Part-time Traveller, Full-Time Brummie

What happened to Weymouth? The Decline of a Favourite Seaside Town

Weymouth seafront

I have loads of fond memories from holidays in Weymouth. Ma Lee used to work for a famous chain of betting shops, who in the early 80s also owned a string of holiday camps to rival Butlins and Pontins. One of which was Blue Waters in Weymouth. Memories of the actual holiday park are hazy, although I do remember that there was a kids “Starcruiser” Club, and you’d be either a “comet” or a “planet” depending on whether your caravan number was odd or even. I may still even have a Starcruiser badge somewhere in the loft.

There would be treasure hunts and party dances and disco dancing competitions (although my disco dancing competition triumph came many years later at a Haven camp down in Hayle, Cornwall – I still can’t hear Rhythm is A Dancer without breaking into a routine…)

I didn’t return to Weymouth for years. Ma and Pa Lee and I toured the holiday parks of England and Wales, with various friends in tow. I was in my mid-teens the first time I returned, staying in a guesthouse on Brunswick Terrace. And then again, in the summer of 2001, with Ma and Pa Lee and a (now ex-) boyfriend in tow, finally old enough to sample the many bars and pubs of the seaside town. The weather was glorious, I bought a bright pink bikini and sunbathed on the beach, we stayed at a B&B at the top of what seemed like the world’s steepest hill, and we drank our way around a pretty impressive 11 pubs on an all-day pub crawl. For me, Weymouth became synonymous with a fun seaside town.

Mr Fletche and I visited early in our relationship (mainly to visit the fab Monkey World) and then again with Ma and Pa Lee in 2011 when this next picture was taken on a very windy day at Portland Bill.

Windy day at Portland Bill
Photo by Ma Lee…

Revisiting Weymouth

Weymouth was one of the first places we thought when we fancied a seaside getaway over the Easter holidays. Mr Fletche was in charge of the accommodation (a very odd AirBnB in Portland). I was in charge of the activities – like this slightly-longer-than-planned hike – and we both agreed that we’d spend a good portion of our time revisiting some of our favourite Weymouth haunts.

Fancy an Airbnb stay? If you’re a first time booker, you can get money off your first trip here!

On Easter Sunday, after a lovely morning stroll around Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove, we took the bus into Weymouth for a late lunch and drinks. It’s a good sign for the afternoon when there’s some sort of music festival going on at Custom House Quay. We pop to the Ship Inn to wet our whistle.

This is a pub that holds fond memories. A teetering gas heater outside when we tried to take a selfie with Pa Lee’s trusty mini tripod. More than one karaoke night, singing to a thankfully small but appreciative audience (Ma and Pa Lee). But there is something soulless about this pub today. The fixtures and fittings are largely the same, but it’s brighter, cleaner and more, well, generic. They now do cocktails and “eclectic global fare”. There’s a decent local beer selection but something is not quite hitting the mark for us. Maybe we need food.

Boats at Weymouth Quayside, Dorset
Boats at Weymouth Quayside, photo courtesy of Pixabay

If there’s one place that never lets us down for food in Weymouth, it’s the Marlboro fish & chip restaurant on St Thomas Street. There’s one vacant table, just for us, and we settle down to a cracking chippy meal. Bellies full, we head over Town Bridge and towards Brewers Quay. With it’s pretty coloured houses leading up to the impressive brick fascia of Brewers Quay, I’ve always loved this area. Now it is lying empty and unloved, awaiting redevelopment.

The Red Lion is still there, on the optimistically-named Hope Square, and we nestle under the awning outside, avoiding the drizzle which is now pervading the air. Two members of staff are trying to fold a marquee up into a small pouch the size of an umbrella cover. This is as entertaining as it gets.

We head back over to the town centre; the band is still playing indie hits on the quayside but the crowd has largely dispersed now the weather has turned, apart from a couple of hardy souls, slopping warm, flat lager out of their plastic pint glasses. We hunt for a pub that fits the bill for our next drink. Weymouth used to be full of small back-street pubs, with pool tables and juke boxes, yet now these pubs have been turned into venues attracting the Friday and Saturday night “yoof”, advertising happy hours and shots as if this is the Magaluf strip.

