This slim volume presents an immediate visual clue as to the aviation history of Weymouth – there isn’t a lot of it. No surprise, really, as there have never been any major airfields in the area.
That said, Colin Pomeroy’s book opens and closes with Weymouth’s role in two minor landmarks in aviation history. The first took place on 9 May 1912 when Lieutenant Charles Samson RN made a historic flight from HMS Hibernia to Lodmoor. It was the first time an aircraft had taken off from a vessel that was under way.
If you’re looking for gloriously colourful displays of flowers in a quiet spot where you can enjoy wonderful views of the coast, head for Greenhill Gardens at the northern end of the seafront.
Alexandra Gardens, at the other end, near the Pavilion Theatre, offer an entirely different experience. They’re all candy floss, funfair rides and arcade games. Great fun for families with some loose change to spend on entertaining themselves.
Every seaside resort has public gardens and a putting green right by the beach. Doesn’t it? It’s a pretty much a mandatory requirement along with fish and chips, penny arcades and assertive seagulls. I was going to mention Punch and Judy, but they’re hard to find these days, although Weymouth has one!
As I was saying about public gardens and putting greens – they’re two of the symbols of a proper seaside town and ours at Greenhill Gardens, and the north end of Weymouth beach (the other end from the Pavilion Theatre).
For one hundred years, between 1865 and 1965, trains puffed their way along the few miles of track that connected Weymouth to Portland. It took another 35 years for this useful route between Ferrybridge and Weymouth to become the Rodwell Trail, a popular cycle route and footpath.
The trail is quite short, just over two miles long, but it enjoys plenty of variety over the distance. It runs along embankments offering views of Weymouth and, at the southern end, Portland Harbour. It crosses a small number of bridges and, in the central section, runs through a deep cutting and a short tunnel.
Go to almost any Dorset town and it’s only a matter of time before you spot the museum. The local collection of artefacts, glued together by an explanation of the local history is usually housed in a building of some historic note. For those of us with an interest in the past, these local museums offer fascinating glimpses in the disappeared world of Dorset’s past.
You’ll be forgiven if you think Weymouth is an exception in not having a town museum. If you’ve been here a in the past you might recall that that there was a heritage timewalk experience in Brewers Quay, with an associated display of items collected from wrecks and other emphemera. But Brewers Quay was closed down a few years ago, wasn’t it?
As you drive west from Weymouth along the coast road, towards Abbotsbury, you’ll probably notice a stumpy tower rising from the top of the hills. By the time you reach Portesham it’s disappeared from view, but in the villages you’ll spot a signpost to the Hardy Monument. That’s the tower you saw.
What does Weymouth have in common with Newmarket, Douglas on the Isle of Man and George Town in Malaysia? All three have clock towers that were built in celebration of Queen Victoria’s jubilees – major anniversaries of her ascension to the throne.
On 16 June 1887 Weymouth, along with the rest of the country, celebrated 50 years of Queen Victoria’s reign. The half century had seen massive changes in the town including the arrival of the railway, the building of Nothe Fort and considerable growth in population.
Banquets and street parties, paid for by a Jubilee fund, allowed everyone to join in the festivitiesand it was decided to spend the cash left over on a town clock. Or at least, on a tower. The clock itself was paid for by Sir Henry Edwards, Member of Parliament andgenerous benefactor to several local good causes.
The clock was originally constructed on a stone platform that projected out from the Esplanade. But as the road was widened in the 1920s, when the area around the clock became absorbed into the main body of the Esplanade.
In addition to being both a local landmark and a timepiece, the clock also provided the colours for Weymouth FC. According to Nigel Biddlecombe’s history of Weymouth football club, when the club was founded in 1890 a Fred Pates suggested that the team colours be terracotta and pale blue. He’d just been given the contract to paint the clock tower in exactly those colours.
What significance of terracotta and pale blue is to Weymouth before that date, I don’t know. The town has had a coat of arms since 1592 but do those colours feature strongly? That’s a detail I haven’t researched.
If you have any stories about the Jubilee Clock, please share them in the comments.
Weymouth An Illustrated History by Maureen Boddy and Jack West (1983)
A History of Weymouth Football Club by Nigel Biddlecombe (2006) Jubilee Clock – Wikipedia