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Portland


Almost and island, joined to the mainland only by the long, inhospitable Chesil Beach, and the modern Ferry Bridge, Portland still retains a very different feel to the rest of Dorset.

Quarrying, prisons and the navel base have long been the main sources of employment giving the area an industrialised feel that contrasts with its spectacular seaside location. These days, although the Navy have gone, the port and the Sailing Academy still maintained the connection with the sea.

Itʼs a fascinating part of the world; just donʼt mention rabbits.

The Old Engine Shed and the Admiralty Incline

Location

Dorset Map

OS Ref: SY 699 727

Last Visited: 2014

Admiralty Incline

Admiralty Incline

The Old Engine Shed, The Grove

The Old Engine Shed, The Grove

East Wears and the area around Grove is rarely visited by tourists.

This is no doubt due to attractions of the Bill, and the presence of both a Young Offenders Institution and an Immigration Removal Centre in this area. However, between these two is an area of broken ground and several quarries, both old and active, with some great views.

Much of the 5,731,376 tonnes of stone used to build the Portland breakwaters came from here, and was lowered down the the side of the hill by the wire hauled Admiralty Incline, along what is now known as Incline Road.

From the top of the incline a network of railway lines spread out to the various quarries, and a Bagnell 0-4-0 engine was used to move the stone to the top of the incline. The Old Engine Shed still survives - just. The Portland Gas Trust had ambitious plans to restore this as an interpretation centre and café, but this project has come to a standstill.

External Links and References

  • External Links

    • The Old Engine Shed
      More on the old engine shed on the Portland History site.
      http://www.portlandhistory.co.uk/the-old-engine-shed.html
    • The Old Engine Shed, Portland
      Wikipedia article
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Old_Engine_Shed,_Portland

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Chiswell Walled Garden

Location

Dorset Map

OS Ref: SY 683 736

Last Visited: 2014

Chiswell Walled Garden

Chiswell Walled Garden

At less than half an acre, the Chiswell Walled Garden is one of the smallest Doorstep Greens in the South West.

It is dedicated to the memory of the 28 people who died in a Great Storm which swept over the Chesil Beach in 1824, destroying more than 100 houses including the fine Jacobean mansion that used to occupy the site.

The community of Chiswell never really recovered from this storm and and has been slowly decaying ever since.

As well as the pleasant sheltered garden the volunteers have erected a small wattle & daub garden shed close to the courtyard entrance so that people can have community events, exhibitions and parties.

External Links and References

  • External Links

    • Chiswell Walled Garden
      A detailed history of the garden from the Portland History site.
      http://www.portlandhistory.co.uk/chiswell-walled-garden.html
    • Chiswell Walled Garden
      Wikipedia article
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiswell_Walled_Garden

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HMS Illustrious Liberty Boat Memorial

Location

Dorset Map

OS Ref: SY 681 745

Last Visited: 2014

HMS Illustrious Liberty Boat Memorial

HMS Illustrious Liberty Boat Memorial

On the harbour front near to Portland Castle is the HMS Illustrious Liberty Boat Memorial

This commemorates the loss of a 36ft open motor launch from the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious on Sunday 17th October 1948 with the loss of twenty nine men.

A south-westerly gale was blowing when the boat left Weymouth Pier at 10:20 pm. It made it safely across the bay, but as soon as it went through the northern entrance of the breakwater into Portland Harbour the state of the sea became much worse and the boat began to ship water.

Despite the valiant efforts of the men on board, the Weymouth Lifeboat and rescue boats launched from the aircraft carrier and other warships in the harbour, of the fifty men on board only twenty one made it back on board. The average age of the sailors who perished was nineteen years old.

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The Merchants' Railway

Location

Dorset Map

OS Ref: SY 688 737

Last Visited: 2014

Merchants Incline

Merchants Incline

The Merchantsʼ Incline is the most obvious remainder of what was the second earliest railway in Dorset. The Merchantsʼ Railway was a horse drawn and cable operated incline railway which opened in 1826.

