Scroll down or click on Home to return back
Use Search engine below to fine more pages.

Jane Austen in Charmouth Talk.

The illustrated Talk we are to give will initially provide the background to Jane Austen`s stay in Charmouth at the Coach and Horses in the summer of 1803, before she went on to Lyme Regis in the autumn of that year and another visit during the subsequent year. We recently identified a Census for the village which is contemporary with her visit which lists the villagers and their occupations. We have also researched a number of records to find out what we could about them and where they lived. With this information it has been possible to use relevant illustrations and create an imaginary walk she could have taken through the village from the Mill to Old Lyme Hill and the Beach at the time of her visit here. .

We have Jane Austen to thank for one of the earliest references to the village in Chapter 11 of "Persuasion" when she writes:
“Charmouth, with its high grounds and extensive sweeps of country, and still more its sweet, retired bay, backed by dark cliffs, where fragments of low rock among the sands make it the happiest spot for watching the flow of the tide, for sitting in unwearied contemplation”.She could almost be describing the same vista that Britian`s greatest artist, J.M.W. Turner saw when he painted this wonderful view towards Lyme Regis from the beach in 1811. We can see the fisherman with his massive shrimping net and a group of bathers.
Jane in Chapter 14 again refers to the this pleasure enjoyed by vistors as follows:
"Mary had been taken to Charmouth too, and she had bathed, and she had gone to church, and there were a great many more people to look at in the church at Lyme than at Uppercross; and all this, joined to the sense of being so very useful, had made really an agreeable fortnight
When she visited Lyme in 1804 she mentioned Charmouth in a letter to her sister, Cassandra.
"The bathing was so delightful this morning & Molly so pressing with me to enjoy myself that I believe I stayed in rather too long, as since the middle of the day I have felt unreasonably tired. I shall be more careful another time & shall not bathe to-morrow as I had before intended. Jenny & James are walking to Charmouth this afternoon".

Claire Tomlin in her authoritative book, "Jane Austen: A Life" writes that her short-sighted family destroyed the bulk of her letters; and if she kept any diaries, they did not survive her. She has filled the gaps in the record, creating a remarkably fresh and convincing portrait of the woman and the writer. It is her researches that we have to thank for the likelyhood that Jane was in Charmouth with her family in the summer of 1803 before going on to Lyme Regis in November of that year. She no doubt would have stayed at the famous Coach and Horses Inn that was very popular with its postion on the Great Western Road linking London with the west country.

The year 1803 when she arrived was a time of prosperity for the village, for it was at the height of the Napoleonic wars with France, although there had been a temporary peace the year before. Nelson had taken command of HMS Victory and was made commander of the Mediterranean fleet. Victory and the other ships in the British Navy created a huge demand for Sailcloth. As a result, Charmouth with its neighbouring villages surrounding Bridport were to be the main producers of the material.
Jane would have seen many of the fields growing Flax around the village, which with Hemp was the staple that was used by the manufacturers.
She would have also passed three busy workshops along the Street. There was Burnards, by the Mill, Kitts in the centre at the corner of Barr`s Lane and Webber’s at the top of the village.
With its closeness to Lyme Regis it was also able to benefit from the boom in visitors taking the waters for their health and had its own bathing machines, which were very popular as a way of bathing in the sea without being seen. An advert in the Western Gazette from 1799 shown here records this advantage:
Sea Bathing
"To be let, a large, handsome, modern built brick house, genteelly furnished, having a view of the sea, with a very good garden well cropped and a stable, and may be taken immediately for four or six months, or by the year.
The situation of Charmouth is remarkably cheerful and healthy, it lies on the Great Western Road, is well supplied, and has excellent machines for sea bathing. For particulars apply post-paid to John Diment, Charmouth"

John Feltham published his first authoritative book on the subject with his “Guide to all the Watering and Sea Bathing Places” in 1803. It was produced annually until 1825 and would have been used by Jane and her family before visiting here. He floridly writes about Charmouth as follows:
“This delightful village lies between Bridport and Axminster, on one of the roads leading to Exeter, and is thirty-one miles from that city. It occupies an elevated situation and consequently commands many vast and beautiful prospects both of the sea and land. It has likewise the advantage of being a considerable thoroughfare, and lying so near Lyme, it is much resorted to by bathers. The beach here is pebbly and in all its advantages and disadvantages partakes of the qualities of its neighbour and rival. It cannot be expected that fashionable amusements are to be found here: but the lower nature will be sure to find gratification in his rambles of the environs,and he who is in search of health, a still superior good, will be as likely to find it on the coast of Dorset as in that of Sussex.
The fisheries here and at Lyme present a constant scene of useful activity, no less advantageous to the individuals concerned than amusing to spectators.
The rides and walks are sufficiently varied and numerous. Bridport, Axminster, Axmouth, etc. Will be included amongst the former.
Sailing too, whether it is regarded as a pleasant or a healthful exercise, cannot be excelled by any in the circle of the occupations of the idle, may here be enjoyed to the full, with facilities that render it still more inviting".

