Run for your life !!!!
There’s more to sleepy old south Dorset than meets the eye, at least if you believe the stories.
Generations of holiday makers have enjoyed Weymouth’s award winning sands – regularly voted as one the best beaches in the country- oblivious to some of the horrible history which has gone before them. The town is renowned as the original ‘seaside resort’ made fashionable by Kind George III (the famous one with the madness) and his court who invented sea bathing in the late 1800s. The town has a statue in his honour on the seafront, and a figure of the King riding his horse cut into the chalk hill overlooking the town.
Bring out your dead
The town’s old Harbour has the macabre claim to fame as the place where the Black Death entered the country in 1348. The plague went on to wipe out near half the country’s population. A unassuming little commemorative plaque on the side of a charming sea food restaurant marks the Dorset port’s auspicious footnote in history.
Plague plaque Weymouth Old Harbour
Dorset’s secret Civil War
If you look above one of the old buildings just off Weymouth quayside there’s a cannonball lodged high up into the wall. Just around the corner from the Ship Inn, on the Custom House Quay – or Melcombe Regis – side of the harbour, it’s thought to be a relic from a key English Civil War battle.
The Crabchurch Conspiracy of February 1645 was a Royalist plot to seize the Channel ports of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis so a French army could be shipped in to help turn the tide in the favour of Charles I. Some 250 Irish mercenaries were among the 500 combatants to fall during the month long series of skirmishes and battles. A smaller Roundhead force prevailed against the Royalists and gained a decisive victory which, according to some, changed the course of the war. Nearby Corfe Castle (pictured) got blown up during the civil war.
Re-enactments are held every February based around the renovated Old Town Hall near the Boot Inn, as local historians try to secure Dorset’s rightful spot in the history of the Civil War. And, impressive as the cannonball is, again all is not what it seems. Some say the missile lodged in the stonework is actually a wooden replica – the real one is said to rest in Weymouth Museum.
Here come the Vikings!
And Portland’s Church Ope Cove is reputed to be the landing point for the first Viking attack in England 789AD. But it appears the locals got their own back some years later. In 2010 road builders unearthed a mass burial pit full of decapitated bodies on top of south Dorset’s ridgeway. Expert analysis identified remains in the ‘pit of skulls’ dated back to 10th – 11th century and belonging to Scandinavian Vikings.
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