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

West Bay, Bridport

Tuesday, 23rd April 2024, 12:20am

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. Strong evidence suggests that the River Brit entered the sea close to East Cliff prior to the 18th Century. The ancient harbour was roughly in the position now occupied by East Beach Car Park and formed a natural harbour. A simple sluice gate was used but the harbour was prone to silting up.
1200s Right of wreck and levy toll disputes between the Abbot of Cerne (Symondsbury), the Prior of Frampton (Manor of Burton Bradstock) and the Burgesses (Borough of Bridport).
1272 Records indicate that the River Brit was navigable as far inland as Bridport at high tide by small flat bottomed ships. Reports suggest there might have been a small inland harbour, though it probably only consisted of an unloading wharf.
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 jetty or pier was constructed on a framework of stilts. This was probably to stabilise the River Brit's entry across the beach to the sea, forming West Pier.
Late 17th
'The Sloop', later known as 'The Ship Inn' and finally renamed as 'The Bridport Arms' is thought to have been built around this period, thus being the oldest surviving building in West Bay. It is understood to have originally operated as a Cider House and Farm.
Early 18th
The Salt House was built. Salt was stored there for the benefit of local fishermen.
1722 An Act of Parliament (Bridport Harbour Act) was passed to restore Bridport Haven and jetty / pier, 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'.
1740-1745 A new, more permanent harbour was constructed, moving it from near East Cliff to its current position, on a sandy waste just south of Ire Pool. A solid West Pier and lattice East Pier were built to stabilise the channel entrance and a shipbuilding yard established. Commissioned by John Reynolds at a cost of £3,500.
1743 Seven-gate sluices and a pair of navigational gates (for small vessels to pass upstream) were added between Ire Pool and the harbour at an additional cost of £500. The main purpose was for the ability to scour the harbour channel of sand build up.
1743 The first Harbour Master, Lionel Brown was employed, indicating the new harbour being operational at this time.
1744 In October, a major storm severely damaged West Pier.
1747 Cottages on East Beach were built (Gull House and The Dinghy) and believed to be known as Sea House at the time. Ship Cottage was added later. They all had thatched roofs until damaged by fire in 1929.
1750 Sladers Yard, a maritime warehouse, was built to unload and store rope and net deliveries (by horse and cart) from Bridport.
1756 East Pier was strengthened by making it solid and the harbour basin enlarged.
1766 References indicate that the Bridport Arms was known as The Sloop, proprietor being a pensioned seaman called Richard Roberts who was one of the first pilots of the new harbour.
1766 On 21st April, Dr Giles Roberts (inventor of the 'Poor Man's Friend') was born at The Sloop (Bridport Arms).
1769 First reported launch of a vessel from the 'Old Shipyard', a 52 ton sloop called 'North Star'.
1771 Large warehouse built behind East Beach, to the east of The Sloop (Bridport Arms). Owned by the 'Good' family and used to store flax, hemp, iron and wine.
1784 First identified (private venture) shipbuilder was Nicholas Bowles.
1804 References indicate that The Sloop was now known as The Ship Inn, to be renamed Bridport Arms in 1822.
1805 Battery Point set up at the base of West Cliff (Watton Cliff) due to fears of a Napoleonic invasion.
1800s Bridport Artillery Volunteers Magazine House, thought to be called 'Bombardier House' was built next to East Cliff to support the Battery. In the late 1800s it had contained three 64 pounder guns. It was also a reference point to outline parish boundaries.
1809 John Rennie advised on the sand bar blockage problem to the harbour and also an option to build a separate canal from the harbour to Bridport Town. The latter wasn't pursued.
1816 It was known that Messrs Matthews & Company owned the shipyard at this time.
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' (previously known as 'The Sloop') was renamed 'The Bridport Arms'. The Bridport Harbour Commissioners had bought the property around this time and might account for the name change.
1823 The harbour was enlarged, plus improvements completed at a cost of £24,000. Stronger entrance piers with solid construction.
1824 George Street was constructed.
1824 Local landowner, William Swain built Swains Row cottages along George Street.
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 due to the Reform Act of 1832. 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 Upon the death of shipyard owner Ephraim Matthews, John Cox with his son Elias, purchased the lease of the shipyard for about £1,200 and operated it until 1879. They built over 25 ships including schooners, brigantines and barques, with many for the Newfoundland trade.
