Back on March 3 we featured this photo as our 'Big Picture', which is a regular Echo feature on Mondays and Thursdays.

It's a stunning image of Weymouth Esplanade in August 1939 and we asked if readers could tell us anything further about this pre-Second World War photo.

Well, we're delighted to say we can finally solve the 'smokestack mystery' of the structure rising high above the rooftops alongside the backwater.

Reader Frank Bowering, who was born in 1941, has been in touch and told us that although the picture was taken a year or two before his time, three years previous very little had changed in this seaside scene.

He writes: "What a lovely photo! I caught buses to Pyehill in the 40s and early 50s, and little had changed. As a long time bus nerd, I can remember the double decker alongside the statue running on producer gas out to Westham during the war, and then being rebodied post war, and carrying on for a few more years."

Thanks to Mr Bowering for those lovely memories.

And a massive round of applause has to go to Nigel Graham, who has given us this comprehensive rundown of what we can see in this Big Picture. There is so much information that we have decided to republish this photo in as large a size as we can manage.

Mr Graham writes:

  •  Working left-to-right and down - houses on skyline to right of centre: Camp Road.
  • Down-slope: a glimpse of the Fleet and Chesil Beach.
  • Thin white line down the hill might be Lanehouse Rocks Road.
  • Not obvious at first glance: the Weymouth - Portland Railway embankment forms a straight-topped band behind the gas-holders and tall chimney, and disappearing leftwards.
  • Down to Westwey Road and foot of Boot Hill: On the left is the Fire Station, now the site of the retirement flats.
  • Facing that, Sidney Hall with its high arched doorway in gable end - in its last years a roller-skating and exhibition hall. A gift to the town, but replaced by the supermarket.
  • Across Newstead Road: Weymouth Gasworks. The large building is the retort house. Two gasholders set back from the road. The third, demolished in 2018, was yet to be erected on its site adjacent to Westway Road, in the photo's time.
  • To their right: the smokestack (with smoke) and adjoining buildings form the municipal electricity generating-station, I think active into the 1960s.
  • Coming up the Backwater as it was called, the first rectangular structure in the water might have been associated with the gas-works. The two similar blocks closer to Westham Bridge were remains of an earlier dam or bridge. Local fishermen used their tops for informal equipment storage. All three have been removed.
  • Along the east side of the harbour - large commercial buildings: timber-yards, the Cosens & Co premises, etc.
  • The biggest building, dominating the Melcombe Regis centre, is the Gaumont Cinema, originally a Victorian theatre, demolished along with houses to build the shops adjacent to the White Hart Inn. The cinema's bleak gable was not obvious from St. Thomas Street, thanks to its intervening foyer, but may have been on the building-line of the present, closed Clipper night-club (former rectory).
  • The now-Wetherspoons was a Fortes Restaurant until at least the 1960s.
  • On the sea-front: the King's Statue bus stand with shelter, now a small garden. The two furthermost buses are on road-side stands still used now.
  • The sands seem more cluttered with structures then, but the Esplanade was clearer.The Tea Cabin is readily visible - as is the entrance (next to the sea-front railings) of public conveniences! The Tea Cabin, at first an omnibus drivers' rest-room, happily flourishes now as a public cafe.

It would appear as though 1939 was a popular time to capture Weymouth in its full glory. This image shows another overhead picture of the town taken shortly before the start of the Second World War. The stone pier had been extended in 1933.

Dorset Echo: Another aerial view of Weymouth taken in 1939Another aerial view of Weymouth taken in 1939

We also have this picture of Weymouth Fire Station under construction in 1939. The North Quay building opened in November 1939, replacing the station on the corner of St Edmund Street and Maiden Street, better known today as the public toilets with the cannon ball in the wall!

Dorset Echo: Weymouth Fire Station under construction in 1939Weymouth Fire Station under construction in 1939