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Weymouth Timewalk PART IIII: Derelict Sets and Dormant Dummies

With new CD technology in the 1980s, Weymouth's Timewalk attraction had a huge amount of flexibility when it came to audio. Project Director Roger Dalton reveals that by using this technology, they could run Timewalk tours in multiple languages. “This was a great selling point at the time. We could run one tour in English, the next tour could be German and the next tour could be French, and they could all be going around the different scenes in their own home language.” Some language students would even go through with their own language, only to go round a second time with the language they were learning!

“There was a huge bank of CDs in the control room; the building manager was very good electronically and was able to understand it. There were breakdowns sometimes and we had to make sure every bulb was live, as the lighting was all in sequence. The smell machines would be topped up regularly, every week or month.”

Pictures by John Ward

This careful synchronisation of technology was important on sets like that of the Civil War, where two different scenes took place and involved audio, lighting and projected images.

1643: Civil War

Top: Designs by John Sunderland; Bottom: A picture by Senem Cakiroglu

We hear rioting outside the windows, through which flames can be seen. A Royalist soldier has broken into a family home and the daughter is heard crying.

Immediately after the Timewalk closed, I went on a hunt to find out where I could acquire a memento. Thankfully, Weymouth Museum was storing most of the figures in an old brewery space (some filling huge vats). The Collection Manager David Riches, who provided me with much of the material for this project, allowed me to purchase some of the figures. Due to their wonderful outfits and expressions, I chose to take the characters from this scene!

Marmaduke Dance the cat hides in a bucket; we don't see him much but his design is incredibly appealing.

Clockwise from left: A picture by Chris Tyas, a design by John Sunderland, a picture from the Weymouth Museum archive

“When will be the end to this unholy civil war?”

Although windows and doors are missing, and naturally the props and figures too, the walls of this set remain intact:

Picture by Liam Findlay

1600s: Portland Stone

The lights go down on the civil war scene. The mysterious music and bell toll plays each time the scene changes, and in this case, a spotlight appears over another cat in the same room.

“'Go and catch a birdie' says my darling master Christopher. 'Catch a birdie'! Perrywinkle Lydd, a London courtier pussycat belonging to the rightfully famous architect Sir Christopher Wren does not catch birdies!”

Left: John Sunderland's design of Perrywinkle; Bottom Right: A picture by Chris Tyas

Perrywinkle's creation

Perrywinkle explains how the locals on Portland are cutting stone which is to be shipped into London and used for rebuilding after the Great Fire. The two stonecutters look out of a window through which images are projected.

Top: A design by John Sunderland; Bottom: A picture by Senem Cakiroglu

The projection window has now been torn out, allowing access to two very small rooms behind, where projection and lighting technology would have been.

Picture by Liam Findlay

1805: King George III

Top: A design by John Sunderland; Bottom: A picture by Senem Cakiroglu

To the sound of elegant strings, visitors enter an immaculate set where King George III entertains guests in finely detailed outfits at his Gloucester Lodge by the sea. The ballroom is a striking contrast to the dim, odious scenes up to this point.

Clockwise from top: A design by John Sunderland, a picture by Stuart Morris, a picture by Senem Cakiroglu

“Don't they all look lovely? Just look at his Royal Highness there in the ruby velvets.”

The maid cat Mildred Tibbs, whose head and both arms move, explains how the King enjoys visiting Weymouth. A huge curtain then opens at the opposite end of the room and a library is revealed upon a stage. Here, the King prays as Mildred continues narrating.

A picture by Loz Hurley

When I recently looked around the Timewalk remains, I was surprised to see how the ballroom is still there, albeit resembling a long-abandoned, decrepit mansion.

My guide Roger Dalton showed me where the library stage had been removed and, looking through a space where the floor used to be, he pointed out just how far down the actual ground is. To allow easy access, some of the sets like the ballroom were built high above the ground within the cavernous brewery rooms.

Pictures by Liam Findlay

Due to their quality, Weymouth Museum kept some ballroom dancers which can now be found on display:

Picture by Liam Findlay

Before entering the ballroom, we passed a real stone bath which belonged to the King. The next room features King George in the sea with an authentic 'bathing machine'.

Top: A design by John Sunderland; Bottom: A picture by Senem Cakiroglu

There is still a sea in this part, but it's a sea of debris!

Picture by Liam Findlay

The final part of our journey takes us to the end, where we shall learn more about the 1999 updates, why the attraction closed and what happens next.

In case you missed any of the previous articles in this project, Part I, Part II and Part III can be found here!

Unless otherwise stated, imagery in this article is from the Weymouth Museum archive. All concept designs are also stored there.

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