Wren was the Member of Parliament for Weymouth in 1702, and controlled nearby Portland's quarries from 1675 to 1717. When he designed St Paul's Cathedral, Wren had it built out of Portland Stone, the famous stone of Portland's quarries. Sir James Thornhill was born in the White Hart public house in Melcombe Regis and became the town's MP in 1722. Thornhill became an artist, and coincidentally decorated the interior of St Paul's Cathedral.

The resort is among the first modern tourist destinations, after King George III's, brother the Duke of Gloucester built a grand residence there, Gloucester Lodge, and passed the mild winter there in 1780; the king made Weymouth his summer holiday residence on fourteen occasions between 1789 and 1805, even venturing into the sea in a bathing machine. A painted statue of the king stands on the seafront. A mounted white horse representing the king is carved into the chalk hills of Osmington. The horse faces away from the town, and a myth developed that the king took offence, believing it was a sign that the townspeople did not welcome him.

Weymouth's esplanade is composed of Georgian terraces, which have been converted into apartments, shops, hotels and guest houses. The buildings were constructed in the Georgian and Regency periods between 1770 and 1855, designed by architects such as James Hamilton, and were commissioned by wealthy businessmen. These terraces form a long, continuous arc of buildings which face Weymouth Bay along the esplanade, which also features the multi-coloured Jubilee Clock, erected in 1887 to mark the 50th year of Queen Victoria's reign,  statues of Victoria, George III and Sir Henry Edwards, Member of Parliament for the borough from 1867 to 1885. There are also two war memorials stand along the Esplanade.

Weymouth and Portland were bombed by German planes for their role in World War II; Portland harbour had a large naval base, and Weymouth was home to Nothe Fort. 517,816 troops embarked through the borough to fight at the Battle of Normandy, and the Bouncing bomb was tested in the Fleet lagoon to the west of town. The history of the area is documented at the Timewalk museum in Brewers Quay; the former brewery is a tourist attraction and shopping village on the southern shore of Weymouth Harbour.

In the centre of the town lies Weymouth Harbour; although it was the reason for the town's foundation, the harbour separates the two areas of Melcombe Regis (the main town centre) and Weymouth (the southern harbourside) from each other. Since the 18th century this has been overcome with successive bridges over the narrowest part of the harbour. The present Town Bridge, built in 1930, is a lifting bascule bridge, one of ten in the United Kingdom, to let boats access the inner harbour. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution stationed a lifeboat at Weymouth for the first time on 26 January 1869. A boathouse was built with a slipway by the harbour and is still in use, although the lifeboat is now moored at a pontoon.

(Information taken from an article on 'Weymouth,_Dorset' on wikipedia.org)


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