From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Lyme Regis

50° 43′ 30″ N 2° 56′ 24″ W
Pre 1086

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Lyme Regis is a seaside town, located near Axminster, on Lyme Bay, in West Dorset. It is a tourist destination and is well known for the fossils found in cliffs and beaches. It is part of the Heritage Coast or Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site.

Sherborne Abbey once owned part of the town which included salt-boiling rights on land adjacent to the River Lym, the town is also mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.

In the 13th century, it developed as one of the major British ports. A Royal Charter was granted by King Edward I in 1284 when 'Regis' was added to the town's name. The charter was also confirmed by Queen Elizabeth I in 1591.

In a 1328, the Cobb, the town's harbour wall, is documented as having been damaged by storms. It was made from oak piles with boulders stacked between; it was swept away in 1377 when 50 boats and 80 houses were also destroyed.

In 1644, during the English Civil War, Parliamentarians withstood an eight-week siege of the town by Royalist forces under Prince Maurice. The Duke of Monmouth landed at Lyme Regis at the start of the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685.

By 1685 the Cobb had been rebuilt in stone with a semicircular pebble breakwater to protect the town from storms, the southern arm was added in the 1690s and rebuilt in 1793 after it was destroyed in a storm the previous year. It was again rebuilt in 1820 using Portland Admiralty Roach, a type of Portland stone. After the Great Storm of 1824, Captain Sir Richard Spencer RN carried out pioneering lifeboat design work in the Cobb harbour.

On New Year's Day, 1915, HMS Formidable was torpedoed, the first major U-boat loss of World War I. A local lifeboat delivered bodies to the Pilot Boat Inn in Bridge Street. Lassie, the owner's dog, licked the face of Seaman Cowan, who was believed dead, and seemingly brought him back to life. The namesake of this cross-breed became a legend of books, radio, film and television.

In 1965, the town's railway station was closed under the Beeching Axe. The station was dismantled and rebuilt at Alresford, on the Mid Hants Watercress Railway in Hampshire.