Author Archives: Keith Shaw

Bernard Spencer – RIP

We are very sorry to need to relate the death of Bernard Spencer, the Society’s President and former Chairman. In the period since he stood down from his role as Chairman at the 2011 AGM, Bernard has struggled with illness and succumbed to it on the 8th December.

It is difficult to overstate what Bernard did for the Society in the years after he attended his first meeting, with the intent of joining the Society but in fact being elected as Treasurer. The best way to give an idea of what he acheived may well be to use his own understated words.
In his final Chairman’s report in the March 2011 edition of the Society’s Newsletter, Bernard wrote:

“A resumé of my eleven years as Treasurer and Chairman.

2000 – My first visit to join the LRS committee produced an announcement from the then Chairman. “It is with regret I have to report that the Society is facing considerable difficulties,” then three of the committee stood down. An inauspicious start. Clearly the priority was to increase membership. On the plus side an Honour was awarded to member Lawrence Whistler, a glass engraver of World renown. Mary Bohane joined as Secretary and the first moves to raise the Society profile began. We had a float in the Carnival Procession and came first in our category. (actually, we were the only entry). Having joined as Treasurer, I restarted checking Footpaths.
2001 – Molly designed and painted a Tourist Map of the town paid for by advertisements. We also researched the town’s historic plaques and later printed a free book, supplies of which were gone before the year ended. At a ceremony in London, the Lyme Regis Society was chosen by the Civic Trust from 900 Civic Societies for a Best Improvement Award. The committee agreed to start a fund raising campaign for a stone seat commemorating the late Dr Joan Walker, a stalwart of the Society and famous for her pioneering work in the treatment of diabetes. In November we won second prize in a Fire Sculpture competition organised by the Carnival Committee. Our entry was Judge Jeffreys. He was recently resurrected from the Museum cellar.
2002 – Jean Smith retired as Chairman and I took over, with Molly acting as Caretaker Treasurer. We produced a sixty-page book on the town’s historic plaques which we called Signs of History. Fifteen new members joined the Society. We made our first approach to Palmers about the empty Three Cups Hotel.
2003 – Search was on for a Skateboard Park, a use for Strawberry Fields, and the Development Trust became interested in Woodbury Down for a study centre. The Society was pressing Palmers for action on the Three Cups Hotel. The Society’s Town Map had sold 2,000 copies. The new Signs of History sold 1,000 copies. The stone seat in memory of Joan Walker was installed with a short ceremony attended by the Mayor and the Chairman of the District Council. The Society’s President, Ron Arnold, died.
2004 – We made representations to Dorset Council over inadequate repairs to Horn Bridge. Committee decided to open the Guildhall in support of the Europewide Heritage Open Days. Molly and I researched and produced a book listing the local Devon and Dorset paths, calling it Roaming Lyme’s Landscape. The Town Map sold out and was reprinted. Lyme Regis invited a successful visit from Chester Civic Society. Lyme News printed a full page feature on the Society.
2005 – Instead of a December lecture the Society held a Social at the Woodmead Hall, clearly enjoyed by all who attended. A Strawberry Tea was organised at the Alexandra to celebrate our 70th Anniversary. Site meeting with English Heritage over Horn Bridge but Dorset CC inflexible. Society replaces plaque on Morgan’s Grave, joined by a fair sized crowd watching a ceremony by Barbara Austin and Reverend Keith Vivian. Molly and I had a site meeting with John Peake, Chairman of Dorset, over the Three Cups.
2006 – Delighted the bridge to the Mill, first suggested by the Society, was in operation and the Mill and Museum planning a wide series of artistic events. Our contacts with Harvard University elicit they are mystified why Lyme Regis neglects Thomas Hollis, whom they consider is our most famous citizen. We have helped provide two table tennis tables for Young Peoples Club.
2007 – A new Editor for the Newsletter, John Marriage, who has revamped the operation and produced an eye catching edition. Members of the Society are helping collect information for the Shelters Project. Molly and I are working on a plan for the Town Council Beach Huts to be painted in Sugared Almond colours. Plaque to commemorate Engineer Percy Gilchrist mounted on the wall at Cobb Gate.
2008 – Massive survey of what the population of Lyme want for users of the Shelters is finished. Beach Huts are painted and put in place. Guildhall hit by yet another lorry while Molly and I were stewarding Heritage Open Days. Dedication stone laid in Anning Road. A memorial to the Polish Airmen who died in the war.
2009 – Plans for the Shelters have leapt to over a million pounds. Group of members visited Crewkerne Civic Society and later in the year Crewkerne visited us. Rotary organised a “Photo Day” in August and almost the whole town was digitally recorded and archived in the Museum. We lost our Woolworth store.
2010 – A difficult two years for the Society when not enough volunteers replaced those retiring. The Civic Trust folded due to drop in funding. Another successful Heritage Open Days. Our volunteers working on the Shelters project were stood down and now the builders take over.”

It is because of Bernard and Molly that the Society survived and then flourished to become what it is today and this was publicly recognised in 2012 when Bernard was awarded the title of “Honoured Citizen of Lyme Regis” during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The pictures below show Bernard receiving his award from the Mayor, Councillor Sally Holman.


Heritage Matters and the “Ron and Norah Driver Youth Heritage Prize”

Prizes for Heritage Matters, the arts competition organised by the Society and sponsored by it, Lyme Regis Museum and the Town Mill, were presented on Saturday the 19th September at the Jubilee Pavilion. Scores of entries were received from pupils at Woodroffe School, St Michael’s Primary School and Mrs. Ethelston’s School and we believe that the competition really succeeded in raising the profile of the town’s heritage amongst its young people.

