1868, Weymouth mayor in court!

We are going through a bad recession at the moment (as if I had to tell you that!) and when things get tough financial wise, somethings have to go.

Such is the present day council’s dilemma…what to cut, what to keep.

Well, it appears to have been the  old harbour area and piers that seems to be the brunt of many of the cost cutting exercises over the past few years.

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The pleasure pier is literally on it’s last  wonky, wooden legs and if it has to be demolished for safety reason, I’m not so sure that it will ever be replaced.

Such was the problem that the town council had back in the Victorian era.

They were desperately trying to provide attractions to bring the tourists in, other seaside resorts along the coast were beginning to become popular, and it was a case of fighting for the customers. and juggling the finances.

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Weymouth prior to this had nothing but a plain old rickety stone/rubble pier, so after furious debating it was decided to splash out on a new wooden pier. One of great beauty and elegance, it’s style was graceful and curving, with a rotunda constructed at the end where bands would play.

When it opened it was an instant hit.

Dances were held on its wooden boards, up to 2,00 people stepping the light fantastic out across the waters while glowing gas lamps completed the magic in the summers’s night air.

Musical recitals drew large crowds, resident military bands would play alongside the local town boys. There was entertainment galore to keep those vital visitors amused.

There was even facilities for swimmers at the end, changing rooms, steps, a dip off the end was par for the course for many of the hardy health fanatics. Sea bathing still promoted as the be-all in cures for so many ailments.

In fact, it was almost perfect…almost!

Only one problem.

Come June 1868 and the poor old town Mayor, Mr. Tizard was hauled before the courts, not just the local one either, he appeared before the Courts of Exchequer for non-payment of a bill by the corporation.

Weymouth’s nice new posh, shiny, all-singing, all-dancing pier had been constructed and finished a few years earlier by the appointed Contractor, Mr. Payne.

The whole kitten caboodle had cost Weymouth town £11,700.

The Corporation managed to pay some of the bill, but just couldn’t raise the last £3,500.

That was why they, namely the Mayor, were being taken to court by the contractor. It seems that they had hoped to raise the last amount of money by mortgaging the pier rates, but had not been able to do so.

There were no funds left in the kitty to pay the man!

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But at least for now it was a pleasant spot for folks to sit and watch the soldiers toiling on the completion of the Nothe fort opposite and the comings and goings of the bustling harbour and the picturesque bay.

Indeed, they would have witnessed something very unusual that summer.

A shoal of 30 odd porpoises had graced the area with their presence, swimming alongside the Portland steamers as they made their way from the pier on her way to the island and back, much to the amusement of the passengers on board.

Sadly,  it seems that one of the porpoises made the mistake of returning a month later to the safety of the harbour. Victorians being, well I guess, Victorians, loved anything rare and unusual.

Only trouble was they had a propensity to shoot them!

Rare birds, animals, and unfortunately this hapless porpoise.

One more specimen for their collection.

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I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
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