West Bay, Bridport, Dorset
Jurassic Heritage Coast
West Bay, Bridport, Dorset - Jurassic Coast

West Bay, Bridport


Friday, 26th May 2017, 2:52am

West Dorset, UK


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Important History Dates For West Bay
Bridport Harbour


1200s First evidence of a 'crude' harbour or haven being constructed.
1200s Levy toll disputes between the Abbot of Cerne (Symondsbury), the Prior of Frampton (Manor of Burton Bradstock) and the Burgesses (Borough of Bridport).
1280 Borough of Bridport claimed all rights to sea wrecks on the beach.
1288 Borough of Bridport claimed rights to 'Take tolls from all Ships'.
1385 John Huddersfield, under the authorisation of King Richard II, introduced a levy toll to pay for the construction of a harbour.
1392 The Patents Rolls records showed that a harbour had begun.
1403 Joan (Joanna) of Navarre, the widowed Duchess of Brittany, landed at West Bay (Bridport Harbour) in January, on her way to marry King Henry IV (2nd wife) at Winchester Cathedral on 7th February.
1444 The Bishop of Sarum (Salisbury) granted an 'indulgence' (a form of forgiveness for past sins) for the purpose of repairing Brydport Haven.
1500s The harbour had become silted and derelict, rated as a creek.
1670 A single basic pier was constructed on a framework of stilts. Note that the estuary of the River Brit was close to East Cliff at this time.
Late 17th
Early 18th
Century
'The Ship Inn', sometimes known as 'The Sloop', later to be renamed the 'Bridport Arms', is thought to have been built around this period, thus being the oldest surviving building. It is understood to have originally operated as a Cider House and Farm.
Early 18th
Century
The Salt House was built. Click here for its history.
1722 An Act of Parliament was passed to restore Bridport Haven and piers, giving the burgesses and bailiffs authority to levy certain tolls on ships.
1739 'The Neptune' public house was built, later to be renamed 'The West Bay Hotel'.
1740 River Brit estuary was diverted further west (to where it is now), from its original position next to East Cliff. Solid entrance pier built and shipbuilding yard established. Commissioned by John Reynolds at a cost of £3,500.
1747 Cottages on East Beach were built (Gull House, The Dinghy and Ship Cottage).
1750 Sladers Yard, a maritime warehouse, was built to unload and store rope and net deliveries (by horse and cart) from Bridport.
1756 Second pier added and harbour basin enlarged.
1766 On 21st April, Dr Giles Roberts (inventor of the 'Poor Man's Friend') was born at The Ship Inn (Bridport Arms).
1771 Large warehouse built behind East Beach, to the east of The Ship Inn (Bridport Arms). Owned by the 'Good' family and used to store flax, hemp, iron and wine.
1779 First reported launch of a vessel from the 'Old Shipyard', a 52 ton sloop called 'North Star'.
1784 First identified (private venture) shipbuilder was Nicholas Bowles.
1805 Battery Point set up at the base of West Cliff (Watton Cliff) due to fears of a Napoleonic invasion.
1819 Construction of Harbour Road to link Bridport's South Street to the harbour. Renamed West Bay Road in 1884.
1822 Public house 'The Ship Inn' (sometimes known as 'The Sloop') re-opened as the 'Bridport Arms'.
1823 A new larger harbour was completed. Stronger entrance piers with solid construction.
1824 In November, The Great Storm caused considerable damage to piers and harbour.
1832 The harbour opened a Customs House. This was possibly initially on the eastern boundary of Norman Good's warehouse with two attached cottages, later being moved to Clarence House. The harbour had achieved 'Bondport' status, suggesting that secure stores / warehouses existed, Norman Good's warehouse being an example.
1830s A Post Office opened at Clarence House.
1834 The George Inn and several houses were destroyed by fire.
1837 Parish boundary changes. West Bay, previously shared between the parishes of Symondsbury, Burton Bradstock and Bothenhampton, now came under the control of Bridport Municipal Borough Council.
1839 The George Inn was rebuilt.
1844 The first Regatta was held, to become an annual event in August.
1848 26 ships were registered at the harbour. The largest number ever to be recorded.
1849 Wesleyan Chapel (Methodist Church on East Beach) opened.
1800s Isolation hospital for infectious diseases was built at the foot of East Cliff, next to the beach and away from other developments.