The map from the guidebook would have been the equivalent to google maps at the time providing the tourist with all the information he needed before his trip. It was a popular form of publication, listing over sixty places in England and Wales which had become fashionable either for their spas or sea bathing facilities (sometimes both). The route from London called at Andover, Salisbury, Woodyates Inn, Blandford, Dorchester, Bridport and finally Charmouth. To reach Exeter the coach would stop at Axminster and then Honiton before reaching that destination. The Tate Gallery has a copy of the guidebook that J.M.W. Turner used when he travelled to Charmouth and the surrounding area in 1811.

This wonderful view of Lyme Regis by John Nixon was used in the 1803 edition of the Guide and could well have come from one of Jane`s novels with its depiction of fashionable regency ladies admiring the town below them. The guide although flattering of Charmouth`s virtues was quite damming of Lyme Regis as this extract clearly reveals:
" The Proximity of Lyme and Charmouth, for they are within two miles of each other, and the constant intercourse which is kept between those who visit either the one or the other, evinces the propriety of clashing them together. As Lyme is more frequented, it first claims attention. It is built on a declivity of a craggy hill, at the head of a little inlet of the sea, and contains many respectable looking houses, with pleasant gardens, particularly in the upper part of the town, but the streets are steep, rugged and unpleasant. In the lower part the houses are mean, and the streets so intricate, that a stranger, as has been wittily remarked, will sometimes find himself bewildered, as if he were entangled in a forest or the labyrinth of a fox den. Here the lower order of the inhabitants in general reside, having that position which nature and fortune assigned on them".

Jane would have been able to admire some of the fine houses and villas that were just beginning to be built along the Street which were attracting the higher echelon of society who are described as Gentleman in the Census of that time. Here on the right is what is today: Albury House, Luttrell House and Peria in a very early photograph c.1880.
Whereas Lyme had the Assembly Rooms for visitors, Charmouth would have had the “Coach and Horses”, which was then called “The Three Crowns” and later “The Mail Coach Inn”. Jane would have no doubt stayed at this popular staging post for those travelling by coach between London and the West Country. The “Great Western Road” linking these two centres passed directly through the village.

Although photography would not have existed in her time, Charmouth is fortunate that a number of early images were taken from 1860 until 1870 which are very detailed and supply a glimpse of how many of the buildings she would have seen would have looked. This is of one of the coaches, similar to that which she would have used outside the Coach and Horses on its way to Exeter.

The majority of houses at that time were then roofed in thatched and it would have resembled nearby Chideock which is seen here in a quieter time before the onslaught of traffic.

We will now attempt to create a visual tour of how the village would have appeared to Jane if she had started from the Bridge and walked up the Street to Old Lyme Hill. To assist us we are fortunate that a double page list has recently been found in Parish documents now held in the Dorset Record Office which is a detailed Census carried out in 1813 of the village in that year. Cross referencing this with Parish records, Land Tax, Poor Rates, Wills, Title Deeds and other records we have been able to identify the occupants of a number of the houses at that time. It has also revealed that whoever compiled it began at the Old Mill and worked up the Street, which is very useful for us in giving this Talk as we can follow the same route.

By 1813 there was already a number of fine houses, with more to be built soon after. The finest would be those designed by the famous architect, Sir James Wyatville and known as 1,2,3 Hillside in 1824. These would attract the wealthier members of society who would be described as "Gentlemen". Their needs would be serviced by then many tradesmen shown here in the Census list as Thatcher, Lace Maker, Shoe Maker, Carpenter, Mason,Blacksmith. There were also a number of shops including a Post Office, Baker, Butcher, Dairy and Grocer for them to patronise.

One of the earliest maps is that produced by Colonel Mudge for the first Ordnance Survey which is shown here. The main road which had been considerably improved in 1758 when it was turned into a Turnpike Road can be seen passing though the village towards Axminster and on to Exeter. The lower road was already in a bad state and was abandoned in 1824 and rebuilt as the Old Lyme Road above it to link up with Lyme Regis. Lower Sea Lane was the only route to the beach and was known as Mill Lane. Higher Sea Lane then known as Rocket Lane led to Sea Horse House, built in 1801 and the common fields below it.

Although the main occupation of villagers was in farming and sail cloth manufacturer there was also a side line in smuggling which was rampant along the coast, with all members of society involved. This painting depicts a group of smugglers offloading their contraband on to a wagon in a Dorset cove.There is still a sunken lane running inland from the eastern cliffs of Charmouth which retains its earlier name of the Smugglers' Path. The Western Flying Post reported in January 1825:
"On the night of Saturday week, three men of the Lyme Preventive Station were on the look-out near the mouth of the Charmouth River, where they captured 150 kegs and two men. They had not retained possession long before they were attacked by a party of smugglers 70 or 80 in number and as is usual in such adventures they appeared affected by liquor. They advanced with great violence. In defence, the officers were compelled to fire in the midst of them, in consequence of which, one man fell and was carried off by the party, who immediately retreated carrying with them all but 10 kegs and the two prisoners. One of the officers named Davis was mistaken for his brother, an extremely active man stationed near Bridport and nothing short of murder was intended towards him, as an attempt was made to cut his throat, which did not take effect, as the stock in his cravat prevented the weapon from making any serious incision. The smugglers continued to discharge large stones from the cliff upon the Revenue men who, though they were preserved by the darkness of the night from destruction, received some severe contusions, and are now confined in consequence."   
In the struggle that followed,they made off again with most of the brandy, leaving behind three of their number who subsequently served three months in Dorchester gaol. The registers of Dorchester gaol recorded similar imprisonments of Charmouth smugglers, including 21 year old Elizabeth Powell in 1824, and a 49 year old seaman, Henry Tippen, in 1828.