Weymouth has always been a nightlife hub; I remember drinking in The Clipper when it was Barracuda – and was it a Yates Bar before that? – and purchasing test tube shots from a scantily clad hostess (and this was about five o’clock in the afternoon). But now every pub is either soulless and generic, like The Ship, or selling itself on buckets of bottled beer and pitchers of lurid-coloured cocktails. There are two Wetherspoons pubs within 5 minutes of each other – surely that says it all?

Weymouth seafront
Weymouth seafront, photo courtesy of Pixabay

Weymouth’s beach and promenade remains its pride and joy, but resorts need to provide more of an all-weather experience. All Weymouth seems to have now is a run-down amusement park, an overpriced observation tower, and pubs. The tired-looking high street is full of phone shops, tattooists and charity shops. No different really from many high streets up and down the country. It’s chain store after chain restaurant after chain store after chain restaurant – where are the independents? Shops with shabby fascias lie empty, and Weymouth’s growing homeless population are using their doorways for shelter. Weymouth was a host town for the 2012 Olympics. Unfortunately there is little to show of the much-vaunted Olympic “legacy”.

Olympic Rings, Portland, Dorset
Olympic Rings on Portland, courtesy of Pixabay

Maybe it’s us. Maybe we’ve changed, and Weymouth has always been like this. Before we’d just get stuck-in and order another bottle of WKD. Now, we’re a little more refined. We want pubs with a decent local beer selection. More of a choice for food than bland pub grub or another chippy tea. We want shops that showcase local art and talent, not another H&M or New Look or Card Factory. Weymouth has never been a kiss-me-kwik-hat, stick-of-rock, amusement-arcade kind of resort, but now it seems to have lost it’s identity altogether.

Don’t get me started on Blackpool. Or Rhyl.

Have you revisited a much-loved place from your younger days which has changed beyond recognition?  Do you think this is a case of remembering Weymouth through rose-tinted glasses – which are now firmly off? And which seaside resorts in the UK are still worth a visit? Let me know in the comments!

You’ll note that my Weymouth pictures (except my hair-raising one at Portland Bill) are all stock photos from Pixabay. We were clearly so disappointed that neither of us took any photos…

A Brummie Home and Abroad_ The Decline of the UK Seaside Resort. Focusing on Weymouth in Dorset

24 responses to “What happened to Weymouth? The Decline of a Favourite Seaside Town”

  1. Luke Smith says:

    I think many of the great British seaside destinations are in decline now. Where I always went as a child, Jaywick, next to Clacton, is now pretty much entirely boarded up and closed down. The Clacton council keep trying to get the place demolished, its run into such disrepair and decay. The people still living in wood-frame bungalows there feel differently. Clacton itself isn’t much better. I have a lot of memories there; now the place is shifted and remodelled in hard to define ways. Maybe it’s partly a consequence of ageing; the places we love change and begin to alienate us. It’s not just that but that maybe a part of it.

  2. April Munday says:

    Possibly the Olympics are partly to blame. A lot of money was thrown at bits of Weymouth and the surrounding areas, but they might not have been the bits the would be the most use to the town after the Olympics left.

    • One of the problems is that infrastructure wasn’t improved – the roads around the town are still a nightmare (they’ve just added loads more traffic lights since our last visit) and there is barely any parking. Whatever money has been spent doesn’t look to have improved the town for residents or tourists 🙁

  3. Ritu says:

    It’s so sad… Britain has some really beautiful beaches. We took the nursery children to Margate last week and the sand to see the skies they were so blue it was all so hot it was like being in Europe and then you turned around and you saw the derelict shops and everything else. Thankfully the beach was empty so I’ll children have free run of pretty much everything but still it’s a shame that people don’t use what they have on their doorstep more than just getting onto a plane and going somewhere exotic … and expensive…

  4. I understand what you mean about the lack of independent shops and the general decline of some if these places as we’ve seen a few in our travels. It’s sad to see and your honesty about your time away is refreshing, but sad at the same time. The no taking of photos tell a story!

