The first mention of Weymouth in West Saxon times is in a charter of King Ethelred, still existing, that makes a grant of land “in Weymouth or Wyke Regis” to Atsere, one of the King’s councillors. Edward Confessor gave the manor to Winchester, and afterwards it became the property of Eleanor, the consort of Edward I. The large village slowly grew into a small town and port.
[Illustration: WYKE REGIS.]
Wool became its staple trade, and in 1347 the port was rich enough to find twenty ships for the fleet besieging Calais. At this time Melcombe Regis began to assume as much importance as its neighbour across the harbour. The only communication between the two was then a ferry boat worked hand over hand by a rope. Henry VIII built Sandsfoot Castle for the protection of the ports, and while Elizabeth was Queen the harbour was bridged and the jealousy between the towns brought to an end by an Act passed to consolidate their interests. Soon after this the inhabitants had the satisfaction of seeing the great galleon of a Spanish admiral brought in as a prize of war, the towns having furnished six large ships toward the fleet that met the Armada.
During the reign of the seventh Henry a violent storm obliged Philip of Castile and his consort Joanna to claim, much against their will, the hospitality of the town. The Spanish sovereigns, who were not on the best terms with England, were very ill, and dry land on any terms was, to them, the only desirable thing. They were met on landing by Sir Thomas Trenchard of Wolveton with a hastily summoned force of militia. King Philip was informed that he would not be allowed to return to his ship until Henry had seen him, and in due course the Earl of Arundel arrived to conduct the unwilling visitors to the presence of the king. As we saw while at Charminster, this incident led to the founding of a great ducal family.
It is to George III that Weymouth owes its successful career as a watering place, although a beginning had been made over twenty years before the King’s visit by a native of Bath named Ralph Allen, who actually forsook that “shrine of Hygeia,” to come to Melcombe, where “to the great wonder of his friends he immersed his bare person in the open sea.” Allen seems to have been familiar with the Duke of Gloucester, whom he induced to accompany him. So pleased was the Duke with Melcombe, that he decided to build a house on the front—Gloucester Lodge, now the hotel of that name—and here to the huge delight of the inhabitants, George, his