As we were leaving Bridport in Dorset I persuaded the husband to take me down to nearby West Bay, in the hope of snapping a good picture of that amazing Jurassic cliff that featured in the ITV crime series Broadchurch, first aired in 2013.
It was a VERY short visit, but I snapped everything that didn’t move and some things that did.
I did enjoy the first series of Broadchurch, about the killing of a little boy in a small community and the police investigation that eventually revealed the murderer. It was one of those rare dramas that people all watch at the same time on TV to make sure they can chat with colleagues about it the next day without hearing spoilers. No one was recording it to view later. Sadly the second series was disappointing.
When I came home from Dorset a colleague who worked as an extra in Broadchurch gave me a leaflet, which showed where all the filming locations were. You can find a copy in PDF form online on this link. Of course by then it was too late and I had missed all the sights I should have been looking for. Anyway, here are my snaps and a bit of history…
But what of the real West Bay? It is also sometimes called Bridport Harbour, not surprisingly, as it started off as just that, the harbour for the town just a mile or so to the north.
According to Wikipedia Bridport needed to export the ropes and nets that were its main products, so built a man-made harbour quite near the town. The Anglo-Saxons and Normans had trouble keeping it open as it silted up with shingle from chesil beach and a succession of new harbours were built over the centuries, each in a slightly different place.
The harbour that remains today was constructed between 1740 and 1744. Two piers were built as far out as the low tide and the River Brit was diverted to run between them. When complete the harbour could hold 40 sailing ships. The wooden piers were rebuilt in stone around 1865.
By 1830 about 500 ships used the port every year, bringing in gravel, coal and timber as well as taking out ropes and nets. But the Great Western Railway’s Bridport Railway reached the town in 1857 and took away much of the harbour’s trade.
On 1884 the railway company extended its line from Bridport to the harbour and called the station West Bay in a bid to turn the place into a tourist resort.
Local businessmen such as Augustus Pitt Rivers (the great archaeologist) and the Earl of Ilchester had paid for the extension to the line and established a company to build accommodation for visitors. They only managed one terrace of 10 lodging houses, called Pier Terrace and designed in Arts & Crafts style by architect Edward Schroeder.
I always say if in doubt take pictures of pubs…
By the way, I found from one of the Broadchurch websites that the cast and crew actually stayed in the Bull Hotel in Bridport, a big blue-painted coaching house I noticed on my visit.
As more people had cars, new housing was built in West Bay but the railway line to Bridport closed to passengers in 1930. The station was restored in the 1980s and I think it may now be a cafe. There was also other regeneration work and house building in the second half of the 20th century.
A decade ago, as part of a coastal defence scheme, the harbour’s west pier was replaced and the east pier rebuilt. The new west pier is called the Jurassic Pier and opened in 2005. I must look out for that next time I visit.
Some more regeneration work took place at the same time, with the building of a housing development called Quay West on part of the old shipyard area on the west side of the harbour.
You can find the official West Bay visitor website here.
Although I think it is a pine of some sort, I am unable to work out the exact species, as I am hopeless with conifers. Can anyone out there help?
For much more about the area visit Sarah’s blog Down By The Sea, as she lives there!