Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for LYME-REGIS

LYME-REGIS, a town and a parish in the district of Axminster and county of Dorset. The town stands on the coast, at the mouth of the rivulet Lyme, near the boundary with Devon, 5 ½ miles SE by S of Axminster r. station, and 23 W of Dorchester. It was given in 7 74, by the king of the West Saxons, to Sherborne-abbey. It was known, in the Saxon times, for its salt works. It figures in Domesday book as divided into three portions, belonging to respectively Glastonbury abbey, William Belet, and the bishop of Salisbury. It was made a borough by Edward I.; and given to his sister, the queen of Scotland, as part of her dower. It sent 4 ships, with 42 mariners, to the siege of Calais in the time of Edward I II. It was inundated by the sea in the time of Richard I I.; and was twice plundered and burnt by the French in the times of Henry IV. and Henry V. It took part with the parliamentarians in the civil war; withstood a siege of nearly seven weeks by Prince Maurice; and was relieved by the approach of the Earl of Essex. It w as the scene of the landing of the Duke of Monmouth, and of the setting up of his standard, in 1685; gave him lodging during four days at the George inn; and was the point whence he started, with about 2,000 horse and foot, on his disastrous expedition. The George inn, with "Monmouth's room, ''was but recently taken down; and a piece of the bedstead on which he there slept is still in the possession of a resident. Twelve persons, after the overthrow of Monmouth, were executed in the town by sentence of Judge Jeffreys. The first engagement with the Spanish armada took place in the offing in 1558; and a sea-fight between the English and the Dutch took place there in 1672. A Carmelite friary was founded in the town before 1322; and a lepers' hospital, before 1336. Cosmo de Medici died here in 1669, on his visit to England. De Case, the quack and astrologer in the time of James Il.; Thomas Coram, who founded the Foundling hospital in London about 1668; Sir George Somers, who discovered the Bermudas; Arthur Gregory, who was employed by Walsingham to open the letters addressed to Mary, queen of Scots; Judge Gundry; Larkham, the theologian; and Miss Mary Anning, who discovered the ichthyosaurus, the plesiosaurus, and the pterodactyle, were natives.

The coast at the town, and in its neighbourhood, is highly romantic; rises on the E in very black precipices, on the W in broken crags, thickly mantled with brushwood; and exhibits one of the richest sections of blue lias in the world, capped in some places with green sand. The cliffs abound in fossils of the ichthyosaurus, the plesiosaurus, and the pterodactyle; they contain those also of several extinct species of fish and crustaceans, together with belemnites and ammonites; they overhang, at the mouth of the Char, an alluvial deposit, which has furnished fossil-trees and teeth of the elephant and the rhinoceros; they likewise contain much pyrites and bituminous shale, subject to occasional ignition after rain; they suffer continual erosion under the beating of the billows, insomuch that the portion of them called the Church-cliffs at the town, recedes somewhat regularly at the rate of about 3 feet a year; they are notable, all the way to the river Axe, for disturbances similar to those which have shaken much of the picturesque coast of the Isle of Wight; they drew concourses of visitors in 1839, on account of a great landslip, known as the Pinney landslip, about 3 miles to the W; and they command very fine views away to the Isle of Portland. The town itself is romantically situated on the slopes of two rocky hills, and in the hollow of a deep combe between them, and thence along the Lyme rivulet to the sea. Its houses are built chiefly of blue lias limestone, and covered with slate; its streets are well paved; and the parts nearest the sea lie very low, and have been subject to inundation by spring tides. A pier, called the Cobb, appears to have been constructed so early as the time of Edward I.; is thought to have got its name from a word of ancient British origin; underwent repeated demolition by the sea, and repeated restoration at great cost; was finally reconstructed, of regular masonry, in 1825-6, at a cost of £17,337; comprises 232 feet of pier-proper, and 447 feet of parapet; is a semicircular structure of great strength, with very thick outer wall rising high above the roadway, and giving protection from both wind and billows; and effects, by the regular curve of its parapet, such a concentration of sounds at a certain point as forms a "whispering gallery ''similar to that in the dome of St. Paul's in London. The chief public buildings are a market-house, a assembly-rooms, a custom-house, a church, three dissenting chapels, a Roman Catholic chapel, national and British schools, and alms houses. The church was rebuilt ab out the end of the 15th century; retains a Norman W arch; comprises nave, aisles, and chancel; was recently re-decorated; and contains monuments to the Hewlings, who were condemned by Judge Jeffreys, and whose fate was much deplored. The town has a head post office ‡ of the name of Lyme, a banking office, two chief inns, and endowed cha rites £35; enjoys some repute as a watering-place, and as a resort of consumptive invalids; and is a seat of courts and a coast-guard station. Markets a.c held on Tuesdays and Fridays; and fairs, on 12 May and 2 Oct. Coaches run to Axminster and Bridport. Fishing and sail-cloth making are carried on. Woollen cloth manufacture was formerly prominent; is still commemorated by old buildings in which it was carried on; but has become quite extinct. The vessels belonging to the port at the beginning of 1864 were 5 small sailing vessels, of aggregately 169 tons, and 13 largo sailing-vessels, of aggregately 1,517 tons. The Vessels which entered in 1 863 were 12 British sailingvessels, of aggregately 490 tons, from British colonies; 1 British sailing-vessel, of 53 tons, from foreign countries; 1 foreign sailing-vessel, of 101 tons, from foreign countries; and 110 sailing-vessels, of aggregately 6,998 tons, coastwise. The vessels which cleared in 1863 were 17 Brittish sailing-vessels, of aggregately 999 tons, to British colonies, and 21 sailing vessels, of aggregately 843 tons, coastwise. The amount of customs in 1867 was £565. The town very long sent two members to parliament; but it was half disfranchised in 1832, and entirely disfranchised in 1868; and it is now governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors. The limits of the old borough comprised only 100 acres of Lyme-Regis parish, and these are still the limits of the municipal borough; but the parliamentary borough, after 1832, included the entire parishes of Lyme-Regis and Charmouth. Corporation income in 1855, £247. Amount of property and income tax charged in 1863, £798. Electors in 1833,212; in 1868,252. Pop. of the m. borough in 1851,2,661; in 1861,2,318. Houses, 482. Pop. of the p. borough in 1851,3,516; in 1861,3,215. Houses, 683.—The parish comprises 1,389 acres of land, and 110 of water. Real property, with Colway, £13,900; of which £40 are in gas-works. Pop. in 1851,2,852; in 1861,2,537. Houses, 532. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Salisbury. Value, £275. * Patron, the Bishop of Salisbury.


(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town and a parish"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Lyme Regis CP/AP       Dorset AncC
Place: Lyme Regis

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