The Jubilee Pavilion will have an exhibition of the three first prize winners (one from each school) and those entries which were “Highly Commended” for the remainder of ArtsFest. All the other entries are on show at The Hub in Church Street.

The best overall entry was awarded the Ron and Norah Driver Youth Heritage Prize by the Society. This went to Polly Howarth Yates of Woodroffe School (shown left with her mixed media composition). Polly’s concept was that a town’s heritage is  shown in what is thrown away. Her picture shows the huge Black Ven landslip of 2008 which brought down some of the contents of the old rubbish dump. Polly used small items from the dump mixed with pictures from the town’s history (e.g. Mary Anning, John Fowles, Thomas Coram) to form the landslip in her picture which was created on an old woodedn panel on which she had transcribed the history of the dump. Great concept and wonderful execution. It is hoped that, following its display during ArtsFest, Polly’s work will be on display for a while in the Museum.

Another great concept came from Lila and Evelyn Churchill of Mrs Ehelston’s School who won the first prize there. Their Belmont House was a painted box (right) and the inside of the box was decorated with extract of information about John Fowles life and works together with information written in their own hands about their great-great grandfather who was John Fowles’ gardener in the later years of his life.

The first prize winner for St Michael’s School was Lucy Waplington with a painting of the Cobb (left).



Belmont Public Open Days

The restoration of Belmont by the Landmark Trust is nearly complete and, in line with their promise when they applied for Planning Permission/Listed Building Consent, the Trust will be opening the house to the public. The Society has been involved in discussions with the Landmark Trust on the restoration of Belmont for several years and has fully supported what they plan to put in place. Now is an ideal opportunity to judge if we were right.
The restored frontage is above and details of the opening times are below.
Belmont Public Open Days: Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 September 2015 – 10am to 4pm
No booking required.

Heritage Matters Competition

For more information click here to go to our Heritage Matters page.

Another chance to see …..

On Friday 27th March, Keith Shaw will present his illustrated talk, “Monique Bellingham – Lyme’s Canadienne” to the Charmouth History Society.

If you missed this talk last year then come along to The Elms on The Street, Charmouth at 7pm to hear the fascinating story of this French Canadian who came to Lyme in the 1820s with her four beautiful Irish daughters and lived here until her death in 1856.

This time, the talk will include more about Monique’s daughter Henrietta (above) and her children who lived in Charmouth for some years.

Lyme through the year – a photographer’s view

On Tuesday 24th February, well respected local photographer Peter Wiles will give a presentation of his photographs depicting Lyme during the different seasons and the varying weather we all know so well. The presentation will, as usual, be at Woodmead Hall and start at 2.30pm.

Entry costs £1.50 including refreshments and everyone is welcome.

Attendees will also be able to purchase some of Peter’s cards and his 2015 calendar at reduced price. The Society’s new booklet, Historic Houses of Lyme Regis Part 3 will also be available for purchase at member’s prices.

Coffee Morning at the Alexandra Hotel

Anyone who has an interest in the natural and architectural heritage of Lyme Regis may well be interested in coming to the Society’s annual Coffee Morning at the Alexandra Hotel on Friday 30th January.  The event starts at 10.30 am and is your chance to meet the Society’s committee, to see our publications and to talk to other members.

Everyone is welcome and admission is by donation with free coffee and biscuits or you can buy a home-made should you wish.

What next for Lyme’s eroding coast

We know that the Jurassic Coast is constantly eroding.  It can change overnight as the two pictures below of Black Ven taken in March and May 2008 show. What is the future?





On Tuesday 30th September,Richard Edmonds, Earth Science Manager for the Jurassic Coast Team will give an illustrated talk about recent changes to coast and cliffs around Lyme Regis and consider what the future may bring.

“Lyme’s Eroding Coast” will start at 2.30pm in Woodmead Halls and is organised by The Lyme Regis Society in co-operation with Lyme Regis Museum and the Heritage Coast U3A. Entry is free for members of all these organisations and £3 for visitors.


The new sea wall is open

After many many months of hard work from the contractors, the new sea-wall to the east of the town is open extending the promenade for a few hundred metres. They have done an excellent job and, as well as protecting many homes and the Charmouth Road from potential land slippage, the new wall will be a huge asset for the town in allowing easier access to the fossil hunting areas of the beach and, hopefully, reducing the number of stranded visitors that need to be rescued by the lifeboat or coastguards. When the promised steps to Charmouth Road car-park are completed the benefits will increase further by giving a safer access to the town.

Well done to all involved!

Below is a view back along the wall towards Lyme and a picture of an ammonite found by the Museum’s geologist, Paddy Howe, in the site excavations. How appropriate that it is a “Bucklandi” named for one of the area’s famous geologists of old.


One last picture. Has anyone any idea what this large concrete block at the end of the walk-way is for?

Unveiling the D-Day plaque

On 7th June the Mayor, Sally Holman, unveiled a new plaque at Cobb Gate which commemorates the men of the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment of the uS Army who were billeted in Lyme prior to taking part in the D-Day landings. Hopefully, the Society will be able to include this new plaque in the next edition of Signs of History.

A large group of visitors and local people gathered at Cobb Gate shortly after 1pm for the ceremony and then the official party processed to Marine Parade for a service in the shelters.
To mark the D-Day commemorations, The Society raised the Stars and Stripes outside Woodville on Silver Street which was the headquarters of the US Army in Lyme. This is shown below together with a picture of the fly-past which took place on the 6th June; the 70th anniversary of the landings.