Search This Blog

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

An ancient Fire Engine

This fire engine has recently gone back on display at Lyme Regis Museum; it was one of the original exhibits when the Museum first opened in the 1920s. The engine was probably made in the late 18th century, and was in regular use in Lyme for about a century. Fire engines of this type were really portable pumps: they sucked water either directly or from the tank at the back, and the pump pressurized the water so that an even jet of water was produced through the leather hose. The tank itself could be filled either by buckets or a suction pipe.

The old fire engine was finally replaced in 1889, shortly after it had given a poor performance at a bad fire in Broad Street. Newspaper reports after the fire were highly critical of the council’s continued use of such an antiquated engine. The papers claimed that the Bishop of Salisbury, who was staying in the town at the time, had been forced to play the hero and help out with the fire-fighting. Other accounts, however, suggest that the Bishop merely got in the way. One local person remembered a fireman having to drive the Bishop off a ladder, saying “If thee doesn’t come down from this ladder we’ll put the hose on ye!”

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Year of Maritime Lyme draws to a close

News release from Carole Halden, Marketing Manager of Lyme Regis Museum:

Lyme Regis Museum’s last Fossil Hunting Walk of 2011 on December 29 brings to a close an eventful year of activities celebrating Lyme Regis’s maritime life, culture and heritage. By year-end, a staggering 367 local events will have been featured in Maritime Lyme’s promotional leaflets and on its website. Combining these with the activities of the Fossil Festival, Lifeboat Week, and Regatta and Carnival Week produces a grand total of some 600 maritime-linked events in Lyme over the last 12 months

The idea for a year-long promotional campaign was initiated by the museum and developed at public meetings in 2009-10. Happily, 2011 was the perfect choice of year, as it coincided with the local RNLI’s 150th and the Lyme Regis Sailing Club’s 90th anniversary celebrations. During the year the museum, with boatbuilder Gail McGarva, ran a major maritime heritage project based around the lerret, an historic Dorset fishing vessel. The year also saw activities promoting the Spirit of Corinth, Lyme’s entry in the current Atlantic Challenge rowing race, as well as a number of special art exhibitions and workshops with maritime themes. One workshop, Photographing Maritime Lyme, run for the first time by local photographers Peter Wiles and Maisie Hill, was so successful that it will be repeated next year

The statistics behind the Maritime Lyme promotion speak for themselves: 20,000 leaflets distributed throughout three counties, over 50 news stories announcing events, and 1,630 visits to our website, representing almost 3,500 web-pages viewed. The website ( has worked so well as a marketing tool that it will be kept active next year, with information about what happened in 2011, as well as links with local websites that will be listing 2012 Lyme events.

Mary Godwin, Museum Curator said ‘The year of Maritime Lyme has been a great success, but we couldn’t have done it without the hundreds of hours and expertise contributed by Karol Kulik, who put together the events programmes and maintained the website, plus our designers Richard Hartnell and Kathryn Jackson, and Bob Brooker who built the website for us. Thanks to them we have been able to run a great project that has encouraged different parts of the town and different people to work together. We’re also especially grateful to the project’s sponsors who enabled us to market the project so effectively: HIX Oyster and Fish House; Lyme Regis, Charmouth and District Hotel and Restaurant Association; Lyme Bay Holidays; Martin Diplock; the National Trust; and One Bite Communications. And a big thank you is owed to the local newspapers and journalists who reported on the Maritime Lyme events and, of course, to all the groups and individuals who took part in the project.’

The Lerret Littlesea on the Town Beach, Lyme Regis, on January 3 at the start of the year of Maritime Lyme. Built by Gail McGarva Littlesea is a 17-foot wooden boat resembling the 17th century fishing boats native to the Dorset coast. This double-ended clinker vessel was constructed without drawings, taking the lines of the last sea-worthy lerret of 1923 named Vera.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Jane Austen possessions donated to Lyme Regis Museum

Wednesday 14th December,  saw a special Jane Austen evening at the Museum. Volunteer, Diana Shervington has the distinction that both of her grandmothers were grand-daughters of Jane Austens's brother, Edward Knight. Many of the Austen family's possessions have been handed down through the generations to Diana and the event was a celebration of Diana donating several interesting pieces to the Museum where they will be on permanent display.

To read more about and see pictures of the donated items click here.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

A Brief History of Lyme Regis Museum

Two of the Museum's volunteers, Amy Blacklock and Cate Bennett have recently compiled a leaflet giving a brief history of the Museum itself. From 1901 when it was built by TED Philpot (Elizabeth Philpot's great nephew) through to its regeneration in the 1990's for which it was awarded the Gulbenkian Prize, the museum has been a place to generate all sorts of emotions and its history is well worth a read. John Fowles, as Curator did much to ensure its survival and the Museum is, arguably, his greatest legacy to Lyme .

