Weymouth’s history as a harbour on the frontline. 1795

Being in the process of writing a book about the history of the Nothe area in Weymouth, I’ve uncovered many interesting facts about the past history of the town while trawling through the old newspapers and documents.

Some of which I’ll narrate here, little snippits of what life was like for our ancestors, living on the South coast, which was extremely vunerable to attack from all angles, pirates, privateers, invaders….a bit like today’s tourists, they all headed for the seaside. (Mind you, Weymouth didn’t actually have a seaside then, what is today’s sandy clean beach was actually their towns rubbish tip!)

During the Georgian era, when Weymouth was starting to become popular for it’s health giving properties a  sea bathing resort, and the Royal family would visit, bringing with them an entourage of wealthy visitors and politicians, the seas off our coast was teeming with ships, both friendly and feared.

In the September of 1794 a 50 gun Man’o’war was coming up through the Channel towards Weymouth bay, when it’s Captain espied a squadron of shifty-looking frigates hovering nearby.


Misreading a signal that had passed between the vessels, he hastily putting into Weymouth Roads (harbour to you and me) and informed the appropriate authorities that a fleet of the French were approaching, which set the wheels of defence in motion. The Nothe headland housed a series of cannon that had been used over the centuries to protect our little town and harbour. During that time they were manned by Weymouth Volunteers and the regular soldiers who had been based in and around the town (mainly in the new Red Baracks on the Nothe).

Weymouth was on full alert for invasion, our ancestors would have been afeared for their lives.

Luckily, no shots were fired, someone realised as the squadron came closer to shore it was in fact one of ours…under the command of Sir James Saumarez.

But it came pretty close to what today is rather euphemistically referred to as ‘friendly fire.’


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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