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Lyme Regis, Dorset

Historical Description

Lyme Regis, a market-town, a municipal borough, and a parish in Dorsetshire. The town stands on the coast, at the mouth of the rivulet Lyme, near the boundary with Devonshire, 5 miles SE by S of Axminster station on the L. & S.W.R., and 23 W of Dorchester, and has a post, money order, and telegraph office. The borough and parish bounds are conterminous. Acreage, 1237; population, 2365. The town was given in 774 by the king of the West Saxons to Sher-borne Abbey, was known in the Saxon times for its salt works, and 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 L, and given to his sister, queen of Scotland, as part of her dower. It sent four ships to the siege of Calais in the time of Edward III., was inundated by the sea in the time of Eichard II., 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 was 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 2000 horse and foot, on his disastrous expedition. The George Inn, with " Monmouth's room," has been taken down, but 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 II.; 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 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; 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 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. The town is a favourite watering-place, and is a sanatorium for persons suffering from chest diseases and consumption. A breakwater, called the Cobb, appears to have been constructed so early as the time of Edward I., and originally consisted of a mass of rough stones rudely piled one on the top of the other; 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 partially re-built and enlarged by the government in 1825-26 at a cost of £17,000. It is a semicircular structure of great strength, with a very thick outer wall rising high above the roadway, and giving protection from both wind and billows. The breakwater now comprises two piers 680 feet in length, 12 in width at the foundations, and 16 in height. The chief public buildings are a handsome town-hall, a market-house, assembly rooms, a custom house, a church, several dissenting chapels, a Roman Catholic chapel, and almshouses founded in the reign of Henry VIII. and rebuilt in 1887, and a cottage hospital. The church was rebuilt about the end of the 15th century; retains a Norman W arch; comprises nave, aisles, and chancel; was thoroughly restored in 1885, and contains monuments to the Hewlings, who were condemned by Judge Jeffreys, and whose fate was much deplored. The living isa vicarage in the diocese of Salisbury; value, £220. Patron, the Bishop of Salisbury. Markets are held on Tuesdays and Fridays, and fairs on 13 Feb. and 2 Oct. Fishing and sailcloth 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. Under the Local Government Act of 1889 the whole management of the town is vested in the corporation, which consists of a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyDorsetshire 
DioceseBristol1542 - 1836
DioceseSalisbury1836 -
Ecclesiastical parishLyme-Regis St. Michael the Archangel 
LibertyLothers and Bothenhampton 
Registration districtAxminster 
Registration sub-districtLyme 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records

The parish register dates from the year 1543, but breaks off for a few years from 1572, and contains numerous entries relating to the history of the church and the town. The original register books are now deposited with the Dorset Archives Service, but have been digitised by and made available on their site (subscription required).

The Phillimore transcript of Marriages at Lyme Regis, 1654-1812 is online.


Church of England

St. Michael the Archangel (parish church)

The parish church of St. Michael the Archangel is an ancient edifice of stone, standing near the edge of some precipitous lias cliffs, and is chiefly of the late Tudor period, but has good Norman remains at the western entrance, and other work of that period, and consists of chancel, nave of four bays, aisles and an embattled western tower, containing a clock and 8 bells: the west porch was the nave of the original church: the curiously carved oak pulpit was presented by one of the merchant adventurers, 1613 A.D. and there are a number of mural monuments, several brasses and some fine stained windows: the chancel screen was erected as a memorial to a former vicar, by the late Rev. Edward Peek M.A. sometime rector of Rousdon, who also presented a fine piece of tapestry, dating from about 1490: it is supposed to represent the marriage of Henry VII. and Elizabeth of York, and now hangs on the west wall; in 1685 the church was entirely re-seated, the floor re-laid and a vestry added, at a cost of £2,500: there are sittings for 300, all free and unappropriated except the Corporation and manor pews.

Civil Registration

Lyme Regis was in Axminster Registration District from 1837 to 1936 and Bridport Registration District from 1936 to 1974

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Lyme Regis from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Dorset is available to browse.


Online maps of Lyme Regis are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the Dorset County Chronicle and the Sherborne Mercury online.

Villages, Hamlets, &c

Middle Mill

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Dorset, 1623 is available on the Heraldry page.

DistrictWest Dorset
RegionSouth West
Postal districtDT7
Post TownLyme Regis