The Lyme Maze Game

Daedalus escapes the maze


Universal Workshop



On 21 October 1805 the British fleet commanded by Nelson defeated Napoleon's joint French and Spanish fleets off Cape Trafalgar in the southwest of Spain; England was saved from invasion but Nelson was killed. Admiral Collingwood took command, and ordered the fast schooner “Pickle,” which had been in the van of the fleet picking up survivors from the water, to hurry home with the dispatches containing the news. The ship's captain was Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotiere (French surname because he was of Huguenot descent). The “Pickle” was delayed by a storm, tried to make for Falmouth, could not moor, and Lapenotiere was put ashore at Pendennis Head on Monday, 4 November. He hired a post-chaise and set off at express haste for London. About his tenth halt for refreshment and changing horses was what is now the New Inn at Kilmington near Axminster, at first light on 5 November and at a cost (to him?) of one pound, eleven shillings, and sevenpence. Thus on via Bridport, Dorchester, Blandford . . .  He covered the total distance of 271 miles in 37 hours, changing horses 21 times, and delivered the dispatches to the Admiralty on Wednesday, 6 November, at 1 a.m. The news was passed to the prime minister and king, and by newspapers later that day to the nation.
        I got this information from a placard in the window of Trafalgar Way, as the bookshop in the old Commercial Inn at Axminster had named itself. The Falmouth-London route had in 2003 been dubbed the Trafalgar Way. In 2005 the bicentennial of the Trafalgar ride was celebrated in Lyme Regis too, though the route had not lain through it. “Lieutenant Lapenotiere,” carrying a replica of the dispatch, disembarked improbably at the end of the Cobb from what was described as a nineteenth-century wooden rowing gig. According to the paper, “most spectators didn't notice that the boat was slowly sinking and the actor was standing on the seat to protect his doeskin shoes.” He then walked about the town, meeting dignitaries such as the the Honorable Mrs. Charlotte Townshend, High Sheriff of Dorset, before proceeding on his leisurely way for more ceremonies at Bridport.
        There may, however, be a sort of connection with Lyme, through its sister city St. George in Bermuda. (This information is also from the local paper, a letter by Richard Fox.) When France declared war in 1793, the British navy was unprepared, and had to order a lot of ship-building. The wood of Bermuda cedars was lighter than oak and had aromas deterrent to wood-boring beetles; “Bermuda schooners” had a reputation for speed and manoeuvrability. The “Pickle” is thought to have been one of them.