WITH Christmas creeping ever closer, we are being spoilt with the array of newly published books about our local area.

The book we want to flag up to you this week is Weymouth & Portland at Work: People and Industries Through the Years by Fiona Taylor.

This interesting read explores the working life of the borough and its people and will appeal to all of those with an interest in the history of Weymouth and Portland.

In the book Fiona looks at both towns separately and describes their past industries and how they have influenced the development of each of these areas.

The book is full of colour photos showing the borough at its most beautiful.

One unusual industry flagged up in the book is that of sea bathing. It became 'a radical fad' from the late 17th century, Fiona explains.

"The first reference to bathing in Weymouth is 1748, when permission was sought by R.Prowse and Jos Bennett to build two bathing machines." This industry was what led to Weymouth becoming a resort after entrepreneur Ralph Allen bought a house at Weymouth harbour in 1750, attracted by the medicinal benefits of cold-sea bathing. Ralph recommended the curative effects of the water to the Duke of York, Fiona writes, who visited in 1758 and his brother, the Duke of Gloucester, who spent the winter of 1780 in the town.

The Sherborne Mercury predicted 'There was the greatest probability that Weymouth would be the most frequented place in the kingdom'.

By 1789 Weymouth was truly ranked at the top of the most fashionable places to be seen amongst the Georgian socialites because George III came to recuperate following a bout of porphyria, which affected his mental health. The King, his wife and four eldest daughters stayed at Gloucester Lodge on the seafront when they came to visit.

It was a week after his arrival when George II dipped his toes into the sea for the first time.

Fiona writes: "On the beach there was a bathing machine waiting for him with two female dippers who would help him take the plunge. The King ascended the steps into the machine and a horse was then hitched to the seaward end of it. The horse slowly began to trundle the machine and King George (who was disrobing inside) towards the waves.

"Once in deep water, the horse went back to shore, seaward-facing doors were opened, steps were let down and the monarch descended for the first time into the blue sheltered waters of Weymouth Bay. Two female dippers were waiting for him. They grabbed him by the shoulders and when a good strong wave came along they plunged him underneath. A band concealed in a neighbouring machine struck up God Save Our King, much to the surprise of George III and his entourage."

With the visit a success, the King returned in 1791 and then almost every year until 1805. By 1800 there were 30 bathing machines on Weymouth Beach. The Royal patronage led to the rapid growth of Weymouth and the focus of its development was around the bay instead of the harbour. There was a big demand for accommodation and entertainment, leading to the construction of many public buildings and houses. On October 4, 1805 King George left Weymouth for the last time but is remembered with lasting monuments the White Horse carving and the King's Statue.

Other more typical industries in Weymouth explored in the book are the arrival of the railway in 1857, Cosens paddle steamers, brewing, and Whitehead torpedoes factory.

On Portland, industries covered include fishing and farming, Portland stone, the Royal Navy and the island's two prisons.

*Weymouth and Portland at Work: People and Industries Through the Years by Fiona Taylor is published by Amberley at £14.99 and is available from good bookshops, or by calling 01453 847800 or visiting amberley-books.com