Weymouths beginnings as a sea bathing resort 1750

When ever Weymouth is talked about concerning it’s seaside status,  generally it is said that George III made it what it is today, that’s partly true, but there is a little more to it than that.

Weymouth was becoming popular long before the end of the 18th c.

A certain Bath gentleman, Ralph Allen had purchased a house in the town in 1750. He was a quarry owner from Bath, he also became the Mayor of Bath, but what he is most famous for was his updating of the postal system.

When he became seriously ill, his physician suggested that he should bathe in  the sea waters at Weymouth, so Allen found himself the proud owner of no 2 Trinity Terrace, along the harbourside, this is  where he would stay for  3 months of each year. He must have also been one of the first people in Weymouth to use a bathing machine to ‘take’ his cure. This early advert below is his property about a century and a half later, by then being used as a boarding house.


Being a wealthy business man and influential in high society,  he attracted many other well connected persons to the town, including, in the year 1758, Royalty. On a Sunday morning in August H.R.H. Prince Edward came ashore in Weymouth  to dine with Ralph Allen. The two men then made their way to the local church later that afternoon where Rev. Mr Shuttleworth gave an ‘excellent’ sermon. The papers state that “On Monday and Tuesday there was so much company from the adjacent parts (by that they meant Melcombe Regis, across the harbour, and what is now the main town of Weymouth), that the town was scarce sufficient to accommodate them.”

It seems that whereever Royalty turned up, so did the crowds!

Weymouth at that point was also a thriving international port.

In 1780 King George’s younger brother the Duke of Gloucester apparently had visited and  liked Weymouth so much that he had a house built here, Gloucester Lodge, on what is now the seafront, but at that stage was open ground. The Duke and Duchess along with their 2 children came to stay at their new residence in June of 1781. Newspapers report in September that same year that their Majesties and the Prince of Wales were due to visit the Duke while he was down in Weymouth.

King George III and his family, upon his physicians advice, also came to Weymouth from 1798 to partake in the sea bathing, about which much has been written, some claiming that he wasn’t here for his health, but purely for political reasons.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/dorset/content/articles/2006/11/09/king_george_feature.shtml

From that time on Weymouth became THE place to be seen in. The titles, rich and the powerful poured in from all points of the kingdom. The papers each week full of lists of the arrivals in town, where they were staying, how long for, the parties and balls that were held. Horse racing held on Lodmoor, which in 1828 the scene was described as ” The surrounding hills commanded a fine Prospect of teh sport, as well as the bay, which produced the scene of the most enlivening and unequalled hilarity”. (not too sure why the ‘hilarity’?)

As time went on, and other resorts became more fashionable and competitive, the type of tourist and daytripper who arrived in the town changed, becoming more families from the middle and working class. So did the type of entertainments that the resort had to offer, childrens rides on the beach, paddle steamers leaving from the harbour to take the trippers along the coast or to Portland. Boarding houses sprung up behind the grand Georgian esplanade.


Ever since then, Weymouth has been a magnet for those looking for a traditional seaside holiday.


Long may it stay that way.


Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many more, including local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.


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