The Port

The Port at Weymouth has been at the hub of both local business and society for as long as the town has been in existence.  There is evidence that Roman galleys travelled as far as Radipole in AD43, primarily bringing soldiers in the Romans’ successful conquest of Maiden Castle, just outside Dorchester (Dunrovia as it was called by the Romans).  Later it would have been used as a trade route, bringing goods from other parts of the Roman Empire. 
Until 1571, the residents of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis fought over the rights of, and the ownership of the harbour.  Any dispute was settled by Queen Elizabeth I when, by Royal Charter, she amalgamated the two towns.
Vessels from Weymouth and Melcombe Regis were to feature heavily though in conflict throughout the ages.  The towns are reportedly to have supplied 15 ships and nearly 300 sailors to assist in the siege of Calais in 1347, as part of Edward III’s defeat of the French during in what was later to be named, The Hundred Year’s War.   The town was also on hand to send ships to join Drake’s fleet that ultimately defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588.  A treasure chest reportedly secured from the Portuguese battleship San Salvador was captured and returned to Weymouth.  It is now on show in the Timewalk museum in Hope Square, close to the harbour.
Weymouth is probably best known for its strong links with the Channel Islands.  A regular trade link was first established in 1794.  The town was suffering from a reduction in trade due to the continuation of the American Civil War.  The cross Channel activity was mainly limited to trade until in 1857 when The Great Western Railway became interested in establishing a service to link the Channel Islands to the port.  The Weymouth and Channel Islands Steam Packet Services began regular sailing schedules and in 1865, the railway line was extended to the Ferry Terminal itself.  This formed a unique Quay Tramway with services linking passengers and goods from major UK towns and cities directly to the gangplank of the ship itself.  The ‘boat trains’ continued regular passenger services well in to the 1990s and the tracks are still in place to this day.  However, the days of the man with the red flag and shoppers holding their breath whilst quashed against the wall to let the train pass are only reserved now for special trains. 
Besides the ferry service, the port was also famous for its pleasure cruising on its fleet of paddle steamers.  Cosens & Co operated out of the port between 1880 and 1967 with trips mainly servicing Bournemouth and Swanage.  Today the town is regularly visited by ‘The Waverley’, the last ocean going paddle steamer in the World, as part of its annual circumnavigation of the British Isles. 
The Port also played an active role during the war.  Click here for information on the D-day landings.  However, prior to ‘the longest day’, on 23 June 1940, Weymouth took delivery of the whole population of Alderney as the rest of the Channel Islands succumbed to German occupation. 
Following the war it was back to civilian use.  The increased use of the passenger ferries to the Channel Islands saw the coming about of a direct summer service to France in 1974.  The Cherbourg route proved popular but when Sealink was taken over by Stena, the route was cancelled in 1990.  Condor now operates a service to St Malo, but via both Jersey and Guernsey.  With the advancement of technology, the old style passenger ferries with roll on, roll off vehicles have been replaced with high speed hydrofoil type catamarans which cuts the journey time to Guernsey down to 2 hours and Jersey only a little more than an hour further on.
The marina has been constantly developed over the years with traditional ball and sinker moorings being replaced with the much more user friendly pontoon berthing.  Electricity and water points have continually been added and in recent years, the whole inner harbour has been dredged completely.  Whereas the harbour used to run dry at low tide, the removal of tonnes of silt has resulted in keeled boats having access to the marina at all times.  This coupled with the fact that the once never opening town bridge now regularly raises up to 6 times a day in the summer months, has resulted in a much more prosperous marina business and a much classier level of yacht using the facilities. 
Fishing continues to dominate the port.  There is a large fleet of trawlers that make the daily slog out to the dangerous waters of The Race and off Portland Bill for the day’s catch.  You can watch it being landed on the quayside throughout the day.  In its time, Weymouth was once of the leading ports for the amount of fish (tonnage) to be landed in any one year. 

Today the harbour is a great place to hang out for a drink, a touch of people watching, to catch some sunshine and to just enjoy the atmosphere.  There is a real vibe on the waterfront whatever the time. 

The Esplanade, Weymouth Seafront Slideshow: Rob’s trip to Weymouth was created with TripAdvisor TripWow!