Welcome to my web site which contains maps, stories, history, advice and over 800 photographs to help you explore Portland, Dorset - The Jewel of the Jurassic Coast

Southern Chesil

Portland, Dorset


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The above image is copyright Dorset County Council 2000 and is reproduced here with permission.

This area covers Chesil Cove and the Esplanade. Close by are the wonderfully evocative Brandy Lane and Pebble Lane.

A few scenes from the 1980s are included here showing the foot of Fortuneswell High Street but the majority of pictures of the Chiswell area are in the next square north and most pictures of Fortuneswell High Street are in the next area east.

Please click here for a detailed map. Click the BACK button on your browser to return to this page.

Please click here to visit the satellite image of this area on Google Maps. Click the BACK button on your browser to return to this page.

Please click here to explore this area on Google Street View.

Chiswell has an excellent community website full of news, history and pictures. Please click here to go there.

There are nearly fifty old pictures of this area to be seen by clicking here.

Please go to the Northern Chesil page (click the 'N' arrow above) to see pictures of floods in Chesil.

For an incredible 360 degree panoramic views from Chesil Cove please go to




The many reincarnations of the cafe at the bottom of High Street.

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In the late 1980s the China Chef takeaway stood where an Indian takeaway later existed. Next door was the Blue Ribbons trophy shop - also now closed. Then, in 2002 the Indian Takeaway closed its doors - here it is pictured boarded up.

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 In June 2003 cafe became The Kohinoor Cafe. In 2004 this shop had another change when it became Cafe India and in 2009 it transformed yet again in the Balti.

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Looking up Fortuneswell High Street in 2007 from Chesil. 

For a picture matching the left-hand view a century ago please click here.

For a picture matching the right-hand view a century ago please click here.

Some ancient derelict cottages stood for many years in High Street near the junction with Mallams. In the late 1980s these were renovated and converted into very desirable homes. However, it is a shame that old stone tiled cottages are disappearing. They represent a way of life now almost vanished.

The two left-hand pictures were taken in the late 1980s and the renovated cottage at right was pictured in 2010

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A pair of derelict cottages restored sympathetically - pictured in 1989 and 2010



The Captain's House as renovated in the late 1990s. A remarkable conversion such that the visitor would never guess the strange stories that have abounded concerning its past.

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 The 'Captain's House' as it stood for over one hundred years before being rebuilt.

There are two stories concerning the history of this unfinished house which stood for over a century in Chiswell. One was that it belonged to a sea captain who was building this house for his fiancée. However, she died and, in his grief, he left the house unfinished.

The alternative is that it belonged to the notorious Dr Motyer who was a quack exploiting the Portlander's ignorance of medicine. He sold 'cures' for witchcraft and scared the locals around Mallams with unearthly sounds and screams at night.

I published an account of the Captain's House and the reason for its sad state in the Free Portland News, issue dated August 1990. This is reproduced here as a 'true' account of the building.

Known variously as the 'Doctor's House' or the 'Captain's House', I can now reveal that it was originally owned by the infamous Dr. Motyer whom Stuart Morris describes in his illustrated History of Portland as a quack and a conjuror. Reg Perry has shown me a photograph dating from the mid-1800s which clearly shows the building with a roof. However, it was derelict by the turn of the 19th century.

In fact, Dr Motyer was one of the last alchemists who worked to turn iron and lead into gold. He was feared by all who lived close by because of his weird chemical experiments. 

One fateful night in March 1868, residents of Underhill were shaken from their beds by a fantastic explosion. They ran out in their night attire to see the old doctor's house blown to bits. The roof was totally gone and only a few cracked walls were left standing. 

By the light of the following dawn a fantastic sight was seen by locals. The fatal explosion must have culminated in the doctor's alchemical success since the entire area around Artist's Row, Mallams and Kings Street was speckled with gold.

There were chaotic scenes as the locals dug and sieved every square inch of their gardens. It was like the Klondike with small pouches of gold dust being legal tender at the old Sun Inn in Fortuneswell. Locals kept this affair a closely guarded secret from strangers - i.e. those from Tophill - lest there be any claim jumping.

This is why it has been difficult for me to find the facts surrounding this true story. 

The doctor died 'in testate' - hardly surprising in view of the force of the explosion - and so the house had to remain in its present decaying state until a distant relative could be found.

Brandy Row, which runs down to Chesil Cove from the High Street and 'Brandy Lane' give us a strong clue as to the activities that went on around here long ago.

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The southern end of Chiswell where the road rises to meet the esplanade. 

In Victorian days this would have looked quite different with unstable fisherman's houses perched on shifting shingle.

Even with the modern beach protection, floods sometimes still roar down this road and the houses have sandbags and flood gates always ready.

