In an article by Ed Baker of Weymouth News in Massachusetts, USA, which was posted by GateHouse News Service on Jul 14, 2010 @ 02:51 PM our friends from across the pond write:
As local residents celebrated the nation’s independence on July 4, their counterparts in Weymouth, England were celebrating the 80th birthday of a drawbridge that is raised to let large ships pass to an inner harbor like the Fore River Bridge.
“We sent a citation to Weymouth, England,” Mayor Susan Kay said. “They had a big celebration for the bridge.”
Weymouth, England is a sunny seaside resort on the English Channel coast with a population of approximately 63,000. The census also includes Portland, an adjoining town or borough.
Weymouth, Massachusetts’s connection to the “Town Bridge,” as it is called across the pond, began when English officials dedicated the span after it was built in 1930.
“There is a plaque on our bridge that reads ‘Good wishes from the people of Weymouth, Massachusetts,”” wrote Amy Maslin, a communications officer with the Weymouth & Portland Borough Council, in a letter to Kay.
She said that George Barnes, a Town Meeting moderator and a local attorney represented Weymouth, Massachusetts to their namesake during the opening ceremony of the Town Bridge in 1930.
“There is a cornerstone there that says ‘From Weymouth in New England to Weymouth in Old England,’” Kay said.
Maslin said that the stone was fashioned in Weymouth, Massachusetts.
“The Town Bridge plays a vital role in our local infrastructure and it is important not to overlook the hard work that goes into maintaining and operating this facility throughout the year,” she said.
The celebration of the Town Bridge’s birthday began with pop concerts by local bands on the evening of July 3 that were similar to the Fourth of July observance at George Crane Beach hours later
A fireworks display over the Fore River capped the local Fourth celebration, but the party in Weymouth, England was just warming up.
Officials across the Atlantic staged a Spirit of the Sea Festival from July 3-11 that featured local band performances on Weymouth’s seashore from 3:30 until 10 p.m.
An exhibition at the Weymouth Harbour Board office featured photographs of the Town Bridge, memorabilia, and written memories of the span during the eight-day celebration.
The observance ended with a flotilla of decorated vessels that sailed under the Town Bridge and a musical tribute by a Weymouth, England sea cadets band.
“Weymouth’s Town Bridge has been an iconic landmark of this town for nearly a century,” wrote Peter Farrel, chairman of the Weymouth Harbour Board. “The bridge plays a key role our history, and it was built in 1597 when Queen Elizabeth I ordered the feuding boroughs of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis to unite.”
The Dorset Page, a county historical account of Weymouth, England, notes that Queen Elizabeth I united the town with Melcombe Regis because both communities were bitter rivals while competing for commerce.
Melcomebe Regis is also believed to be where The Black Death plaque arrived in England in 1348 from two ships that had docked there.
The Black Death claimed nearly a third of Europe’s population during 1348 and 1350 largely because little was understood about basic hygiene and how germs spread.
Weymouth, England played a major role during the invasion of France in World War II.
The town served as a debarkation point for the U.S. 1st Infantry Division and Army Raner units that landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day.
A memorial plaque in Weymouth, England states that 517,816 U.S. troops and 144,093 vehicles departed from the shores between June 6, 1944 and May 7, 1945, when the war ended.
“After the war, some Americans stayed in England because they liked the country,” said Ted Clarke, a local resident and chairman of the Weymouth Historical Commission.
He said that Weymouth, England is the sailing capital of England.
“It looks a lot bigger than Weymouth here,” Clarke said. “I’ve seen pictures of the Town Bridge.”
He said that Weymouth, Massachusetts attracted English settlers from its counterpart because it had became a fishing and ship port when colonists from Plymouth migrated to the shoreline near the Fore River to found Wessagusset.
Clarke said that these colonists brought their fishing and ship building skills with them when they settled near Great Hill.