Save The Three Cups Hotel

The Three Cups Hotel

Campaigning for preservation of the hotel where J.R.R. Tolkien stayed and gained inspiration for his mythology. Jane Austen, G.K. Chesterton, Tennyson and H.W. Longfellow were also guests. The hotel featured in the film, “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”. Please send articles to me, Andrew Townsend, at or add a comment. Thanks to David Moss for all his work. Comments are closed at WDDC for the plans to redevelop the site but you can still write to the papers.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Turner and Whistler in Lyme Regis

Whilst I am not aware of any connections between the famous painters, Turner and Whistler, and The Three Cups Hotel, I was interested to read a web page called "A short history of Lyme Regis" which explains that they both visited Lyme Regis and painted there.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Three Cups: Regency or Georgian? - Revised

[I have revised this post in the light of Jo Draper's article, "The (new) Three Cups" in The Lyme Regis Society's Newsletter of June 2007 which explains that although the present building has been The Three Cups since 1844, the structure dates from 1807 and the business was previously located on the other side of Broad Street until those premises were burnt down in 1844.]

The Observer’s Book of British Architecture has some interesting illustrations from the point of the view of saving The Three Cups Hotel.

Note: You can now download this post as a PDF file which includes scans of the pages referred to below. You may need to download and install software such as Foxit Reader (recommended) or Adobe Reader to open the file.

In my 1951 edition (which, I hasten to add, was given to me by an older friend), some examples in the Visual Index show striking similarities with features of The Three Cups Hotel.

On pages 186 and 187, there are drawings of two and three storey Regency buildings, which are both of two bays with bowed windows. The first is labelled “Regency Villa” and is less like The Three Cups because the bowed windows stop before the highest storey, forming a balcony. However, the other, of three stories and two bays, is very reminiscent of The Three Cups in that the right hand bay contains the main entrance on the ground floor where the bow forms an open porch supported by two columns.

This key feature of The Three Cups Hotel is also seen in the Doorways section on page 208.

The Windows section of the Visual Index (pages 216 – 8) shows various examples which have similarities to The Three Cups.

As we can be fairly certain from the datestone in the north wall that the present building was erected in 1807, Pevsner's description of it as "Late Georgian" is typically spot-on. I would suggest that the Regency style bowed bay could have been added by the new owners when it became The Three Cups in 1844 to advertise its status as "the best hotel in Lyme Regis"

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pevsner on The Three Cups

It would be hard to be more concise than Pevsner in his “Buildings of England” series. So, it is worth expanding on what he wrote in his book on Dorset to understand the importance of The Three Cups Hotel to the architectural history of Lyme Regis.

In his Perambulation of Lyme Regis, Pevsner starts “from the lowest point of the town” and describes Broad Street as containing the “most worthwhile” buildings for consideration and significantly states,

“The Late Georgian resort expresses itself a little further up with the bows and bays of its inns.”

This sentence neatly summaries the style and significance of The Three Cups but he continues,

“The ROYAL LION HOTEL on the right, of worn blue ashlar, with enlarged windows in conspicuous rusticated surrounds, was rebuilt after the fire of 1844. The BOROUGH OFFICES next door, also of worn lias, represent the slightly earlier moment, as does the THREE CUPS HOTEL opposite of three bays, the third bowed and resting its weight on columns which are, strictly speaking, Greek Doric with bases.”

Pevsner implies that the inns of Broad Street are of the Regency Period but neatly sidesteps the question of the exact date of The Three Cups. Well, with some help from the Lyme Regis Society and the Lyme Regis Museum, I am prepared to say that “The Cups” also dates from after the fire. I am hoping to reproduce some illustrations to show that The Three Cups is a fine example of the Regency Style but I am still waiting for clearance on copyright to do this. It would not be quite correct to claim that the hotel is a Regency building as it was not built during the period 1811 to 1820. However, even as a late Georgian or early Victorian building, it displays many features of Regency Architecture. As and when, I obtain permission to display illustrations from The Observer’s Book of British Architecture, the validity of the claim for The Three Cups to be a Regency building will be seen clearly.

It is believed that the present building was erected as a hotel or boarding house so it may be presumed that this venture was driven by a growing number of visitors to the seaside at Lyme Regis. The role of Lyme Regis as a seaside resort would be worth an essay or a study in itself. Lyme seems to have developed as a tourist destination at roughly the same time as Brighton without the direct patronage of the Prince Regent. It is worth noting that Jane Austin visited Lyme Regis in 1804. Given, its distance from London and fashionable towns like Cheltenham and Bath, its subsequent development may have been delayed and restricted. So, Pevsner’s suggestion that the Borough Offices and The Three Cups represent a “slightly earlier moment” is very apt.

Therefore, it seems reasonable to describe Lyme Regis as a seaside resort of the Regency Period as well as a port and a commercial centre for the surrounding area. The Three Cups must have served all these interests down the years but its location near the seafront and its Regency style must make it one of the most – if not the most – notable commercial building in Lyme Regis from an historical point of view, in the most important part of the town. The significance of the hotel being faced in blue lias stone should not be forgotten as an expression of local vernacular and a display of the famous geology of the area. The cultural associations of this hotel could make it the most famous building in Lyme Regis and well know around the world. The potential is waiting to be exploited.

I hope that my limited gleaning of information on the history and architecture of The Three Cups Hotel will be of some interest. I understand that the Lyme Regis Society will be publishing a more well researched article on this subject in a forthcoming edition of their newsletter.

I would like to thank Pevsner Architectural Guides for granting me permission to quote from their book, "The Buildings of England: Dorset" by John Newman and Nikolaus Pevsner (1972).

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Cultural marketing - an example

The owners of the Woodlands Hotel in Sidmouth make the most of its cultural and historical connections on their website.

Sidmouth is only 15 miles from Lyme Regis. It ought to be possible to promote another hotel in the same area, such as The Three Cups, on its historical associations. See earlier posts on this blog for details.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Beatrix Potter and The Three Cups

Here are some answers to the question of any possible association between Beatrix Potter and The Three Cups Hotel.

It appears that Miss Potter did not stay at the Three Cups when she visited Lyme Regis on holiday in 1904. She gave her address as "Burley, Lyme Regis". However, she made a number of sketches around the town including one looking down Broad Street which clearly shows The Three Cups. The drawing referred to appears on page 92 of "Beatrix Potter's Letters", published by Frederick Warne & Co. The original is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London but the publisher is the owner of all rights, copyrights and trademarks in the Beatrix Potter character names and illustrations.

I am indebted to Judy Taylor Hough of The Beatrix Potter Society for kindly providing this information for me.

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