by Alex Evans
ARTWORK: Duel ARTIST: Alex Evans
Bobbing around in the middle of Hope Square, five barrel-shaped pieces of Portland stone, guarded by two duelling crabs, offer passers-by a place to sit and rest. The barrels tip a wink at the former Devenish brewery that towers over them, and emerge from a dark ‘pool’ of Caithness sandstone, in a reference to the long local tradition of smuggling and the brandy barrels that used to be hidden beneath the Dorset waves.
The crabs add an extra touch of humour, but also celebrate the holidaymakers catching crabs along the harbour in the summer months. They also have a hidden message, for during the English Civil War, Royalist supporters in the town used the code-word ‘Crabchurch’ to identify each other in what became known as the Crabchurch conspiracy.
Alex Evans studied stonemasonry in Weymouth and worked for several building conservation firms before setting up Stoneform with fellow designer and letter-carver Zoë Cull. Based in West Dorset, they collaborate on public and private commissions, applying a contemporary design aesthetic to an age-old craft.
Location Hope Square/Brewers Quay, Cove Street DT4 8TR
Hope Square stands at the heart of what was originally the separate little town of Weymouth, and once overlooked an inlet from the harbour, which probably ran inland as far as the site of the Red Lion pub. The older houses on Hope Street and Trinity Street would once have stood right next to the water, but the inlet was largely filled in by the 18th century, and Cove Street was built along its length.
Today Hope Square is dominated by the grand Edwardian buildings of the Devenish Brewery, but it’s likely that there brewing has taken place on the site for centuries. Up until the mid-20th century there were two rival breweries in Hope Square: Devenish, which took over the older Flew Brewery in 1824, and Groves & Sons, which opened in 1840. The latter was taken over by Devenish in 1960, but in 1985 Devenish itself closed down, and its various buildings were converted into housing and the Brewer’s Quay shopping centre. That in turn closed down in 2010, followed by a short-lived antiques emporium. The main buildings today stand empty and forlorn, awaiting new plans for their redevelopment.
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