Friday, 12 February 2010

Image of the Week No5

Each week we publish a picture (of a Georgian building or structure) that has caught our attention by virtue of artistic merit or architectural/historic interest or because it shows a familiar building in a new or unusual light. We welcome contributions from home or abroad, so please get in touch  (office@georgiangroup.org.uk) if you've taken a photograph you'd like to see on our blog. Include something about the building and the circumstances of the shot if possible.  

Image No 5, taken by Robert Bargery, shows The Cobb, the late eighteenth century sea defence wall and breakwater at Lyme Regis in Dorset, on the south coast of England. The stone rubble wall is serpentine in plan and slightly battered, or sloping inwards, in section, as the photograph shows.

A harbour wall was here well before the Georgian period: a rudimentary structure existed from the fourteenth century and an account from 1685 records it as 'an immense mass of stone, of a shape of a demi-lune, with a bar in the middle of the concave: no one stone that lies there was ever touched with a tool or bedded in any sort of cement, but all the pebbles of the see [sic] are piled up, and held by their bearings only, and the surge plays in and out through the interstices of the stone in a wonderful manner'. Mortar was used for the first time in the 1790s, after a particularly destructive storm, and indeed the Georgian wall is altogether a more engineered structure: robust, solid and massive, reflective of the importance of Lyme Regis as a port that built its wealth on trade with France. Shipbuilding was a significant industry here, with around a hundred ships launched in the seventy years from 1780, when Lyme Regis was still larger than Liverpool. The Cobb, by providing an artificial harbour, was a key factor in the town's wealth; a measure of its real and symbolic power is its appearance in Jane Austen's Persuasion in 1818, two years before it was again largely rebuilt, this time using Portland Admiralty Roach, a type of Portland stone.

From being in the right place for economic activity in the Georgian period, Lyme Regis found itself bypassed as imperial trade favoured London and ports on the west coast. Rather like Weymouth and Rye, it was thus spared significant later growth and retains a particularly seductive charm as a largely Georgian seaside resort.

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