Effect of Gale on Beach East of Weymouth 1899

Fig.1 - General view of beach looking towards Preston Coastguard Station in the Distance. Sea on right, Lodmoor (Flooded) on left. Road entirely covered by shingle in storm of Feb. 13th, 1899. Photo Feb 16th 1899 © DCM

Fig. 1 – General view of beach looking towards Preston Coastguard Station in the Distance. Sea on right, Lodmoor (Flooded) on left. Road entirely covered by shingle in storm of Feb. 13th, 1899. Photo Feb 16th 1899 © DCM

Here is an article written by Nelson M. Richardson, B.A., F.E.S. from the ‘Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society’ Volume 20,  1899 entitled ‘Notes on the Effect of Gale on February 11-13, 1899, on the Beach to the East of Weymouth’ 

During a violent south-westerly gale which blew from February 11th to 13th, 1899, the tides were unusually high and much damage was done in many places in the South of England. At Weymouth Harbour the tide was stated to have been higher on the morning of Monday, February 13th, than had been the case during the past 20 years. Some damage was done in Weymouth and a ship was driven across on to the rocks at Osmington Mills from her anchorage in Portland Roads.

Fig. 2 - View of lodmoor side of beach, showing damage to road and shingle promontories washed into Lodmoor © DCM

Fig. 2 – View of Lodmoor side of beach, showing damage to road and shingle promontories washed into Lodmoor © DCM

One of the most striking effects of the gale was in connection with the beach and road which run from Greenhill to the Preston Coastguard Station. This ridge of beach is, like the neighbouring Chesil Bank, raised a few feet above high-water mark, though not to the same extent as the latter, and is somewhat over a mile in length and about 40 yards in breadth, including the road. At about a quarter of a mile from Greenhill Gardens it begins to widen, and gets wider as it approaches Weymouth. The height at the old Gatehouse is about 7 feet above high-water mark, and at the point represented in Fig. 3, about a foot lower, the height falling gradually towards the Coastguard Station, near which point the ground rises suddenly and the beach entirely loses its peculiar character, becoming an ordinary sloping sea-beach. This also occurs where the ground rises at the Weymouth end. On the inner or land side lies Lodmoor, a marshy and very low tract of land which is generally flooded in the winter. The road to Preston from Weymouth runs along the land side of the beach, which rises 5 or 6 feet higher between it and the sea, whilst on the sea-side, near the Preston end, are still to be seen, at about the same level as the present road, portions of concrete, which formed the road many years ago. From this we may infer that the beach has been moving inland at a rate possibly approaching 2 to 3 feet in a year, but there do not seem to be sufficient data for accurate measurement. It would also seem probable, considering the effect of the storm of February last, that much, if not the whole, of the movement was caused by large steps in previous storms and was not the result of any gradual process, as except in very rough weather the waves do not nearly reach the top of the beach.

Fig. 3 - Men cleaning shingle from road about half way between old gatehouse and coastguard station after storm of Feb. 13th, 1899. Photo Feb 16th 1899 © DCM

Fig. 3 – Men cleaning shingle from road about half way between old gatehouse and coastguard station after storm of Feb. 13th, 1899. Photo Feb 16th 1899 © DCM

During the gale, an immense quantity of shingle was thrown over on to the road, covering it for the space of about half a mile of the Preston end to the depth of some feet ; in one place it is stated to have amounted to 6 ft., but usually the depth was about 3 feet. On the side of the road adjoining Lodmoor much damage was done in places by the scooping out of large hollows in the road, and down these hollows masses of shingle were poured, forming promontories projecting into Lodmoor. This is well shown in Fig. 2, where the lady (Mrs. Richardson) is standing at the middle of the road. This photograph was taken from the edge of one of the shingle promontories. Preston Coastguard Station is seen in the distance, and about midway lies a very long shingle promontory.

Fig. 1 is taken from the top of the beach and gives a general view of the whole, the road being quite invisible. In the distance is the Preston station, with the sea to the right and Lodmoor flooded to the left. Far away on the left of the beach are the men, about 80 in number, employed to clear the road.

Fig. 4 - Men cleaning shingle from road (nearer coastguard station than Fig.3). Shingle 3ft. deep or more over road.

Fig. 4 – Men cleaning shingle from road (nearer coastguard station than Fig.3). Shingle 3ft. deep or more over road.

Figs. 3 and 4. show the men employed in clearing away the shingle. Fig. 3 is taken at a spot about midway between the old gate house and the Coastguard Station, where the shingle was about 2 feet deep. Fig. 4 at a spot nearer Preston where the shingle was about 3 feet deep. It shows a bank of about 6 feet high thrown up on the sea-edge of the road, with the sea just visible over the top.

The whole of the movement of shingle and destruction of the road is said to have taken place early on the morning of Monday, February 13th, and to have been accomplished in the short space of half-an-hour. This may have been the case, considering that the full effect of the sea would only be felt whilst the tide was at its greatest height. No similar covering up of the road by shingle has occurred for many years, if ever, and the present one is confidently ascribed in many quarters to the erection of the new breakwater. In the absence of direct evidence on this point, it would seem that the very high tides and violent S.W. gale coming together might have been amply sufficient to cause the disaster, had the new breakwater not existed.

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Freak Weather in Dorset

Water Spout over Batcombe?

Water Spout over Batcombe?

We might think we have had some strange weather this year. However some strange and devastating storms have occurred in Dorset, as highlighted in the Anniversary Address of the President of the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club in 1891.

“A remarkable phenomenon in the shape of a waterspout occurred at High Stoy, the highest point of a range of hills between Melbury and Minterne, on the 7th of June last, about six o’clock p.m.

It followed the road which traverses the crest of the hill, tearing up the largest stones from its foundation. It was preceded by much thunder and lightning, but with little rain, during the previous afternoon. The column of water, which was described as being about the thickness of a man’s body, moved at a rapid rate in the direction of the axis of the hill range, shown by the devastation it occasioned.  Holes eight or nine feet deep were dug out in several part of the road, and an overwhelming stream hurled the material down the hill side. The Rev. A. J. Poole, of Stowell Rectory, in his description of it said there was no other evidence of the destructive effects of the waterspout neither on the other parts of the road nor on the surrounding land, and that the holes could not be assigned to the action of a storm, as the height.

The contents of the waterspout were poured out in its passage over Batcombe, Hannaford, and Chetnole on the west side ; Cerne and Minterne on the north. The tumultuous torrents poured down the hill side and took the course of a small stream, which soon overflowed its banks, carrying destruction to everything which opposed Its course.

At Hannnaford Mill much stock was drowned, and at Chetnole Mills the men had scarcely time to escape before they had reached the first floor.  Large trees were uprooted and carried down some distance by the force of the stream.

About a hundred yards of Major Wingfield Digbys gardenwall and his greenhouse were thoroughly wrecked.  Through his help several school children were promptly rescued from a watery grave.  The atmosphere disturbance in the neighbourhood were very excessive; thunder and lightning, accompanied with torrents of rain, occured at Cattistock in the afternoon of the 7th of June. At Melbury there was thunder and lightning without rain. A terrific thunder storm occurred at Langton Herring on the night of the 6th.

At Whatcombe there were heavy thunderstorms that night, which lasted until 11.30 p.m.; the rain was inconsiderable. Mr. G. T. Symons, F.R.S., the eminent meteorologist, regretted that the contents of the waterspout had not been tested so as to ascertain whether the water which supplied it was fresh or salt. Mr. Poole states a lady of his acquaintance saw a large waterspout a few years ago carried up from the sea with one of its spouts hanging over Batcombe Hill, which ultimately became absorbed in the clouds.”