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Glossary

Damage to Weymouth by
The Great Storm of 1824.

Records of terrible storms devastating the Dorset coast date back as far as AD877, when over a hundred Viking longships foundered in Swanage Bay. 

The storm which has gone down in local folk-lore as the worst, occurred in November 1824.  High tides combined with gale force winds resulted in the destruction of numerous ships, and many people were drowned.  The force of the wind and the sea also resulted in widespread structural damage – cottages were demolished, parts of the sea defences at Lyme were washed away, and at Fleet even the stone walls of the church collapsed.  Only the chancel survived.  The derelict village was later to provide the setting for John Meade Falkner’s classic smuggling adventure, ‘Moonfleet’

The following account was written by someone who witnessed the storm’s impact on Weymouth.

Source: ‘The History & Antiquities of the Borough & Town of Weymouth & Melcombe Regis’ by George Ellis, 1829, in the Dorset County Museum.

 “The morning of the 23d of November, 1824, Melcombe was nearly swept from the face of the earth by a tremendous and terrific hurricane, the wind howled in yelling gusts, the sea roared in a most horrible and frightful manner, the elements of strife mingled in appalling collision, and nature seemed determined to stamp upon the scene, the fiat [command] of an invisible and omnipotent power..."

The sea broke over the narrows in a strong and dreadful current, two individuals who were at that moment crossing the spot were swept away, “and the end of anguish knew,” whole rows of houses that fronted the foaming, raging, billows, were completely inundated; the pride of Melcombe, its beautiful esplanade, was nearly all demolished, the stone posts and chains, (which amount now to 336 stone posts, and 4620 feet of iron chain,) were rent up and entirely broken, the piers (over which the surges rolled in an awful and sublime manner) also were demolished, vessels, boats, and small craft, were either driven into the centre of the town, sunk, destroyed, or carried out to sea; on the esplanade is cut in two of the posts, the following allusion to it;-

ESPLANADE DESTROYED BY A TEMPEST
NOVEMBER 23RD 1824.

REBUILT BY R. VINING BUILDER APRIL 23RD 1825.

The danger in which the front of the town stood, was appalling, the whole of the roads and streets were covered with the rolling billows, driving impetuously masses of sand and stone, boats were observed floating in close approximation with vehicles of various descriptions, such a scene of devastation and ruin were never remembered to have been observed before; orders were speedily issued for the reparation of the town, the walls were erected in a more secure manner, and soon the scene of destruction was followed by one of perfect security.”

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