This circular tour starts and ends at the Jubilee Clock on Weymouth’s seafront. The tour takes approximately two hours.
The Jubilee Clock was erected in 1887 to mark the 50th year of Queen Victoria’s reign. It was originally positioned on a stone base on Weymouth sands, but in the 1920s the Esplanade was built around it to protect the sands from the encroachment of shingle from the eastern end of the beach.
Face away from the sea and walk down King Street, passed the railway station on your right. At the traffic lights, turn right along Radipole Park Drive. Continue along Radipole Park Drive until you see an entrance on your right to the Princess Diana Memorial Gardens, just behind Aldi. These Victorian, tree-lined gardens are a haven of tranquillity where you can sit and watch the world go by. Take a circular stroll around these beautiful gardens and then leave the same way you came in, onto Radipole Park Drive.
Walk back towards the traffic lights but before you reach them, cross over the road into the Swannery car park. In the far right-hand corner of the car park, you will see the entrance to Radipole Lake RSPB Nature Reserve. Radipole Lake is considered to be one of the most important areas for migrating birds on the whole of the south coast of England. It was declared a bird sanctuary in 1929 and has been managed by the RSPB since 1976. It is also designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The reedbeds at Radipole Lake are now home to many rare birds, including Cetti’s warblers, bearded tits and bitterns. You can take a detour here to walk around the reserve if you wish.
Continuing with the tour, head towards the far left-hand corner of the car park and follow the path under the road bridge. Walk along the edge of the River Wey, where you can feed the ducks and swans. Pass the Palm House cafe on your left and the Gurkha Restaurant on your right. Continue walking towards the bridge ahead of you (Westham Bridge). You will notice there are actually two bridges; one a footbridge and the other now a car park. The older bridge is in fact a dam controlling the water level in Radipole Lake that is fed by the river.
On reaching the bridge, carry straight on (actually a left then an immediate right) along the new Marina Walkway that runs parallel to Weymouth harbour. This new walkway was completed in May 2001 and provides an accessible walkway along the marina’s edge. Weymouth Marina provides moorings for a thousand boats and is a thriving part of the local community.
Walk under the Town Bridge, turn left up the steps and cross the bridge. The current Town Bridge was built in 1930 on the line of an earlier 1824 bridge. The first bridge was built in 1594 between Melcombe Regis and Weymouth. Before this, crossing was by rope-hauled ferryboat, when not disrupted by frequent feuding between the two communities.
Once across the bridge, turn left and continue along Trinity Road where the elegant bow-fronted houses date from the late 18th to early 19th centuries. Continue along the side of Weymouth’s Old Harbour to the town pump. To the right in Trinity Street is Trinity House, a fine Georgian brick building, and next to it is an Elizabethan town house, which became part of Weymouth’s first Assembly Rooms in the 1760s when a new wing was added at the rear for balls and concerts. Opposite is the classically-designed Hope Chapel, built in 1862. Also in Trinity Street is the Tudor House, one of Weymouth’s few remaining Tudor buildings. The building once stood on the harbour edge and was built at the end of the 16th century.
From the town pump, continue along the terrace cottages of Cove Row, which were built in about 1810. Carry on to Hope Street, which was once on the water’s edge of the ‘ope’ or cove that ran back into what is now Hope Square and had houses on both sides, some right by the water. The ope was filled in 1782 across the mouth of the inlet. Despite its relatively modern appearance, No 21 Hope Street dates from the 16th century or earlier.
Continue along the Harbourside past the Nothe Parade. This delightful terrace of houses contains a mix of late Georgian and Victorian architecture. As you walk along here note the bridge which crosses a slipway used for boat repairs. This is an old established yard, and the slipmasters house with its balustraded steps dates from about 1780. Continue along the path passing the Lifeboat Station and shop.
From the harbourside, take one of a number of flights of steps up towards the Nothe Fort. One of these flights of steps has an iron rail on each side, which was an inclined tramway for ammunition trucks serving the fort in its early days. If you look further along the harbourside you can see the stone pier protecting the harbour mouth.
Once at the top of the steps turn to your left. In front of you is the Nothe Fort. This coastal defence fort was completed in 1872 under Lord Palmerston’s programme of re-arming against possible French invasion. It was armed with heavy muzzle-loading guns. It is open to the public and well worth spending time exploring.
With the fort in front of you turn to your right and follow the path along Elizabethan Way through the gardens and along Jubilee Walk. Take time to look at the view across Portland Harbour, the second largest man-made harbour in the world. Portland Harbour and Weymouth Bay were the venues for the London 2012 Olympic sailing events.
