Weymouth Harbour has been built upon the estuary of the River Wey. The port is used by fishing boats, Fast Cat Ferries and pleasure craft alike. This is a popular seaside resort, with something for everyone to enjoy.
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Weymouth Harbour and The Black Death
A look at Wymouth Harbour, the lifting bridge and the landing place for the Black Death in 1348
Weymouth’s beach has very fine sand and is thought to be derived from the Chesil Beach where millions of pebbles have been rubbing together for thousands of years. Another theory is that much of the sand may have been created from centuries of quarrying activity on Portland, the dust and fine waste ground down and washed ashore here. Whatever the reason, it’s very popular with holiday makers.
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Interest: Portland Harbour Breakwater, Nothe Fort, Weymouth Harbour and the Black Death
Weymouth’s Nothe Fort was originally built to defend the Northern entrance to Portland Harbour. Work started in 1860 and was finished twelve years later in 1872 by the Royal Engineers, after the original contractor went bankrupt.
The huge cannon held behind its thick walls reinforced its authoritative views over Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour. Today the Nothe Fort is a military museum and it’s well worth a visit, if only to see the views across Weymouth and Portland Harbour.
Portland Harbour Breakwater
The Portland Harbour Breakwater Fortification was built by the Royal Engineers to shelter a formidable naval force in its defence against the aggressions of the French, who were a real threat to Britain during the 1800s.
Plans were first drawn in 1844 with major progress being made in 1855. By then, a work force of 560 men were being supplied with blocks of Roach stone at the rate of up to 10,000 tonnes per week. Thousands of convicts were brought to the Island to work in the Admiralty’s quarries to meet the breakwater’s demand for stone, some of whose blocks weighed in at 6 tonnes.
The work continued relentlessly, above and below the water, with brass helmeted divers being used to inspect and build the breakwater’s sub sea foundations.
33 meter long piles were first screwed into the seabed to support the 37 meter wide staging upon which 5 lines of railway ran to transport the stone the 2 miles out to sea.
At the time, the Portland Harbour Breakwater was the government’s largest project, constructed when British pride and Victorian ingenuity were at their peak, following the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Progress was hampered by storms breaking through the staging, ships running aground; temporary wooden lighthouses burning down, locomotives and trucks falling into the sea, and accidents resulting in the loss of life.
But despite all these setbacks the first two breakwaters at the Portland end were completed in 1872, 28 years after the plans were first drawn up. A third breakwater, at Weymouth, was built between 1895 and 1903.
In all, around 6 million tonnes of stone was used.
Heavily armed forts, housing cannon, were added as a finishing touch to guard this strategically important harbour. These have been reinforced and modified by the influence of two world wars and the advancement in military technology.
Weymouth Harbour and the Black Death
Weymouth Harbour is a bustling Port with yachts and boats accessing the marina through the towns lifting bridge. In Medieval times the River Wey supported two busy docks. Weymouth lay on the western side, with Melcombe Regis on the eastern bank, and it was from a ship berthed here that the great pestilence, the Black Death, first landed in England in 1348.
The Great Plague went on to kill a third of Europe’s population by the time it ended four years later.