Pevsner on The Three Cups
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).