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Fortuneswell North

Portland, Dorset

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This area shown by the red square at left includes much of Fortuneswell's shopping centre as well as the contrasting windswept slopes of the Verne Ramparts.

Across the centre of the photograph winds the zigzagging Verne Common Road and the large housing estate that sprawls up the hill to end at the Verne Prison.

The red dots mark the route of the Merchants' Railway.

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The Merchants Railway

Please click here for several old pictures of the Merchants Railway.


The view from the top of the Merchants Railway - point marked 'A' on the above photograph.

In late Victorian times this would have been a noisy bustling spot. Stone blocks would be converging all day on wagons pulled by horses to this spot from all over Tophill.  Please click here to go to many old pictures of this railway.

Men would struggle to transfer these blocks to special trucks using cranes. Once loaded the wagons would roll down the inclined railway. Each would have been connected by a cable to a similar empty wagon - the weight of stone on the descending truck pulling the empty truck to the top.

Three rails were used with a fourth at a passing place for the wagons half-way up the incline.

The railway used an usual gauge of 4 ft 6 inches compared with 4 ft 81/2 inches for mainline tracks. 


Another view of this now desolate spot where stone was transferred to the inclined railway.

Please click here for an old picture taken near this spot.



The new marina can be seen under construction in Portland Harbour in the right-hand picture taken in 2010.

A panoramic view of Fortuneswell from above Killicks Hill. Please use your horizontal scroll bar, if necessary, to see all this photograph when expanded to high resolution.



For a large number of old pictures of Fortuneswell please click here

Descending from the highest point on Portland near the Verne Prison we reach the main shopping route through Fortuneswell. 

This takes us past a wide variety of shops and other commercial properties. 

Some have changed hands many times, a few have survived unchanged for decades and a small number have been burned down - Portland is an amazingly inflammable place! In the late 1980s a takeaway shop and a greengrocers were the victims of arson - as have been many other buildings on Portland such as the Easton Scout Hall and the Portland FC Football Clubhouse.

This shop was for a great many years, the photographic business of Reg Vincent - a very familiar figure in Portland life.

T & P Foster's outfitters stood for a great many years in the centre of Fortuneswell but here we see the "CLOSING DOWN" signs in the window in 1989.
BUTTONS 'N' BOWS is now closed like so many specialist shops on Portland.
Orhan Veli seems to have been a fixture on the Island for decades running his excellent haircutting salon.


A fish and chip shop photographed in 1989 at the top of Queens Road - a steep road running down from Fortuneswell to Victoria Square.

Next door to Bob's Plaice was the famous Watch and Clock Repair Shop.

I loved going into this tiny shop although the number of occasions when I needed a clock repaired were very few.

The counter and display cases were packed with every sort of clock imaginable; all ticking away at different rates.

The Watch and Clock shop in October 2003 - sadly forlorn.

Knowing the state of the economy for Portland shops it is unlikely that this will reopen and it will probably be converted to a home - like so many Portland shops.

Portland Antiques occupied a site at the top of Queens Road known as Osborne Terrace.

Here we see it closed down in about 1990.

It stood empty for many years and was rebuilt as a private house. It is now impossible to recognise this as once having been a shop.

A typical shop that has changed hands very frequently. 

It stands almost opposite the public toilets in Fortuneswell which themselves mark the site of the well that gives this area its name.

The shop fronts are a mixture of old and new. Despite the increasing number of shops springing up to satisfy the desire of grockles * to buy any bit of cheap tat to take home from their holidays, some old traditional stores survive.

This excellent general store seems one place where you can buy anything from pet foods to bathroom accessories to flowers and vegetables.

*Grockles - a local name for holidaymakers.


The Regal Cinema, seen here in 1989, was built in 1932 and its front elevation reflects the period style. 

In the 1960s it seemed mainly to be for the rather specialised entertainment of sailors from the nearby Royal Navy Dockyard as it frequently showed steamy 'X' Certificate films.

The popular taste for such films seems to have waned because it became a popular Bingo Hall.

In the 1990s it had become 'Rumours Nightclub' and featured a large model aircraft hung from the ceiling of the dance floor.

Like so many other buildings on Portland, it caught fire one evening - like the greengrocer's shop and the Burmese takeaway almost opposite but on different nights!

The burned out hulk disfigured the shopping area until enough of it was demolished to reveal the church which had been hidden behind the monstrosity.

Eventually, the site was cleared and a small development of houses was built on the site.

Tastefully set back from the road, the church can now be seen in all its glory as visitors to Portland drive up the road towards the climb to Tophill.

For old views of this church please click here and here.

The church was shrouded in November 2005 for repairs and cleaning.

High above the back of the church is Ventnor Terrace.

A view south towards the church. The houses on the left were, until the late 1990s a row of shops. Please click here to see these shops about a century ago.


Almost opposite the site of the old cinema is Portland's smallest thoroughfare - Manor Place. In case you cannot see it, it's that gap next to "BUTTONS 'N' SEWS". It is less than thirty inches (750 mm) wide but serves several houses, some of which can be seen in the right-hand photograph looking up towards Fortuneswell shopping centre.


Another very narrow public road is Albert Terrace a short distance north of Manor Place.

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