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Fortuneswell North

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This area includes the northern part of Fortuneswell's shopping centre as well as the contrasting windswept slopes of the Verne Ramparts.

Across the centre of the area zigzags Verne Common Road and the large and rather boring housing estate that sprawls up the hill to end at the Verne Prison’s northern entrance.

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

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 view the Google Street View images of this area. Click the BACK button on your browser to return to this page.

Please click here to see a large scale late Victorian map of this area. Click the BACK button on your browser to return to this page.

There is an excellent article on Fortuneswell here.

In the late 18th century the village was small and contained only 10% of Portland’s population. It greatly expanded in Victorian times when houses were built in large numbers to house workers from the mainland who came to Portland to service the Royal Naval Dockyard and the prisons.

Fortuneswell’s older buildings are described in Eric Ricketts’ book “The Buildings of Old Portland”.

Please use this table to navigate around this page

NORTH FORTUNESWELL

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SHOPS OF NORTH FORTUNESWELL [1]

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THE ROYAL MANOR THEATRE [2]

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MEISSNER’S KNAP [3]

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A FATAL TRACTION ENGINE ACCIDENT

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OSBORNE PLACE [4]

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CASTLE ROAD [5]

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VERNE COMMON ESTATE [6]

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NORTHERN END OF MERCHANTS’ RAILWAY [7]

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ANOTHER OF MY HOBBIES

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NORTH FORTUNESWELL

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In this view from 1989 St John’s Church is hidden behind the Regal Cinema which had a curious history ending up with being burned down in the 1990s. Both the cinema and the church are described on the website page south of this one - please click here.

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 The burning down of the old cinema greatly improved the view of the church as seen above.

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This is the area we are going to explore on this website page starting at St John’s Church whose wall is on the right supporting my bike. The ‘New Star’ is on the left with the Royal Manor Theatre in the distance. This photograph was taken in 2006.

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The above old photograph shows the area we are about to explore as it was a century ago.

Looking north from St John’s Church, which is on the right, we see The New Star pub on the left, shops on the right - now converted into houses - and the old church further on which is now the Royal Manor Theatre.

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This picture shows stone being transported down Fortuneswell just below St. Johns church. The engine was Fowler no. 15657, FX6661 named "KITCHENER".

This engine was the star of the film “Iron Maiden” - please click here to read about the film.

The story of the traction engine’s starring role in the film can be seen by clicking here. There is a picture of the restored engine taken in 2007 which can be seen here.

There is another recent picture here showing the engine looking magnificent.

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A general view of the scene north of St John’s Church in 2006 showing Fortuneswell’s magnificent Christmas decorations. That had shoppers from the mainland clamouring to come and shop in Fortuneswell!

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Almost opposite the site of the old cinema is Manor Place which is less than thirty inches (750 mm) wide but serves several houses, some of which can be seen in the photograph above right looking up towards Fortuneswell shopping centre.

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A typical passageway leading off the main road.

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SHOPS OF NORTH FORTUNESWELL [1]

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These houses, shown above and below just a short distance north of St John’s Church, were once shops.

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These old shops are shown below.

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On the left was D. Lawrence, The Butcher and Government Contractor. They also had a branch in Easton. The shop’s telephone number was Portland 71.

We will now explore northwards towards Victoria Gardens.

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Another small individual shop that closed shortly after I took this picture in 1990.

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Buttons ‘N Bows was converted into a house after it closed and was the building in the left-hand side of this picture.

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Further north down the main road is Orhan Veli’s hairdressing salon seen here in 2003.

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The pair of shops in 2015.

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This old shop has been remembered by Portlanders as a bicycle shop and also Wright’s Hairdressers. It closed before I started systematically photographing Portland’s vulnerable shops in 1989.

It is also remembered as a Second-Hand shop and Reg Vincent’s photographic shop before he moved to a corner shop opposite the bank in Fortuneswell.

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"BOB'S PLAICE"

The art of giving witty names to fish and chip shops is not a new trend. In Weston we have ‘The Codfather’ - and so on.

Bob’s shop was photographed in 1989 at the top of Queens Road - a steep road running down from Fortuneswell to Victoria Square.

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Next door to the fish and chip shop was the ‘Watch and Clock Repair Shop’. I have vivid memories of taking clocks and watches into this tiny shop. Customers were surrounded by ticking clocks and the amiable proprietor would inspect the mechanism of a clock bought in with an eyeglass and pronounce that it could be repaired - whatever the challenge.

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Perhaps inevitably, the introduction of modern digital technology in watches and clocks took its toll on this business. This picture is from 2003.

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Here we see site of ‘Bob’s Plaice’ and the ‘Watch and Clock Repair’ shop in 2015.

