A couple of months ago the Lyme Regis Society (LRS) received an enquiry via its website. A wood and brass lectern had been found in the boiler room at Woodroffe School and the school was trying to find out the provenance of that item. Lecterns were regularly seen in churches and schools, used to rest bibles, books or written speeches on whilst the person stood behind and addressed the audience. This particular lectern also had two plaques attached to its wooden base, one on top which read:
‘1939-1945 In memory of the old boys of the school who gave their lives for their Country”
And underneath the base another plaque was discovered:
‘To the glory of God and in loving memory of Emily Mary Styan, who, for more than fifty years living in this parish, taught in the schools, and aided in all the charities. “With good will doing service, as to the Lord”. Died March 28th 1881.’
So the society had a mystery to solve, although the lectern had a plaque relating to ‘boys’ that had served in the Second World War it also referenced a local teacher from the 19th century.
With the help of the Museum the society was able to establish that the lectern may well have been one of a pair featured in a 1930s postcard which shows two lecterns either side of the altar in the Peek Memorial Chapel, which is part of the Alexandra Hotel.
The 1851 census has Emily Styan, an unmarried niece, living with the Aveline family on Broad Street. She was associated with St Michael’s House just doors up from the Chapel, and she died in 1881 in Worthing. The Peek Chapel was built in 1884. Could she have left money or a family donor bought the lectern and/or plaque in her memory?
Heather Britton, the LRS Chairperson liaised with Dan Watts, the headmaster of Woodroffe School and Kathryn Haskins, the owner of the Alexandra Hotel, to agree a transfer of the lectern. Woodroffe offered to gift the lectern to the Alexandra Hotel for use in their Peek Chapel which hosts weddings and celebrations.
On Wednesday 11th May the lectern was formally handed over to the Alexandra Hotel and placed in the Peek Chapel where it immediately looked at home.
There is one more twist to this tale; the day before the handover Heather was talking to an attendee of the Grammar School, founded by Alban Woodroffe in the 1930s, now Woodroffe School. He could remember Major Pearn, the headmaster using the lectern on the stage in the main hall.
The research continues and you can read the full article in the LRS’ next edition of their members’ newsletter ‘All Over The Town’ out in July.