With plans being unveiled (again!) for the redevelopment of the former Council Offices site in Weymouth, it is perhaps time to look at what was on the site in the 1950s before the mass demolition of buildings on North Quay and in High Street.

Many properties in Chapelhay had been damaged beyond economic repair in the air raids of 1940/41, but some properties in High Street had suffered from bomb blast, although much was largely structurally intact. There was little or no damage to properties in North Quay.

The Council had prepared a somewhat grandiose, optimistic scheme in 1948 to cover Chapelhay and High Street, which would include municipal offices and conference hall, police station, courts, museum and library, government offices, aquarium, shops, boathouses, flats and new houses.

The proposals were scaled back, and new sites for municipal offices were considered, including, surprisingly, the Burdon Hotel, (now the Prince Regent) and the site of Radipole House in Dorchester Road, which had been damaged during the War.

Meanwhile the Council purchased many properties, or the sites of them, in High Street either by private treaty or by compulsory purchase orders as the whole area went into terminal decline. A scaled back scheme was eventually approved, with the omission of the library (though not before the controversial demolition of the Tudor House (no. 4 North Quay) and a retaining wall at the rear of the council offices.

The following photos were taken in the period 1955 to 1959 and give a general impression of the area at the time.

11 and 12 North Quay – November 1955

Dorset Echo:

The front of 11 and 12 North Quay

A splendid pair of houses – just look at the wealth of architectural features. The rear elevation, if that was possible, was in even worse condition!

Dorset Echo:

Rear of 11 and 12 North Quay

The position of the property can be identified today as the iron railings mark the western boundary of the car park.

Weymouth Arms and adjoining properties

Dorset Echo:

Weymouth Arms in the 1950s

This photo dates from the mid 1950s before piecemeal demolition took place, prior to the major demolition in 1961. The historic street pattern is still evident and members of the public used it as a way to get to the town centre.

10-11 High Street – May 1959

Dorset Echo:

No.11 was owned by Louis Basso, who built a second storey brick extension in the 1920s. The gable end of the original property can be clearly seen.

16/17 High Street – May 1959

Dorset Echo:

The second property, at least, looks as if it could be sympathetically restored.

20,21,22 and 23 High Street – June 1955

Dorset Echo:

Much of the site had already been demolished. When the site was cleared the Council refaced the side wall of the Coffee Tavern (more recently the Jehovah Witnesses hall). The properties in Chapelhay Street were not demolished until 1965, but curiously, the threshold of one of the properties remains. The view from the back bedroom must have been spectacular!

47-51 High Street – June 1955

Dorset Echo:

Another picturesque group of houses with fine detailing. The property on the left appears to have been rendered at some time. To the right are the rear elevations of substantial properties in North Quay.

High Street in the 1920s

Dorset Echo:

The last group shows High Street in happier times when it was an intact, vibrant community with a number of pubs, a fish and chip shop, grocers and the usual range of amenities.

Dorset Echo:

It was quite a colourful area and a former curate of Holy Trinity, writing in the 1920s about his experience of nearly 40 years previously commented that “there was a certain liveliness in High Street when 11pm arrived.”

Dorset Echo:

But it was a living entity, occupied by an interesting mixture of people some of whom were associated with the seafaring community.

In 1999 I wrote an article with photographs for Dorset Life. The last photograph was amongst those I used. Some time after publication I was contacted by an old school friend who lived near Sherborne to say that he had shown the article to his uncle, who had been the small boy in the centre of the photo.

Dorset Echo:

Photo of boy in the high street - who was the uncle of Geoff’s friend from school

His uncle, who had been aged about eight at the time of the photo, had been asked by the photographer to add a bit of human interest. These sort of connections make old photos so interesting!