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Thursday, 27 October 2011

Mary Anning on the stage in Montreal

What sounds like a really great play inspired by Lyme's very own Mary Anning opened recently at the Centaur Theatre in Montreal, Canada. The play, written by Colleen Curran, is called True Nature and centres around a modern-day female palaeontologist whose life seems to parallel that of Mary Anning, her role model. True Nature runs until 6th November, and you can find out a lot more about it on the play's web page. There are even a couple of short videos (from which the still shown above is taken) for those of us who can't make it to Montreal in person!

In an e-mail to Museum director Mary Godwin, Colleen Curran writes that "Montreal has gone Mary Anning mad in the best way. We have lots of school groups coming to the show at the Centaur who are learning all about her. Book Clubs and Study Groups are reading Curiosity [by Joan Thomas] and Remarkable Creatures [by Tracy Chevalier]. And on October 23rd The Redpath Museum is hosting a Mary Anning Day. And everybody knows a lot more about Lyme Regis now than they ever did before."

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

John Betjeman and Lyme Regis

Sir John Betjeman (1906 - 1984) is famous both as a poet and as a defender of Britain's Victorian heritage. He came to Lyme Regis when he was doing research for his Guide to English Parish Churches, in which he describes the town as "An attractive little seaside resort on the borders of Devon with many late 18th and early 19th century houses and a few earlier survivals". But Betjeman visited the town on other occasions as well. The Observer newspaper, when reviewing a biography of Betjeman and wishing to make the point that the book went into unnecessarily tedious detail, said "Who cares where he stopped for a drink one bank holiday driving to Lyme Regis?"

On display in Lyme Regis Museum is the letter shown on the left, which Betjeman wrote in 1954 criticizing the Town Council for putting up concrete lamp-posts (click on the letter to read it -- you'll notice that the future Poet Laureate's typewriter had a distinctly wonky "n"!). In the letter, Betjeman says that Lyme "is just the sort of town that could not stand them [concrete lamp standards], since the skyline is so important there and the streets are so narrow". One wonders what he would have made of the town's new "ammonite-shaped" lamp-posts -- Mary Godwin, the Museum curator, suggests he wouldn't have liked them at all due to their novelty element!

There is another interesting, if tenuous, connection between Betjeman and Lyme. One of his most famous poems is A Subaltern's Love-Song, concerning a Miss Joan Hunter Dunn. The poem was set to music by Donald Swann (of Flanders and Swann) and included on his 1965 EP record For The Love of Betjeman. In his autobiography Swann's Way, the composer explained how Lyme played a role in his choice of this particular poem: "With Joan Hunter Dunn, the urge to set this to music came after meeting a girl momentarily at a ball in Lyme Regis. This was my first sight of the English Rose, and I was very stirred by her. At that time England was still new to me after Palestine and Greece. This girl encapsulated the beautiful countryside, and all the English places I had visited since my return, into a very romantic picture. John Betjeman also felt this: apparently he was working in the Ministry of Information and saw a wonderful girl going down a corridor and said: 'I bet she's a doctor's daughter from Camberley'. She was, and her name was Joan Hunter Dunn."

[Thanks to Mary Godwin for scanning the letter and providing the quote from Swann's Way.]

Monday, 24 October 2011

Maritime Memories of Old Lyme Regis

For the Year of Maritime Lyme, Lyme Regis Museum has organised a special local history exhibition at the Town Mill Malthouse. Entitled ‘Maritime Memories’, it brings together a wide variety of historic material relating to Lyme’s maritime past. Anyone interested in the town’s social history, the sea, and boats of all kinds will find something fascinating in the exhibition.

The exhibition is on from
Saturday 22nd to Sunday 30th  October
between 10am–4pm
and admission is free.

Amongst the exhibition material will be the lerrets, Vera (below) and Littlesea and a wealth of rarely seen photographs.

If you can't get to the Malthouse then more photographs of the exhibits can be seen here.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Francis Palgrave: A Victorian Poet in Lyme Regis

Over the years, many literary figures have visited Lyme Regis, but one who decided to settle in the town was Francis Palgrave (1824 - 1897): he chose Little Park as his second home. Although largely forgotten today, Palgrave was quite a well-known poet, critic and editor in his time. Many people will be familiar with the story of how the great poet Tennyson walked nine miles from Bridport to Lyme in the summer of 1867, and on arriving at a friend's house refused any refreshment but immediately said "Take me to the Cobb, and show me the steps from which Louisa Musgrove fell." Well, Francis Palgrave was the friend in question!

Palgrave's most famous work was The Golden Treasury of English Songs and Lyrics, first published in four volumes in 1861. This was an anthology of almost 300 poems spanning more than two centuries of English literature, which became something of a Victorian bestseller. Palgrave's aim in compiling the anthology was "to include in it all the best original lyrical pieces and songs in our language, by writers not living." That last criterion meant that the most recent poet to be featured was Wordsworth... but he is also the most prolific, with more than forty of his poems making it into Palgrave's first edition!