1849 On 2nd December, Wesleyan Chapel (Methodist Church on East Beach) opened. John Cox's shipbuilding company had been involved in its construction, with his wife laying the foundation stone.
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 by William Swain as a private dwelling - a Gentleman's Residence. A bowling green was added across the road, later becoming a croquet lawn and finally purchased by the council and converted into West Bay Road Car Park.
1857 The harbour lost its Customs status.
1862 St Andrew's Mission Church was opened in an old sail loft facing Harbour Green (above 'Fisherman's Locker') by Rev'd W C Templer.
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.
1866 Isolation hospital for infectious diseases was built at the foot of East Cliff, next to the beach and away from other developments.
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.
1885 Edward Schröder Prior prepared plans for a stepped terrace of lodgings with hotel and 'Lost Sailor' tap room (pub) at the base of East Cliff. However, General Augustus Pitt-Rivers considered his land to be worth more than the West Bay Land & Building Company was willing to pay. Revised plans for a smaller development was submitted.
1886 The first development of the West Bay Land & Building Company was 'Quay Terrace' but with a name change to 'Pier Terrace' before completion, built to designs by Edward Schröder Prior (10 terraced houses).
1887 Further proposed developments included a gender segregated swimming pool with changing cubicles at the old shipyard, a covered promenade with shops and tea rooms plus a clubroom with library, smoking and reading rooms. The complex would be linked across the harbour piers with a swing footbridge. However, the project was considered too ambitious, together with a dispute over land availability and price.
1887 It was considered to construct a drawbridge across the piers of the harbour to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The Harbour Commissioners decided this both impractical and dangerous.
1887 The Esplanade was opened. Two shelters were added to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
1891 A 9 hole Golf Course opened on West Cliff (Watton Cliff), the first golf course in Dorset.
1894 A Golf Club House opened as West Dorset Golf Club at the western end of the Esplanade, utilising a disused cricket pavilion.
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. Three white wigwam tents were erected on the beach for changing.
1897 Mains sewerage system arrived, with raw sewage discharging off East Beach, the outlet pipe being just covered at low tide.
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 at the base of East Cliff.
1903 On 12th March the schooner 'Albion' was wrecked on the beach after hitting the West Pier. The German skipper had refused to pay for a pilot to navigate the vessel out of the harbour.
1905 'The Moorings' was built, probably to designs by Edward Schröder Prior.
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 'Querida' was built for John Good, possibly to designs by Edward Schröder Prior, though it was more likely designed by F W Cooper, Bridport's Borough Surveyor.
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 The beach and land fronting the Esplanade owned by the Earl of Ilchester was sold to John Good for the construction of various wooden chalets known as 'Bungalow Town', including Channel View and Tahure. Lobster Pot Restaurant and Tea Rooms opened about half way along the Esplanade with a picture of a lobster on its advertising billboard. Was this the first seafood restaurant in West Bay?
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 In August, the West Bay Land & Building Company sold the whole of Pier Terrace and the cottages on East Beach at auction.
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 In February, the seaward end of Pier Terrace was severely damaged by fire, thought to have been started by an arsonist. It was rebuilt to a slightly different design to that of the main block. The thatched roofs of two of the nearby cottages on East Beach were also severely damaged and replaced with tiles.
1920s/30s Thomas Edward Lawrence, of 'Lawrence Of Arabia' fame, regularly rode his Brough Superior motorbike from his home in Wareham to West Bay for afternoon tea.
1930 Mains electricity arrived with a three phase substation installed in West Bay Road.
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.
1932 Bridport Borough Council purchased the part of West Beach under West Cliff from the 6th Earl of Ilchester, The Rt. Hon, Giles Stephen Holland. They also bought West Beach along the Esplanade from Norman Good, having previously been bought from the 6th Earl of Ilchester in 1914 by John Good. The purchase was primarily to control gravel and pebble extraction.
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. During the 1800s, Saltmarsh had been known as (John) Pitfield Marsh.
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.
1935 On 23rd April, construction commenced for St John's Church to replace the St Andrew's Mission Church. The foundation stone was laid on 28th May by Canon C Myers.
1936 The new Saltmarsh Municipal Camping Ground was acclaimed to be one of the ‘Best In England’
1939 Bridport Borough Council purchased East Beach from Captain George Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers and the trustees of the Pitt-Rivers Estate.