1853 The largest ship ever to be built at the shipyard was launched. Named 'Speedy', it weighed 1,460 tons, with a 192 ft keel (202 ft overall) and 33 ft beam.
1856 Haddon House was built as a private dwelling - a Gentleman's Residence.
1857 The harbour lost its Customs status.
1863 In October at approximately 4.00am, an earthquake hit the West Dorset coast, being at its most violent from Burton Bradstock to Lyme Regis.
1865 4 buildings were destroyed by fire at the shipyard.
1865 In November the Cork Schooner 'Black Diamond' was wrecked on West Beach. The crew were saved.
1868 St Andrew's Mission Church was opened, facing Harbour Green (above 'Fisherman's Locker').
1868 On 24th January, the harbour entrance became blocked for 2 weeks after the 'Marie Leocardie' was driven between the piers and wrecked.
1868 Gas street lighting introduced.
1879 The last ship 'The Lilian' was launched, after which the shipyard finally closed.
1879 Weekly passenger pleasure steamer ships made stops, sailing between Weymouth and Torquay, docking either between the piers or with the bow run onto East Beach.
1881 The harbour ceased to be a 'Bond' port.
1882 Mains water arrived.
1882 The crane house was destroyed by fire (positioned near the Bridport Arms).
1884 On 31st March, the Bridport Railway Company opened West Bay station.
1884 The village formally known as 'Bridport Harbour' was renamed 'West Bay'.
1884 Public house 'The Neptune' re-opened as 'The West Bay Hotel'.
1884 Harbour Road, linking South Street in Bridport to West Bay, was renamed West Bay Road.
1885 Harbour Commissioners constructed a road around the west side of the harbour to provide access to West Beach.
1885 The West Bay Land & Building Company was formed, principle owners being Lieutenant-General Augustus Pitt-Rivers and Henry Edward Fox-Strangways, the 5th Earl of Ilchester.
1886 The first development of the West Bay Land & Building Company was 'Pier Terrace', built to designs by Edward Schroder Prior (10 terraced houses).
1887 The Esplanade was opened (often referred to as The Promenade).
1891 A 9 hole Golf Course was started on West Cliff (Watton Cliff).
1894 A Golf Club House was opened (West Dorset Golf Club).
1895 A Sailing Club was started.
1895 Three bathing machines on West Beach were owned and operated by an 'enormously fat lady' called Auntie Slater.
1897 Mains sewerage system arrived.
1898 A Swimming and Water Polo Club was started (men only).
1901 In March, Princess Beatrice (Duchess of Battenburg and youngest daughter of Queen Victoria) spent a holiday in Pier Terrace with her four children.
1901 A Pavilion was built on The Mound.
1901 The Great Western Railway - GWR (the operating company for the Bridport branch line) bought the Bridport Railway Company.
1901 The early morning train to West Bay became known as the 'Bathing Train'.
1902 Coastguard Cottages were built on East Cliff.
1903 On 12th March the schooner 'Albion' was wrecked on the beach after hitting the West Pier.
1905 'The Moorings' was probably built to designs by Edward Schroder Prior, though 'Querida' on the opposite side of the harbour may have been designed by F W Cooper, Bridport's Borough Surveyor.
1910 The West Bay Sea Scouts movement was started.
1911 The Golf Club moved from West Cliff (Watton Cliff) to East Cliff, to become its permanent home as an 18 hole course (initially 10 holes, with 8 being played twice!).
1912 The Customs House was transferred from Clarence House to a building next to the Arcade, the Arcade being the walkway or 'cut' linking Harbour Green to George Street.
1912 The Post Office was transferred from Clarence House to below St Andrew's Mission Church.
1912 Clarence House was converted into 'Refreshment Rooms', a hotel.
1914 Erection of a wartime beacon on East Cliff.
1914 Land fronting the Esplanade, owned by the Earl of Ilchester, was sold to John Good for the construction of 6 wooden chalet bungalows, including 'Channel View'.
1914 On 24th October, a part plot of land (15 acres) known as Watton Eweleaze on West Cliff (Watton Cliff) was sold by Giles Stephen Holland Fox-Strangways, the 6th Earl of Ilchester, to William Guppy, Louis Trevett and Samuel Gluning.
