What You Need To Know
Weymouth is a seaside town in Dorset, England, situated on a sheltered bay at the mouth of the River Wey on the English Channel coast. The town is 11 kilometres (7 mi) south of Dorchester and 8 kilometres (5 mi) north of the Isle of Portland. The town is the third largest settlement in Dorset after the unitary authorities of Bournemouth and Poole. Weymouth is a tourist resort, and its economy depends on its harbour and visitor attractions; the town is a gateway situated halfway along the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site on the Dorset and east Devon coast, important for its geology and landforms. Weymouth Harbour has included cross-channel ferries, and is home to pleasure boats and private yachts, and nearby Portland Harbour is home to the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, where the sailing events of the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games were held.
The A354 road bridge connects Weymouth to Portland, which together form the borough of Weymouth and Portland. The history of the borough stretches back to the 12th century; including involvement in the spread of the Black Death, the settlement of the Americas, the development of Georgian architecture, and preparations for World War II.
Due to its location on the south-west coast of England, Weymouth has a temperate climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb), with a small variation in daily and annual temperatures. The average annual mean temperature from 1981 to 2010 was 11.2 °C (52.2 °F). The warmest month is August, which has an average temperature range of 14.1 to 20.1 °C (57.4 to 68.2 °F), and the coolest is February, which has a range of 3.7 to 8.4 °C (38.7 to 47.1 °F). Maximum and minimum temperatures throughout the year are above England’s average, and Weymouth is in AHS Heat zone 1. Mean sea surface temperatures range from 7.0 °C (44.6 °F) in February to 17.2 °C (63.0 °F) in August; the annual mean is 11.8 °C (53.2 °F)
Important ancestries of people in Weymouth include Italian, English, German, and French . The most common language spoken in Weymouth is English. Other important languages spoken here include Portuguese and Spanish.
Tourism has been the largest industry in Weymouth for decades, though the number of people employed in the sector has declined slightly since its peak in the late 1990s. Weymouth’s coast and beaches, lakes, museums, aquarium, and two shopping centres are the main attractions for visitors. The visitor accommodation consists of hotels on the seafront, guest houses around the town centre, and caravan and camping sites just out of town, including three sites owned by Haven and British Holidays: Littlesea, Seaview and Weymouth Bay.
There are over two hundred events held throughout the year in the borough, including firework festivals, dragon boat racing, beach volleyball, handball and motocross and the annual carnival in mid-August, which attracts around 70,000 people each year. Weymouth is the only port in the world to have hosted the start of The Tall Ships’ Races three times—in 1983, 1987 and 1994; the 1994 race attracting 300,000 spectators.
The main shopping centre in the area is in Melcombe Regis, consisting of two pedestrianised streets (St. Thomas’s and St. Mary’s Street), shops along the esplanade, and a new precinct stretching from St. Thomas’s Street to the harbourside, built in the 1990s. There are shops and restaurants in the pedestrianised Hope Square and Brewers Quay, which are linked to the town centre by town bridge and a small passenger ferry service across the harbour. In 2005 the town centre had 292 shops and 37,500 square metres (404,000 sq ft) of floorspace, and there was 0.4 square kilometres (100 acres) of industrial estate in the area. The shopping catchment area, which extends for approximately 3 miles towards the north and seven miles east and west, has a population of 71,700 (mid-2001). Weymouth, Portland and Chickerell have been a Fairtrade Zone since 2007. Fashion company New Look has its global headquarters in Weymouth, and until 2005 the company’s regional distribution centre was based at the same site. Plans were approved in 2007 to develop the New Look site to include new headquarters, retail warehouses and industrial units, a hotel, fire station, and a medical centre with ambulance station.
In May 2013 local businesses voted in favour of creating the Weymouth Business Improvement District (BID). Like other BIDs located around the UK, it is a business-led initiative supported by Government legislation that enables the local businesses to raise funding to improve the trading environment.
The Chesil Education Partnership pyramid area operates in south Dorset, and includes three infant schools, two junior schools, fourteen primary schools, four secondary schools and two special schools. 77.5% of Weymouth Town residents over 16 have qualifications, which is slightly below the Dorset average of 78.7%; about 20% of adult residents have higher qualifications (Level 4 +), which is lower than the Dorset average of 27%.
There are three secondary schools in Weymouth—All Saints’ Church of England School in Wyke Regis; Budmouth College in Chickerell; and Wey Valley School and Sports College in Broadwey. Wey Valley was added to the Government’s Failing Schools list in 2007 as only 27% of the students achieved 5 A* to C passes. The fourth secondary school in the Chesil Education Partnership is Royal Manor Arts College on the Isle of Portland. All Saints’ has 921 students on roll, Budmouth has 1560 and Wey Valley 1171. In 2006, 31% of students at Wey Valley, and 58% of students at All Saints’ and Budmouth, attained five or more A* to C GCSEs including English and mathematics.