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ROYAL MANOR THEATRE [2]

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The Royal Manor Theatre is located in a deconsecrated Primitive Methodist Hall in Fortuneswell which was built in 1869 by James Kerridge.

There is a detailed description of the church and the history of the Royal Manor Theatre Company here.

The Royal Manor Theatre Company was founded in 1947 and performed at many local halls until the chapel conversion was completed in 1978 and this became the Company’s permanent home.

The theatre’s website is here. This is a very lively venture and attracts performers from all over the UK as well as hosting local drama and pantomime groups. It is well worth visiting and enjoying its shows.

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This picture show me (as the King of Hearts) with friends going to see the 2006 pantomime at the Royal Manor Theatre. It was a great evening!

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MEISSNER’S KNAP [3]

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‘Portland Antiques’ stood at ‘Meissner’s Knap’ where Queen’s Road joins the main road through Fortuneswell. Pictured here in 1989 the doors had just closed for the last time.

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The antiques shop in 2015. The name of a previous owner is still to be seen in a mosaic at the old shop entrance.

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The spot is known as “Meissner’s Knap” because it was where Dr Meissner lived. A dispensary was founded on Portland in 1830 funded privately by King William IV and later by Queen Victoria whose purpose was to provide free medical aid to Portland’s poor inhabitants.

Stuart Morris describes in his excellent book “Portland - An Illustrated History” how Dr Meissner was the first surgeon and was much loved and respected throughout Portland. However, when he died suddenly in 1840 an appeal was made for support to his “desolate widow and five friendless children” who were living in a state of total destitution.

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A FATAL TRACTION ENGINE ACCIDENT

In 1921 a terrible fatal accident occurred at this spot. A traction engine taking a load of stone to Castletown ran away and hit the wall which stood where the railings are now situated.

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This is the view of the accident as would have been seen standing where the Antiques Shop later was located.

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Traction engine driver George White was crushed to death to death by his load after a pinnion broke on 25th July 1921. The engine was F J Barnes Fowler number 8839. The registration was FX 6600 and named ‘SPHINX’.

An account of this accident can be read here and it is clear that a safety pin which should have been used to lock the gear change lever had not been used and it was found in the coal bunker. The engine ran away with the cart swinging violently shedding blocks of stone as the engine careered at increasing speed to its fatal collision with a wall.

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OSBORNE PLACE [4]

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The top of Queen’s Road showing Osborne Hall. This has the date 1889 carved above the door.

To the right of the hall is one of those tiny passages which give access to houses. 

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CASTLE ROAD [5]

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In the days when the Royal Navy was situated in Portland this was known as the Captain’s House. It is now an Outlooks Centre - see here for more details.

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In the 1990s the police station was converted to private housing.

The adjacent land was developed for new housing in Fortuneswell in 1989.

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VERNE COMMON ESTATE [6]

I have been unable to find anything worth describing or photographing on the Verne Common Estate.

However, the Merchants’ Railway passes through this estate which is a small redeeming factor.

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THE MERCHANT’S RAILWAY [7]

The track of the Mechants’ railway rises through the Verne Common Estate to the top of the hill. It passes under Verne Common Road near to the northern entrance to the Verne Prison.

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This old postcard shows how the Merchant’s Railway climbing up over an area now covered with the Verne Common Estate.

Opened in 1826, the Merchant’s Railway transported stone down from the quarries until the late 1930s. By this time road transport had made the old incline redundant.

The railway track is now just a memory represented by a few stone sleepers on which the rails were carried.

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The above photograph shows the stones that carried the rails. The holes indicate where iron pegs were driven into the stones to hold the rails.

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This picture shows a surviving iron peg. Maybe this is an original from 1829?

The railway was built to a gauge (distance between the inside faces of the rails) of 4 feet 6 inches which may well be unique in the UK. The modern standard of 4 feet 81/2 inches was not imposed in the UK until 1892 although it had first been used in 1825.

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This old picture shows a truck loaded with stone descending under the force of gravity shackled to a cable which also bought up the empty trucks.

The cross-over point is half-way down the incline and can just be seen.

The fields on either side are now covered by the Verne Common Estate.

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A modern view from the top of the incline looking down to Castletown.

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The bridge which carries Verne Common Road over the abandoned Merchants’ Railway track.

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ANOTHER OF MY HOBBIES

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In 2014 at the age of 75 I started a new hobby - writing books. These are available as paperbacks and free ebooks. 

Please click here for details. All have been very well received; so far gathering all ‘five star’ reviews apart from one ‘four star’ review.

I also have many other websites covering a wide range of interesting topics. These can be visited by clicking here.

 

 

 

Keywords Fortuneswell Royal Manor Theatre Bob’s Plaice fish and chips Orhan Veli hairdresser Portland Dorset