Cycling on the Weymouth Esplanade…nothing’s new under the sun!

Ever since the Georgian era the beautiful curve of Weymouth Esplanade was the place to be seen.

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This grand gravelled walk, defined on one side by the sea wall and the other by its reknown line of white Portland stone posts and chains was where people from all walks of life like to promenade of a daytime or evening.

Later, a set of ramps were built that led down from the Esplanade that enabled easy access for horse and rider or horse and carriage onto  the beach.

Man and horse shared the space quite happily.

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But  time and technology moved on up through the years, all was not well with those Victorian promenaders who liked to partake in a stroll and enjoy the virtues of the fresh sea breezes….and not all of those new fangled Victorian inventions were fully appreciated.

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In recent times, there has  been many heated debates about cyclists and those on various modes of transport with wheels of varying styles and degrees in size using the busy Esplanade alongside pedestrians.

It seems that the two opposing fractions seem to be unable to get along  with each other.

Those promenading on foot complain about having to dodge those ‘inconsiderate’ persons who whizz past on their sets of wheels, whatever they may be, bike, blades or scooters.

Those on their small-wheeled transport ask why they too shouldn’t be able to travel freely and in relative safety ‘off road,’ 

But it seems this problem is not just a 21st or even 20th century one.

Even back in Victorian times those same old, same old arguments were being had…and not just for riding on the pavements!.

In August of 1873 a piece was penned in the Southern Times berating the nuisance of these new fangled machines.

‘1873 9 Aug

THE BYCYCLE NUISANCE

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We have been requested to draw the attention of the authorities of the town to the great annoyance caused both to visitors and residents through bicycles being allowed on the Esplanade- a state of things not only occasioning inconvenience and obstruction, but positively becoming a dangerous nuisance.

Some time since we recollect hearing the Mayor give the Superintendent of police strict orders to prohibit bicycles being driven on the esplanade, but somehow or other this seems to have been forgotten.

It would be also well if the police were to prevent the furious manner in which some of the riders drive their machine through the public thoroughfares of the town, to the great danger of any one who happens to be in their way. It was only a few weeks since that four or five bicycles were being driven up the front as hard as the rider could propel them, when a poor boy, who happened to be in the road, was knocked down by one of them, the bycle going right over his back.

Fortunately, the lad was not much hurt, but when an officer who witnessed the affair, remonstrated with one of the party, he was soundly abused for his trouble.

The police summons people for furiously driving, and they would be only discharging their duty if they similarly served those who in order to show off their abilities, rush so recklessly through the streets.’

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                            It also seems that even the good old Victorian Bobby had to put up with his share of abuse!

 

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Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not bring them to life with historical graphics.

I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

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Weymouth’s Victorian bandstands.

As teenagers we used to spend hours on what was the old pleasure pier…when it was a proper pier, and not just a sorry excuse for what is left of todays pier.

At the end was a place where you could swim from. There were changing rooms, steps down to the water, a slide, diving boards, and all the kids used to congregate there in the summer. On Sundays we used to spread our towels on top of the toilets roof and lie down and listen to the town band who would play there of an afternoon. Hundreds of holiday makers would be seated around in deck chairs or in the shelters listening to the music.

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I got me to thinking about how sad it was that Weymouth no longer had a proper pier to its name, and how town bands seem to be no longer the popular free entertainment that they used to be in a typical seaside resort.

What happened to all the live music that used to brighten the world of the Victorians right up through to my childhood days?

During the Victorian era the town bands would be all important.

They were vital entertainment for the visitors.

We had numerous beautiful wrought iron band stands at one time or another along our promenade and in the gardens.

Every one gone now!

One was placed in the newly developed Greenhill gardens which was opened to the public in the late 1870’s.

Another was placed along the northern end of the promenade, by Brunswick Terrace, because the town council had decided that all the entertainment was held down the pier end of the town, and that the councillors for the northern end thought that their constituents were  entitled to their fair share too! Here the Victorians would stop and listen to the music of an afternoon or evening while on their constitutional.

The entertainment was provided by the town band, or the military bands that were stationed in Weymouth at the time. some of these were conducted by extremely talented musicians who would write pieces especially for their public performances.