1920 Forty Foot Way was derived by a requirement from the Earl of Ilchester to allow a 40 feet wide right of way access strip over his land to the newly formed West Cliff Estate.
1921 The 15 acre plot of Watton Eweleaze on West Cliff was sold off as building plots with covenants, to form the West Cliff Estate.
1925 In February, inauguration of the West Bay Women's Institute.
1929 The seaward end of Pier Terrace was damaged by fire.
1930 On 22nd September, the last passenger train service ran between Bridport and West Bay. The line was kept open for goods services (mainly for gravel extraction from East Beach).
Early 1930s West Cliff Terrace was demolished. This was a row of terraced cottages located on shipyard land, at the bottom of West Cliff and next to Forty Foot Way. Originally used by shipyard workers.
1930s The Melplash Show was held during alternate years between Beaminster (even years) and West Bay. It was ultimately transferred to West Bay after WW2 due to the larger venue.
1935 In June, at a meeting of Bridport Municipal Borough Council, they agreed to purchase 'Saltmarsh' at a cost of £2,700. This was a field on the western bank of the River Brit, bounded by West Cliff to the west and Forty Foot Way to the south, the intention being to open a Caravan and Camping Site.
1935 The Riverside Café opened in a wooden hut next to the River Brit, on a peninsula of land across from George Street.
1935 The Post Office was transferred from below St Andrew's Mission Church to a wooden hut next to the Riverside Café.
1936 St John's Church was built to replace St Andrew's Mission Church.
1940s The Customs House was transferred from next to the Arcade 'cut' to 11 West Bay, between the fishing tackle shop and Harbour Stores (entrance now boarded up).
1940 World War II - West Cliff was billeted by the Army, with houses on the cliff being used by officers and their families.
1940 World War II - Large Nissen hut constructed on land between the railway station and West Bay Road to house troups. Later used as workshop for Harbour Garage. Finally demolished for Maritime House in 2005.
1940 World War II - A German Bomber crash-landed on West Bay beach after running out of fuel, thinking they were over France. The occupants were captured after realising their error.
1940 World War II - In July, Field Marshal Montgomery (Monty) visited the troups stationed at West Bay during the war.
1941 World War II - King George VI visited the troups stationed at West Bay during the war.
1942 The Pavilion on The Mound was demolished after being seriously damaged by storms.
1942 World War II - On 11th and 12th June, 'Exercise Yukon', a rehearsal attack was made on West Bay by the Canadian Army and British Royal Navy in preparation for a raid on Dieppe (northern French coast), the beach and cliffs being very similar. Due to poor weather and organisation, the attack was a failure.
1942 World War II - On 23rd June, 'Exercise Yukon' was repeated at West Bay, this time with success. Sadly, the actual Dieppe Raid, 'Operation Jubilee' on 19th August proved to be a dreadful carnage.
1945 Woolaway opened a factory in West Bay Road, manufacturing concrete prefabricated bungalows, garages and other pre-cast housing units.
1950s The West Cliff private housing estate took on the nickname of 'Nobs Hill' (possibly from the 1945 film 'Nob Hill').
1950s First evidence of an annual fun fair during the summer, run by Bernard Hill.
1950s to 1970s A beach existed in the old harbour as a gravel / shingle area rising to meet the road in the south west corner of the harbour. Referred to as 'Little Beach' or 'The Basin'.
1953 West Bay Women's Institute was bequeathed a boat house in George Street as a meeting hut, by Arthur Stephens of Haddon House. A covenant directed that the Council cannot make use of the land as long as a Women's Institute existed in West Bay and the hut can be maintained.
1958 At auction on 31st July and 1st August, Captain George Pitt-Rivers sold his ownership of land to the east of West Bay, including East Cliff, Haddon House, Swains Row, West Dorset Golf Club, Freshwater and a large area of Burton Bradstock.
1959 The film 'The Navy Lark', starring Leslie Phillips, Hattie Jacques and Gordon Jackson was shot at the harbour. A spin off from the popular radio comedy at the time.
1960 Five Shops were built. Three at 9 West Bay, being the junction of Station Road (butcher, fishmonger and clothes shops) and two at 11 West Bay, entrance to the harbour area (general store and newsagent).
