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 THE DEVON AND DORSET BORDERLAND "How far is it to Babylon?"
Ah, far enough, my dear,
Far, far enough from here—
Yet you have farther gone!
"Can I get there by candlelight?"
So goes the old refrain.
I do not know—perchance you might—
But only, children, hear it right,
Ah, never to return again!
The eternal dawn, beyond a doubt,
Shall break on hill and plain,
And put all stars and candles out,
Ere we be young again.
"R. L. S."
The irregular and old-fashioned little town of Lyme Regis—"so crooked's a ram's horn," as the native would say—is in a most romantic position at the foot of the hills, being built in the hollow and on the slopes of a deep combe, through which flows the small stream of the Lym to the sea. It is seated on a grand coast, which rises to the east in the blackest and west in broken crags thickly with wood. As a port it is most ancient, having furnished ships to Edward III. during his siege of Calais.
Lyme, in its day, has seen a good many stirring events. In the of Henry IV. and V. it was twice and burned by the French; and in that of Richard II. nearly swept from the earth by a violent . During the Rebellion it successfully withstood a siege which was one of the most important of the time. In 1644 Prince Maurice invested it, established his headquarters at Old Colway and Hay House, and his troops along the neighbouring hill. Day after day the assault continued, more than once by storming parties; but the governor, Colonel Ceeley, assisted by Blake, afterwards so famous as an admiral, most every attack, and after a siege of nearly seven weeks was relieved by the approach of the Earl of Essex. In 1685 the town was again enlivened by the of arms, when, in the month of June, the Duke of Monmouth here landed, with about eighty companions, after running the gauntlet through a storm and a fleet of English cruisers in his passage from Amsterdam. As he reached the sandy shore he fell upon his knees and uttered a thanksgiving for his . He remained here four days, at the George Inn, when, having collected about two thousand horse and foot, he set forward on his expedition.
There can be no doubt that Lyme Regis has failed to prove itself anything like a popular watering-place; yet it has very good bathing, with neither currents nor hollows, and has the most front in Dorset. The fine scenery should the holiday-maker to suffer the somewhat enclosed situation, which makes the place very close during the hot summer days. It is in winter that Lyme should be popular, for then it can boast a climate.
The old stone , called the Cobb, is the real lion of Lyme, and is the source of much satisfaction to the hearts of the town. The Cobb, "the oldest arnshuntest bit o' stone-work in the land, a thousand years old—and good for another thousand, I tellee," as described to the present writer by a , was probably first constructed in the of Edward I. It has been frequently washed away, and restored at a great price, and was finally renewed and strengthened in 1825-1826. It is a semicircular structure, of great strength, the thick outer wall rising high above the roadway, so as to protect it from the wind and sea.
At Lyme an inn received me: a room full of fishermen and agricultural workers, a smell of supper preparing, and much drinking of cider. It was the New Inn, and I was told that this room was only the tap-room and not usually used by visitors. I found that one wing of the old building had been fitted for travellers, and I will gladly name it to all my readers who are satisfied with an old-fashioned comfort, a good bed and good fare.
After supper I bought a packet of sailor's shag, and went out smoking into the chief street. A few steps took me to the Cobb, and I leaned over the low wall and the glorious green sea, tumbling and gurgling below me. I always think that the union of stone and the sea is most satisfying to look upon—there is something endlessly good and noble about such a thing. I think a building of hewn stone when it dips into the water should act as a to the mind, should teach one to become calm, slow and strong; to deal generously in rectitudes and essentials.
It was late in August, and the chimes of the parish church had just boomed eight o'clock. The great orange moon hung over the bay, and the night came creeping over the rich yellow sand which crowns the Golden Cap. Then the cliffs into a fainter confusion. Bats came out and flitted about the old houses by the Buddle river, and the night became the natural haunt of restless spirits. A candle behind a leaded brought back suddenly the memory of a home long passed away and whatever belong to my childhood. And[Pg 211] all of a sudden that heart-hunger for the place of my birth gripped me, and Youth (whatever Youth may be), with its sights, its undefinable, spell, came back to me in one flash—Youth came to me from the old houses on the sea-wall, borne with the saltness of the sea air. Go away; travel the length and breadth of the land, visit a hundred cities, encounter a hundred new experiences, and form a hundred conflicting impressions of stranger scenes and places; go where you will, and do what you will; one day you will have seen and done enough, and you will find your thoughts turned again to the haunts of Youth.
At the sight of those ruffianly looking old by the riverside my memory was carried back to another small town where, long enough ago, I played at . Are we not all haunted by certain landscapes which come back unbidden, not as topographical facts, but as vestures of the soul? Their is in our blood, and their meaning uncommunicable.
Here, where one can smell the smell of venerable wooden fishing boats and , there is a suggestion of the good old smuggling days. There is a hint of rum, brass-bound sea-chests, trap-doors and deep mouldy cellars about the Buddle River houses, and the people who inhabit them are of very settled habits, and the inconveniences to which they have been accustomed seem to them preferable to conveniences with which they are . To this day, therefore, they empty slops out of the windows, burn candles, wind up their pot-bellied watches with large keys, and ripe old age. This curious quarter of Lyme Regis was once a smugglers' retreat and a favourite spot for their operations. A stranger visiting the banks of the Buddle could not fail to be struck with the formed streets, , and passages thereabouts, and if he secured the good offices of a native to pilot him through the he would be still further astonished at their intricacy. The houses are connected in the most mysterious manner, whether from design or accident, or whether to meet the of the smuggling trade, and for the more readily disposing of the kegs of spirits, and bales of other excisable goods, it is impossible to say. The most reasonable conclusion to arrive at is that the latter was the case.