In 1801, John Oliver, Master R.N., wrote to Captain Boteler R.N,. Coastguard Station, Lyme Regis,
"During the last war with France, a Privateer chased a Brig past the Town to the Westward within half a gun-shot of the batteries, when there was not a gun serviceable to defend her, and the enemy captured her near Seaton. A small battery of three guns opposite the Cobb and another at Charmouth under the direction of the Coastguard service would be very desirable in the event of war.
Perhaps this was the origin of the gun kept by the Charmouth Coastguards on the West cliff. It was kept in a shed above the Look-out house; and it used a 6lb. Shot. A target was fixed in the sea at about 300-400 yards range; and the shot was retrieved at low water and used again.The Look Out shown here in this early photograph was built by the Customs & Excise Service in 1804, at a time when England took the threat of a Napoleonic invasion very seriously. The south-east coasts were the ones thought to be most at risk from a sally by the French from their great port at Boulogne. It was used very effectively by the Excise & Coastguard Service in their endeavours to intercept the running of brandy from France, and to apprehend the smugglers.

If the revenue officers on land were being frustrated in their attempts to put an end to the smuggling trade, The Revenue Cutters at sea met with rather more success. This painting is of H.M.S. Sherborne that sailed along the Dorset Coast.

The painting is of one of the many fishermen whom Jane would have seen based near the beach. The most famous of these were the Hunters who lived in Sea View Cottage at the bottom of what is now Lower Sea Lane.

Although Charmouth is referred to in Jane Austen`s famous novel, Persuasion, it is Lyme Regis that occupies her attention more. We will briefly cover the buildings that are associated with her. This wonderful painting gives us an idea of how she would have seen Marine Parade during her stay.

Another contemporary view shows the large roof of the Assembly Rooms on the right which she visited in 1804. She wrote to her sister, Cassandra on the 14th September of that year as follows:
"The ball last night was pleasant, but not full for Thursday. My father staid contentedly till half-past nine (we went a little after eight), and then walked home with James and a lanthorn, though I believe the lanthorn was not lit, as the moon was up, but sometimes this lanthorn may be a great convenience to him. My mother and I staid about an hour later. Nobody asked me the two first dances; the next two I danced with Mr. Crawford, and had I chosen to stay longer might have danced with Mr. Granville, Mrs. Granville’s son, whom my dear friend Miss A. offered to introduce to me, or with a new odd-looking man who had been eyeing me for some time, and at last, without any introduction, asked me if I meant to dance again. I think he must be Irish by his ease, and because I imagine him to belong to the honourable B.’s, who are son, and son’s wife of an Irish viscount, bold queer-looking people, just fit to be quality at Lyme".
Sadly, the building was demolished in 1924, and the site is now a small car park.

The old Assembly Rooms that Jane would have visited are seen here on the left.

This 1824 town plan showing the lower part of Broad Street. Clearly marked are the Assembly Rooms, the original Three Cups Inn and its stable yard, and the house belonging to William Pyne Esq. This is where the Austen family are thought to have lodged in 1804. The Shambles (open market) is right outside the front door. A blue plaque now hangs above the front door to the house. A letter to her sister refers to it as follows:
“I have written to Mr Pyne, on the subject of the broken lid; it was valued by Anning here we were told at five shillings, & as that appeared to us beyond the value of all the furniture in the room together, we have referred ourselves to the owner. The Ball last night was pleasant, but not full for Thursday. My father staid very contentedly till half-past nine (we went a little after eight), and then walked home with James and a lanthorn.”
The Anning she mentions is the father, Richard of the famous, Mary Anning.

In Persuasion, she describes: " the walk to the Cobb, skirting round the pleasant little bay, which, in the season, is animated with bathing machines and company; the Cobb itself, its old wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful line of cliffs, stretching out to the east of the town, are what the stranger's eye will seek, and a very strange stranger it must be who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme, to make him wish to know it better."
This engraving of Lyme Regis is based on a sketch by Captain Frederick Marryatt, who has a number of links with Charmouth in that his sister owned "Fernhill" and a daughter, Caroline married the local G.P. Dr.George Norris and lived at The Elms. He was very famous as the author of "The Children of the New Forest". It shows the sea front of the Assembly Rooms and the corner of Bell Cliff with a rather fanciful view of the bathing machines and the bathers.
"After securing accommodations, and ordering a dinner at one of the inns, the next thing to be done was unquestionably to walk directly down to the sea. They were come too late in the year for any amusement or variety which Lyme, as a public place, might offer. The rooms were shut up, the lodgers almost all gone, scarcely any family but of the residents left; and, as there is nothing to admire in the buildings themselves, the remarkable situation of the town, the principal street almost hurrying into the water.