Until the 1980s the garage with its doors open had a faded sign saying that this was the home of the Weymouth Perfume Company - and odd business in such a place.

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Left - Artsmiths printing works a few weeks before a runaway lorry smashed into the print shop and destroyed it in the late 1980s. Luckily this part of the building was unoccupied.

The extension this side of the house has not been rebuilt after the accident - see the view at right in April 2010.


Chiswell's Esplanade.

In Victorian times and earlier fishermen built their houses on this ridge of pebbles - could there have been a more precarious place to live?

Now the sea is held back - most of the time - by this huge defensive wall.

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The following six photographs were kindly supplied by Colin and Sharon Harvey.

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 It shows one of the many wrecks that occurs along this part of the Chesil coastline.

This picture was taken before the Esplanade was built and it can be seen that this was a popular bathing beach - even if there was a huge ship stranded nearby!

A very rare picture - snow laying on the Esplanade at Chesil. 

This photograph was taken in the severe winter of 1979.

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68073037.jpg (41969 bytes) The view looking south along the Esplanade at Chesil.

Despite the severe weather, fishermen are preparing their boats on the beach.

The West Weares covered with a sprinkling of snow.

This might only be seen on average about once a decade.

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68073033.jpg (68840 bytes) Better weather for fishing.

Notice the ridges of stones formed by successive storms.


A stormy day with waves breaking over the Chesil Esplanade in the mid-1980s. 68073039.jpg (29060 bytes)
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Here are the pathetic remains of a fisherman's cottage. Once this was a large thatched building with two floors. The right-hand pictures shows the same cottage in Victorian times.

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

Comparing the layout of the stone blocks, especially down the left-hand of the left door, confirms that these pictures are indeed of the same cottage. It can also be seen in the picture below.

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The above picture is reproduced by kind permission of Stuart Morris from his book "A Portland Camera"  - see links for publication details. Another picture of this cottage can be seen by clicking here.

This area of Portland has been savagely ravaged by storms over the centuries and the above cottages were destroyed by storms in Victorian times. See in particular 


which has gripping tales of the 'Great Tempest' of 1824.

This mirror in the Portland Museum was in the upstairs room of a cottage in Chiswell when it got flooded. 

You can see how the seawater rose one-third of the way up the mirror!

Also read "Big Ope - Little Dreams" by John Matthews published by Artsmiths of Portland in 1990. 

On page 26 John described a storm when he was a child that was so severe that waves broke onto the cottage roof and water poured down the chimney and roared through the house.

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A former pub near the foot of High Street still showing (faintly) that it belongs to the brewer John Groves of Weymouth. For an old picture of this pub please click here.

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For a very old picture showing this same view please click here. This shows a grand house where the cars are now parked. For a very old picture showing this same view please click here. It is difficult to imagine the kind of life lived by the families who lived in the old house where the hut now stands.
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The view north along Chesil.

For an old picture matching this view please click here.

The view looking up Mallams - 2010


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Many Portlanders thought they would never see this sculpture completed. It was commissioned in 1988 and took six years and £250,000 to complete.

It consists of five low walls representing the relationship of the sea and the coastline with each wall representing a different strata of rock.

It has been highly praised internationally and is seen above during construction and then when completed in all its glory.

Please click here and here for old pictures showing this area before the esplanade was built.


Walking south along the esplanade we come to an asphalt path heading south. Until recently there was a sign warning of adders at that point. The asphalt path deteriorates into a scramble over rough ground until a small stony cove is reached. This is popular for summer barbeques and bathing. Beyond that cove is a large mound of rock and earth known locally as the 'Green Hump'.

This area was known as Hallelujah Bay because, in the 1880s, Hiram Otter painted and carved religious texts on the rocks in this area. 

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My photograph at left shows the faint outline of the letters JESSU carved into the foreground boulder.  Was this left by Hiram over one hundred years ago?

However, by 2010 the inscription above right had obliterated the original so maybe we will now never know whether Hiram carved the original.

Family information on Hiram Otter can be found by clicking here

Hiram Otter is in the centre of the back row in the picture seen here

Please click here for pictures of the Otter family from Portland.

Above - an ammonite peeks out of the rock near the Esplanade

Spot the Bunny!

This path has been subject to extensive landslips - the example here happened in the early 1990s.

In fact, the Council seems to have given up maintaining a footpath because of the obvious instability of the scree slopes over which it passes.

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The above picture shows the small cove at the end of the footpath just before the 'Green Hump looking south.

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Above - a panoramic view of the 'Green Hump' looking north.

Below - four pictures which capture the sweeping cliffs above the Green Hump. On top of these cliffs passes the South West Coastal Path

Below - four more pictures showing the path that runs from the Esplanade to the Green Hump. This has changed its course many times die to landslips.



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