Palgrave also wrote poetry of his own, including a little-known volume called A Lyme Garland: Being verses, mainly written at Lyme Regis, or upon the scenery of the neighbourhood, which was printed in a limited edition in 1874 (see the title page at the bottom of this post). A less obscure collection of Palgrave's verse is The Visions of England: Lyrics on leading men and events in English History (1889). One of the poems in this volume, "The Ballad Of King Monmouth",  refers obliquely to Lyme Regis in the lines:
They file by Colway now;
They rise o’er Uplyme brow...
[Palgrave's notes explain that the Duke of Monmouth "landed in Lyme Bay, June 11, 1685, between the Cobb (Harbour-pier) and the beginning of the Ware cliffs: marching north, after a few days, by the road which left the ruins of Colway House on the right and led over Uplyme to Axminster."]

Lyme Regis Museum contains a number of exhibits relating to Francis Palgrave, and copies of The Golden Treasury can be purchased from the Museum Shop. For more information on Lyme's literary links, see the Writers and Artists page of the main Museum website.

Monday, 17 October 2011

John Sergeant, Frith Postcards and Fossils

On the 21st September, John Sergeant visited Lyme to film for a new television series for the BBC. The series is about Frith Postcards and has the working title of  Britain's First Photo Album. The ten 30-minute series will focus on the extraordinary achievement of Francis Frith, the pioneer Victorian photographer who embarked upon a colossal project to photograph as much of the United Kingdom as possible during the second half of the 19th century.
The pictures taken by Frith and his staff are viewed as one of the first and most comprehensive pictorial records of the UK, a wonderfully evocative record of our shared history, and equally a present day insight into the social landscape of Britain.
John Seargent spent time in the Museum and out on the beach looking for fossils with Museum Education Officer, Chris Andrew. We'll post more information when we know the screening date for the programme.

The Museum has a large collection of photographs and postcards which can be examined on request. For more information click here.

Friday, 14 October 2011

A Prime Minister (or two) in Lyme Regis

The bust shown on the left can be seen on the staircase at Lyme Regis Museum. It depicts William Pitt the Younger (1759 - 1806), who visited Lyme at the age of 14 in 1773. Just ten years later he became Prime Minister -- the youngest person ever to do so.

Like many people in those days, young William was brought here for his health. He came with his father, William Pitt the Elder, who had also served as Prime Minister a few years earlier.

While in Lyme, the Pitts rented "the Great House" in Broad Street, which was owned at the time by Eleanor Coade, the inventor of the decorative ceramic material known as Coade stone. The Great House was divided up into smaller properties in 1900, but a plaque on the wall of Boots the Chemist (below) records its location and its connection with the two generations of Prime Ministers.
You can read more about Notable People of Lyme on the Museum website.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Mary Anning Day 2011

Saturday 24th September was Mary Anning Day in Lyme Regis. The day brought together a plethora of events from hands-on creation of papier-mache dinosaurs, to a talk by Tracy Chevalier on the Anning's famous ichthyosaur head and the showing of a new plesiosaur find.

For a description and pictures of the day's events click here.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Addendum - another event in October

I've just added another event to the earlier post about October events, but just to draw special attention to it here it is:


(in partnership with The Lyme Regis Society)

Deputy Town Clerk, Simon Ratcliffe and members of the steering group will talk about the Shelters.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Museum Events in October

A talk by the museum’s enthusiastic experts Paddy Howe and Chris Andrew with
recently discovered amazing fossils on display. Ask questions, handle fossils and
bring your finds along for identification.

THURSDAY 6 OCTOBER 2.30pm Woodmead Hall
Kathy Underwood explores the history of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution
in this, the RNLI’s 150th anniversary of service in Lyme Regis. Organised by the
Friends of Lyme Regis Museum.

David Cox gives an illustrated talk in the series Wildlife Through the Seasons –
about birds, butterflies and mammals in the locality at this time of year.

THURSDAY 13 OCTOBER 5.30pm to 7pm
Friends of Lyme Regis Museum invite everyone for a glass of wine and an
overview of this Year of Maritime Lyme.

SATURDAY 22 OCTOBER 12noon Lyme Regis Malthouse
Join in the opening celebration for ‘Maritime Memories of Old Lyme Regis’. This
exhibition is open every day 10am to 4pm until Sunday 30 October – FREE.

A talk by the museum’s geologist Paddy Howe and marine biologist Chris Andrew
with recently discovered fossils on display. Ask questions, handle fossils and bring
your finds along for identification.

(in partnership with The Lyme Regis Society)
Deputy Town Clerk, Simon Ratcliffe and members of the steering group will talk
about the Shelters.

SATURDAY 29 OCTOBER 11am to 3.00pm
Make and take your own driftwood boat, with artist Alison Bowskill. Driftwood
provided. Drop in any time FREE.