In Persuasion, Jane writes about Anne Elliott, Captain Harville, Captain Wentworth,and Louisa Musgrove walking on the Cobb. The scenery is definitely noticed, but the main preoccupation is conversation and social interaction;
but as they drew near The Cobb there was such a general wish to walk along it once more, all were so inclined.There was too much wind to make the high part of the new Cobb pleasant for the ladies, and they agreed to get down the steps to the lower, and all were contented to pass quietly and carefully down the steep flight, excepting Louisa: she must be jumped down them by Captain Wentworth. In all their walks he had had to jump her from the stiles; the sensation was delightful to her. The hardness of the pavement for her feet made him less willing upon the present occasion; he did it, however.
She was safely down, and instantly to shew her enjoyment, ran up the steps to be jumped down again. He advised her against it, thought the jar too great; but no, he reasoned and talked in vain, she smiled and said, ' I am determined I: he put out his hands; she was too precipitate by half a second, she fell on the pavement on the Lower Cobb, and was taken up lifeless! There was no wound, no blood, no visible bruise; but her eyes were closed, she breathed not, her face was like death. The horror of that moment to all who stood around !
This was to change the path of the story. The photograph shows the famous Granny's Teeth, but the set of steps Jane refers to were thought to be further along.

A Portrait of Jane Austen painted in the Lyme Regis countryside by her sister Cassandra in the year 1804, when she stayed in the area.

This painting shows the beautiful unspoilt countryside Jane would have encountered on leaving Lyme and taking a pleasant walk along the path to Charmouth. A view by the golf course that can still be enjoyed today.

Fanny Burney in 1791 wrote "We set out, after dinner, for Lyme from Charmouth and the road through which we travelled is the very most beautiful to which wandering destinies have yet sent me. It is diversified with all that can compose luxuriant scenery and with just as much of the approach to sublime, as in the province of unterrific beauty".
This view although later that Jane`s stay reveals how precarious the Old Lyme Hill Road was. In 1824 a new route was carved out of the hill as a lower level and resulted in a gap known as the Devils Bellows on account of the strong winds that would be encountered there.

We will return now to Charmouth as it would have appeared to Jane in the year 1803 when she stayed here by taking an imaginary walk along The Street from the Mill to Old Lyme Hill. We can supply many of the names of those living there in that year by referring to the Poor Rates and Land Tax lists in that year as well as the Census taken shortly afterwards. This wonderful drawing has only recently come to light in the extensive collection of the Philpott Museum in Lyme Regis. It was drawn in 1825 and is surprisingly accurate. It shows one of the processes of Sail Cloth manufacture in the foreground that was carried on there by William Burnard. Behind them is Rose Cottage and a number of other thatched cottages that lined the Street. The Bridge was rebuilt by the County in 1824 and was one of several bridges which contained the following warning:-"Dorset. Any person wilfully injuring any part of this county bridge will be guilty of felony and upon conviction liable to be transported for life by the Court. T.Fooks." Behind it are the Mill buildings and Mill House.

Another early photo of this idyllic spot with the old bridge and Mill buildings as the side of the stream. The area now forms part of Manor Farm Holiday Centre.

The Old Mill seen in action with the Miller loading up his wagon with sacks of flour. In Jane Austen’s day it was operated by Henry Smith who rented it from Dr. Robert Graves of Bridport. He would have lived in the nearby Mill House, both of which are still standing although drastically altered.

Rose Cottage in Bridge Road was occupied by the unusually named Digory Gordge in the early Census. He was one of a number of members of this family who prospered in the village.

Peter and Leah Clapcott lived in The Grange, shown here in this early photograph in the year Jane came to Charmouth. It was a fine Georgian House with an acre of land behind it and a further acre of Common, of Lower Sea Lane. He died in 1813 and was buried in St. Andrews Church in a Chest Tomb alongside that of James Warden near the entrance.

A View looking up The Street towards the Church, almost as Jane would have observed in 1803. On the right is Bow House which had a bow window at that time. It was here that William Burnard lived. He was a Sail Cloth Manufacturer with his workshops behind the house and by the river. Adjoining it was Stow House where his wives father, Peter Good lived. He was Minister at the Chapel on the opposite side of the Street. His will reads as follows:
"I Peter Good of Charmouth, Protestant Dissenting Minister. I give my now erected Messuage with back court and garden deed of conveyance dates 1804 being of the north side of the street and bounded on the west by a Messuage or dwelling in possession of Morgan and known by the name of the George Inn and on the east by a Messuage or dwelling house and lands in tenure or possession of Mr. William Burnard, Canvas Manufacturer and which I purchased of said William Burnard unto my beloved wife Rebecca Good and her heirs

A later view of The George with its sign projecting from above the entrance. The Inn was ancient even at that time with its origins dating back to the time when the Abbots of Forde owned the village and ran the Hostelry until the 16th century. In the year of Jane`s visit it was opened by Thomas Morgan who died soon after in 1806 and left it to his son in law, Richard Hawkins.

This engraving is by the Charmouth artist Carter Galpin, who bought Lithography to this country and produced a number of images of the village whilst he was here. The building now known as The Abbotts House, was rebuilt in the early 16th century by Thomas Chard of Forde Abbey who placed his initials above the main entrance door seen here. Jane Austen would have no doubt visited it and heard of the astonishing story, when in 1651 Charles II stayed there for one night in his attempt to flee the country after the Battle of Worcester. He failed in this as a result of the wife of the master of the ship finding out what here husband was up to and locking him in their house. By the time he got out it was too late, and the King left for Bridport and eventual freedom from Shoreham. In 1803 it belonged to the non-conformists who held their services in the neighbouring chapel and used part as a school.

