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Who would have thought Annual Reports could be so interesting....

or so sort after - the signed 1980 report pictured is priced on Ebay at $100! The value to most is probably that the author is John Fowles but the real interest lies in the sub-heading "with notes on recent research and new acquistions."

For whilst it is true that all the usual information expected in an Annual Report is given, the amount of "new" information imparted about a myriad of aspects of Lyme life is amazing.

To take the1980 report as an example:

  • the Acquisitions section begins with a page describing in detail information gained from Fane family documents kept in Lincoln Record Office about how the Fanes gained and kept their empire, including details and costings of the feasts they provided and the outrage against them expressed by Eleonor Coade's father in a "long letter of equal anger and dignity";

  • coincidentally another "find" was a missing Memorandum Note-book of Captain Thomas Follett, who, treading in George Coade's footsteps, assumed the leadership of the Town (or Whig) Party against the Fanes in the later 18th century. Again, John Fowles quotes copiously from the diary-type entries, concluding in that "we suffered here from a particularly venal set of [Customs] officers".

  • John then moves on to Church documents, and the parish apprentice book 1823-43. This last was particularly revealing of the great social changes taking place in Lyme at the period. He remarks that "No fewer than 30 of the 47 apprenticeships listed were to two trades: tailoring and shoe-making. Only three were to the two principal trades of ancient Lyme, shipping and cloth-making"; and how one of those shipwrecked on the Unity in 1824 was only 9 years old and likely a chimneysweep.

  • next he writes "Far and away the richest and most touching document is the workhouse (in Coombe Street) account-book 1738-1747" seeing it as an invaluable contemporary price index.

  • he notes that the general diet is better than in later years, detailing the items of food and their cost for December 1739

  • remarks on the linguist interest now being shown in the phonetic spelling (with many examples)

  • muses on where Jane Austen might have stayed (certainly not at Wings, more likely Pyne House)

  • tells how it has been discovered in George Roberts' manuscript notebooks that Mary Anning's father George is reported as having been one of two mob leaders demonstrating against the famine caused by the Napoleonic blockades and causing considerable damage.

  • finds when examining Deeds that great doubt was now cast on Tudor House being the place of the Fielding abduction

  • tries to kills the ancient myth that Lyme Regis' Charter is the third oldest

................and so much more that you really must read these wonderful reports for yourself. We guarantee that each will raise at least one smile and provide at least one previously unknown snippet of interesting information. Happy Reading!

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