This is a naval map showing approximately 35 miles of the Dorset coast. It enlarges two sections of the map particularly important for naval purposes: Bridport Harbour and Lyme Cobb. Lyme Cobb is a harbour wall off the town of Lyme Regis that juts into the sea, which dates at least from the 14th century. The Cobb helped the town develop into an important port and, by the late 18th century, a centre of shipbuilding. From the mid 18th century onwards, Lyme Regis was also a fashionable tourist and health destination and the walk along the Cobb was one of the town’s chief attractions.
The map is by Lieutenant Murdoch Mackenzie (1743-1829), a naval officer who produced many coastal maps. It contains important information for sailors about the coast, such as the times and heights of tides, the strength and direction of winds, the parts of the coast that were rocky or sandy, and the best places to moor a ship at high tide.
Lyme Regis and Jane Austen
Jane Austen visited Lyme Regis in 1803 and 1804, and the town is the setting for part of Persuasion. In the novel, Lyme is first mentioned in connection with the navy: it is where Captain Harville, a naval friend of Captain Wentworth’s, is spending the winter. Staying with him is a third captain, Captain Benwick. Captain Harville has chosen to stay in Lyme because of the health benefits provided by the sea, but Austen’s statement that ‘The young people were all wild to see Lyme’ suggests the town’s reputation for amusement as well as health. The scene where Louisa Musgrove falls from the Cobb is one of the most dramatic, and most famous, in the novel.