This early photograph looking down the Street towards The George. reveals how the majority of the buildings were thatched. This resulted in a number of devastating fires. The buildings on the left all went up in smoke in 1895 and were later rebuilt as Devonedge and Lansdowne House. A little further on is the house where in 1803, where Mary and Elizabeth Rickard lived and took in lodgers. They were the daughters of John Rickard who had been the Steward to Benedicta Durston, Lady of the Manor. The House with the fine iron railings was in that year where Brian Coombe, the Village Rector lived. He owned substantial property in the village including Backlands Farm at the rear of The Street.

A view looking down The Street almost unchanged from the time when Jane visited here. On the left is a large building then known as "Streets" which was owned by Rev. Brian Coombes and rented to William Cole a Baker. It is astonishing today to think that the rear of the same building where the arcade of shops now stands, they are still baking bread. On the right stretching from The Abbotts House to Lower Sea Lane is Pear Close, which was another field owned by Rev. Brian Coombes.

Although this early photograph is of Pryers Yard, it does show the building that is now The Pharmacy on the corner of Lower Sea Lane. Jane Austen would have seen it as a Carpenters Workshop in her day that was rented from the Miss Rickards.

We have broken the long length of The Street into three sections to show on this early map those buildings that would have existed in 1803 when Jane stayed in the village. Here is the area which we have just covered from the Mill to Lower Sea Lane. The houses stood on burgage plots which dated back to the 13th century when the village was owned by the monks of Forde Abbey. The original wall to the north still stands and a ditch marked those to the south. Each was originally half acre. Although many were amalgamated over the centuries to make them more viable.

This old photograpgh is of the building now known as Charmouth Lodge on the corner of Barrs Lane. In 1803 it would have been the workshops of Jacob Ridley Kitt. It was later converted into the house seen here by Stephen Atkinson.

Another early view of Charmouth Lodge. on the right can be seen the thatched roof of "Streets" which was to be burnt to the ground in the fire of 1895.

Little Lodge on the left had long been the house of the Sail Cloth Maker. In 1803 it was Jacob Ridley Kitt who ran his business from there and his workshops occupied the area around it including the building that was later to be converted into a residence and now known as Charmouth Lodge. At the time of Janes visit this would have been booming providing much needed Cloth for Nelsons fleet. Many of the fields were owned or rented by Kitt to grow Flax, the staple for his cloth. At the end of the War with France in 1815, the demand for sail dropped off and sadly Kitt went bankrupt.

The building we know today as Nisa opened as Charmouths first Post Office in 1806, just a couple of years after Janes visit. Joseph Bradbeer who was the first Postmaster would have been known to Jane as the Landlord of the Inn where she stayed on the other side of the Street.

Here is an artist’s depiction of how the Coach and Horses may have looked when Jane stayed there in 1803. It was an ancient Inn originally called "The Three Crowns" and then changed to "The Mail Coach Inn" as a result of its importance as a stop off for the coaches taking the Royal Mail across the country. The Daily Advertiser, of 9th April 1739 records that:
"Our townsmen beheld by only going to Charmouth, the wonder of the day, better known as " The Exeter Flying Stage Coach" which reached Dorchester from London in two days and reached Exeter in three days. The lofty Stonebarrow Hill had to be ascended from Morcombelake and the descent - a perilous one - to be made by the main road, better called narrow lane, beyond the eastern brook by Charmouth, since abandoned for one further inland, and recently for one still further inland, by which the hill from Morcombelake is altogether avoided."

On the left of this early photograph of the Inn can be seen Beech House which in 1803 was a butchers owned by William Edwards who also owned the Inn which he had rented to Joseph Bradbeer from 1790.

This early photograph clearly shows the size of the Inn which supplied accommodation for guests which would have included Jane on her stay here in 1803. The advert from 1810 is when it was offered for sale with the neighbouring butchers in Beech House by William Edwards. By this time Joseph Bradbeer was about to give up the lease as his Post Office was proving a great success and John Clomoes was to be the new landlord. The advert is very flattering about Charmouth which it describes as:
" The lands are most delightfully situate in the much frequented village of Charmouth, whose celebrity as a watering place has been too long known to need an enumeration of the conveniences and advantages it possesses".

Anoiher delightful view of the former building that was lost in a fire in 1882 and rebuilt in brick.
As well as the many coaches that were stopping at the Inn, there were also the heavy Russell`s Fly Waggons, which were pulled by a team of eight horses which would have been needed to cope with the hills in the neighbourhood. 
The Hill into Charmouth was notorious and passengers would have to get out and walk alongside. There is a famous incident when King George III was travelling from Weymouth to Sidmouth in 1789, which is reported as follows: 
"Between Bridport and Chard are two very large steep hills, Chideock and Charmouth. It was impossible for his majesty's horses could here proceed in the swift manner in which he usually travels. The King, Lord Courton, Colonel Goldswothy, &c. dismounted, and walked up the hill. The King said he had never travelled such a stage in his life. During all this part of the road the multitude walked with him, and at times conversed familiarly with such as were near him.
The people of the village of Charmouth had prepared a lofty triumphal Arch of oak bought, with a crown of Laurel and wreaths of flowers".