The curious name of Cobb has given rise to much discussion. Murray's Handbook to Dorset (1859) puts forward the theory that it is of British origin, and calls attention to a barrow-crowned above Warminster called Cophead, and a long embankment on the race-course at Chester, which protects it from the River Dee, which has been known from time immemorial as the Cop. The length of the Cobb is 870 feet, and height above the sea-level 16 feet. It combines in one stone causeway the duties of breakwater, double and . The projecting stone steps, which form one of the oldest parts of the wall, are known as Granny's Teeth, and are described by Jane Austen in . The beach to the west of the Cobb is known as Monmouth's Beach. The Duke landed about a hundred yards west of the wall. A local tradition states that when the late Lord Tennyson visited the town one of his friends was anxious to point out the spot where Monmouth landed, but the great man impatiently exclaimed: "Don't talk to me of Monmouth, but show me the place where Louisa Musgrove fell!"
The bridge arch in Bridge Street is considered to be of an age second only to that of the Parish Church, and is well of . The Buddle Bridge consists of one arch of large span, thought to have been built in the fourteenth century, when the bed of the Lym, or Buddle, was to an extra depth of eight feet. An ancient arch with dog-tooth moulding has recently been in the basement of a house on the bridge. The arch is below the level of the roadway, and it no doubt formed part of a bridge of several arches built in the twelfth century. It rises from about two feet below the ground-floor cellar of this house. The arch has been seen by the . C. W. Dicker, of the Dorset Field Club, who sent to the editor of The Lyme Regis Mirror the following letter:—
Dear Sir,—I have just received a copy of last week's Mirror, containing an account of the very interesting archway under Bridge Street, which I was invited to inspect. As far as I can judge from the result of my one opportunity of examining it, the evidence points to the assumption that Bridge Street crossed the Buddle upon a bridge of several arches, constructed in the twelfth century, and that the archway in question was probably the third from west to east. The street at this point is (or was) obviously supported upon a substructure, upon which the houses . The masonry of the newly found arch is typical of the middle of the twelfth century, at which time the was chiefly in the hands of Roger of Caen, of Sarum and Abbot of Sherborne, a great builder, much of whose work is still to be found in Dorset. The archway clearly was built to support the roadway; and as its is exactly that of[Pg 215] the larger archway (apparently of the fourteenth century), under which the river now runs, there seems little room for doubt as to its origin. Yours faithfully,
C. W. H. Dicker, 
Vice-President and Hon. Editor
Dorset Field Club. 
Pydeltrenthide Vicarage,
The Town Hall, at the farther end of Bridge Street, was rebuilt on the site of the old Guildhall. The iron-cased door, that once led to the men's "lock-up," and the grating of the women's prison, have been against the north front wall. This wall is pierced by two arches, with a to the Old Market, over the of which is a carved projecting window. Here are the ancient parish stocks, removed from the church. At the farther end, facing Church Street, a wide gable stands out, lighted by an old but plainer window. In the lower part is the passage through to the Gun Cliff, with a flight of steps in the wall, leading down to the beach. From Church Street there is an easy approach to the Drill Hall, which was opened in 1894. On the opposite side of the street, and directly facing Long Entry, there is "Tudor House," a large old house possessing much fine oak panelling and . The interest of Tudor House is twofold, for it is associated with the "Father of English Literature," Henry Fielding, author of Tom Jones. Here lived Sarah Andrew, a rich heiress, when Fielding became wildly enamoured of her. This love affair was opposed by Andrew Tucker, who was Sarah's , but Fielding persisted in his suit with such energy that Tucker had to appeal to the Mayor of Lyme to be protected from the violence of Fielding and his men. This is recorded in the town journals.
Fielding lost the rich heiress, but immortalised her memory in the beautiful character of Sophia, in Tom Jones.
The Parish Church, to St Michael, contains some interesting . A prominent feature is the carved Jacobean pulpit and sounding-board, bearing in capitals the : "TO GOD'S GLORY RICHARD HARVEY MERCER AND MERCHANT ADVENTURER THIS ANNO, 1613." It was removed from a column near the south door and entrance to the vestry during the of the church by Dr Hodges, in 1833.
The building dates from the fifteenth century, though it is clear from town records that a church stood near or on the spot in 1298, and there are of a Norman arch and pillar in the west porch. Note the two parish chests, one of Jacobean workmanship. The following interesting are from six of the bells which were set up in 1770:—
1. "O Fair Britannia Hail." T.B. f., 1770.
2. "Harmony in sound and sentiment." T.B. 1770.
3. "O be in the Lord all ye lands." T.B. f., 1770.
4. Re-cast in 1843. Thomas Mears, , London. Fredk. Parry Hodges, vicar. Robert Hillman, Mayor. John Church and George Roberts, churchwardens.
5. "O sea spare me." This of bells was partly by rate and part by in the year 1770.
6. " Religione, pro Patria, pro Libertate." 1770. Mr Tuff and Mr Tucker, C. W. Thomas Bilbie, Fecit.
The curfew is still rung at eight o'clock at Lyme Regis.
Fuller details of the history of the church and town will be found in a very comprehensive little History of Lyme Regis, by Cameron, which is published by Mr Dunster at "The Library" in Broad Street.
Broad Street, leading from the station to the sea, is the main thoroughfare, and the principal business part of the town. Half-way up the street on the eastern side is a small passage leading to an ancient forge. It is scarcely to be[Pg 218] noticed unless one is expressly seeking for it, but once up the narrow court there it is, with its open doorway all red inside like a wizard's cave, with the hammers ringing on the , and the sparks showering out of the big flue. Here Vulcan has , moiled and, let us hope, aled for five hundred years without a break, and here, in spite of cheap , Mr Govier, the master smith of Lyme Regis, still seems to enjoy a re............
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