Yeates Incline

Yeates Incline

The railway carried stone from Tout Quarry and the other quarries to the west of the island down a steady gradient to the top of the incline. From there it was lowered by cable to the quays in Portland Harbour below.

As it rounded Tillycombe it was joined by a branch from the Yeates Incline, which can still be seen as it passes under two road bridges and one that carried the King Barrow Tramway. The latter ran parallel to the Merchantsʼ Railway at a slightly higher level before joining it at the top of the incline.

Instead of using sleepers, the rails were mounted on pairs of stone sets. Many of these remain, and can be seen lining the path.

External Links and References

  • External Links

    • Merchant's Railway
      More on the Merchants' Railway from the Portland History site.
      http://www.portlandhistory.co.uk/merchants-railway.html

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St George's Church, Reforne

Location

Dorset Map

OS Ref: SY 686 720

Last Visited: 2005

Built in 1754 to replace the near derelict St Andrewʼs on the other side of the island, St Georgeʼs in turn became redundant with the consecration of the new parish church of All Saints, Easton in 1917.

It was designed by a local man, Thomas Gilbert, whose family had supplied some of the stone for St Paulʼs Cathedral in London. If you take a close look at the tower and compare it to those on the cathedralʼs west front, the influence of Christopher Wrenʼs work is obvious.

The interior of the church, however, is both its glory and its downfall. The box pews in fact date from 1849, but the system of pew-ownership was so strict that the layout is virtually unchanged from the original. So strict, in fact, that it was easier to build a new church than to reform the seating plan. It is very much a preacherʼs church, with all pews, including those in the chancel, facing towards the twin pulpits. The altar is tucked away in the apse, largely ignored.

The church has been in the care of the Redundant Churches Fund Since 1971 and, according to the notice on the door, is currently (2005) open every afternoon between 2:30 to 5:00pm from the 1st Saturday in May to the last Sunday in September.

External Links and References

  • External Links

    • Portland, St George
      Churches Conservation Trust Handbook Entry
      https://www.visitchurches.org.uk/visit/church-listing/st-george-portland.html
    • Reforne - Portland, St. George
      More information on the church from the Dorset Historic Churches Trust.
      http://www.dorsethistoricchurchestrust.co.uk/index.php/our-churches/28-weymouth-deanery/380-portland-reforne-st-george
    • St George's Church Area
      More on the church and the surrounding area from Geoff Kirby's fascinating site.
      http://www.geoffkirby.co.uk/Portland/685720/
    • St. George's Church
      More on the St George's Church from the Portland History site.
      http://www.portlandhistory.co.uk/st-georges-church.html
  • Recommended Books

  • Leaflets

    • St George's Church by Ralph Poston, RL Weyman, etc.
      Churches Conservation Trust Leaflet available at the church

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Tom the Torpedo

Location

Dorset Map

OS Ref: SY 681 745

Last Visited: 2014

Tom the Torpedo, Castletown

Tom the Torpedo, Castletown

Tom the Torpedo a World War II torpedo donated to Portland Marina by the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport

It commemorates the work of Robert Whitehead who in 1808 had successfully demonstrated the first practical torpedo design.

The British Navy became interested and encouraged Whitehead build a factory on an eight acre site at Ferry Bridge, which resulted in the massive growth of nearby Wyke Regis.

The factory closed down after the First World War when demand fell. However, in 1923 Vickers bought the site, and a massive modernisation of the works was initiated in response to threats from Germany. By the start of the Second World War some 1500 men and women were employed.

The last last firing of a Whitehead 21 inch torpedo produced at Ferry Bridge took place in Weymouth Bay in 1966, but the site remained in use until 1994 when the factory finally closed and a housing estate was built in its place. There is a memorial stone in Whitehead Drive commemorating the factory, along with the original foundation stone.

External Links and References

  • External Links

    • Robert Whitehead
      Interesting article on Whitehead and the history of the Ferry Bridge site.
      http://www.hansonclan.co.uk/Royal%20Navy/rw.htm

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