There are other incidents relating to the Coaches reported in the newspapers of the time:
January 22nd 1791 as follows:“Friday last a passenger from London, on the top of the Western Coach, being sick at Chideock, expired before he came to Charmouth through the excessive cold of the foregoing night”.
A more amusing record in the papers of the time is one in 1798 which reads as follows:
Sunday the 28th October, three mail coachmen attended divine service in Charmouth Church, and it is remarkable that had patience to continue to the conclusion to it”. 
The services would have been taken by the Curate at the time, Rev. Brian Coombe.
In June 1803,when Jane would have been staying she would no doubt have read in the Western Gazette the following:
"On Saturday the 11th inst. As Captain Harrison, paymaster of the Royal dragoons, was leading his horse down Charmouth Hill, the horse snapped at him, and caught hold of his left hand, by which he lifted him from the ground (a weight of between 17 and 18 stone shaking his head, and stamping with great rage; the whole of the fore finger came away, and with it the tendon which connects it to the elbow; the horse then galloped off. Captain Harrison went on to the village of Charmouth, where he obtained a chaise, and proceeded on his journey to Dorchester Barracks.
Thus has a worthy, respectable, and gallant officer, after forty years service, three of them most actively employed during the war in Flanders, and in which he escaped receiving the slightest injury from the enemy, now been deprived of the use of his hand from the viciousness of his horse, in a manner which must inflict the most excruciating pain. These are circumstances that offer a wide field for reflection and regret!".

An even sadder story of the dangers of coach travel in those times is given two years later when the Western Gazette reports:
"On Friday night a stage coach from Exeter for London overturned on Charmouth Hill, by which accident a young woman, an outside passenger, was thrown with such violence on the road, that she died immediately, her name was Anne Pitts, she was Lady`s maid in the family of James Buller, esq. M.P. and she was on her way to visit a relation in this city, when she encountered the above fatal accident.". 
Her Grave Stone shown here is still to be seen in St. Andrews Church, showing she was 58 years of age. 

This is the only drawing of the former church that stood where St. Andrews is today, that has come down to us. It was found recently in the Philpott Museum collection at Lyme Regis. It reveals the thatched roof of the Coach and Horses on the left. On the extreme right is a building that was originally the Coach House to the Manor House opposite and was later a Butchers and finally demolished in 1861 when the church yard was extended. The church itself would have been over 500 years old when Jane saw it and been called St. Matthews at that time. The building at the rear was new Rectory built in 1827.

The Reverend Thomas Snow was Curate from 1827 until 1834 whilst Reverend William Glover was Rector. In 1828 his cousin, Diana Sperling visited him and painted a number of views of the village in that year. Over the years they have come on to the market and provide a unique record of that time. A book 'Mrs Hurst Dancing & Other Scenes from Regency Life" has recently been published of some of her watercolours which are often used to illustrate Jane Austen’s articles. The illustration is of the Old Church and the Rectory where she was staying alongside it. There would have been fine views to the beach and countryside beyond.

The first of the views is from a rear bedroom window to the beach.The other is from a front bedroom window over the roof of the old church, which was in rather a dire state then. At the apex of the chapel covered in ivy was a statue of an Abbot that was later found in the grounds and is now preserved in the church.

This fanciful painting of servants cleaning the windows of flies could have been of the ground floor which has similar windows to these.

This painting could depict the entrance to the Rectory whioch has a similar curved window above the front door.

This view is of the Elms on the left which in 1803 was owned by Thomas Shute, whose memorial still hangs on the wall of the Church. The former Church is seen in the background. The building on the right is on the site of the present day library and in 1803 was owned by John Ridges who rented it with other properties in the village. They would later to go to his grand-daughter, Anne who lived there and it became known as Miss Hyde’s Cottage. She also owned the neighbouring house, Wistaria which she rented.

The Manor House is opposite the Church and is very historic dating back to at least the 16th century when it was owned by the Abbott at Forde. After the dissolution in 1539 it was bought by Sir William Petre, whose son, John later sold it to William Pole. His family sold it to William Ellesdon who lived there and left it to his son Anthony who when he died in 1737 left it to a cousin Richard Henvill. It was his descendant who in 1788 sold it James Warden. He built a fine new mansion at Langmoor and sold the manor house soon after to Robert Davie. In the year of Jane`s visit he died and the fine house was placed on the market. Its description is as follows:
"To be sold, a large Dwelling House, Garden and Orchard, late the property of Mr. Robert Davie, Builder, deceased, situated in Charmouth aforesaid, consisting of a Hall, a Parlour, Kitchens, Cellars, Pantries, and other conveniences on the ground floor, five principal and sundry Servants Bed Chambers, Closets, etc. on the one pair stairs and attic storey. The premises are situated in the centre of the village, and command a view of the sea. Length of front 77 feet by 330 feet deep, were formerly the Manor House, and calculated for the permanent or temporary residence of a Genteel family, or may be converted to form one of the first Inns on the Western Road. Charmouth from its Southern Aspect and Local situation, is one of the most delightful villages in England, about half a mile from sea bathing. The Mail and other coaches pass through it every day".

One of the finest houses in the village when Jane Austen visited it was The Elms, now owned by the Parish Council. In 1803 John Shute and his wife, Frances lived there. She was the heiress of the lawyer Walter Oke of Axmouth who had bought a number of properties in the village. The Shutes rebuilt the house that was recorded in 1564 as Mann’s Tenement.

