Summer returns to Lyme Regis
The first weekend of Lifeboat Week - and Summer returns to Lyme Regis, unapologetically, as if it had never been away.
“What, me?” it says. “I wouldn’t desert such a lovely town - how could you ever imagine such a thing?”
“Well,” we reply, “where were you the other week when the River Lim began flooding, causing disruption and misery? Why didn’t you even come to welcome the Olympic Torch?”
But Summer has its answer ready. It couldn’t come for the Torch, it explains, because it wasn’t a commercial sponsor. As for the flooding - yes, it agrees, that was bad. “But I’ve been around much longer than you, so perhaps have more perspective - don’t you remember the Great Flood of 1890?”
Fair point - 25 May 1890 (perhaps summer was taking a quick holiday in Italy that year) saw a disastrous flood in Lyme.
An evening storm that day saw the peaceable River Lim cause great damage to the Town Mill and its surroundings in the heart of the town.
Lyme’s short river is formed from several streams flowing down the hills around Uplyme. For its last mile it runs in a steep-sided valley into a bottleneck mouth to the sea. These natural features give it the power to turn the Town Mill’s water wheel, but also make it liable to violent flooding in severe storms.
At Gosling Bridge the water that day was said to be 15 feet deep; walls 8 feet high on either side of the bridge were washed away.
Around the Mill, the river loops in a tight ‘S’ bend between high walls, atop part of which stood the Bake House and Stables, with the Malt House on the opposite bank. The 1890 flood headed straight for the sea, smashing the garden walls of Temple House between the Mill and Coombe Street - in the process probably saving the Malt House from destruction.
A contemporary newspaper report recorded that ‘Messrs Wallis & Wallis [owners of the Mill] will be the greatest losers, their estimate being between £300 and £500.’ But newspapers, even then, weren’t always entirely on top of the facts. On 6 June, The Bridport News stated: ‘At the Town Mills .... a trout, weighing over a pound, had found its way into the case of a clock.’ On the same date, The Lyme Regis Mirror assured its readers that ‘at the Mills …. in the case of a clock, which had been washed into the yard, was found a salmon-peel weighing 1½ lbs.’ Salmon or trout: they’re both fish, after all ….
The flood in 1890 may have been the worst for Lyme, but it wasn’t the first. Records show that a severe storm in 1715 caused flooding of the River Lim: the bill for repair work on the stables at the Town Mill included: ‘20 Rope and half of stone wall £1 10s 9d, two menn Redoing the foundasion 2 days each 5s 4d, 4 days work at 2s and 2 days work at 1s 8d ... twenty sacks of lime at £1 13s 4d.’
So Summer has always been a bit of a fair-weather friend, we conclude. But now it’s here - and, like all visitors to Lyme Regis, once it’s arrived it likes to stay as long as possible. So if you haven’t yet booked your Lyme Regis accommodation, now’s the time: the town loves its floods of visitors as much as it dislikes the floods of water from the Lim.
Published on 21/07/2012.