Budmouth College also has a sixth form centre which had 296 students in 2006. Weymouth College in Melcombe Regis is a further education college which has around 7,500 students from South West England and overseas, about 1500 studying A-Level courses. The college offers a wide range of practical and academic courses in many subjects, ranging from apprenticeship courses to full and part-time university level courses. The college is part of The University of Plymouth Colleges Network . In 2006, Budmouth students received an average of 647.6 UCAS points, and Weymouth College students gained 614.1. Some secondary and A-Level students commute to Dorchester to attend The Thomas Hardye School; in 2007, 79% of Hardye school students received five or more A* to C GCSEs, and 78% of all A-Level results were A to C grades.
The district of Weymouth and Portland was formed on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, and merged the borough of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis and the nearby Portland urban district. For local elections the district is divided into 15 wards, 12 of them in Weymouth. Elections take place in a four-year cycle; one third of the councillors in all but three wards retire or seek re-election in years one, two and three, and county council elections are held in year four. The Mayor of Weymouth and Portland is Kevin Brookes (Conservative), (Labour Party) is Deputy Mayor.
Weymouth, Portland and the Purbeck district are in the South Dorset parliamentary constituency, created in 1885. The constituency elects one Member of Parliament; currently Richard Drax (Conservative).
For European Parliament elections, South Dorset, the rest of South West England, and Gibraltar form the South West England constituency.
Dorset South was the most marginal Labour seat in the 2001 general election, won by 153 votes. Jim Knight was expecting to have a difficult 2005 election, yet he won with a margin of 1,812 votes—this was in contrast to other areas, where Labour suffered a decline in popularity. This was helped by a high-profile anti-Conservative campaign by musician Billy Bragg. The seat was gained from Labour by Drax for the Conservatives at the 2010 General Election.
Weymouth and Portland have been twinned with the town of Holzwickede in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany since 1986, and the French town of Louviers, in the department of Eure in Normandy, since 1959.
Weymouth railway station is the terminus of a route from London Waterloo and of a route from Westbury and Bristol. There used to be a station to handle summer tourist traffic, but this traffic declined and it was demolished in 1986. A smaller station took up part of the site, and the rest was given over to commercial development. Part of the South West Main Line west of Moreton Station to east of Dorchester South Station has been reduced from dual to single track. Local councils lobbied the Department for Transport, in connection with the 2012 Olympic Games, to relay the double track and increase services. Services to London Waterloo began running every 30 minutes from December 2007, but services through Bristol to Cardiff were reduced.
Local bus services are run by First Hampshire & Dorset, which bought the local Southern National company. Buses run from Weymouth to the Isle of Portland, Dorchester, Bournemouth, Wool, Beaminster, Axminster, and to other villages and the town’s holiday parks. Weymouth is connected to towns and villages along the Jurassic Coast by route X53, which runs for 142 kilometres (88 mi) from Exeter to Poole, through Sidford, Beer, Seaton, Lyme Regis, Charmouth, Bridport, Abbotsbury, Weymouth, Wool, and Wareham. This service is convenient for walkers who can ride the bus to connect with the South West Coast Path for a walk along the coast.
The A354 road connects the town to the A35 trunk road in Dorchester, and terminates at Easton on the Isle of Portland. The A353 road runs east from Weymouth to the south of Warmwell, where it connects with the A352 to the Isle of Purbeck and Wareham. The B3157 road runs west from Weymouth to the south of Bridport where it terminates and connects to the A35. In the 1980s the town centre was bypassed by the A354 to Portland, but the government’s road building policy changed before a proposed relief road could be completed. Before completion of the relief road, the A354 followed its original route through Upwey and Broadwey, where traffic problems were common at peak tourist times, particularly on event days such as the carnival.
The relief road’s construction was delayed by opposition from residents and environmental groups, including Transport 2000 and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, who objected to the route’s partial destruction of a nature reserve, which is an AONB and SSSI. With Weymouth and Portland scheduled to host 2012 Olympic sailing events the project reopened; the local authorities favouring a more environmentally friendly proposal than in the 1990s. On 5 April 2007, Dorset County Council granted planning permission for a modified proposal including a single carriageway running 7 kilometres (4 mi) north, and a 1000-space park-and-ride scheme, costing £84.5 million. Work commenced in 2008; and was completed by mid-2011, in time for the 2012 Olympic sailing events. During archaeological excavations carried out in advance of the relief road construction, a burial pit containing 51 dismembered skeletons of Viking men was discovered on Ridgeway Hill.