Category Archives: History

Hostory of Lyme Regis and the Lyme Regis Society

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).



Marking the Monmouth Rebellion by Diana Shervington

I am campaigning to the Dorset District Council or the Dorset County Council. What I want them to do is install a plaque at the entrance of Stile Lane. Here it was on the llth June, 1685, that the Duke of Monmouth and his motley army came up from the shore where they had landed from three ships. It is important for any town that has suffered a rebellion for the events to be remembered.

Lyme Regis was the scene of that ill-fated expedition. James, Duke of Monmouth, was the natural child of Charles II and Lucy Walters of Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire. They lived in great style at The Hague and were very friendly with the Dutch Prince. Monmouth was also popular and well-liked in the west country.

At that time Lyme had a large number of dissenters who suffered from religious persecution and who were ready to rise up and fight the battle of the Lord against Popery and arbitrary power. It was well known that the great body of the inhabitants of Lyme were a hardy and turbulent race of people who cherished strong antipathy to the existing government. But the Mayor of Lyme and his Town Council were staunch Parliamentarians who sent a message to Exeter asking the King for troops.

I feel that the inhabitants of Lyme, tourists and school parties would love to hear
about this rebellion which ended with twelve so-called rebels being hanged, drawn and quartered on 12th September, at the instigation of Judge Jeffreys on what we now call Monmouth beach.

James, Duke of Monmouth, had arrived in Lyme from a 32-gun frigate on
Thursday, 11th June. He landed on the sand beside the Cobb. He and his 82
followers then knelt down in a short act of devotion before they entered the town by way of Stile Lane (left). Plenty of men in the town were recruited into Monmouth’s army. The Duke had issued a Declaration of his Intentions which was very damning, both here and in Weymouth. He sent 40 men to subdue Bridport – which they did but then started plundering the inhabitants. Monmouth’s army marched to Axminster and so on to Sedgemoor where on Monday, 6th July, was fought the last battle on English soil, a battle which blasted Monmouth’s hopes for ever.

These events, I believe, deserve to be commemorated on a plaque at the entrance
to Stile Lane. I hope the District Council will comply!

The Society’s Committee support Diana’s campaign for a plaque to commemorate Monmouth’s entry into Lyme.

This article first appeared in the Society’s Spring 2014 Newsletter.

For those who don’t know Diana Shervington, there is a recent article on her at

The Day Lyme Nearly Died

No, it wasn’t this week but the horrendous storms made me think!
I took the picture above at high tide on Wednesday morning (5th Feb). You can see a broken red life-belt holder and Chris Andrew’s picture (below) shows damage to beach huts and the Cart Road completely hidden be pebbles.There is even a rumour that a crack has appeared in the Cobb but, even if this turned out to be true, this was absolutely nothing compared to what happened on 11th November 1377.

John Fowles described it as “what sounds like the most terrible storm of all Lyme’s history”. 77 houses were totally destroyed and 71 more lay wasted and empty. 15 great ships, 20 smaller ones and 20 fishing boats were lost. The Cobb lay obliterated and many of the town’s merchants were dead, or bankrupt, or gone away. It was estimated that rebuilding the Cobb alone would cost £300 yet the town was only able to raise £5 from the survivors. In all, only 8 “burgesses” and 21 poorer families totalling less than 100 people were left in the town.

We know all this because the King, Richard II, appointed an inquest to be held and the documentation still survives. Fowles says “There can have been no point in our history where the town was closer to abandonment. Yet somehow it clung to existence, though over a century had to pass before it began to prosper again.”

From the inquest documents we know the names of those 8 burgesses to whom Fowles believed we owe thanks for Lymes continued existence: Richard Tyneham, Thomas Dorset, Robert Membury, Adam Littlemire, John Richman, Roger Milward, Philip Le Bouche and Edward Blower.

We have plans for a series of small items about uears in Lyme’s history in our Newsletter. It will be called Lyme Through the Years and should, over time, build up an interesting history of the town. Please look out for it.

Ref: – Medieval Lyme Regis by John Fowles, published by The Friends of Lyme Regis Museum in 1984

The Maritime History of Lyme Regis

Ebb and Flow

When Peter Lacey’s book on Lyme’s maritime history was published, Ken Gollop described Peter as Lyme’s 21st Century historian following on from Roberts in the 19th Century and Wanklyn in the 20th. On Tuesday 24th September, Peter will give a talk about Lyme’s rich maritime history which will be the first in the autumn series of talks organised by the Lyme Regis Society jointly with Lyme Regis Museum.

The talk will be at Woodmead Hall and start at 2.30pm. Entry will be £1.50 for all.

