Between 1500 and 1700, Lyme Regis was a prosperous town – a major port, trading with France, the Mediterranean, West Indies and the Americas, with shipbuilding also a significant industry. Although it had already started to decline as a port during the Georgian period, when travel abroad became difficult due to the wars with Revolutionary France and because sea bathing became popular, it became a fashionable resort for the upper classes who came to “take the waters” and socialise. Many new buildings were constructed and older properties were rebuilt or re-fronted, in the neo-classical style that was then highly fashionable.
This attractive building on Church Street, which houses the Mermaid Gallery is one of the oldest in Lyme Regis. It used to be the Tudor Hotel and, as the name implies, it’s a Tudor house, built in the early 17th century, but it has a typical Georgian style facade.
In the 19th century the port declined as it was too small to take larger ships and it became less fashionable as a resort. As a consequence the rate of development and building slowed down, meaning that many of the older, Georgian buildings remain. Today, many of them have been renovated and form an attractive backdrop to the holiday resort.
A particularly important example is Belmont House on Pound Street at the junction with Cobb Road.
The last resident was the author John Fowles. But since his death it has fallen into disrepair and is now subject to a restoration appeal by the Landmark Trust. A former owner was Eleanor Coade (1733–1821), the owner of a company which manufactured a type of artificial “reconstituted” stone called “Coade stone” which was used to manufacture decorative elements and statues. Very durable and resistant to weathering, it was very popular during the Georgian period. Not surprisingly, the facade of the house is embellished with decorative features made from her product, including the urns on the roof, the frieze at the top of the facade, the bust of Neptune above the door and the rusticated ornamentation around the front door and the windows.
This is the former Customs House in Cobb Square, near the port, which was built in 1845/6.
It has a typical Georgian neo-classical facade, with a very prominent triangular pediment. Originally it had a porch and balcony supported by columns.
This building on Coombe Street that today houses the Dinosaurland Museum is the former congregational church, which was built between 1750 and 1755 Mary Anning was baptised and later worshiped here before she converted to the Church of England.
On Broad Street, the main commercial thoroughfare, many of the shops have Georgian facades
And there are Georgian styled buildings all round the town, on Pound Street
(you can stay in this one as it’s now a high class B and B)
on the Marine Parade
and in other areas of the old town
Most towns and cities noted for their Georgian and Regency architecture have Terraces, Crescents, Squares and Circles with rows of uniform houses and false Palladian palaces made up of separate residences. In Lyme Regis all the houses are different and have their own individual character. But no less interesting for that.