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Lyme Regis  is a coastal town in West Dorset, England, situated 25 miles west of Dorchester and 25 miles (40 km) east of Exeter. The town lies in Lyme Bay, on the English Channel coast at the Dorset-Devon border. It is nicknamed "The Pearl of Dorset." In the 13th century it developed into one of the major British ports. The town was home to Admiral Sir George Somers, its one time mayor and parliamentarian, who founded the Somers Isles, better known as Bermuda. Lyme Regis is twinned with St. George's, in that Atlantic archipelago.

The town has a population of 4,406, 45% of whom are retired.[2] Lyme is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. The Royal Charter was granted by King Edward I in 1284, with the addition of 'Regis' to the town's name. This charter was confirmed by Elizabeth I in 1591.

In 1644, during the English Civil War, Parliamentarians here withstood an eight week siege by Royalist forces under Prince Maurice. It was at Lyme Regis that the Duke of Monmouth landed at the start of the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685.

In the early 1960s, the town's railway station was closed, as part of the Beeching Axe. It was rebuilt at Alresford, on the Mid Hants Watercress Railway in Hampshire. The route to Lyme Regis had been notable for being operated by aged Victorian locomotives, one of which is now used on the Bluebell Line in Sussex.

In 2005, as part of the bicentenary re-enactment of the arrival of the news, aboard the Bermuda sloop HMS Pickle, of Admiral Nelson's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, the actor playing the part of Trafalgar messenger Lieutenant Lapenotiere was welcomed at Lyme Regis.

 

The town is famous for the fossils found in the cliffs and beaches, which are part of the Heritage Coast—known commercially as the Jurassic Coast—a World Heritage Site. The Blue Lias rock is host to a multitude of remains from the early Jurassic, a time from which good fossil records are rare.[4] Many of the remains are well preserved, with complete specimens of several important species. Many of the earliest discoveries of dinosaur and other prehistoric reptile remains were made in the area surrounding Lyme Regis, notably those discovered by Mary Anning (1799–1847). Significant finds include Ichthyosaur, Plesiosaur, Dimorphodon, Scelidosaurus (one of the first armoured dinosaurs) and Dapedium.

Lyme Regis is well-known for "The Cobb", a harbour wall full of character and history. It is an important feature in Jane Austen's novel Persuasion (1818), and in the film The French Lieutenant's Woman, based on the 1969 novel of the same name by local writer John Fowles.

The Cobb was of economic importance to the town and surrounding area, allowing it to develop as both a major port and a shipbuilding centre from the 13th century onwards. Shipbuilding was particularly significant between 1780 and 1850 with around 100 ships launched including a 12-gun Royal Navy brig called HMS Snap. The wall of the Cobb provided both a breakwater to protect the town from storms and an artificial harbour.

The centre of Lyme Regis. Notice the ammonite street light decoration.

Well-sited for trade with France, the port's most prosperous period was from the 16th century until the end of the 18th century and as recently as 1780 it was larger than Liverpool. The town's importance as a port declined in the 19th century because it was unable to handle the increase in ship sizes.

It was in the Cobb harbour, after the great storm of 1824, that Captain Sir Richard Spencer RN carried out his pioneering lifeboat design work.

The first written mention of the Cobb is in a 1328 document describing it as having been damaged by storms. The structure was made of oak piles driven into the seabed with boulders stacked between them. The boulders were floated into place tied between empty barrels.

 

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