This is an early photograph of part of the extensive grounds formerly at the rear of the Elms that stretched down to Lower Sea Lane.

Another view of the massive gardens at the rear of the Elms, which have since been extensively built on.
Robert Culverwell would have owned this house in 1803. He was very wealthy and it was one of a number that he rented. It was probably leased by Joseph Hackman who was described as a Gentleman and was buried in the Church in 1817 aged 90.
An early photograph of the rear of "Little Hurst" as it was later to be called by John Harrison as a contrast to his larger home in Regents Park, London.

This view taken in 1870 shows the three houses on the right that were later to be known as Albury, Luttrell and Peria. All would have been standing in 1803 when Jane would have passed them. William Juson would have been living in Albury House, then known as The Cottage. Major Channing had recently bought Luttrell House and the adjoining, Peria which he was renting to a Mrs. Warren. When Major Channing died in 1817, the house and its neighbour were auctioned at the Coach and Horses, and abstract descibes it as follows:
"A handsome Brick Dwelling House, and all requisite offices attached, with truly beautiful Garden enclosed with lofty walls and richly clothed with fruit trees of every description, situated in the centre of the much admired village of Charmouth, about five minutes walk of the sea, where there is good accommodation for bathing".

"Wistaria" is a seventeenth century house seen on the right. A pump with the date,1611 used to stand in the kitchen, but was later sadly removed. In 1803 it would have been owned by John Stiles and rented out. It was later to be the site of the village Post Office run by the Holly family for many years.

This early photograph looking down The Street, predates 1864, as this was the year that Mrs. Stuart rebuilt the Court and later demolished the Alms-houses below it, still to be seen in this image. In 1803 the building was owned by William Bragge who was a Surgeon.

The building now called The Stone House is seen here on the left.

The group of houses set back from the road now known as Fountain Cottage, Grasmere and Dolphin Cottage would have been owned by John Ridges and in 1803 Pattison, described as a Gentleman was shown on the village Census as living there.
A rare watercolour of Charmouth in 1870 which shows Charmouth House on the right and the Stone House on the left.

Another very early photograph looking down the Street with the former buildings on the Court and the alms-houses. Charmouth House on the right still had its iron railings which were to later be replaced with a stone wall.

Charmouth House was formerly called The Fountain Inn for many centuries. Towards the end of the 18th century it went into decline and an attempt was made in 1805 to lease it. The advert states:
"Charmouth, Dorset
To be let at Lady Day next
The Fountain Inn, with the Stables, Coach House and Garden thereto belonging, for a term of 7 or 14 years. Also, to be sold a piece of building land, delightfully situated in the upper part of the above village, commanding both a land and Sea prospect.
For particulars apply (if by letter post-paid) to Mr. john Bragge, in Charmouth aforesaid, which will be duly attended to - N.B. The Mail and two other coaches pass through Charmouth to and from London, it being the Great Western Road - Bathing Machines are kept on the Beach during the summer season, for the accommodation of the company who resort to this truly pleasant and healthy spot - Dated January 9th, 1805".

It remained empty until it was bought by Thomas Gordon in 1811 who decided to close it and live therre with his wife in retirement. He was also the owner of Middleton Court at Huish Chamflower in Somerset.He died in 1855 aged 95 and left the property to his widow Jane Charlotte Gordon.

This early map of the middle section of The Street reveals a landscape almost as Jane Austen would have seen it in 1803. There are a few changes from that year in that 1,2,3, was built in 1822 and replaced 3 cottages fronting the Street. The Rectory was built at the rear of the Church in 1828, it formerly stood where Devon’s Edge is today. It is remarkable when we see the area today how similar it was if we went back over two centuries.

This unusual view looking down Higher Sea Lane with the rear of Charmouth House on the left and the two cottages known as Knapp has changed little over the centuries.

Another early photograph which appeared as a Carte de Visite by Bridport photographer William Barrett c.1870.

Early photographs reveal how Claremont once appeared with a curious curved window jutting out into its garden. It’s five bay frontage had been altered by this addition and a larger window had been inserted on the next level replacing two earlier windows. It had once been where a Toll keeper had sat waiting for the many coaches that were passing through Charmouth between Exeter and London. The stumps of the original wooden gate that would have straddled the Street were found in 1937 whilst laying sewage pipe.
In 1757, there is a description of the existing road as that
High Road leading from the Almshouse at west end of Charmouth to and thru Lyme Regis which are in a ruinous condition, narrow in many places and very steep and uneven and by reason of the waters in the winter season unpassable at divers places and very dangerous to travellers cannot be repaired, widened by present methods”
As a result, the following year Charmouth had the first of its turnpike roads built. It was known as the Great Western Road and continued on as far as Aylesbeare, within a few miles of Exeter . It started from the top of the Street where there would have been a toll gate which were generally stout and substantial with keeper as depicted here. A turnpike was a gate set across a new or improved road which was only opened when a toll had been paid to the turnpike-keeper. During the day they may have been left open, or at least ajar, on a busy road but at night were closed and the pikeman would need rousing to take the toll (or, heralded by a coach horn, let the mail coach through free of toll).  This individual lived in a tollhouse, which often had windows facing in both directions so that the keeper could see the traffic approaching from either side. The original Turnpike Road that passed through Charmouth was built in 1756 and the toll office may well go back to the time it was opened. It was no doubt superseded in 1824 when a new one was built in brick at the bottom of the street passed the river, which is still standing today.

