It’s a surprise to find rail tracks across the boulders on Monmouth Beach in Lyme Regis, Dorset. It seems such an unlikely setting. However, this fascinating Jurassic Coast seashore, which is famous for its fossils and geology, was once a hive of industry – with the rocks being exploited commercially in a big way.
A cement works was established early in the 19th century by a Mrs Eleanor Coade who lived at Belmont House in Lyme Regis. A cement factory with kilns existed on Monmouth Beach from 1850 to 1914. At first, only loose boulders of Blue Lias limestone from the seashore were used in the process. At a later date, explosives were used to bring down more rock from the cliffs above. The railway line was constructed to shift the rocks across the beach.
For more information about the geology and associated history of this stretch of beach at Lyme Regis, I strongly recommend that interested readers should look at Ian West’s excellent web site for a comprehensive account of this locality.
The first time I noticed the rusty iron rails several years ago, the track was mostly obscured by boulders, cobbles, and weed. More recently, the remains of this old track have become more exposed – with a thinning of the hitherto overlying rocks. The concrete seatings for the rail have largely lifted and separated from their bases. Lengths of parallel iron rail move across the shore; single pieces of rail are shifted by the tides. It seems as if the track is rapidly breaking up and dispersing.
The photographs below show some of the remaining pieces of this rusty relic from a bye-gone age.
A Post from the Past
7 Replies to “Rusty relics on Monmouth Beach, Lyme Regis”
I love these beautiful natural colours – and how the human element moulds in with the natural!!! I just love the pebbles here along the beach- I go for a walk and want to bring half the beach home!!!
When you can’t take half the beach home, that’s when you start photographing things and pasting them up on the walls instead!
You say that Mrs Eleanor Coade established a cement works in the early 19th century. Bearing in mind that Eleanor Coade died in 1821 at the age of 88. Where was this factory?
Yes, Eleanor Coade established the Lyme Cement Works in the early 19th Century. It operated in Ware Cliffs between Devonshire Head and Monmouth Beach. This is an area just west of the Cobb. The Cement Works continued to operate after her death in 1820. The limestone was originally removed and shipped elsewhere for processing – until about 1850 when the Cement Factory was built at Monmouth Beach. This remained in existence until 1914 in the early 20th Century. The limestone was burnt in large kilns.
The source I used for this information was Ian West’s Lyme Regis Town and Topographical Maps and also Lyme Regis – West, Blue Lias, Lower Jurassic in his excellent on-line Geology of the Wessex Coast of England . [The link for this site is given in my blog article on the Rusty relics on Monmouth Beach, Lyme Regis].
Ian West himself obtained the information from two local writers:
Legg, R. 1999 Bridport and Lyme Regis: The story of Dorset’s Western Coast. Dorset Publishing Company. ISBN 0-948699-66-3.
Thomas, J. 1993 The building stones of Dorset. Part 1 The western parishes – upper Greensand and lower Lias. Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society for 1992, 114, 161-168.
Hope this information helps.
Facinating. I so enjoy finding out the story behind a small observation: in this case incongruous pieces of railtrack in an unexpected setting…. And no doubt a story of an impressive woman operating in what would have been very much a mans world.
Yes, you walk along the shore and find something totally incongruous and it sets you searching for answers. Another such event occurred when I visited Winspit which was formerly a quarrying area. There were perfectly square rock pools on the shore, and parallel grooves along the rock surface – both features connected with getting the rock on board boats docking at high tide – https://natureinfocus.blog/2011/10/31/stone-cart-tracks-and-square-rock-pools-at-winspit/