1939 On 21st May, St John's Church was dedicated by Dr. E Neville Lovert, Lord Bishop of Salisbury. The total construction cost, including furnishings amounted to £6,000.
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 - Querida was billeted for American Troops.
1940 World War II - Large Nissen hut constructed on land between the railway station and West Bay Road to house troops, vehicles and machinery. Later used as a 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 troops stationed at West Bay during the war.
1941 World War II - King George VI visited the troops 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. It appeared to use two large Nissen buildings, presumably from World War II. Now the site of Bridec.
1947 Harbour Garage began trading on the West Bay Road, opposite George Street. A Ford dealer, it also sold petrol and used a large Nissen building (from World War II) next to the railway station for car servicing and workshop. It closed in 2004.
1940s A large Art Deco style bungalow, called Port Bredy, was built for the Reginald Good family on the seafront at the eastern end of the Esplanade. It also contained a large fish pond. Now the site of the Quay West 'Ellipse' and 'Folly' buildings.
1950s The West Cliff private housing estate took on the nickname of 'Nobs Hill' (possibly from the 1945 film 'Nob Hill').
Pre 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', 'The Basin' or 'Harbour Beach'. Thought to have been the original slipway for launching ships from the old shipyard.
1951 The West Bay Sea Angling Club was founded. Matches still take place, many along Chesil Beach.
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.
1950s Kiosks began to appear around the harbour, some being circular with pointed and thatched roofs. Two were on Fisherman's Green with one selling bread and cakes, the other fruit and vegetables. Facing 'The Square' (now the motorcycle area) were kiosks for a chemist, holiday booking, hot dog foods and an ice cream, sweets and drinks outlet. Only one kiosk existed at The Mound, specialising in photography, while an ice cream kiosk was at the West Cliff end of The Esplanade. There was a fish and chips shop in George Street, together with a newsagents and bank.
1950s to 1970s A Co-op grocery store was located in Clarence House.
1950s to 1985 Querida was run as a Guest House and Restaurant until the 1970s, then as a Hotel with Restaurant.
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.
1958 First evidence of an annual fun fair during the summer; Hill's Fun Fair, run by Bernard and Ester Hill.
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.
Late 1950s
Early 1960s
West Bay started to become an attraction for motorcyclists in the early 'Rockers' era.
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).
1960 Bridport's Merryweather & Sons fire engine of 1902 was discovered in a Birmingham scrap merchant's yard. It was refurbished and put on display in West Bay on Harbour Green on a concrete plinth.
1960 Tatiania Ystamanova purchased the lease of the Riverside Café and Post Office. She had previously run both the Bay House Café and the Old Watch House Café from 1948 until the mid 1950s. Ownership was later transferred to her son, Arthur Watson and his wife Janet.
1960s to 1980s The Moorings was used as a Hotel and Restaurant.
1961 On 25th 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). Properties were also built on the triangular plot of land bounded by West Cliff Road, Hill Rise and the small 'nutshells' wooden chalets.
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, having been commissioned by Eileen Moreland, an eminent Quaker from the Bridport Meeting House.
1964 On 18th December, West Cliff Estate sold the cliff path and all land on the seaward side to Bridport Rural District Council.
1965 The railway track between West Bay and East Street (Bridport) was lifted.
1967 A new sewer pipe was installed under East Beach to discharge sewage 950 metres out to sea from a pumping station next to Station Yard Car Park. A buoy with yellow flashing light marks the outlet.
1968 Wooden chalets on the Esplanade, known as 'Bungalow Town', 'nutshells' and the Lobster Pot Café were demolished, being replaced with a new 'Old Shipyard Estate' complex. New shops on the ground floor included: Cottage Loaf, Sea Urchin, Aladdins Cave, Porthole and Westpoint Tavern with Restaurant on the first floor.
1968 The Promenade, incorporating a sea wall, was built alongside the base of West Cliff and the cliff face regraded to a 27 degree angle. This was to prevent further erosion and land slippage.
1968 A new ice cream and sweets kiosk was built on the Esplanade, the tenancy being taken by Margaret and John Grundell, who 'open up' nearly every day for the next 50 years!
1968 Heron Court and Kingfisher Court were built on the old shipyard land. The land for Heron Court was previously occupied by two tennis courts.