  5. I think a lot of it may have to do with how cheap flights have gotten- why go to a seaside town when you can fly to Spain for £40 return? (I’m not a fan of hot vacations, so I tend to buck these trends haha, but its it’s a common thing to see)

  6. rachaelstray says:

    Ah what a shame. I’m glad to see we are investing in our seaside towns in the North East. Steve and I spent a cracking day at Tynemouth yesterday. Whitley Bay is getting revamped as we speak and it’s great news.

  7. susielindau says:

    That’s too bad. Towns can ebb and flow. For a while, my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin’s pedestrian mall was like that. I just read an article stating it a foodie town! Glad to hear it’s back on track!

  8. josypheen says:

    Aah, seaside towns. I used to visit a LOT of schools for work, and I have to say it was often the seaside towns that had the least investment. The kids were looovely, but they all had such low aspirations for themselves.

    I’ve noticed a lot of my friends who can no longer afford to live in London have started to move the the seaside. It is starting to gentrify some of those areas, but although you might like to love the craft beers and independent shops that those people bring, they still cause a problem, as it drives up prices for the locals and makes them mad.

    This may all get even worse post Brexit. *sigh*

  9. Jennifer says:

    Had that experience last September in Plymouth, MA. When I was younger there was a great animatronic display about the Pilgrims. It was on a hill overlooking the harbor. Really told a great story about the landing and life afterward. I saw it as a child. My son saw it as a child. Last year we tried to show it to my husband’s nieces and it was gone. In its place were brand new condos overlooking the harbor. So sad that one of the most fun displays in town is now gone and the animatronic models were for sale online.

  10. Sallyann says:

    We recently moved to Weymouth after planning to move for almost fifteen years we finally made it.
    Being almost of grandparent age, my rose coloured visits weren’t made in my teens, lots of the things which drew me and Hubby here are still here, the walks, the beach, the harbour, the marina, the nature reserve, I could go on. 😊
    Things have gotten a little Shabby though, in my definately non-expert opinion, a lot of money was thrown at Weymouth for the Olympics and then it was forgotten.
    There is a growing band of locals who care enough to not just complain, but to do something. Regular troops of volunteer litter-pickers, group clean-ups, applying for grants and bringing attention to places where all that is needed is a little tlc.
    Of course, the money side of things is a lot more limited than before the Olympics, but the group is working with officialdom and not against it, and slowly and surely, Weymouth is getting the tlc it needs and starting to look, as well as feel, that somebody cares again…
    Don’t give up on it just yet. 😊

    • Sallyann, this is exactly what I love to hear! Dorset will always be somewhere that draws us back (I have more of the SW Coastal Path to walk) and those things that you mentioned – the harbour, the marina, the beach – are always what will drive us back to Weymouth. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts ☺️

  11. […] What happened to Weymouth? The decline of a favourite seaside town: From the beaches of Italy to the beaches of…Dorset? I take off my rose-tinted glasses and lament the decline of this English seaside town […]

  12. Jon G says:

    Sadly the town has been in decline since the Olympics, it certainly doesn’t look to have had any money spent on it since and upon visiting this summer I couldn’t wait to get out of there. As you say, such as shame as I too have so many fond memories of the town having first visited as a little one and have gone back for many times. We always stay outside in Osmington which still is a lovely as it always was, save for the fact that the caravan site is now full of private lodges with the British holidaymaker being more and more forgotten in favour of private buyers. I will continue to go but the place sadly needs to receive some TLC

  13. Graham Holt says:

    I totally agree with your comments on Weymouth, we (a family if 5) have stayed at Weymouth for summer holidays for over 20 years, and loved it until about 3 years ago. Kids were grown up, so myself and the wife had stayed at B&B’s for 10 years or so. We found that the place was being run down by shop closures, and by street riff-raff, hanging about around the railway station, taking over the sea front shelters and even the beach huts. When stopping on Brunswick Terrace, noise became a nuisance at night, coming from the beach huts, and waking up in the morning to find street people sleeping on the benches round the flower beds. We also steered clear of the town centre at night, always walking up the harbour and along the sea front to get back to our B&B from The Ship Inn. We did seriously used to love the place, but it gradually changed, and we stopped going. I can honestly say that we don’t miss it now. Shame.

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