Lyme Regis calls - in 1823!
Lyme Regis has attracted recreational visitors since the mid-18th Century, when a Dr Richard Russell promoted the health benefits of sea-bathing.
Writing in 1823 George Roberts, one of the town’s main local historians, described the attractions of Lyme Regis for visitors. Despite the archaic language, much of his analysis sounds remarkably like something that South West Tourism might say today.
‘Few towns centre in themselves so many different inducements to visit them as Lyme,’ he writes. ‘Viewed as a watering place, it offers the fairest prospect of restored health and spirits … and a round of visiting and good company. … It promises active employment to the fossilizer and geologist; while the literary character will find ample means for intellectual improvement or gratification.’
For water-lovers, he comments that ‘the bathing is rarely prevented by the prevalence of strong westerly winds, which prove such impediments in situations exposed to that quarter, owing to the shelter afforded by the Cobb.’ He mentions that ‘pleasure boats, of different descriptions, are kept for hire’ by boatmen who ‘charge by the hour or day’ and that the ‘impartial writer of the “Guide to Watering-Places’’ … concludes by an allusion to the purity of the sea-water.’
Apparently, ‘Gentlemen who have been abroad say Lyme has greatly the appearance of a Turkish town, from the intervention of trees and gardens, and irregularity of houses. … This resemblance will not be at all diminished on entering to meet the groups of Grecian beauties, when a pleasing reflection offers itself to find they are not captives, but captors.’ Clearly, Roberts was not simply a dour historian …
George Cruickshank ‘Hydromania’ (1819) Are these, perhaps, some of the captivating ‘Grecian beauties’?
Observing that ‘a ramble on the shore in search of fossils unites both exercise and recreation’ he adds that ‘the walks in the immediate vicinity are truly beautiful and picturesque: the higher situations enjoy an unequalled extent of sea and land view’ and that ‘Pic-nic parties in the cliffs are of frequent occurrence during the summer.’
He notes that ‘Lyme contains many excellent shops in the various lines of business, provided with large and extensive assortments of goods’ though the fact that ‘coal sells at a reasonable price’ may no longer be a relevant factor for today’s holiday-makers.
He tells us that ‘the Assembly Rooms are not conducted so as speedily to enrich the proprietors at the expence of the public’ - while the Assembly Rooms are long gone, the Marine Theatre, the Regent Cinema, the Museum, the Town Mill and many other attractions are a more than ample substitute, and continue the same tradition of value for money to the visitor.
Those seeking Lyme Regis accommodation in 1823 would have been encouraged that ‘the Hotel furnishes good accommodations’ and that ‘Hiscott’s Boarding-House is a pleasant situation, in the principal street, and a fine view of the sea is obtained from every part of it.’ Further reassurance comes with the news that ‘Mr. Webster, the instructing lecturer, analyzed the water which supplies the town, and pronounced it to be excellent’ and that ‘it would be very difficult to find a frog in the parish, such is the absence of all stagnant waters, or unhealthy vapours.’
Roberts concludes: ‘the variety of the amusements, the beauty and salubrity of its romantic situation, and moderate charges, all conspire to render Lyme a most agreeable residence. The town improves upon acquaintance, and only requires to be visited once to convey an idea of the recreative mode of life that accompanies a summer … residence.’
Were he to return today, Roberts would surely be pleased to see that Lyme Regis, while keeping up with the times, retains so many of those attractive features that he knew nearly two hundred years ago.
Published on 18/08/2012.