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 Dorset House was demolished, a detached property about 100 years old which faced the harbour to the seaward side of Querida House. In its latter days it ran as a fish and chips shop. Now the site of the Quay West 'Boardwalk' buildings.
1970 The annual summer Hill's Fun Fair was taken over by Cecil Wynn.
1970 A large marina for 510 yachts was considered, to be excavated from land behind the Riverside Restaurant, utilising the area now used by the Brit Valley campsite.
1970 On 28th August, the Old Watch House Café on east beach (with thatch roof), originally the Coastguard lookout and later a café, was destroyed by fire. The fire started in the kitchen when chip fat ignited.
Early 1970s Wooden groynes on West Beach, which had been breaking up with storms, were removed.
1970s A confectionery and newsagent shop located at the entrance to the caravan park was run by dwarfs, the Laffin family. The mother (not a dwarf) had died in 1968, with the father, Leslie running the shop with help from his daughters until his death in 1977. They used caster ladders to reach higher items.
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.
1971 A second landslip occurred at West Cliff and pitch fibre drains were installed. Unfortunately, this material has a limited lifespan and further work was required in 1997.
1973 On 16th February a centre section of Pier Terrace was damaged by fire, gutting 6 flats.
1973 An extension was added to the northern end of Pier Terrace, housing 'Bay House Café' on the ground floor, now Harbour Café.
1973 Chesil House was built on land previously occupied by coal-yards and stone sheds.
1974 The 3 storey centre section with arch of the Old Shipyard Estate was added.
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. 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.
1975 Formula One racing driver, Jackie Stewart, made a Goodyear tyre advertisement by racing down West Pier in a Ford Granada at 50 mph and slamming on the brakes near the end. A helicopter was also used to heighten the dynamics of the filming.
1975 On 19th September, Grade II status was granted for Pier Terrace, Bridport Arms Hotel, Methodist Church, cottages on East Beach, Clarence House, Norman Good Warehouse, Seagulls Restaurant and the Fountain/Water Trough next to 10 West Bay.
1976 The opening sequence of the popular TV series 'The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin' was filmed on East Beach. Further programme scenes consisted of the family in a Ford Cortina at the end of the Promenade and the Sunshine Desserts van being driven over the harbour sluice gates bridge.
1976 Riverside Restaurant was built on the site of the old wooden constructed Riverside Café. The Sub-Post Office remained until the 1990s, then transferred to Harbour Newsagents.
1976 The last ship carrying timber was unloaded at the harbour.
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 (previously derelict) was purchased by Wing Commander William J Loud and opened as a hotel.
1978 In February, an exceptional storm caused freak denudation of West Beach. 80 metres of sea wall by the Mound at the root of West Pier failed. Also, the Mound car park and part of the Esplanade collapsed. The western shelter on the Esplanade was wrecked and had to be demolished. Plus, the roofs of Kingfisher Court were ripped off.
1978 Forming part of a Vauxhall Chevette TV advertisement, the car was driven along West Pier and off the end with the help of a ramp, finishing up in the sea, though landing on a barge in the advert.
1979 On 1st January, West Bay Marina Limited was set up to obtain funds by selling shares. The aim was to acquire land behind the Riverside Restaurant, utilising the area now used by the Brit Valley campsite. Plans were prepared for an 800 berth marina with chandlers, boat sale, kart track and fairground. The company together with its vision for West Bay ultimately collapsed.
Late 1970s
Early 1980s
Splash Cats (small electrically driven two seater motor boats for children) operated to the east of the Riverside Café, while rowing boats operated from the Fisherman's Green (western) side of the river bank.
1980 At a meeting, West Dorset District Council made a decision on the cheaper option. Whether to 'hold the line' at West Bay with improved sea defences or buy up all flood prone properties, including the Shipyard Estate and George Street. Increased vulnerability of Bridport Town to flooding was also a financial consideration.
Early 1980s Bridport's Merryweather & Sons fire engine of 1902 had been on display in West Bay on Harbour Green on a concrete plinth since the 1960s. The glass case had been vandalised, so it was moved to the Bridport Fire Station in South Street. It was eventually moved to Highlands End Holiday Park in 1996 where it is currently on display.
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.
