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
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
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.
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.