Belmont – History and Future Plans

Belmont is one of Lyme’s most iconic houses. Built in the late 18th Century, and standing on the corner of Cobb Road and Pound Street, it has been the home of two the town’s most famous residents: Eleanor Coade and John Fowles.

Following Fowles’ death in 2005, the house was acquired by The Landmark Trust who intend to restore it, slightly controversially, to its prime as an 18th Century seaside villa. What are their plans, when will they be accomplished and what has happened in years past?

The Lyme Regis Society has arranged for Landmark Trust historian, Caroline Stanford to talk about the house’s history, the Trust’s plans for its restoration and the progress to date. The talk will be at Woodmead Hall on Tuesday 23rd April and will follow the Society’s AGM. The AGM will start at 2.30pm with the talk at about 3.00pm.

This is a joint meeting with Lyme Regis Museum and the U3A and everyone is welcome. Entry will be by donation to the Trust’s Belmont Restoration Fund and refreshments will be provided.

Chard – The first powered flight and other history

How many times have you driven into Chard and seen the sign that says “The home of the first powered flight”? If like many people you have wondered what it means but never investigated then look no further. On 26th February, David Ricketts of Chard Museum will give a talk entitled “Chard – The first powered flight and other history”.

The talk, organised by the Lyme Regis Society jointly with Lyme Regis Museum, is being given at Woodmead Hall and starts at 2.30pm. Entrance costs £1.50 which includes refreshments.

Heritage Open Days and Dorset Architectural Heritage Week

This weekend the Society will be opening Lyme Regis Guildhall  on behalf of Lyme Regis Town Council. Opening times will be from 10am till 4pm on Friday 7th to Sunday 9th of September.

The event is part of both Heritage Open Days and Dorset Architectural Heritage Week and, as usual, it is the only opportunity ot the year for the public to have a good look inside this lovely building designed by architect George Vialls.

To complement the event, Lyme Regis Museum will be presenting a talk on Vialls by Max Hebditch at 6.30pm on Saturday 8th September. The talk will take place in the guildhall.


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.


On the Beach

Last weekend Lyme held its 2012 Fossil Festival. Successful, yet again, in itself, it also was the start of a summer/coast long Earth Festival which forms part of the Cultural Olympiad. There were fossils, fossil sellers, fossil collectors … everywhere; especially on the beach where a huge marquee was the centre of the festival.

There is always something new to be learned at the Fossil Festival and this year was no exception. Chris Paul gave a very interesting talk about ammonites that had worm tubes attached to their shells. More can be learned about this on the Museum web-site.

However, the thing that has stuck in my memory is a tiny piece of information gleaned from Tom Sharpe’s talk on Mary Anning. Henry de la Beche (right) who lived for a time in Aveline House (Lloyds Bank) on Broad Street and was the founder of the British Geological Survey, was a great friend and benefactor of Mary Anning. Mary gave Henry his love for geology and he helped the Annings financially when they fell on hard times and even drew the above cartoon of Mary at work on the beach to raise money for them. In his talk, Tom Sharpe pronounced “de la Beche” as “de la Beach” and not “de la Besh” as one would expect for a French name. On being asked “Why?”, he explained that we had Mary Anning to thank for our knowledge of how Henry’s name was pronounced 200 years ago! How can that be?

Mary was largely self educated and often wrote words phonetically. In her letters she refers to her friend as “Henry de la Beach” thus we know that was how she and others pronounced the name. Perhaps my heading should have been “Of the Beach”.


Whistler at Moreton

Laurence Whistler, the glass engraver lived in Lyme and was a committee member of the Lyme Regis Society for many years. This is common knowledge but what his engraving was like and where to view examples is less well known.

The church of St. Nicholas at Moreton which is a few miles east of Dorchester, was bombed during WWII. Strange but its juxtaposition to Bovington Camp might well explain it. After the war it was rebuilt, the windows were glazed with plain glass and, over a period of thirty years, Whistler engraved them.

The effect is stunning. By day, the beautiful countryside is seen through the engravings whilst at night, the engravings are set of against a black canvas.





The first three pictures show the daytime effect. The final picture is taken from the Laurence Whistler board in Lyme Regis Museum and shows the night time effect.

Moreton is well worth a visit. You will also be able to see the grave of T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) who died in a motor-cycle accident on his way from Bovington Camp to his home at Clouds Hill. The grave is in the local cemetry not the churchyard but it is quite close. Clouds Hill, owned by the National Trust, is a good country walk from Moreton.

Lawrence also has a distant connection to Lyme Regis but that is another story.