1961 In May, the 5½ acre Shipyard Estate was sold at auction for about £30,000, to be re-developed into holiday chalets and a shopping arcade. All shops have now been converted into accommodation.
1961 The West Cliff Estate was extended from the top of West Cliff Road (West Walk).
1962 On 3rd December, the railway link from Bridport to West Bay finally closed to all traffic. The station building was restored to its former glory in later years.
1964 'Harbour House' for the elderly was built.
1965 The railway track between West Bay and East Street (Bridport) was lifted.
1967 The Promenade (alongside West Cliff) was built.
1968 A new ice cream and sweets kiosk was built on the Esplanade, the tenancy being taken by Margaret and John Miggins, who 'open up' nearly every day for the next 48 years!
1969 West Dorset Golf Club House, located on East Cliff behind the Coastguard Cottages, was destroyed by fire and replaced (for 32 years) with a temporary building.
1970 The annual summer fun fair, previously run by Bernard Hill, was taken over by Cecil Wynn.
1970s Chesil House was built on land, previously occupied by coal-yards and stone sheds.
1970s An extension was added to the northern end of Pier Terrace, housing 'Bay House Café' on the ground floor, now Harbour Café.
1970s The Letchworth Motel and Restaurant operated at 149 West Bay Road as a dinner and dance venue, later to become Scruples Nightclub and Hollywood Hotel in 1983 and De'Vinchies Nightclub in 1988.
1972 The Old Watch House on east beach (with thatch roof), originally the Coastguard lookout and later a café, was destroyed by fire.
1973 A centre section of Pier Terrace was damaged by fire.
1974 Due to the Local Government Act of 1972, on 1st April, West Dorset District Council took over the running of various Bridport Municipal Borough Council properties.
1974 Following local government reorganisation, Bridport Municipal Borough Council was replaced by Bridport Town Council.
1974 Ownership and running of the Caravan and Camping Site (Holiday Park) opposite Forty Foot Way was handed over to West Dorset District Council as part of the reorganisation of Bridport Municipal Borough Council to Bridport Town Council.
1974 Major flooding of West Bay including roads around the harbour, the Holiday Park and West Bay Road. Storms wrecked the western shelter on the Esplanade and it had to be demolished. The ground floor businesses at the Old Shipyard complex were flooded up to several inches in depth.
1975 On 5th May, the railway branch line down to Bridport from Maiden Newton was finally closed.
1975 Further extension of West Cliff Estate, to include Brit View Road and an extension of West Walk.
1976 The opening sequence of the popular TV series 'The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin' was filmed on East Beach.
1976 Riverside Restaurant was built on the site of the old wooden constructed Riverside Café.
1976 Following the death of Cecil Wynn, the annual summer Wynn's Fun Fair was taken over by son and daughter-in-law David and Carol Wynn.
1978 Haddon House was purchased by Wing Commander William J Loud and opened as a hotel.
1980 The Post Office was moved from next to the Riverside Café to Harbour Newsagents.
1981 The Bridec Group opened a factory in West Bay Road on the old site of Woolaway, manufacturing Melamine panels (and later, mdf) for the construction of kitchen and bedside furniture for Local Authorities, NHS, etc.
1982 Due to weakening and erosion of the Esplanade sea wall originally built in 1887, the wall was rebuilt.
1983 In May, Hollywood Hotel, Scruples Nite Spot and Restaurant (upstairs) opened at 149 West Bay Road at a cost of £195,000. Billed as the 'West Coast Nite Spot', it attracted top Radio DJs of the time, Steve Wright, Kid Jensen, Simon Bates, Gary Davies, etc.
1983 New bridge and automatic sluice gates completed.
1984 Gravel extraction finally ceased from East Beach, following concerns of sea breaching and flooding.
1984 On Monday morning, 21st August, fire wrecked half of the roof of the Hollywood Hotel & Scruples, causing £100,000 of damage. (Later to be opened as De'Vinchies Nightclub).
1985 In February, Hollywood Hotel & Scruples Nite Spot changed ownership at a price of £250,000.
1985 In October, Querida Hotel was sold to the Abbeyfield Society, to become a residential home for the elderly.
1986 On east beach, a sea defence bank of shingle was constructed to a height of 7.5 metres above ordnance datum (mean sea level) to reduce sea breaching. Responsibility and maintenance by the Environment Agency.
