Monday, March 13, 2006

Sir George Somers (1554-1610)

Sir George Somers, the 'discoverer' of Bermuda (at least as far as the English are concerned) was from Dorset. A true Elizabethan adventurer, his exploits seem sadly forgotten in his native county. His heart is buried in St. George's (after his death from a 'surfeit of pork'), but the rest of him is to be found in Whitchurch Canonicorum. He was born in Lyme Regis, and later became the town's Mayor. He was one of Sir Walter Raleigh's captains and had a lucrative career attacking Spanish ships - from the spoils of which he was able to buy Berne Manor.

Scroll down to see some photos of Lyme Regis and Whitchurch Canonicorum taken during a recent trip by Paul Belford and Kate Page-Smith.

Lyme Regis

The origins of Lyme Regis go back to the 8th century, and the town was granted a royal charter (hence 'Regis') by Edward I in 1284. Lyme was an important port during the middle ages, and the unique 'Cobb' probably dates from the 13th century. This circular stone harbour was first mentioned in 1377, and was originally detached from the mainland although it is now connected by a causeway.

The Cobb formed the nucleus of an important port and shipbuilding centre, and was one of England's most important trading ports until well into the eighteenth century.

View of the interior of the Cobb.

View of the town of Lyme from the end of the Cobb.

Plaque commemorating the exploits of Sir George..

The full text of the plaque reads...

Admiral Sir George Somers Kt

Elizabethan seafarer, politician and military leader. As a merchant trader he flourished in Lyme Regis. Warring with the Spanish increased his wealth.

1587 purchased Berne Manor, Whitchurch Canonicorum.
1588 prepared Dorset ships to repel the Spanish Armada in Lyme Regis, the
Jacob, Revenge and Bonaventura
1595 successfully attacked Caracas, Venezuela.
1601 repelled the Spanish invasion of Ireland.
1604 Mayor and MP for Lyme Regis.
1606 founded the London Viginia Company.
1609 aboard
Sea Venture
he led a fleet to Virginia. A hurricane shipwrecked him on Bermuda, founding England's first Crown Colony.
1610 he died in Bermuda, his heart was buried there.

A volley of muskets and a cannon saluted his last journey to Whitchurch Canonicorum. Shakespeare wrote
The Tempest
in tribute to Sir George Somers.

1995 Lyme Regis twinned with St George's, Bermuda
2000 St George's granted World Heritage status
2001 Lyme Regis became a gateway to Dorset's World Heritage Jurassic Coast.

Unveiled by his excellency Thorold Masefield
Governor of Bermuda 1997-2001

Some of the older cottages in Lyme Regis.

Whitchurch Canonicorum

The church of St. Candida and St. Cross at Whitchurch Canonicorum is probably 11th century in origin, although most of the fabric today is 13th century.

As well as the remains of Admiral Sir George Somers (see below), the church also contains the remains of St. Candida (or St. Wite) herself (probably an eighth century martyr), and is one of only two churches in England to contain the remains of its patron saint. In the graveyard is the tomb of the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov (famously assassinated by an umbrella on Waterloo Bridge).

View of the church from the entrance to the churchyard.

Sir George's plaque in the church.

The full text of the plaque reads...

Admiral Sir George Somers
Shipmate of Sir Walter Raleigh, coloniser of the Bermudas, born near Lyme Regis 1554, owner of Berne Manor in Whitchurch Canonicorum, died in the Bermudas November 1610, buried beneath the old Chantry, under the present Vestry July 4th 1611, erected by public subscription 1908.

A picture of Sir George Somers, together with the coat of arms of Bermuda, located by the door to the Vestry.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Project information now online

Although all participants have now recieved a copy of the Project Design, it is also available for download on the Ironbridge Gorge Museum website. Everyone is now booked in and ready to go, and we are all looking forward to an exciting season now less than a month away.