Weymouth

These pages are concerned with mainly Victorian art and architecture, and Weymouth appears as one of a several south coast towns. There is no art gallery here, but of artistic interest are some statuary, some churches and a serious 18th Century painting.

Weymouth shows a nice succession of building styles going inland from the beach. The sea front has Georgian buildings, the next street back from the Promenade has Victorian ones, and then further back are large Edwardian detached and semi D, some slightly Gothicised with the odd turret, nice pointy porches, but simple square windows. Modern buildings occur as infill and even further back from sea front.

Three statues

George III visited the town several times from 1789, which caused the inhabitants to exert themselves mightily to liven the place up, most notably building the Esplanade, a half mile long 30 ft wide road, and putting a statue of the King at one end in 1810. This statue still exists, standing on a big plinth, with a with a long inscription regarding the decision in 1809 to build the monument - James Hamilton was the designer. The figure of George is standing, with crown on left, books piled up on right, shield, flag etc in subsidiary positions. All painted, rather garish (particularly the face), and rather ungainly. But it can be seen well from a distance, and this is really (charitably) how it is meant to be looked at.

Facing George III from the other end of the Esplanade at this suitable distance is another statue, of Queen Victoria, dating from 1902. An unfortunate statue, lacking dignity, with bulky drapery, funereal urn style over plinth. Little grotesque dolphins down below are to give the seaside look, and there is a coat of arms on one side, and a ship on the other.

The third statue in Weymouth is by Grosvenor Place, further along the Esplanade from George III. This one is of local MP Sir Henry Edwards, and dates from 1896. It is in stone on a granite plinth, and with his chest out, a bulky cloak, and a slight air of self importance, or at least civic pride, this statue too is not of the first quality.

However, there is good architectural sculpture in the town, most notably on National Westminster Bank on the corner of Thomas Street and Lower Bond Street. A naturalistic Neptunelike figure holds up the corner bay window, and on top, a pair of languid stone figures, male and female, recline.

Three churches

The most interesting church in Weymouth is St Mary's, on St Mary Street, which I believe is by the local architect T. T. Bury, and dates from 1815-17. The exterior is enlivened by a short bell tower, with a bell below a cupola supported on narrow pillars. This church gets a mention on these art pages because of the very large 18th Century painting inside, by James Thornhill. It is a Last Supper, in the Italian style characteristic of Thornhill. Thornhill was a native of the town (and at one time its MP), and donated the picture to the previous church on the site. Also in the church is some stained glass dating from the turn of the century through to the 1920s, including one not very inspired window by Henry Wilson.

The bridge across the harbour is most characterful, and needed several rebuildings - I think the stonework of the extant version is that of 1770. Across the bridge, another T. T. Bury building is Holy Trinity Church (1834-6), with later work by G R Crickmay in the 1880s. The picture at the top of this page shows the bridge and this church as it was just after it was built.

A third most worthy church is the Methodist one on Maiden Street, which faces impressively down St Edmund Street and is Romanesque in style, with a big rose window. It dates from 1866, and apparently is by the architects Foster and Wood.

Other architecture

Another building by T. T. Bury is the Guildhall (1837) on St Edmund Street, which has a good arcade in front underneath pillars, with further pillars higher up. An excellent Greek temple of a building, in Portland Stone throughout. Nearby on Mitchell Street is the generously proportioned Working Men's Club in brick and stone, dating from 1873.

Among the Georgian terraces on the sea front is a Victorian hotel of some considerable size - the Royal Hotel. Built of brick and stone in 1897 - C. O. Law was the architect - it has a complex front bearing some decoration with floral designs. Next to it is the surviving frontage of the former Royal Parade (1896).

Also on the seafront, mention must be made of the small Clock Tower (1887), brightly painted iron, with embossed profile of Queen Victoria and above a ship, repeated on all four sides. Very much sea side Victorian architecture, as are the several kiosks and shelters with nice ironwork.

Top of page

Victorian art in Britain

Home