1987 On 19th July, the River Brit Viaduct was opened as part of the new A35 Bridport Bypass.
1988 The Rank Organisation sold the Hollywood Hotel and Scruples Nite Spot. The Hotel was sold off as 10 separate Chalets. The new owners of Scruples renamed the premises "De'Vinchies Nightclub".
1988 Wing Commander William J Loud and his wife Betty retired from running the Haddon House Hotel, moving to a bungalow on West Cliff. Their son Paul William Loud took over the hotel.
1989 A further 44 acres of land on East Cliff were purchased by West Dorset Golf Club.
1990 On Sunday, 12th August, 8 year old Gemma Lawrence from Oxfordshire was snatched through an open bedroom window of their West Bay Holiday Park caravan and abducted. She was found 4 days later, unharmed in a derelict wooden chalet on West Cliff called Tree Tops. Armed police arrested a 23 year old man who was sentenced to an indefinite period in a secure mental unit.
1994 West Bay Railway Station was purchased and restored by West Dorset District Council.
1995 Swanage Railway won a tender to lay track next to the platform of the railway station and supply railway carriages. The carriages were eventually removed in 2003.
1996 Stabilisation works were completed on West Cliff.
1998/9 Two series, consisting of 16 episodes of the BBC TV drama 'Harbour Lights' starring Nick Berry, were filmed in and around the West Bay area.
2001 In January, George Gowler died, aged 88. He was butler and chef to Dame Agatha Christie during the 1950s, moving to West Cliff 30 years ago to become chef at the Bridport Arms, until retirement.
2001 Meadowlands Housing Estate was built.
2001 On 13th December, UNESCO awarded World Heritage Site status to the Dorset and East Devon coasts.
2002 On 3rd October, Prince Charles officially opened the World Heritage Coast Site of Dorset and East Devon. West Bay became recognised as a 'Jurassic Coast Gateway'.
2004 On 27th June, the West Bay website was launched, followed by the West Bay webcam on 28th August.
2004 On 17th December, a new west pier was opened and named the 'Jurassic Pier'.
2005 Bridport Arms underwent complete restoration, under the watchful eye of English Heritage. It re-opened as a luxury hotel.
2005 Approximately 7,000 tons of shingle from Somerset was placed on west beach to increase protection of the sea wall. Storms and sea currents had eroded the beach over many years.
2005 On 8th March, HRH The Duke of York (Prince Andrew) officially opened the new £18 million Harbour Defence Scheme, complete with a new outer harbour / marina and slipway.
2005 De'Vinchies Nightclub closed. Celebrities such as Nick Berry, Hugh Grant and Tina Hobley had 'strutted their stuff' on its dance floor.
2005 Two railway carriages were placed next to the platform of West Bay Railway Station to become the Station Diner and West Bay Express. These were removed in 2008 when the business failed.
2005 West Bay became known as the 'Golden Gateway to the Jurassic Coast' due to the golden sandstone of East Cliff and Golden Cap to the west.
2005 Maritime House was built on the site of the old Harbour Garage.
2005 Beachcombers, terraced & detached houses, were built on East Cliff, site of the old Golf Club House.
2006 When a brand new £200,000 pleasure craft was being lifted into the harbour, the crane toppled, dropping the boat and causing an estimated £100,000 of damage to it.
2006 Driftwood Apartments, along Forty Foot Way, were built.
2007 Quay West was built on part of the Old Shipyard land, consisting of Ellipse, Folly and Boardwalk buildings. Its planning approval had caused considerable unrest in the local community.
2007 Built in 1849, the Wesleyan Chapel (Methodist Church on East Beach) closed, due to a dwindling congregation.
2008 On 29th October, West Bay Sub-Post Office closed, ending a century & half era, at Clarence House, St Andrews Mission Church, a hut by the Riverside Café, finally moving to Harbour Newsagents.
2009 Norman Good's grade II listed warehouse and yard closed its business.
2009 In June, a shipwrecked lone sailor, ultimately nicknamed 'Captain Skint' claimed to lose life savings and all possessions when his 24 foot sailing boat hit rocks off Golden Cap and sank. He was hunted down by police after fleecing big hearted locals and the council out of thousands of pounds.
