Portland, Dorset


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Ferrybridge or Ferry Bridge - depending on who you talk to - is the entrance to the Royal Manor of Portland.

The only road between Portland and the Mainland passes over a bridge built in 1985 to replace a dangerously rusted iron bridge.

The water to the left of the picture is the start of The Fleet - a nature reserve which stretches all the way to Abbotsbury where a Swannery has existed since the 14th century, please click here for details.

To the right of Ferry Bridge is Portland Harbour.

Please click here for a close up Google Street View of this area.


Not strictly in Portland, the Ferrybridge pub is the last building in England before passing over the bridge that connects England to the Royal Manor of Portland.

This pub used to be known as the Royal Victoria Inn - confusing because the first pub on Portland had the same name!

The pub shown right has decayed over recent years and, in 2007, the pub sign seen at right fell off to reveal its former name.

Please click here for a picture taken in the early 1900s from this same viewpoint.

For an excellent account of the history, geology and wildlife around Ferry Bridge see "All About Ferry Bridge" written and published by Doug Hollings.

For superb 360 degree animated panoramas of the Ferrybridge area please click here and here then return to this page by using the BACK button on your browser.

The Island and Royal Manor of Portland starts here!

The water on the left (east) of Chesil Beach is very popular with windsurfers. 

The waters are shallow and catch the full blast of the south-westerly gales. However, the water stays relatively calm because it lies inside Portland Harbour.


The above picture is reproduced by kind permission of Stuart Morris from his book "Portland - An Illustrated History"  - see links for publication details.

Before 1839 there was no road connection between the Royal Manor of Portland and the rest of the world. The crossing was treacherous and people and animals were carried in a small boat between ropes slung across the gap.

Most Portlanders were little interested in travelling to Weymouth and beyond in any case. Even in the 1970s there were old Portlanders alive who had never left Portland. 

"Why should I? What's there for I?" 

was a response from one of them.

The short water crossing at the mouth of the Fleet was extremely dangerous and nobody braved that short trip unless essential. Matters came to a head with the Great Gale of 1824. Stuart Morris in his "Portland, An Illustrated History" writes:

"Richard Best, a ferryman with 30 years experience at Smallmouth Passage, struggled against the storm to rescue a horse, but was washed away and drowned. The Passage House, ferry boat and posts were destroyed, and the banks were eroded leaving the water channel four times its former width. A sand bar on which wagons and horses could drive at low water from Wyke Regis had also gone.

It was four days before any relief supplies could be brought from the mainland............the 70 ton sloop Ebenezer lost her mainsail, and a boy was swept overboard, but in the hurricane she ran directly for the Chesil Beach. The master jumped out too early and was drowned, but the other three hands clung on until the vessel was carried by the tremendous sea to the crest of the Beach, from where they were helped by the Islanders.......three months later she was hauled over the Beach and re-floated on the east side into the Roads...".

"The Great Gale of 1824 added weight to the long standing demands of Portlanders for a more reliable link with the mainland. Despite several public meeting little action was taken, and the Passage continued to be extremely dangerous. In 1827 a wagon and horses was lost whilst trying to ford what remained of the natural sand bar, and every gale completely stopped passengers, freight traffic, and mail. The Dorset County Chronicle of November 1827 commented: "Portland Fair, on the fifth inst., in consequence of the fine weather, was numerously attended.

There were about 60 head of cattle and a good supply of pigs and sheep. It is to be much regretted that there is not a bridge at the ferry, or a causeway higher up (so easily to be accomplished). The cattle were swum over the ferry, the pigs and sheep conveyed in the ferry boat. Portland suffers in every point of view from the want of land conveyance"

(The above is reproduced by kind permission of Stuart Morris from his book "Portland - An Illustrated History"  - see links for publication details.)

In 1839 the first bridge was built - an affair based on wooden trestles. Portlanders and Mainlanders (also known as Strangers or Kimberlins) could now intermingle.


The 'new' Ferry Bridge built in 1985.

The first building on Portland is the Chesil Beach Centre; a nature study centre with toilets and a cafe.

Please click here for more information about this area and Chesil Beach in general.

Alongside the only road between Portland and the Rest of the World ran a railway. This was stopped in the mid-1960s but its old path still runs between the road and Portland Harbour.

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