The history of the site of Bridport Leisure Centre as a sport and leisure ground dates back to the establishment of Bridport Cricket Club in 1885, with sport continuing from then to the present day.

The ground was, and still is, owned by the Palmer family, and was gifted.

Before the installation of the swimming pool at the centre, and before other local pools became available, swimming was at West Bay. Learners would dangle from harnesses into the harbour.

Hockey started in the town around 1960 on the outfield of the cricket pitch and in 1976, the Bridport Hawks was formed.

There was no Bridport Rugby Club at the site until 1968 and if local people wanted to play, they would do so for Dorchester.

The catalyst that led to the facilities we see there now today was the installation of the squash courts.

Before, there was a private squash court at Loders which was used by permission of the late Lord Hood, however, Anthony Palmer made a site available by the Cricket Pavilion and two Banbury concrete courts were erected. These were financed by gifts and interested free loans from local enthusiasts.

This led to the creation of Bridport and West Dorset Sports Trust Ltd in 1975, which was registered as a charity, and a lease of the squash courts was granted to the trust.

It was Tony Palmer’s wish to provide sporting facilities in Bridport and an indication was given by West Dorset District Council that planning permission would be granted for residential development, on what is now Watton Park, if the proceeds were utilised to provide leisure facilities. Tony Palmer then transferred the undeveloped field, where Bridport Leisure Centre is now, to the trust as a charitable gift at a peppercorn rent.

The trust then obtained planning permission and sold the land to a developer. The sale was completed in 1984 and the original leisure centre was completed in 1986.

In 1983, residents pressed for Bridport to have its own heated indoor swimming pool and created the group BACIT. Members managed to raise £185,000 through a range of activities and events and persuaded West Dorset District Council to finance the building of a pool. Once it was completed it was handed over to the trust to be managed.

A cafe was also installed by the pool, which formally opened on September 4, 1994 by Sharron Davies MBE Olympic gold medal winner.

Bridport Rugby Club completed the construction of the Pavilion attached to the south-eastern flank of the sports hall in 1993 and it is run by the trust as part of the leisure centre.

Bridport and West Dorset Sports Trust was gifted the Hyde Real Tennis Courts at Walditch in 1995 by the late Joseph Gundry.

Cleeves Palmer had persuaded Joseph Gundry that the court could be saved if he were to leave it to the trust.

With the aid of grants and donations the courts were restored in January 1998 and in June of the same year, it was officially opened by Prince Edward.

It is now operated by the Hyde Real Tennis Club.

In 2012, the fitness suite at Bridport Leisure centre was improved and expanded and underwent an extensive refit in August 2017.

The leisure centre is now home to a number of clubs, including Bridport Barracudas, Bridport Rugby Club, Bridport Squash and Racketball Club and Bridport Open Badminton, amongst many others

It also hosts fundraising events and activities throughout the year, including Bridport Lions Club’s annual swimarathon, the Macmillan coffee morning and individual swimming and cycling fundraisers.

For more information on the services, clubs and activities it offers, visit