Moving away from Sussex, we turned our attention West towards Hampshire, and the charming historic town of Lymington…
Status: New Forest District, Hampshire, Town, England
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, Isle of Wight Ferries, Historic High Street, Cobbled Quayside Shops, Quayside, River Lym, Gold Post Box, Quay Hill, St Thomas the Apostle Church, War Memorial, Bellevue House, The Angel Inn etc
Lymington has an extensive quayside, full of local pleasure boats moored by the floating pontoons. The town lies on the Lym River, which flows out into the Solent just a few miles further downstream. The boats you can see here are just a fraction of the true number, as a large marina and boatyard can be found on the other side of town.
Crossing the river between the East bank at Walhampton, and the West bank for the town centre is a small railway bridge, which effectively cuts off access to the river upstream of Lymington for taller boats. It carries the Lymington Branch Line, which has a station called “Lymington Town” just before it crosses the river, whilst the final stop is “Lymington Pier” on the other side, where you can catch a ferry out to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. It is served by two trains a day, which head back towards the South Western Main Line, between London Waterloo and Weymouth in Dorset.
Between the Quayside and the main town centre lies a small warren of historic cobbled streets, which hide a variety of interesting buildings:
Picture 1: At the back of the picture, where it says “Restaurant”, lies the old Quay Stores. They are listed as having an 18th century facade, so the building itself is probably even older. They would probably have been used as warehouses, whilst today the building is now inhabited by a restaurant called “The Elderflower”.
Picture 2: The building on the far right is the “Old Customs House”, which would have been used to check cargo coming into, and out of Lymington Quay for contraband, as well as to collect taxes and customs duty. It is one of the older buildings on the quay, from the 16th century.
Picture 3: Looking to the left hand side of the picture, there is a charming trio of buildings, made up of Numbers:
6 Quay Hill (Old Men Rule)
5 Quay Hill (Local House)
4 Quay Hill (Sophie’s)
They were all built in the 18th century, and each is individually designed and painted, to create one of Lymingtons most charming streets. Quay Hill itself leads up to meet the High Street, where the rest of the towns most important buildings can be found.
At the lower end of the High Street stands a typical British Police Box, but with one difference. In 2012 it was repainted Gold by Royal Mail, and a plaque was attached to the rear:
“This post box has been painted gold by Royal Mail to celebrate Ben Ainslie, Gold Medal Winner London 2012 Olympic Games. Sailing: Finn – Men’s Heavyweight Dinghy”.
All athletes from the UK who won gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics had a postbox in their hometown painted gold, and Ben’s was here in Lymington.
I could spend hours talking about Lymington High Street, as every building is Listed as being of special historic importance. I have picked out a few in particular that stand out, with the help of the “Lymington Rotary Club” who have put a number of helpful plaques to show the history of different buildings.
I’ll start with the old Catholic Presbytery at the lower, Northern side of the High Street. It is dated as early 18th century, and it looks as though the pavement around it has been raised over the years, as what could have been basement windows are now bricked up.
Connecting it to the building to its immediate right is an Iron Arch from the 19th century, which leads through to the Red Brick Catholic Church to the rear, built in Victorian Times. It is well hidden from the rest of the street, but a great addition to our timeline.
Heading West along the Southern side of the street, away from the Post Box, you have this stunning, raised collection of shops.
They are a motley collection of buildings, and almost alternate between the 18th, and 19th centuries. The different styles compliment each other well, whilst still making each shop unique.
Next up, is the oldest house in Lymington, which is thought to have originally been constructed out of timber frames in the 15th century.
The timber building is now encased within an 18th century Georgian Brick Facade. You would never know that 300 years before another structure resided here.
Directly opposite “Osborne’s” is another building whose history can be traced back through the centuries. The “Angel & Blue Pig Inn” was built in the 1600’s, although it wouldn’t be given the name “The Angel” until 1756. It would have predated most of the other buildings on the street, as it was founded as a Coaching Inn for travellers, most likely on the road towards Christchurch.
It was a very important place in Georgian Lymington, as it was used as a meeting place for the local Church Wardens, and the Courts. The old Coaching Inn stables were also utilised, being used to house the Horses which pulled the Fire Brigade vehicles.
You can still see the archway which led underneath the first floor of the Hotel into the rear Courtyard and Stables, at the far right of the picture.
Further up the road we came across “Bellevue House”, a stunning Georgian House from 1765, which was built by the St. Barbe Family. Charles Barbe was an influential man in the town, and held the post of mayor of Lymington for five terms.
It is certainly one of the grandest buildings on the High Street, and what would have been one of the most stunning houses in the town back then, is still impressive today.
The top of the High Street is marked by the Parish Church of St Thomas the Apostle, sections of which can be traced back to various centuries across the last 1000 years.
The most prominent section of the Church is the Tower of 1670, although parts of the roof have been dated to around 1500. Evidence found around the Church also suggests the original Church was constructed in the 13th century, making it Norman in origin. It was later restored in the 1910’s, which was common for Churches from this period.
On the pavement outside stands the Lymington War Memorial, originally dedicated to World War I upon completion in 1921. It was later updated after World War II in 1945, as well as the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990’s.
Our last stop was, according to the blue plaque outside, “Lymingtons First National School”, called St Barbe’s. Presumably funded by the aforementioned St Barbe family who owned Bellevue House, it opened in 1836, and remained in use as a school for the next 150 years, before it was converted into the towns Museum & Art Gallery in 1999.
Lymington is a stunning little town, with a wealth of history to discover, made all the easier thanks to the efforts of the Lymington Rotary Club and their series of Blue Plaques. It is a great place to act as a base for exploring the local area, with trains available towards Weymouth in Dorset, and Ferries out to the Isle of Wight.
The town also sits on the Southern edge of the New Forest National Park, which is full of its own wonders to discover, and was also where we were headed next…