At some steps, turn right up the steps and follow the road to the corner. Continue down Horsford Street passing a fine pair of 1830 cottages. At the bottom of the hill turn right into Hope Square. As you enter the square turn to your right and see the newly-converted flats built in the early 19th century malthouse and standing above that, the late 18th century Red Barracks and Wellington Court. As a contrast to these modern redevelopments, a little way down to your right is No 6 Hope Street, an 18th century Portland stone town house with probably the best stone facade in Weymouth.
On your left is the imposing front of the old Devenish Brewery. This very interesting building dates variously from 1869 to the grand Dutch gabled facade of 1904. Across the square you can see Pilgrim House, dating from 1640 but rebuilt as an elegant Georgian house.
On leaving Hope Square, bear to your left up the steep hill, and at the top turn right into Herbert Place, then turn right in to Hartlebury Terrace. From here follow the path to the left into Trinity Terrace. These small houses, dating from the 1830s, look from their bow windows over the original Borough of Melcombe Regis and northwards across Weymouth Bay towards White Nothe and the chalk cliffs. In the immediate foreground are the backs of the late Georgian houses fronting Trinity Road and the harbour. In the back plots of some are fragments of mainly Portland stone walling of still earlier dwellings (16th century), which overlooked the harbour before the quays were built.
As you walk along Trinity Terrace, look carefully above each door at the carvings; each one is different. At the end of Trinity Terrace there are good views over Weymouth Marina and towards the Ridgeway in the distance. Turn right here and walk down the steps behind the church to the bottom.
Trinity Church is now in front of you. The church was designed by Philip Wyatt and built in 1836. It was then extended by the local architect G.R. Crickmay in 1886. When first built, the church had its altar on the east wall and galleries set back on either side. When it was enlarged, the altar was set on the south and two large transepts formed the east and west. The north front faces Melcombe Regis and dominates the approach to the Town Bridge.
At the bottom of the steps you will see you are back at the Town Bridge. From here you can take a small detour to visit Weymouth’s oldest pub, The Boot Inn, and the old Town Hall. Both are located to your left along North Quay past the Council Office on the left-hand side.
Cross back over the Town Bridge and turn right down the steps on to Custom House Quay. Walk along the edge of the quay with the harbour on your right. Here you can see the old railway lines running along the road; trains stopped running along the line in 1994. On your left is Maiden Street. Look up this road towards the Stuart building at the junction with St Edmund Street. A cannon ball fired during the English Civil War fighting is embedded high in the wall. Continue walking along the harbourside. Further along is the fish market, which dates from 1855 and was built to enable local fishermen to market their catch more satisfactorily than on the quay side; in formal style with wide overhanging eaves, it is a building of distinction. This is still the place to buy locally caught fresh fish. When you get to Vaughan’s Restaurant, you will notice a plaque on the wall to indicate where a trading vessel berthed in 1348, which brought the Black Death to England. All along Custom House Quay you can see how bow windows are a feature of many late 18th century houses in the town. The Sharky’s Indoor Play area, originally a 19th century warehouse is also located here, together with other 19th century warehouses. Despite some demolition most remain and have been converted to other uses. The Royal Dorset Yacht Club occupies a mid-19th century Gothic-style, chapel-like building and was formerly an institute for seamen, known as the Sailor’s Bethel. Before that, the 18th century Baths were here. The Custom House is a fine red brick Georgian house with deep bow windows. It was built in the late 18th century by a merchant to enable him to oversee his shipping interests from his home. It was the Custom House from the early 19th century until 1985. Nowadays, the building is the office for the Harbour Master.
At the end of the Quay is the ferry terminal and green-roofed Pavilion Theatre. The original theatre, The Pavilion, opened in 1908 and was the centre of the local entertainment scene until 1954 when a huge fire completely destroyed the building, then known as The Ritz.
From the Pavilion Theatre, walk back towards the Jubilee Clock along the seafront, called The Esplanade, which is one of the finest Georgian seafronts in the country. Look out for the famous sand sculptures, the award-winning beach donkeys and the Punch & Judy Show. Just before you reach the Jubilee Clock you will see a statue of King George III. Weymouth’s popularity as a seaside resort began in the 1780s and continued with King George III regularly visiting Weymouth from 1789 to 1805. It was the King himself who started the tradition of sea bathing here in Weymouth.