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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Lyme Regis in the 16th century

Henry VIII's antiquary John Leland visited Lyme Regis in the 1530s or 1540s, and described it as "a praty market town set in the rootes of an high rokky hill down to the hard shore". He also described the town's artificial harbour, which even in those days was known as the Cobb. Rather than the solid stone structure of today, this consisted of timber piles enclosing loose boulders, as shown in the drawing which is based on a map made in 1539 (by courtesy of the British Museum).

The 16th century Cobb was a miracle of engineering for its time, and described by the Elizabethan chronicler Holinshed as "a great and costly jetty". It required constant maintenance, and in the 1620s Thomas Gerard described how stones to reinforce the Cobb were carried there buoyed up by empty wooden casks.

A scale model of the Cobb as it would have looked in Elizabethan times, made by David West, is on display in Lyme Regis Museum.

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