Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, Dorset

Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, a market-town and three ecclesiastical parishes, forming a seaport and municipal borough, the whole being usually known as Weymouth in Dorsetshire. The town stands on the river Wey, at its influx into Weymouth Bay, and has stations on the G.W.R. and L. & S.W.R., 142 miles from London, and 7 ½ S by W of Dorchester. It dates at least from the Saxon times, probably from the Roman times; was known anciently as Waimuth; was given by Henry I. to St Swithin's of Winchester, and held by the Clares; sent twenty ships in 1348 to the siege of Calais; had a great market for wool up to the time of Henry VI.; was the landing-place of Margaret of Anjou in 1471, and of Philip of Castille in 1506; contributed six ships in 1588 to the fleet against the Armada; was garrisoned for Charles I. in 1643, taken by the Parliamentarians in 1644, and vainly besieged by the Royalists in 1645. It suffered decline from the rivalry and success of newer ports; was visited for health by the Duke of Gloucester in 1780, and by George III. in 1789; came then into fashionable notice as a watering-place; acquired additional celebrity in that capacity from the exertions of Mr Allen, who is supposed to have been the original of Fielding's " Mr Allworthy;" comprises Weymouth proper on the S side of the Wey, and Melcombe Regis on the N side-a bridge over the river connecting the two places. The town sent four members to Parliament, or two for Weymouth proper and two for Melcombe Regis, from the time of Edward II. till 1832; was reduced to the right of sending only two members for both sections by the Reform Act of 1832; and was disfranchised in 1885 under the Redistribution of Seats Act. It was chartered by Elizabeth, with consolidation of the two boroughs into one, and is governed by a mayor, 8 aldermen, and 24 councillors, who act as the urban sanitary authority. The borough is divided into two wards, and includes the parishes of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, and parts of the parishes of Wyke Regis and Radipole. It is a seat of sessions and county courts, and a port; publishes three weekly newspapers; gives the title of Baron to the Marquis of Bath; and has a head post office, four banks, numerous hotels and lodging-houses, a very fine bathing-beach, public baths, a guildhall, an old town-hall, a fine market-house in the Lombardic style, a custom-house, spacious assembly-rooms, a handsome theatre, reading-rooms, two public libraries, a scientific institute, a masonic hall, an hospital, an eye infirmary, a dispensary, and a workhouse. The church of St Mary, Melcombe Regis, rebuilt in 1817, is a large but plain building of stone; in the chancel is a beautiful altar-piece, The Last Supper, painted by Sir James Thomhill. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Salisbury, with Radipole and Christ Church annexed; net value, £285 with residence. Christ Church is a chapel of ease to St Mary, and was erected in 1874. Holy Trinity Church, erected in 1836, is a plain building of stone in the Perpendicular style, and contains a beautiful painting by Vandyke of the crucifixion; the building was enlarged and beautified in 1887. The living is a vicarage; net value, £80 with residence. Patron, the Bishop of Salisbury. St John's Church was erected in 1854, and is a Gothic structure of stone with north-west tower and spire; it was restored in 1883. The living is a vicarage; gross value, £500 with residence. There are Congregational, Baptist, Wesleyan, Primitive Methodist, and Catholic chapels.

The bay extends 4 ½ miles from N to S, and nearly 2 ½ from E to W; terminates in the S at Portland Isle and the Chesil Bank; is bounded on the SE and part of the E by a breakwater formed at a cost of about £1,000,000; is bounded on the W by a line of coast in the form of the letter E; and is indented at the middle part of the W coast by a green promontory called the Nothe, rising from the mouth of the W harbour, commanding a delightful view, and serving as a fine retreat for the town's inhabitants and visitors. An esplanade about 2 miles in length faces the bay in front of the houses, has a raised terrace built upon it, and a monument to George III., and is curved and about a mile and a half long. At the south end of the esplanade is a pier constructed of stone on wood piles, running out 1050 feet, and having a pavilion and landing stage. Adjoining the esplanade are situated the Alexandra Gardens, an attractive pleasure ground, the property of the corporation. Weymouth proper contains scarcely any good streets or buildings, and is chiefly a seat of trade, commerce, and fishing. Melcombe Regis communicates with Weymouth proper by a stone bridge, contains all the handsome shops and buildings, includes several fine terraces and crescents, and has two main streets forming a triangle with another street, and terminating at the esplanade. The harbour, which was enlarged in 1889, has a pier with a fixed light 23 feet high, and includes an estuary of the Wey, called the Backwater, to the NW of the town. The prosperity of the place depends mainly on its visitors. The exports are Portland stone, bricks, tiles, and corn; the imports are coals, timber, and wine. Ship and boat building, sail and rope making, and brewing are carried on. Steamers ply regularly to the Channel islands. The number of vessels registered as belonging to the port in 1895 was 22 (1500 tons). The entries and clearances each average 1200 (210,000 tons) per annum. Area of municipal borough, 453 acres; population, 13,866; of Weymouth civil parish, 77 acres; population, 3591; of Melcombe Regis, 103 acres; population, 7626. Population of the ecclesiastical parish of Holy Trinity, 5000; of St John the Evangelist, 3654. In 1895 the borough was extended, and a population of about 7000 was added, which brought the population of the borough up to about 21,000.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5