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This one was replaced by a the beautiful Pier Bandstand, a supposedly permanent fixture, an ornate art deco styled structure that was built in the 1930’s, with an open top theatre space.

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It was a place where the bands played, people danced under the moonlit open skies,(maybe not quite so nice on wet and windy days though!). Very popular with the tourists and locals alike. But after the rather wonky, if not charming legs that I have many fond memories of, were beginning to degrade, the seaward end was  ceremoniously  blown up on the 4th May 1986.

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Sadly, all that remains is the much altered end promenade which now houses an amusement arcade and a Chinese restaurant!.

Wander further down the promenade and you arrive at the Alexander gardens open May 1869…which was its heydays  just that, proper gardens…with its own  very grand and beautifully ornate bandstand!

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Here from Victorian times onwards literally hundreds would come along to listen to the live musical bands entertain them. Relaxing in the deck chairs and listening to the stirring notes of the marching songs from the soldiers bands or the  popular songs of the day from the town bands, one of which is pictured below taken in the late 1800’s. Presumably as the two seated in the middle are from the Salvation Army this was their band. Rather quaintly, on the back of the card  Mr Rolfe writes to Miss B Hawkins of no,1, Rocky Napp, Dorchester Road enlightening her as to the order of the hymns to be played the coming sunday.

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An exert from the local paper of the following year gives a flavour of the Victorian entertainment of the time.

1870 2nd Apr

THE ROYAL FUSILIERS BAND- This fine company of musicians delighted a large assembly of listeners in the new pleasure gardens on Thursday afternoon last. Among the items of a first-rate program was a composition of the bandmaster, Herr Van Heddegham, entitled “ Les Romains” which deservedly attracted a large share of attention, and displayed a great amount of constructive ability and original idea. It consists of five movements, the first of which is written in the frugal style, and is worked out with great skill. The subject commences with the basses, progressing with a highly artistic observance of the laws of fugue, and an able development of the principles of this class of composition. The second movement is an exquisite air for a soprano of a charmingly pathetic character, whilst the third, a Brarbure Militaire, presents a striking and agreeable contrast in it’s bold and animated strains. The fourth movement, “ The Invocation for Peace, “ is peculiarly distinguished by the solemn cast of melody which pervades it, and the concluding portion, “ The Orgie,” is a singularly clever piece of descriptive music, fully conveying the wild and bacchanalian idea of the title. It is almost superfluous to say that the band most perfectly expounded the intentions of their accomplished chief.

It wasn’t always plain sailing getting a town band, and it wasn’t always the local men who played, often a band would be brought in from outside to entertain, but they didn’t always get what they ordered!

1887 8 Jul

WESTERN GAZETTE

THE SEASON BAND.

The new band from Ramsgate was engaged to commence their duties on Monday, but have had their engagement cancelled. Mr. Hawthorne, of that place, was to furnish a band of 18, and when Messrs Allcock and Webb went as a deputation from the town to hear various bands before making a selection, they were in favour of one Mr. Hawthorne then had, consisting of 12 men, which were to be further increased by six additional musicians. When the band arrived in Weymouth on Saturday night, it was ascertained that not one of the men was the same as the deputation had heard, but a scratch band got up. Under these circumstances, a meeting of the Band Committee was called on Monday, and the engagement of the master cancelled. Great consideration is felt for the men who have been brought from such distance, and permission was granted them to play about the streets until Friday, so as to “raise the wind” to take them to Ramsgate. Another band will now be engaged-probably one from Richmond.

This band stand of course soon went out of use, the town wanted an all weather venue for the bands, so a clever, supposedly cost cutting, scheme was put in place, the original bandstand was covered in, making it into a veritable glass house.

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This one too reached the end of its life, and in 1923 the old glass building was becoming unsafe, a pane of glass having fallen out and hitting a tourist on the head it was decided that it was best dismantled, and a new, bigger concert hall built.

The old bandstand from the middle of the demolished building was moved up onto the Nothe gardens to replace the old thatched one that had originally been built there as seen below in the newly plated gardens of the late Victorian era..

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Once again, this was a popular tourist destination as it had been for centuries.

This was when the locals and tourists had to share the grounds of what was was essentially a  military space with the stationed soldiers up on the Nothe fort and Red Barracks.

