THE former home of two of Lyme’s most celebrated residents is set to be opened to the public to ensure its history lives on.

Belmont House in Pound Street was home to author John Fowles until his death five years ago and originally leased as a seaside villa to 18th century businesswoman Eleanor Coade, who invented the artificial cast stone known as Coade stone.

The Grade II Listed house was taken into the care of the Landmark Trust in 2007 at the request of Mr Fowles’s widow Sarah to fulfil his wish that the house should not be inappropriately developed and should be made available for others to enjoy.

The trust is a national building preservation charity that rescues and restores significant historic buildings at risk and lets them out for self-catering holidays.

Historian Caroline Stanford held a meeting in Lyme’s Masonic Hall last week to reveal the trust’s plans for Belmont and its discoveries so far.

Mrs Stanford said: “Belmont is not at risk, so you may wonder why Landmark is involved. There are different definitions of risk – there are physical risks, but also the risk of inappropriate development, and of memories being lost.”

Landmark is now preparing to submit a listed building application to overhaul Belmont, built in 1777, and turn it into a holiday let for up to eight people. Mrs Stanford said: “This year we have been greatly developing our thoughts on how best to convert the house to a landmark. We are hoping we will be able to put in a listed building consent application this summer.

“Once we have that, we will then be able to consider fundraising, possibly through Heritage Lottery Fund and the usual sources.

“We have got a long way to go and we want to make sure that local residents are content because we very much want to work with the local community.

“We are looking at probably four or five years before it is completed.”

Mrs Stanford said she could not put a figure on how much the renovation would cost, but said it would involve ‘lots of zeros’.

John Fowles bought Belmont in 1968 with his first wife Elizabeth, who died in 1990. He married Sarah and lived there until his death in November 2005 – but contacted the Landmark Trust before he died.

“John had been trying for many years to try to get some kind of academic institution to take the house over so it could be a writers’ retreat,” said Mrs Stanford.

Mr Fowles wrote Daniel Martin at Belmont and completed and published The French Lieutenant’s Woman from there.

“That’s the sort of association that could so easily slip away if the house was passed into private ownership,” said Mrs Stanford.

After Mr Fowles’s death, his widow re-opened discussions with Landmark to buy Belmont. This was made possible by a ‘sizeable bequest’ to the Trust from Joyce Hanson, a Dorset resident and supporter of Landmark.

Mrs Stanford said: “We were confident we would be able to fulfil John Fowles’s wish to make the house available for writers groups.”

Specialist architect Peregrine Bryant has been appointed to lead the renovation.