The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Down to the sea in ships

David Bailey photographs his favourite Dorset ports and harbours

Kimmeridge Bay

1. Kimmeridge Bay at sunset, looking west towards Broad Bench and Charnel, with the Isle of Portland on the far left. The stone jetty in the foreground is a relic of the days when French businessmen exported Kimmeridge shale to Paris for the making of gas, grease and lamp oil – but the dreadful smell was too overpowering and the venture failed.

Towards Wyke Regis

2. Looking from Portland Castle over the harbour towards Wyke Regis. This fortress was built from Portland stone by Henry VIII in the early 1540s as a defence against possible French and Spanish invasion. It was captured by both Parliamentarians and Royalists during the Civil War, became a seaplane station during World War 1 and was used as an embarkation point for the D-Day invasion of Northern Europe which helped to end World War 2.

Price list on the Cobb, Lyme Regis

3. This price list on the Cobb at Lyme Regis shows that what is now a tourist town was once a thriving port. It had been a trading centre from medieval times and in the Tudor era was one of the most important ports on the south coast, with its ships sailing to all the parts of the world which were known about at the time. As recently as 1780, it was larger than Liverpool but it then went into a decline because of its inability to handle the increase in the size of ships.

West Bay

4. West Bay was known as Bridport Harbour until the arrival of the railway in 1884, which opened it up as a holiday destination. Pier Terrace, the row of four-storied houses stretching out to sea, was designed by Arts and Crafts architect Edward Prior. It caused quite a stir when it was built, Frederick Treves describing it as looking ‘as out of place as an iron girder in a flower garden’, but it remains the most striking building in West Bay, even against the competition from the recent developments.

The esplanade at Weymouth

5. The Georgian terraces of the Esplanade at Weymouth make an imposing backdrop to Custom House Quay, which often plays host to visiting tall ships. The Stavros S Niarchos is actually a modern vessel, completed in 2000 and used by the Tall Ships Youth Trust for educational purposes. Weymouth is the only port in the world to have hosted the start of the Tall Ships’ Race three times.

The fisherman's quay, Swanage

6. The view from Fisherman’s Quay in Swanage, looking north-west towards the Purbeck ridge, with Godlingston Hill on the left and Ballard Down on the right. The clock tower in the foreground was built in 1854 as a memorial to the Duke of Wellington and was originally sited at the south end of London Bridge, but it was soon dismantled because it was a hindrance to London’s ever-increasing traffic. The stones were given to George Burt and in 1868 he had them sent to Swanage and re-erected. The remains of the original pier can be seen in front of its 1896 replacement, now being restored to Victorian splendour.

Mudeford Quay

7. Mudeford Quay is on the north side of ‘The Run’, as the narrow entrance to Christchurch Harbour is known, with Hengistbury Head forming the southern bank. For many years associated with smuggling (and the site of the infamous 1784 Battle of Mudeford), the town is now more famous for fishing both as a small industry and as a leisure activity.

Lulworth Cove

8. Lulworth Cove, one of the finest examples of its kind in the world, might have been designed expressly for geology text-books. Formed because there are bands of rock of differing resistance running parallel to the shore, the most resistant of these being the Portland limestone next to the sea, its perfect shape is much loved by geologists and holidaymakers – and photographers.

Brownsea Island

9. Brownsea Island, the largest of the islands in Poole Harbour, had many different owners until the National Trust took it over in 1962. Henry VIII recognised its strategic importance in guarding the entrance to the harbour and ordered a castle to be built on it. It still stands, albeit much altered over the years. Now the island is a haven for wildlife, including Boy Scouts, who held their first camp there in 1907. On the left of the photograph is the Sandbanks peninsula, with the Purbeck Hills in the distance.

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