DO you recognise this Weymouth scene?

In 1921 the Borough Council resolved to embark on a number of schemes for the relief of the unemployed after the First World War.

One such was a relief road along the western side of the backwater.

Debate was long and in the end the work had to be undertaken by specialist contractors.

In was completed in 1931/2.

This scene shows the retaining wall having been built and the boggy area about to be filled by spoil.

The council depot is seen in the background.

History of Weymouth backwater

Local historian Sue Hogben has previously shared information on the background of the backwater. Here's its potted history:

These days the backwater is probably better known as Radipole Lake or bird reserve and the road itself Radipole Park Drive.

Dorset Echo: Weymouth backwater in the 19th centuryWeymouth backwater in the 19th century (Image: Weymouth Museum)

Historically though, the Backwater was exactly that, a back water as opposed to the sea front. Weymouth, or to be more precise, what used to be Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, were two separate settlements that were divided by this estuary. (The name Weymouth: of course means mouth of the river Wey).

It was once a thriving estuary that was tidal as far as the village of Radipole, and not that long ago in the grand scheme of things.

Jetties were dotted around its shoreline, where nearby kilns churned out thousands of bricks to be loaded onto boats and ferried down to the port.

Timber ponds lined its shores.

Dorset Echo: Map of Radipole from the time of Elizabeth IMap of Radipole from the time of Elizabeth I (Image: Sue Hogben)

Further upstream, in Radipole, two mills turned and provided flour for the area.

Humpty Dumpty field was a medieval settlement on the shore as proven by an archaeological dig done in 1975 when an oven was uncovered. It’s also suggested that this village was constructed atop the old Roman site.

Come the 17th century and two bulwarks can be seen on an early 17th century enclosure map, they stood somewhere around the area where Alexander bridge now stands. 

Reclamation was necessary for the growth of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, the latter being built on what was basically a mere sand spit.

Man searched for land upon which they could erect more grand houses and create a resort any well-heeled person would clamour to visit.

So of course, the only way they could go was waterside and so it began, one scheme of reclamation after another and Weymouth’s estuary entrance and then further inland began to get smaller and smaller.