Pocket Britain

In the western corner of Dorset with a long history and once one of Britain's most important ports

Listen to this article


The Cobb
Town Mill
Philpot Museum
Dinosaur Land
Jurassic Coast
Lyme Regis, in the western corner of Dorset, has a long history. It was once one of Britain's most important ports.
This maritime success is all thanks to the Cobb, a large harbour wall that has been here for many hundreds of years. It acts as a breakwater, providing a section of calm, flat water that was used both as a port, and as a major shipbuilding centre. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, Lyme Regis produced dozens of boats, including huge naval warships. The town was also an important centre for trade, particularly with France. In fact, Lyme Regis did such good business that just over 200 years ago, it was bigger than Liverpool!
The Cobb is very well known for featuring in the final Jane Austen novel, Persuasion. Austen visited Lyme Regis several times, and chose to set one of the book's most dramatic events here.
A centre of activity in Lyme Regis is the Town Mill. This is a working watermill, producing flour which is used in the on-site bakery, and sold in its shop. The site also includes a wealth of other cultural attractions. There's an art gallery, a pottery, and a knitwear studio. You can also drink tea at the cafe, or pick up souvenirs at the gift shop.
Lyme Regis' history is covered quite comprehensively at Philpot Museum, which is housed inside a wonderfully unusual brick building. It was built at the turn of the 20th century, but before then, there was an old townhouse on the same site. This was the birthplace of Mary Anning, who became known throughout the world.
Her story mostly took place on Lyme Regis' shore, where she spent countless hours searching for ancient fossils. She made her first major discovery at the age of twelve, when she found the world's first complete Ichthyosaur. She went on to uncover many more skeletons, which had a wide impact on global science and geology. Anning is said to be the origin of the well-known tongue twister: "she sells sea shells on the sea shore."
Examples of local fossils can be found both at the Philpot, and at another local museum called Dinosaur Land. The latter is inside an old Grade I listed church building, which was where Mary Anning was baptised as a child. Nowadays, it hosts a privately run exhibition, with a fantastic collection of skeletons and other artefacts. There's even a shop, where you can buy both fossils and gemstones to take home.
Alternatively, you could always go fossil hunting yourself! The cliffs around Lyme Regis are part of Dorset's Jurassic Coast, which is England's only natural world heritage site. Even to this day, people are uncovering new relics from a long way into the planet's past. The best time to search is in spring, after the winter's fierce weather has eroded away more of the cliffs.
If you look round Lyme Regis quite carefully, you'll begin to notice how they've worked their rich geological heritage into the town's identity. Several of the paving stones and streetlights are decorated with the distinctive spiral shape of an ammonite. See how many times you can spot it!
Visitor Information
Lyme Regis Tourist Information Centre, Guildhall Cottage, Church Street, Lyme Regis, DT7 3BS. Tel: 01297 442 138
Lyme Regis Philpot Museum is open in daily from Easter to October and all school holidays from 10am to 5pm (Wednesday to Sunday only during winter, closing at 4pm). Entry costs around £3.50 for adults, FREE for children. Bridge Street, Lyme Regis, DT7 3QA. Tel: 01297 443 370
Dinosaur Land is open daily from February to October from 10am to 5pm (may vary in winter). Entry costs around £5 for adults, £4 for children. Coombe Street, Lyme Regis, DT7 3PY. Tel: 01297 443 541

Back ~ Top ~ Home ~ Index

Pocket Britain is optimised for use on a smartphone or tablet with internet access. All content is subject to copyright. All reasonable methods have been used to ensure information supplied is accurate at the time of publication. However, it is advisable to check information before relying on it. Privacy Policy