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Posted 116 weeks ago

LYME REGIS and the ROYAL FAMILY through the ages.

Lyme Regis has had a somewhat rocky not always positive relationship with many of the monarchs of the day. Edward 1st this great warrior king loved it, especially for it’s ship building.  He ordered an 120 oar galleon to be built in Lyme and a Manor House to be built for his new French Queen, which gave us the ‘Regis.’  At that time a royal residence, even if the Queen never visited, qualified Lyme for this honour. He gave Lyme a very generous charter which included among other things the right to send 2 MPs to parliament, which lasted until the Great Reform Act of 1832! 

Queen Mary, a Catholic queen, described Lyme as ‘a heretic town’ because of the stubborn puritanism of it’s citizens. She refused to give back any of the dues from the Cobb which all previous monarchs had agreed for it’s maintenance and upkeep.

Unsurprisingly, given this Puritan background, when the Civil War broke out in the 1640s Lyme chose the side of Parliament which was puritan against Charles 1st. In 1644 the town resisted a royalist siege conducted by Prince Maurice, the young nephew of the king, who after 8 weeks was obliged to withdraw without success, despite having boasted on the first day he would walk through Lyme before breakfast.  The women of Lyme played a significant role during the siege.  Some fought on the defenses and many more were involved in the refueling of muskets, which proved decisive. Lyme had a very cosy relationship with the Commonwealth government before the Restoration in 1660,when ,of course, they were no longer the flavour of the month.

Worse was to come. In 1685 the King of England was James11 who was catholic leaning, so, of course, not popular in Lyme or indeed most of the West Country. James, however had a nephew, the Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate son of the previous king Charles 11.  He was in voluntary exile in Holland.  One fine June morning in 1685 Monmouth turned up on the west of the Cobb with three ships and an army and started what became known as the Monmouth rebellion, in which some 30% of Lyme’s male population participated.  It was a disaster.  Monmouth was defeated at Sedgemoor in the last battle on English soil.  The town of Lyme Regis suffered terribly under the repression that followed under the vengeful king’s Lord Chief Justice, Judge Jeffries. Twelve men from Lyme were sent down from the Taunton assizes to be cruelly executed on the beach that Monmouth landed, now of course known as Monmouth Beach. One was just a fisherman from Charmouth who had rowed up to the boats to sell fish, as he did with any large vessels entering the harbour.  He would not have known Monmouth from Adam, but this did not wash with Judge Jeffries.

Fortunately relations have improved since that time.  In 1856 the future Edward V11, a boy of 14 visited the town on the last stage of a walk around the southern sea coast with his tutor and a groom from the Palace.  It was supposed to be incognito but by the time he reached Lyme everybody knew this was the Prince of Wales.  The paparazzi of the day were out in force and the Mayor wanted to hold a reception.  The palace issued a command that a carriage be made available to take him back to London right away.  He spent one night in the Lion Hotel in Broad Street.  In the morning he made a brief visit to the Cobb and departed in the carriage.  The hour that he left the Lion Hotel became the Royal Lion Hotel and now has a magnificent Edward V11 suite to celebrate this even,t in an age when Lyme was successfully rebuilding itself through tourism.

Posted 170 weeks ago


At 8.30 yesterday the 21st of April many of us residents and visitors gathered in Theatre Square to be entertained by the Town Band and the hospitality of the Theatre bar while we waited for the lighting of our Beacon on Back Beach by the Mayor.  At 8.50pm as scheduled, the Charmouth beacon illuminated the night sky and we made our way over to Back Beach to watch the main event in Lyme.

Beacons were used in the past as part of sea defences, notably from 1799 prepared and ready for lighting to warn of the expected Napoleonic invasion.  Fortunately this was was scuppered by Nelson at Trafalgar in 1805. 

In a more sinister use of beacons wreckers along the Cornish coast in the 18th century used the light to lure ships on to rocks from where they could be plundered. Yesterday, however, was a joyful opportunity to celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday.


