Category Archives: People

People connected to Lyme Regis

Patrick Mahoney – Lyme Regis Coastguard 1881 – 1891

We recently received an email from Pat Mahoney in New Zealand seeking help from us in his family tree research. His great great grandfather Patrick was in command of the Lyme Division of the Coast Guard until his retirement in 1891. After some research we were able to confirm that the Mahoney family lived in the building now occupied by the Hix Town House in Pound Street next door to the Regent Cinema. The 1881 census shows Patrick, his wife and 7 children, plus one servant at the address.

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).



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

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

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.

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.

A celebration of John Fowles

Photo - Carolyn Djanogly

You may be interested in an event celebrating the work of John Fowles at the Oxford Literary Festival on 22nd March.

To download a leaflet for the event click here.

To visit the Oxford Literary Festival web-site click here.

If only it were in Lyme!

The event is being sponsored by the Landmark Trust who own Belmont, Fowles’s Lyme Regis home until his death in 2005 and who are currently raising funds to restore it and make it available to all.

Caroline Stanford, the Landmark Trust’s Historian will be visiting Lyme on 23rd April to talk to the Society about the history of Belmont and the Trust’s plans for its future.

Autumn Talks Programme Starts

Exploring the Undercliffs

On Tuesday 25th September Donald Campbell will start off the Society’s Autumn talks programme with “Lyme Regis’ Undercliff”. Donald is a former chairman of the Axe Vale Conservation Society and an expert on the geology, flora and fauna of the Undercliff that was formed by the Great Landslip of 1839. He is also the author of “Exploring the Undercliffs”

The full schedule for programme is shown on our Events page.

Our Honoured Citizen

On Saturday 2nd June, following the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Parade through Lyme, the Society’s long serving ex-Chairman, Bernard Spencer, was made an Honoured Citizen of the town for his service to the Town through the Lyme Regis Society. The pictures below show Mayor Sally Holman presenting Bernard with his well earned award. Good work Bernard!!







The Society was well represented in the parade. Molly Spencer supported Bernard at the head of the parade with others, shown below after the event, joined the main body of marchers.








More pictures of the Parade and Awards Ceremony can be seen on Peter Wile’s site,