1981 During another flooding of West Bay, a 22 ton crane was washed out to sea.
1982 Due to weakening and erosion of the Esplanade sea wall originally built in 1887, the wall was rebuilt with a higher and energy deflecting profile.
1983 In May, Hollywood Hotel, Scruples Nightspot 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.
1984 Gravel extraction by the Good's Yard company finally ceased from East Beach, following concerns of sea breaching and flooding. Good's lead horse, a grey called Duke was put out to grass.
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.
1986-1987 A flood wall was constructed around the harbour from the old slipway, following the contours of the road and around to the Mound.
1987 On 19th July, the River Brit Viaduct was opened as part of the new A35 Bridport Bypass.
1988 The Environment Agency began testing water quality at West Beach, with results being classified as Excellent.
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 storm caused over £600,000 worth of damage to properties, the Esplanade and piers.
1989 Wynn's annual summer fun fair returned to West Bay following a 10 year absence.
1989 A further 44 acres of land on East Cliff were purchased by West Dorset Golf Club.
1989 The Moorings was converted from a Hotel and Restaurant to become self-contained flats, gaining an extra central dormer window.
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.
Early 1990s The large Art Deco bungalow on the seafront at the eastern end of the Esplanade, known as Port Bredy, was demolished. It had been owned by the Good family. Probably damaged over time by storms, it is now the site of the Quay West 'Ellipse' and 'Folly' buildings.
1992 On a sunny Sunday morning of 16th August, three elephants appeared on East Beach with their keeper and waded in and out of the sea. They were from the nearby Gerry Cottles Circus travelling through the area.
1993 A new bridge and automatic sluice gates were installed at a cost of £87,000.
1994 West Bay Railway Station was purchased and restored by West Dorset District Council.
1995 Swanage Railway won a tender to lay track with buffers next to the platform of the railway station and supply two railway carriages. It was for an information centre regarding proposed harbour improvements. The carriages and buffers were eventually removed in 2003. The track remained.
1996 On 22nd March, stabilisation works were officially completed on West Cliff. This involved regrading of the existing slope of the cliff face and installing drainage behind the sea wall to prevent further land slippage.
1996 In June, the Vintage Tractor and Stationary Engine Club Rally began an annual show event at the Brit Valley Meadows.
1997 Planning consent was granted to build the first section of a narrow gauge railway from Bridport to West Bay. It would link the existing Bridport Bus Station, running under the A35 to Broomhills then onwards to the existing West Bay Station with a level crossing at the Brit Valley meadow to cross West Bay Road. The railway would eventually link to the main line at Maiden Newton. Planning consent elapsed.
1998 Various redevelopment options were considered, including a 250 berth marina, shops, restaurants, hotel and housing by developing the Old Shipyard but with the loss of West Beach and costing £24 million. A smaller marina project was ultimately chosen at a proposed cost of £8.5 million.
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.
2000 Bridport Sewage Treatment Works at Burton Road was upgraded from preliminary to secondary status, with storm storage capability two years later.
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 10th December, Grade II status was granted for The Moorings. Note that a central dormer window in the roof had been added to the building during the 1990s.
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, John May launched the West Bay website (westbay.co.uk), followed by the West Bay webcam on 28th August.
2004 On 17th December, a new west pier was opened and named the 'Jurassic Pier'. The general public had been asked by West Dorset District Council to suggest an appropriate name for the new 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 tonnes 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 which closed in 2004.
2005 Beachcombers, terraced & detached houses, were built on East Cliff, site of the old Golf Club House.
2006 On Saturday morning, 15th July, a brand new £200,000 pleasure craft was being lifted into the harbour from East Pier. However, the 18 ton crane toppled, dropping the 33 foot 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 Before completion of Quay West, the Environment Agency designated most of West Bay as a flood risk area, preventing further development. The planning of a new restaurant on 'The Mound' was therefore abandoned.
2007 Built in 1849, the Wesleyan Chapel (Methodist Church on East Beach) closed, due to a dwindling congregation.
2008 Aladdin's Cave, the last shop in the Old Shipyard Estate, was converted to a holiday chalet. Other shops in the complex had also closed including Sea Urchin, Cottage Loaf, Porthole, Westpoint Restaurant & Tavern and a ladies hairdresser.
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 On Tuesday, 3rd 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.