2009 New public toilets and a visitor information point opened in the West Bay Road car park.
2009 The first 'Pirates Day' was held in August and run by the owners of the West Bay website for the benefit of local children's charities. The event ran for a further two years until a lack of support caused it to close.
2010 A new play area for children 'of all ages' opened next to the West Bay Road car park.
2010 In August, a BMW 7 Series slid down the new slipway, dragged by the boat it was launching. The car became completely submerged and considered a write-off. It was recovered by a tractor.
2012 In February, a hard landscaping scheme at the Mound was completed to create a new multi-purpose open space allowing for car parking and occasional public events.
2012 On Friday, 9th March, a digger driver abandoned his 22 ton machine after it became bogged down during harbour dredging. The £90,000 excavator was completely submerged by the rising tide and recovered the following day.
2012 On Friday, 3rd June, a small day boat called Titanic II sank in the harbour after returning from a short sea trip. The original Titanic ship sank on 15th April 1912, a century earlier. Note - it had not been a publicity stunt.
2012 In June, the De'Vinchies Nightclub re-opened as a small supermarket.
2012 On 7th July, one month's rain fell on West Dorset in 24 hours, causing the River Brit to burst its banks, flooding West Bay Meadows and Melplash Showground. The village avoided any major flooding.
2012 In August, the first 'West Bay Day' was held (to replace Pirates Day), organised by a small local group of volunteers. This was to become an annual event.
2012 From August to November, West Bay was invaded by film crews from 'Kudos' for a drama series consisting of 8 episodes, to be shown on ITV 1 in March 2013, called 'Broadchurch' starring David Tennant.
2013 In March, a regeneration programme was completed including wider and improved paving areas on the approach into West Bay and traffic priority change, turning left into Station Road instead of the harbour area. Also, all roads in West Bay, including the West Bay Road were resurfaced.
2014 On 12th, 14th and 15th February, West Bay was battered by ferocious hurricane force gales in excess of 80 mph coinciding with spring tides. The roofs of the Old Shipyard Estate and Heron Court were ripped off and residents along the Esplanade chalets were evacuated. Although conditions were the worst in living memory, serious damage and flooding were averted.
2014 From May to October, West Bay was invaded for a second time by film crews from 'Kudos' for a second series of the drama 'Broadchurch', to be shown on ITV 1 in January 2015.
2014 'Flower Boats' and bunting appeared around the harbour, together with a large anchor on Forty Foot Way roundabout. This was the brainchild of the Harbour Master and 'John the Boat' to brighten up West Bay.
2014 A group of volunteers set themselves up as 'West Bay Days' to organise events in the area. Bonfire Night on East Beach on 5th November was held to fund a Christmas Tree for Harbour Green.
2015 During February and March, 7,000 tons of shingle from Somerset was placed on west beach to increase protection of the sea wall. Much of the shingle previously placed there in 2005 had been washed away during the February 2014 storms.
2016 During June and July, West Bay was invaded for a third time by film crews from 'Kudos' for a third and final series of the drama 'Broadchurch', to be shown on ITV 1 in February 2017.
2016 Mrs Margaret Miggins sold the tenancy of her ice cream and sweets kiosk on the Esplanade, following over 48 years of trading. She and husband John were open for business most days of every year, come rain or shine, summer or winter.
2017 On Saturday, 11th March, a 22 ton digger, generator and hydraulic pump became bogged down during harbour dredging. The £100,000 excavator and generator were completely submerged by the rising tide and recovered the following day. The previous time this happened was during dredging works in 2012.

The Salt House

The Salt House, as its name suggests, was built to store salt. From the late 17th Century, Dorset fishermen, mainly from Poole and Bridport, set sail in the Spring to Newfoundland, Canada with their boats laden with nets, ropes and salt. They would catch mainly cod (found in the colder waters) and also some seals, storing them in the preserving properties of the dry salt. The fishermen would then either sail south along the American coast or return across the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean countries to sell their catch, before returning to Dorset. The trade carried on well into the 19th Century.
The Salt House has since been used as a milking parlour, then as a cycle hire shop in the mid 20th Century and more recently as a museum / information centre until 2005. Now used as a community hall.

History records have been sourced from various locations including:
Local History Centre, The Coach House, Gundry Lane, Bridport, Dorset.
& Bridport News

Note that some dates are approximate / unconfirmed.