For both good and ill, Weymouth’s connection to the sea has always been critical to its place in history. The Black Death famously entered the country through the town’s port in the 1300s while, centuries later, Allied forces would set out from that same port to liberate mainland Europe from the Nazis on D-Day.
The seaside resort was also famously ‘Mad’ King George III’s favourite place in the world. Following doctor’s orders, the monarch – who suffered porphyria – found solace bathing in the sea from 1789. By the early 1800s, just a stone’s throw from that now famous seafront, housing began to crop up for those in the town that were not quite so well off as the King.
These buildings in Gloucester Street – named for its proximity to the King’s seaside residence of Gloucester Lodge – as well as Great George Street, Park Street and Westham Road are still home to traders to this day. Join us as we take a stroll around the area and meet them.
Maritime specialist John Ritchie is well-known nationally and has owned Books Afloat at 66, Park Street for almost 40 years, with people travelling for miles – many from overseas – for his rich, maritime treasures, books and antiques.
“Weymouth is particularly characterful,” said John. “In Park Street, access is easy with a car park at the end of the road, the railway station is just a short stroll away and I am not far from the seafront.
“And like me, many traders have been here a long time.
“For six years before Books Afloat I was selling marine electronics and before then, I was 12 years in the Merchant Navy, where I gained a wealth of experience which I enjoyed very much.
“There are only four other shops like mine in the UK and I specialise in nautical antiques. I believe I have the biggest collection of ships’ bells in the country – all with names on.”
Chris Watson of CS Locksmiths is based just a few doors down, at 58, Park Street and Chris like John, has a nautical background, serving in the Royal Navy until 2003.
Chris began working as a locksmith soon after and took over Rodgers Locksmiths in 2007.
“I’m also fully qualified in CCTV and access control,” he said. “I moved to Weymouth in 1997.
“Being from a mining and steel town in Yorkshire originally, I love living by the sea. I get a lot of satisfaction opening doors for people who are locked out. Each door is a different challenge.”
The Hive Café is a busy little eaterie based in a property dating back to the 1800s set in a peaceful part of Park Street. Simon and Rachel Gregory have owned it since 2014, and, along with their granddaughter, create delicious food for loyal customers and visitors, many of whom make a beeline for the secluded, quiet courtyard on warmer days. The café is dog-friendly too! The pair have renovated the Beekeepers Lodge, which used to belong to a stonemason, stone wright and two seamstresses in days gone by. The lodge is now a vegetarian holiday let, full of character and boasting plenty of Victorian charm.”
“Park Street is a wonderful place,” said Rachel. “We all know each other and look out for each other. It’s a really nice place to be.” The Hive Café will be closing for winter from mid-December but will be opening once again to the delight of their customers in March.
According to the academic resource British History Online, the buildings of Gloucester Street are ‘more simply designed and cheaply constructed than the monumental terraces facing the bay’. And while these buildings are undeniably less grand than the former residence of a King, they seem to serve just fine for art graduate Annika and master of ink Felipe, who opened Snakes Nest Tattoo at number 21 just last year.
Felipe, has been professionally tattooing since 2008, working in Rio de Janeiro before moving to the UK in 2018.
“The studio is our little nest, warm and cosy,” said Annika. “Snakes, in Japanese tattoo, are symbols of protection, guarding your health and fortune.”
It is clear this area of Weymouth boasts a tight-knit community.
Annika added: “Lea and Ama next door are very nice, they’re great neighbours to have. The whole street is great. The location between beach, harbour, Radipole, and the train station couldn’t be better. It’s good to have our own space where we can concentrate on what we love to do. We are very happy to offer a different experience with our studio, a very high level of skill, and a true passion for the art form and the culture of tattoo.”
Potter and artist Lea Phillips and sculptor Ama Menec opened The Happy Crab Gallery at 20A Gloucester Street in the spring. This lovely light and bright space is the studio where all the pots are hand made on the premises offering visitors a birds-eye view of the many pottery demonstrations.
Lea spent most of her working life making pottery near Totnes in Devon for 20 years. This was a large collective workshop, partly funded by sub-letting space to other artists. After the last lockdown many of the artists could no longer commit to paying for space and so Lea and Ama moved to this stunning studio.
Lea said: “It was always my dream to live and work in Weymouth and finding this shop was the perfect opportunity. The moment I walked in I knew this was where I wanted to work. “After 20 years at a rural business centre it is great to be in a town and contribute to the creativity of this vibrant community.
“I love the beach, the harbour and the friendly neighbourhood with so many interesting independent businesses.”
So, why the Happy Crab? Lea and Ama were born in July, under the Cancer sun sign, The Crab.
The pair love beaches and swimming, hence the workshop just a two-minute walk from the sea, which makes them very happy crabs!
Records show a number of remarkable, yet everyday people have lived in Great George Street over the years. According to the 1881 national census, plumber and glazier Richard Crumblehome lived in a home named Eatonstead with his family and was recorded as ‘a man qualified to serve on juries’.
He founded R Crumblehome and Son, a name that should be recognisable to many in the town as a business that ran for 109 years, only closing in 1998. Also linked to the street is William Clark Hunt, born in 1870, who went on to serve as chief gunner on HMS Invincible and was killed in the Battle of Jutland in 1915. We’re sure both of these men would have enjoyed a pint or two at the newly opened Doghouse Micro Pub in the street.
With a hunger to move to Weymouth and a thirst for real ale and cider, Nat and Dave had their ‘lightbulb moment’ over a couple of beers in a micropub in their hometown of Northampton. They decided to open the first and only micro pub in Weymouth.
While Nat secured a job with a legal firm, Dave took the plunge and opened The Doghouse Micro Pub on 2, Great George Street in 2018.
Dave said: “We specialise in real ale, real cider and a number of continental bottled beers. Most ales are sourced from independent breweries in the southwest. We have a variety of traditional pub snacks including pork pies and pickled eggs and with no music or fruit machines we are an ideal place for chatting and drinking.”
Fleetline Taxis has been part of Weymouth’s scenery since 1968, and Sarah and Andy pride themselves on giving customers ‘the best service’ from this family businesses, which has grown from strength to strength over four decades.
“We will always strive to provide a first class service to both our current and future customers and to build upon the loyalty we have commanded over four decades,” said Andy.
Based at 25, Westham Road, Fleetline is conveniently located only a few hundred yards from the shops, beach and harbour.
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