2011 On Friday, 3rd June, Mark Wilkinson's 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, almost a century earlier. Note - it had not been a publicity stunt.
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 In June, the De'Vinchies Nightclub re-opened as a small supermarket.
2012 On Saturday, 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 On Tuesday, 24th July at 12.30pm, a 22 year old female tourist died when 400 tonnes of cliff collapsed between Freshwater and Burton Bradstock. Her father and boyfriend were pulled free from the rubble.
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 The Vintage Tractor and Stationary Engine Club Rally relocated its annual show event from the Brit Valley Meadows to the Melplash Showground due to various flooding issues.
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 tonnes 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.
2015 On 10th April, John May, founder of the West Bay website launched 'West Bay UK' on social media, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
2016 In April, a World War I Great Western Railway (GWR) carriage was placed next to the platform of West Bay Railway Station to become a restaurant.
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.
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.
2017 Between February and July, work was completed to stabilise the old harbour wall and fill the void within at the deep water mooring at the north western end of East Pier. Originally built in 1740.
2017 On Thursday morning, 29th June at about 8:00am, a major erosion generated fall (collapse) occurred on East Cliff, severing the Coastal Path and blocking the beach beneath. An estimated 2,000 tonnes of sandstone rock had collapsed. A nearby bunker on the golf course is thought to have concentrated rainwater to penetrate the rock.
2018 In February, Mrs Margaret Grundell sold the tenancy of her ice cream and sweets kiosk on the Esplanade, following 50 years of trading (est. 1968). She and husband John were open for business most days of every year, come rain or shine, summer or winter.
2018 During June and July, various car parks were resurfaced using a new plastic mesh and gravel system. Car parks resurfaced were: Bridport Arms, Station Yard and West Bay Road 'overflow'.
2019 Between January and July, improvements were made to the path along the old railway line from the Information and Toilets Centre in West Bay Road car park up to Burton Road, to make suitable for cyclists. Pathway made wider, tarmacked and topped with gravel. Cycle park added at the Information Centre. Path and cycle track was also improved along Burton Road down to the Crown Roundabout.
2019 Between March and July, new £9 million sea defences were constructed. A new flood wall behind the Esplanade, additional rock groyne protection to West Beach and shingle replenishment. At East Beach a concealed sea wall was constructed, consisting of rock boulders hidden beneath the peak of the beach's bank. 40,000 tonnes of rock, some individually weighing up to 10 tonnes and 10,000 tonnes of shingle were used.
2019 Between April and December, the Welcome Hub by the George pub and Harbour Green was improved at a cost of £150,000. A circular seating and new motorbike parking system was constructed.
2019 On 1st April, Dorset Council was formed to administer the area previous controlled by Dorset County Council together with the district councils of West, East and North Dorset plus Weymouth and Portland.
2019 By the end of the decade there were over 20 restaurants, cafés and tea rooms in West Bay, together with a further 11 food kiosks.
2020 A flu-like virus spread around the world, emanating from the city of Wuhan, China. Coronavirus, called COVID-19, was classified a pandemic in March, causing many countries and cities to 'lockdown' (nobody permitted to enter or leave except for emergencies). In the UK, schools closed and people were advised to work from home where possible to contain the spread. At the time, there was no vaccine.
2020 From 24th March, to control the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19), lockdown occurred in the UK. All social gathering establishments had to close, including restaurants, pubs and cafés in West Bay. Although takeaway outlets weren't affected, food kiosks around the harbour were encouraged to close. Caravan parks, hotels and bed & breakfasts closed, holiday lets cancelled and 2nd home owners instructed to return to their main/primary residence.
2020 Due to the fear of spreading coronavirus (Covid-19), various annual events for West Bay were cancelled. These included: Pirates Day, Vintage Tractor & Engine Club Rally, West Bay Day, Torchlight Procession, Bonfire On The Beach and the Melplash Show.
2020 In October, parish boundary markers or monuments were installed by Dorset Council along the Dorset coast path, starting from Lyme Regis. Symondsbury Parish Council / Bridport Town Council marker is number 7 and located at the bottom of West Cliff. Bridport Town Council / Burton Bradstock Parish Council marker is number 8 (boats) and located at the bottom of East Cliff.
2020 On Sunday morning, 15th November at about 6:00am, a major erosion generated fall (slump) occurred on West Cliff (Watton Cliff) towards the Eype end, severing the Coastal Path and blocking the beach beneath.
