Category Archives: News

Lyme Regis Society news

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.


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.

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

Celebration of Life

On Saturday 13th July, Helen Yool’s family hosted a tea party at the Alexandra Hotel to celebrate Helen’s life. On a beautiful summer’s afternoonHelen’s sister Sheila, niece Julie and nephew Marcus welcomed other relatives, old friends and neighbours, staff from Shire House care home where Helen was so happy and members of the Society. The LRS Committee was represented by Stephen Wilkins, Audrey Standhaft and Keith Shaw.

Molly Spencer presenting her picture to Sheila

Following a wonderful cream tea, Sheila talked about Helen’s life, a poem chosen by Helen was read and the Society presented a photographic portrait of Helen, taken by Molly Spencer and printed on canvas to Sheila.


Many of you will recognise the picture as that we used to illustrate our article about Helen when her death was announced.

A selection of pictures taking at the event by John Marriage are shown below.

Helen's nephew Marcus with guests


Enjoing the tea

Enjoying the sunshine

Helen's niece Julie with guests

Helen Yool, 1913-2013

Photograph – Molly Spencer

It is with sadness that we report the death of our Honorary President, Helen Yool, in Lyme last month.

Helen joined the Committee of the Lyme Regis Society in 1982 and immediately became the editor of its quarterly newsletter, a role she retained for many years.

The 1980s in Lyme was a period of proposed development some of which was quite controversial and which Helen recorded in some detail in the newsletter:-

Lyme needed a sewage treatment plant and discussions had rumbled on since the 1960s. In the 1980s, the proposed site was on the seashore at Gun Cliff below the Marine Theatre and the scheme would also enhance the sea defences. The scheme would need to encompass the town’s ancient sea walls and was opposed by English Heritage for that reason. However, the Society was in favour and with its support the plans were agreed in 1987.

The Society also successfully organised fund raising so that the cliffs at Ware could be purchased by the National Trust, thus preventing any future risk of development.

From 1988 to 1994 Helen was Chairman of the Society and her period in office was dominated by a problem created by the agreed sewage treatment plant at Gun Cliff. Before South West Water could begin the work, a way of protecting the scheme from the ravages of the sea must be devised. The proposed plan included a number of rock breakwaters forming “islands” in the bay; much as can be seen today at Sidmouth. The Society believed this would “change the character of Lyme Regis for all time” and a concerted and highly technical campaign was mounted to show that a much less invasive scheme was possible. Thankfully, the Society’s proposed scheme was in most part accepted and by the end of Helen’s chairmanship work had started on the complete scheme that today enhances the beauty of the town.

In 1994 Helen was elected as Honorary Vice President of the Society, a non-executive position. Apparently Helen did not understand that last phrase. She continued to edit the Society’s newsletter (as she had done throughout her chairmanship) until 1999 when after 17 years and at the age of 85 she “retired”. In 2002 she was elected to be Honorary President and remained such until her death on 22nd March 2013 just three months short of her 100th birthday.

Proposed changes at the Bay Hotel

Lyme’s iconic Bay Hotel, after several changes of owner, direction, form and fortune, has returned to its original request of 2004, which was for change of use from hotel to unrestricted/ holiday residential apartments, a request which was firmly turned down at that time.

Gaining this consent would presumably mean that once upgraded internally the apartments could be marketed individually, which the applicant hopes would make up for the “falling demand” for hotel accommodation and the increasing difficulty of vehicular access, not to mention the general economic downturn.  (It should be noted that other hoteliers in the town assert that there is a strong demand for hotel accommodation at the right price.)

The original objectors felt very strongly that maintaining the Bay as a hotel was a vital element in supporting life at the front, especially amid the ugly emptiness of the old shelters.  Now things are not quite so clear cut.  There are two restaurants, two shops a modern house and enhanced Shelters.  It could now be said that the Bay only has to contribute to this ensemble rather than carry all responsibility for it.

The Town Council and the Development trust have been pressing for years for a means of preventing the continual reduction in the number of hotel beds. West Dorset District Council has recognised this problem and in the Local Plan has included the following statement:

“Proposals that would result in the permanent loss of hotels and larger guesthouses will be resisted unless it can be demonstrated that their tourist accommodation use is no longer viable and there is no market for the business as a going concern.”

The Local Plan is at its final draft stage and the applicant suggests that it should not be given much weight because of that. However, the plan has been through a considerable amount of public consultation and will almost certainly come into force next year with minimal changes – though no one can be forced to run a hotel.

We would welcome views on the potential loss of the hotel. Although such response may well be too late to affect any written response to this application, we may have the opportunity to express them when, as is likely, the application goes before the WDDC Planning Committee.

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.


A replacement telecoms mast at Charmouth Road car-park

Vodaphone have submitted a planning application to replace their telecommunications mast at Charmouth Road car-park. Comments need to be submitted by 21st July 2012.

Information about the application can be found on the Dorset for You planning portal web-site at the url below

Copy the above into your web browser and hit return.
Then enter 1/D/12/000694 into the Application Number box and click Search.

Comments can also be entered through the planning portal.
Click Submit Comment tpwards the top left of the page.