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Belmont; How should it be saved?

The Landmark Trust are pressing ahead with their fund raising campaign to save Belmont, the Lyme Regis home of John Fowles and Eleanor Coade. Their plans have raised some controversy and ITV are producing a feature about the house to be shown on The West Country Tonight. The Society has been asked to give its opinion of the plans and has willingly done so.

Belmont started life as a Georgian seaside villa and was owned by Eleanor Coade, the business woman and inventor of Coade Stone until her death in 1821. The building’s frontage is an excellent example of the use off the stone.

In 1883, the house was purchased by Dr. Richard Bangay who added two large wings, conservatories and an observatory. What remains of these can be seen in this picture of the rear of the property. A rare sight today due to the many trees in the garden.

Now for the controversy. The Landmark Trust propose to restore the house to its original status as a Georgian seaside villa by removing the Victorian wing and leaving the observatory as a free standing tower. Unsurprisingly, the Georgian Society were in favour whilst the Victorian Society were against the plan. Most concerningly, Sarah Fowles was also against the plan believing that John would not have wished to see the south-west wing demolished as it contained two of his favourite rooms. Last year, West Dorset District Council approved the plan which enabled the Landmark Trust to commence fund raising and this has now raised £550,000 about a quarter of what is needed.

The Society decided to support the Trust’s plan. we believe that it will provide the best way forward for Lyme Regis. The building is listed because of its connection with Eleanor Coade and restoring it to be as she knew it seems appropriate. The plan retains Dr. Bangay’s observatory and, most importantly, John Fowles’s writing room. The final building will be a holiday let for eight people and the Trust’s lets are generally very well used so it will bring plenty of holiday-makers into the town. A permanently open history centre will be created in the stable block and will celebrate the lives of Eleanor Coade and John Fowles. The trees in the rear garden will be reduced to allow the house to be seen from the Cobb and tourists arriving at Holmbush should get a view down across the garden to the sea.

The future of Belmont needs to be secured and, at a time when the town has been fighting for years to secure the future of The Three Cups Hotel, a realistic plan needs to be supported.

We do not know when the ITV feature on Belmont will be televised but will post a comment when we do.