2021 Early in the morning of Tuesday, 13th April, a major erosion generated fall (slump) occurred on the cliff east of Seatown, severing the Coastal Path and blocking the beach beneath. An estimated 4,000 tonnes of sandstone rock and clay had collapsed.
2021 For a second year, all major annual events for West Bay were cancelled due to the fear of spreading coronavirus (Covid-19).
2021 On Tuesday morning, 9th November at about 7:30am, another major erosion generated fall (collapse) occurred on East Cliff, blocking the beach beneath. An estimated 600 tonnes of sandstone rock had collapsed. It followed a few days of heavy rain a couple of weeks earlier.
2022 With a vaccination programme now protecting the UK population from coronavirus (Covid-19), all major annual events were reinstated with life almost returning to normal.
2023 On Wednesday morning, 18th January and just before 11:00am, a major erosion generated fall (collapse) occurred on East Cliff, blocking the beach beneath. The collapse was in two stages; one part fell, then a few seconds later the section next to it (westward) followed, causing a wide chunk. This had followed a few weeks of above average rainfall. An estimated 3,000 tonnes of sandstone rock had collapsed. It was to the west of the 2017 fall, wider but not as deep.
2023 On Sunday evening, 21st May at about 8:20pm, a large erosion generated fall (collapse) occurred on East Cliff, blocking the beach beneath. It had been a sunny and quite busy spring evening but fortunately the fall happened during high tide. An estimated 1,000 tonnes of sandstone rock had collapsed. It was east of the major fall about 4 months earlier.
2023 Early in the morning of Friday, 21st July, a major erosion generated fall (slump) occurred on the cliff east of Seatown, blocking the beach beneath. At the same location as a similar fall in April 2021, it far exceeded the previous estimated collapse of 4,000 tonnes of sandstone rock and clay.
2023 Late Tuesday evening on 8th August, a large erosion generated fall (collapse) occurred on East Cliff and blocked the beach beneath. It was west of all previous falls on that section of cliff. An estimated 1,000 tonnes of sandstone rock had collapsed. This had followed an abnormally wet July.
2023 Thursday morning just after high tide on 2nd November, an erosion generated fall (collapse) occurred on East Cliff and blocked the beach beneath. It was close to the top of the rise at the western end of the cliff, where idiots used the unstable ledge as a viewing platform. No more! The fall occurred just after Storm Ciaran had passed through. An estimated 1,000 tonnes of sandstone rock had collapsed.
2023 On Monday morning, 11th December at around 8:00am, another erosion generated fall (collapse) occurred on East Cliff, approximately half way on the climb up to the top and very close to the one just over a month ago in November. Again, following a bout of extreme rainfall, an estimated 1,000 tonnes of sandstone rock had collapsed.
2024 On Monday, 29th January on a foggy day, another erosion generated fall (collapse) occurred on East Cliff, approximately half way along the cliff. In fact, it was two falls within about 20 metres of each other.
2024 The concrete wall in the southwest corner of the old harbour had been crumbling for the previous 18 months, causing the path above to crack and drop due to weakening foundations. Work commenced in February to stabilise the foundations using sheet steel pilings.
2024 On the morning of Easter Good Friday, 29th March, another erosion generated fall (collapse) occurred on East Cliff, just below the top of the climb at the western end and next to the 2nd November 2023 fall. Again, following a bout of extreme rainfall and the day after Storm Nelson, an estimated 1,000 tonnes of sandstone rock had collapsed.
2024 From 1st April, the Bridport town boundary expanded and was split into five wards. The West Bay ward now included the West Cliff Estate, previously part of Symondsbury Parish Council.
2024 On Monday morning of 8th April, another erosion generated fall (collapse) occurred on East Cliff, roughly half way between West Bay and Freshwater. Again following stormy weather, an estimated 2,000 tonnes of sandstone rock had collapsed, blocking the beach.
2024 With a very wet winter of 2023/2024, there had been two and a half times the normal rainfall for the south west of England. This probably caused the recent exceptionally high number of cliff falls in the area, especially East Cliff.

History records have been compiled by John May and sourced from various locations including:
Bridport Local History Centre, Bridport News & Dorset Council archives.

Note that some dates are approximate / unconfirmed.