The leaflet can be collected from the Museum or you can read/download it here.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Thomas Hardy – Man of Wessex

"Thomas Hardy – Man of Wessex" was the title of an illustrated talk given yesterday by Jack Thomas (pictured left). The talk was organized by Lyme Regis Museum, but the subject proved so popular it was held in the Guildhall next door, where there are more seats!

Alongside Dickens, Thomas Hardy was one of the greatest Victorian novelists. He was born in 1840, three years after Queen Victoria came to the throne, and lived to 87, dying in 1928. Jack Thomas's father actually had tea with Hardy! But despite living and working to such an advanced age, Hardy loved the past, and most of his work is set in pre-Victorian times, around the 1830s.

As well as the novels for which he is so famous, Hardy also wrote almost a thousand poems. According to Jack, about a third of these are "not very good", but at his best Hardy's poems are amongst the greatest in the English Language. Although they're not as well known as they ought to be, they had a huge influence on the poetry of the twentieth century.

Much of Hardy's writing is set in Dorset, although locations are translated into the fictional county of "Wessex". Thus Dorchester, the county town of Dorset, becomes Casterbridge in novels such as The Mayor of Casterbridge.

In a little under an hour, Jack Thomas managed to convey an astonishing amount of information about the life and work of Thomas Hardy, including a few surprising snippets such as the fact that Hardy was reading Greek and Latin at the age of four, and that his notoriously ill-natured dog Wessex bit everyone who visited the house except T. E. Lawrence!

[In case you're wondering about Thomas Hardy's connection with Lyme Regis... Hardy never mentioned Lyme in his verse or fiction, but he visited the town on at least two occasions: in 1882 with his first wife and in 1915 with his second wife. The first visit was an uncomfortable one in a horse-drawn coach; fortunately by the time of the second visit the motor car had been invented! There was almost certainly a third visit, also by car, in 1920.]

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Mystery Object

Can anyone help to identify the "Mystery Object" pictured on the left? It was found on Lyme Regis beach by a fossil hunter, but the one thing that's certain is that it isn't a fossil! It looks vaguely nautical, but so far no-one has been able to identify it... although there have been plenty of guesses!

The object appears to be cast out of bronze, and it's very heavy. To get an idea of the scale, the yellow tape measure has been extended to 50 cm (about 20 inches). There is a hole (just visible in the picture if you click on it to enlarge it) in the near end, and the far end has been sheared off.

Please post a comment if you think you know what it is!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Police identity parade

We have just set up a new Information Wanted page on the museum website where we will post queries from Graham Davies and his research team that we think people may be able to help us with. Here is the first. Graham believes the photograph below (click on the image to enlarge it) was taken outside the Police Station in Hill Road in about 1950. However, of the seven policemen shown, the research team has only managed to identify one of them so far: Les Marsh, who is standing on the left of the back row. Can anyone help to identify any of the others?
Graham and his team are always interested in seeing old photographs of Lyme, particularly those dating from the 1950s or earlier, that may have been taken by your grandparents or great-grandparents while living in Lyme or on holiday here. Photographs showing buildings that are no longer standing are of particular interest. For example, does anyone have any photographs showing the Assembly Rooms that were demolished in the 1920s?

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Museum Events in December


Hardy wrote 15 memorable novels and nearly 1,000 poems. Hear Jack Thomas’ illustrated story of his fascinating life.


A talk at Woodmead Hall by Yvonne Green, Principal of Lyme's famous Boat Building Academy. This is the final event of the year of Maritime Lyme, in partnership with The Lyme Regis Society.


Celebrating the acquisition of Jane Austen artefacts – being given to the museum by Diana Shervington, descendant of the Austen family.  Join us for a glass of wine to thank Diana for her generous gift.


  • Friday 9 December 2011 09:00
  • Saturday 10 December 2011 09:15
  • Sunday 11 December 2011 10:00
  • Monday 12 December 2011 10:30
  • Tuesday 13 December 2011 11:15
  • Thursday 15 December 2011 12:30
  • Friday 16 December 2011 13:15
  • Tuesday 27 December 2011 11:30
  • Wednesday 28 December 2011 12:00
  • Thursday 29 December 2011 12:45


  • Saturday 3 December 12.30
  • Sunday 11 December 13.30
  • Saturday 17 December 13.30
  • Monday 26 December 14.00