One of the joys of starting a new season is being able to introduce visitors to new events or discoveries. For example, Belmont, the home of Eleanor Coade, the 18th century entrepreneur (see earlier post)and author John Fowles has now been beautifully restored by the Landmark Trust. It is well worth the walk up Pound Street to see what a beautiful job they have done.

Sherlock Holmes visits Lyme Regis

March 11, 2012

This week I’ve had the great pleasure of finishing local author David Ruffles’ second Sherlock Holmes adventure set in Lyme Regis – “Sherlock Holmes and the Lyme Regis legacy”.

David masterfully captures the style of the original author giving a vibrant, convincing tone to the dialogue between Watson and Holmes. His love of Lyme Regis shines through in his choice of characters, attention to historical accuracy and references to local places and events. Moreover, as well as the main story, the book is packed with short original vignettes. My own favourites are a moving account of Watson’s last annual visit to Holmes in his eighties and a delightful chance encounter between Laurel and Hardy via Dr. Who and the two friends in their Baker |Street home.

Any initial doubts I might have had about the merits of a new Sherlock Holmes adventure were swiftly dispelled. Both books are carefully researched, original and full of good humour, drama and suspense. In my next Lyme history walk I will not be surprised to see Holmes and Watson walking down Broad Street, chatting gaily on their way to visit their friends at Monmouth House!

Congratulations David!


How did begin?

February 23, 2012

This is the story of the origin of Once upon a time Lyme Regis was little more than a pretty English seaside town with a good climate and a wonderful place to come home to. That was until, one day, when walking down a narrow street I had a kind of vision – I saw cobblestones. I heard the tramp of marching feet, the clink of armour, the sound of harsh voices shouting in a strange accent. This all passed in a split second and then once again I was walking down the familiar Sherbourne Lane hearing the cries of the seagulls. This incident inspired me to investigate the history of Lyme and I read avidly the many and varied books that had been written on the subject, and what a revelation it was!

So much seemed to be packed into such a tight place. In 1644 in the Civil War, puritan Lyme suffered an 8 week siege by Royalist forces during which much of the fighting occurred around Sherborne Lane. Despite superior forces the Royalists were eventually repelled after suffering heavy losses. This is just one of many dramatic incidences in the life of the town.

  • Did you known that in Elizabethan times the Cobb was the third largest port in the country after London and Bristol, trading all over the known world? 
  • Did you know that Drake’s ship the “Revenge” at the time of the Spanish Armada was probably built  in the Lyme shipyard?
  • Did you know that the Monmouth Rebellion started in Lyme when the Duke of Monmouth sailed into the harbour one June day in 1685 and stayed 3 days recruiting in this town well known for its protestant sympathies?

  • Did you know that after a period of steep decline Lyme’s fortunes were revived when a celebrity doctor wrote a pamphlet extolling the virtues of drinking sea water for health (!) encouraging many 18th century aristocratic visitors?

I could add many more “did you knows” however, for the sake of brevity, here’s a few sound bites – Jane Austin danced in the Assembly Rooms and set “Persuasion” in Lyme. Franz Liszt played the piano here. Jack Rattenbury, famous smuggler, plied his trade on this coastline. Barnes Wallace tested his bouncing bomb in Lyme Bay and the home base for the pigeons of the French resistance was a loft in Lyme in a house previously owned by the brother of Lord Lister (Baron Lister of Lyme Regis).

These are just a few of the facts and incidents covered in Lyme History Walks, and we haven’t even mentioned Mary Anning, the famous fossilist yet!

In a 1 ½ hour walk I strive to bring together a depth of historical insight and entertainment which introduces many of the colourful characters and incidents in Lyme’s history from the middle ages to the present day. Oh… and by the way, did you know that the Royalists in the siege of Lyme employed a “witch” to rain curses on the pious puritans of the town?... all to no effect.  As so often, Lyme triumphed and survived.



About Me

Chris Lovejoy
Chris Lovejoy
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