Literary legacy lives on due to £2m funds

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Belmont Belmont

THE literary legacy of Lyme Regis will live on after a charity raised almost £2million to restore a historic property.

Belmont, which overlooks the Cobb, was once the home of British author John Fowles, and also the setting of memorable scenes in his novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

It was also the home of Coade Stone inventor Eleanor Coade.

The Landmark Trust, which has raised £1.8million to restore the building, intends to use the property to host retreats to inspire the next generation of writers.

Anna Keay, right, director of the charity, said: “John Fowles couldn’t find anyone willing to take on the challenge of restoring and preserving Belmont.

“The Landmark Trust didn’t give up. We have raised nearly £2million, which means we can keep alive the legacy of both John Fowles and the remarkable 18th Century businesswoman Eleanor Coade.

“We will also fulfil John Fowles’s dream of opening up the house to young writers.”

The distinctive building was at the centre of controversy two years ago when John Fowles’s widow Sarah accused the Landmark Trust of ‘hypocrisy’ when it launched an appeal to find funds to restore the building.

The Grade II listed building was left empty after Mrs Fowles handed over the property to the Landmark Trust in 2007.

When the appeal was launched the building was in a dilapidated state with fabric deteriorating and the walls and lintels rotting.

The charity was granted planning permission in May 2011 to convert the home into self-catering holiday lets.

When contacted by the Lyme Regis News this week Mrs Fowles said she did not want to comment.

Restorers hope the project will be completed by autumn 2015.

As well as holiday lets, Belmont will host retreats for young writers in conjunction with the University of East Anglia, whose graduates include On Chesil Beach author Ian McEwan and Man Booker Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro.

Visitors to the building will be able to enjoy Fowles’s former writing room on the first floor, with its views over the Cobb where he wrote several of his best known works.

Mayor of Lyme Regis Councillor Sally Holman, pictured left, said she was pleased to hear the news.

“I know work has been going on there for a while so it is great that they have raised the money needed.

“It is a very historic building and important to the town.”

She added: “Lyme Regis has a vibrant arts community so to have writers workshops here on our doorstep will be fantastic.”

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