This watercolour of a similar house to Claremont that was adapted as a cottage for the Toll Keeper is still to be seen at the top of Chideock Hill. It shows the gentleman opening the gate for one of the regular Mail Coaches that passed along the Great Western Road that linked London with the west country. 

This watercolour dated 1794 of Penn Inn, just outside Charmouth gives us an idea of how the countryside around Charmouth would have appeared to Jane Austen when she visited here.

The Farm House for Foxley Farm is seen here in 1870 on the left. At the time of Jane Austen’s visit it was owned by Richard Stokes, who was described as a Gentleman in the Census. On the right can be seen the house now called Water Head, which had formerly been the Stone House, where Mrs Ridout was the occupier then. The two thatched barns on either side have since gone and its fine Georgian front refaced. alongside is Melbourne House where Miss Jane Rickard, who had inherited a number of other properties lived.

This astonishing early photograph clearly shows how rural Charmouth was in the past with the barn and walls of the Foxley Farm at the rear of the house now known as Badgers.

This photograph is one of the earliest yet found of Charmouth and dates back to at pre 1860. It shows the New Inn on the right which was later burnt down in 1883 and replaced with a brick building we see today on the site. Both the Inn and the shop where Singing Kettle cottage stand would have been seen by Jane when she visited the village.

An early view of top end of the Street with the rebuilt New Inn on the left and Melbourne House on the right.

An early view looking up towards Old Lyme Hill.

Old Lyme Hill with some of the many small cottages that once lined it.

An early Map of the top end of The Street. Jane Austen would not have seen Old Lyme Road at that time as it was constructed in 1826 to replace Old Lyme Hill, which was in a terrible state by then. It was only itself to last as a road way linking Charmouth directly with Lyme Regis and disappeared a century later due to cliff erosion.

Ann Liddon was the granddaughter of James Warden, who was formerly the Lord of the Manor of Charmouth and died in a duel with a neighbour in 1792. He built Langmoor Manor on the outskirts of the village. This painting shows it in the background as it would have appeared in the year Jane Austen visited here.

In the year 1803 Ann Liddon, the daughter of James Warden had inherited the Manor of Charmouth and Langmoor. Her Husband died in the same year and left her with a large family to bring up. The advert shown here is of an advert that she placed in the newspaper at the time to raise money by means of a mortgage on her estate to finance the education of her children.

Her eldest daughter was to marry Richard Spencer, a Naval hero who was later knighted and they left these shores to emigrate to Australia where they were one of the founders of Albany.

This view of Charmouth clearly shows how the village was centred along the length of the Street. The area of common between there and the beach had just a few cottages on it. Although at the top of Higher Sea Lane was the towering Sea House which had just been built in the year Jane Austen visited here.Charmouth, Dorset 
To be Let, for a Term of Ten Years from Lady Day next. 
All that Overland, called Sea - Side Farm,situate in the Parish of Charmouth, in the County of Dorset. 
Containing by estimation, 40 Acres of exceedingly rich Pasture and Arable Land, and between 30 and 40 Acres of Rough Land, called the Cliff, bounding the said Farm on the Sea-Side - There is a Lime Kiln on the Estate, and a sufficient quantity of excellent Lime-Stone may be taken from the Beach  for manuring  the premises, and, independent of this, the Sea Weed, annually thrown on the Beach, and to which the tenant, has the exclusive right is more than sufficient to manure the whole Estate. - The Tenant to pay all the Taxes, except the Landlords Property Tax and to keep the Premises in repair. 
Tenders are to be made in writing, and to be delivered, or sent post-paid, to John Harvey Pierce, Esq. New Park, Near Axminster, or to messrs. Flood and Mules, Solicitors, Honiton, on or before the 24th day of September inst. and immediately after which, the Person approved of, will have notice that his offer is accepted. 
For viewing the Premises, Apply to Mrs. Liddon, in Charmouth aforesaid, the Owner, who will direct a Person to show the same, and further Particulars may be known on application to the above named John Harvey Pierce Esq. or Messrs. Flood and Mule, Honiton. September 9, 1811.

Charmouth was definitely enjoying a prosperous year when Jane Austen paid her visit here in the summer of 1803 mainly as a result of the war with France and its position along the coast as a popular holiday destination. Although not as large as Lyme Regis or Weymouth it was proving an attraction both for visitors and those choosing to reside in pleasant surroundings. It could offer fast travel with its position on the main route from London to the West Country which by then had rapidly improved with the Turn Pike system. There was plenty of employment for villagers with the many farms in the village which included Wood, Foxley, Langmoor, Stonebarrow, Backlands, Sea Lands and Lilly Farm. Many of these were growing Flax which was being used by the three Sailcloth Makers to be found along the Street. 
It was a fully functioning village offering a wide range of shops and services.

We hope after this talk that you agree with Jane`s observation that
“Charmouth, with its high grounds and extensive sweeps of country, and still more its sweet, retired bay, backed by dark cliffs, where fragments of low rock among the sands make it the happiest spot for watching the flow of the tide, for sitting in unwearied contemplation”