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The last bandstand stood out at the end of what was an elegant, curving pier, which brings us neatly back to where we first started our story of the Weymouth bandstands.

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You can just make out the bandstand at the end.

In 1886 nearly 2,000 people attended a concert and dance at the end of the pier. the entire length was romantically lit for the comfort of the guests by gas light, courtesy of the local Gas Company.

Finally demolished in 1919 when it became too decayed to use any more, the beautiful old pier itself followed not long behind.

So here we are, 2014, in an era when everyone seems to becoming more aware of its past heritage, and fighting to preserve its special places from the past, and seaside Weymouth does not have a single bandstand to its name!

But at least we do still have a town band.

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Playing during the 2012 Sailing Olympics at Weymouth town bridge.

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Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many more, including local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

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1888; Weymouth Queen Victoria Jubilee Clock.

The striking Jubilee Clock is an iconic image of Weymouth, it adorns thousands of postcards and holiday brochures and what local hasn’t stood under there some time in their life to meet someone?

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The year 1887 was  a milestone in the reign of Queen Victoria. It marked the 50th year of her ruling over the kingdom.

This was the year of her Golden Jubilee, celebrated across the land in great style.

Victoria went on to rule the country for a total of 63 years and 7 months, and in doing so became the longest serving British monarch, (our own present day Queen Elizabeth II will have to reign over us until the 9th September 2015 to beat Victoria’s record.) During the lengthy Victorian era England underwent huge changes in society, the industrial revolution, wealth and innovation fueled new commerce, and her empire expanded to cover the globe. Weymouth, not to be outdone in the party stakes held their grand celebrations on the Tuesday, 21st June, a Jubilee committee had been set up to raise funds for, and organize events in the town.

So well had the fund raising gone by the committee, that even after all the festive feasting and grand illuminations on the big day, a sum of approximately £100 was left in the kitty. The committee decided to approach the council with the suggestion of a clock tower on the Esplanade as a lasting reminder of the magnificent royal occasion. The council quickly agreed to the idea, no doubt the fact that they only had to fund the cost of a base for clock tower helped them to make their minds up to go ahead with the scheme!

The clock part itself, with its four illuminated faces, was donated by Sir Henry Edwards, who was the local Liberal MP for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis (1867-1885) at the time. (His statue is the one that stands at the end of Alexandra gardens, having been placed there in 1885 as a lasting memorial of his generosity towards the inhabitants of Weymouth.) The headmaster of the local School of Art, Mr. Baker had been instrumental in designing the clock tower. Even the local Gas Company had been gently coerced into donating the supply of gas to light the grand clock ‘in perpetuity, free of charge.’

The following year, in 1888, with the plans finally approved, worked started on the construction of the clock tower, and later that year, on the 31st October, town Mayor, John Groves led the celebrations at the grand unveiling of the permanent monument to their ruling monarch, Queen Victoria.

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If you compare the photos of the clock above, you’ll notice two striking differences between the Victorian version and the modern one.

The first is that it originally stood on a plinth that jutted out into the beach, whereas today’s clock stands next to the road. The clock hasn’t moved…the Esplanade and road has!

In the early 1920’s as part of a scheme to help solve the major unemployment of many of the men who had returned from the war a ‘public works scheme’ was set up by the Liberal Government. Weymouth council used this scheme as an opportunity to widen the Esplanade, they could receive up to 60% of the men’s labour costs, and felt it was too good an opportunity to miss to make major improvements to the town, and in the process supplying work for some of the 500 local men unemployed at the time, (I dread to think how many locals are unemployed these days!)

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The second difference you’ll notice is the colours. The original clock was very drab compared to todays. Along with the new wider esplanade of the 1920’s came paint…the tower was given its magnificent cloak of Weymouth colours.

In 2011 it received a major sprucing up ready for the influx of the Olympics in 2012, and now stands proudly, glistening in the sunlight with its new gildings.

The Queen Victoria Jubilee Clock is probably one of Weymouth’s most famous and easily recognized landmarks, many a local would wait under the tower to meet a friend or lover, as they almost certainly had done right down through the last century. Every New Years Eve it attracts hundreds of merry revelers around its tower to welcome in another new year.

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Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many more, including local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

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