History and Heritage
Written by Mr. Stuart Morris (Local Historian)
Weymouth has been a port for many Centuries and evidence shows that Roman Galleys sailed up the River Wey as far as Radipole where they could be beached and cargo unloaded for transport to the Roman Town of Durnovaria (Dorchester).
Mention of the Port is made for the first time in 1100 when the ports belonging to the two local, and rival, towns of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis were granted to the Convent and Prior of St Swithin of Winchester. For those readers who do not necessarily know the distinction, Melcombe Regis was the town on the land between the Inner Harbour and the Sea where the main shopping centre now stands.
Since the 1800s various reclamation schemes have increased the size of the harbour at the seaward end, which included construction of two piers and subsequent to this additional areas were reclaimed from the sea.
In addition to seaward reclamation the port has seen many changes at the inshore end. Originally tidal all the way to Radipole a dam was constructed across the Harbour in 1872 to assist in maintaining an adequate level of water in the upper reaches of the Inner Harbour and Radipole Lake. Other reclamations have also taken place in the former tidal waters including the construction of Westwey Road on the western side of the Harbour and widening of the land on the east by Commercial Road including what is now a Car Park, Council nursery and the Loop boat storage area.
The Great Western Railway became interested in establishing a service to link the Channel Islands to the port in 1857 when the Weymouth and Channel Islands Steam Packet Services began regular sailing schedules. In 1865 the railway line was extended to the Ferry Terminal to form a unique Quay Tramway with services to connect passenger ferries and also goods shipped by cargo vessels using the port. In 1889 the Great Western Railway began to operate its own ships causing rivalry between railway companies as the Southern Railway operated the port at Southampton. This rivalry terminated in 1960 when the Channel Island Service ceased from Southampton leaving Weymouth as the main UK port to serve interests with the Channel Islands.
During the Second World War an active part was played in support of D-Day and the invasion of Normandy operations. Although, as far as is known it was never used, one interesting wartime development was a railway ferry terminal capable of loading rolling stock directly to shipping. It was built during the war and then dismantled.
Services to the Channel Islands were inaugurated by Condor Hydrofoils in 1987, and since then many thousands of passengers have enjoyed a fast crossing to Guernsey (2 hours) and Jersey.
Weymouth is also proud of its record as being the only port in the world to have hosted the start of the Cutty Sark Tall Ships race on three separate occasions. We have been the start port in 1983, 1987 and in 1994. We have also become one of the ports to host the start/finish legs of the international biennial Starmanche yacht race running from France to Ireland via Weymouth and back to France with legs successfully hosted in 1994 and 1996.
The port has a recorded history of use dating back circa 1900 years to the Romans and we look forward to being able to serve you for many more years to come.