The Black Dog of Lyme
Location: The Black Dog Inn, Uplyme.
Hell Hound on my trail
Black Dogs can be found to be restless ghosts that haunt particular areas where they once lived. One famous example, which features in both Devon and Dorset folklore, is the legend concerning the Black Dog of Lyme.
The tale begins at Colway Manor near the town of Lyme Regis during the seventeenth century. A lonely old man once owned the manor whose only companion was a loyal black dog.
One night as he retired to bed thieves broke into the house and demanded from him his hidden valuables, but the man refused. The thieves became angry and kicked and punched the man until he was dead. The dog however, was left at the foot of the stairs to pine for his master until he eventually died of starvation.
The manor was almost completely during the Civil War and a farmhouse was built on the remaining part of the mansion. The farmhouse at that time still retained the large original fireplace and also two large antique seats, which were fixed either side of the alcove.
It was there, that the new owner, a farmer, would relax each evening. but one evening his solace was interrupted by the arrival of an eerie black dog, which came to sit on the opposite seat to him. The farmer was at first uneasy, but after a time he became accustomed to his new companion’s regular appearances.
Discussing his strange visitor with neighbours, he was constantly advised to be rid of it. The farmer, who didn’t fancy the idea of confronting the animal, jokingly replied. "Why should I? He is the quietest and frugalest creature about the farm, neither eating, drinking, nor interfering with anyone."
One evening while drinking with neighbours, the subject of his companion was discussed. The farmer who at the time was heavily drunk got so fed up with their mockery that he stormed off back home to confront the spectral beast.
On his return, and in a terrible state of rage, he found the dog sitting at its usual place upon the chimney seat. The farmer without any hesitation seized a poker and lunged at the dog. The dog quickly jumped off the seat and fled up stairs followed in hot pursuit by the angry farmer. He soon cornered the animal in the attic, but the dog leapt through the ceiling and disappeared. Infuriated the farmer struck a hard blow to the ceiling dislodging some of the plaster. From the hole an old box fell to the floor. The farmer picked up the box to discover that it contained a considerable amount of gold and silver coins of the reign of Charles I. Could it be that this box contained the old mans valuables he concealed from the thieves that broke in that night all those years ago?
The farmer later decided to buy a house a mile west of Colway Manor on the Devon and Dorset Border, and with the help of his new found fortune, converted it into a coaching inn, where in honour of his fortuitous companion named it ‘The Black Dog.’
This building still remains at Uplyme, where it once had the reputation as the first pub in Devon until its closure in the 1990s. It remained empty for a while until it was bought up and turned into a bed and breakfast business. The modern guest house now known as the ‘The Old Black Dog’, still continues to run as a bed and breakfast by the current owners Mr and Mrs Dench. Anyone wishing to visit or stay at the guest house can access their website by clicking THE OLD BLACK DOG.
When the dog ceased its haunting of the farmhouse at Lyme Regis, it took to haunting, at midnight the lane adjacent to the inn known as Haye Lane, alias ‘Dog Lane.’
One encounter with the creature occurred late one evening in 1856. The witnesses were a local couple and the woman whose occupation was a nurse described the incident as follows:
"As I was returning to Lyme one night with my husband down Dog Lane, as we reached the middle of it, I saw an animal about the size of a dog meeting us. 'What's that?' I said to my husband. 'What?' he said, 'I see nothing.' I was so frightened I could say no more then, for the animal was within two or three yards of us, and had become as large a a young calf, but had the appearance of a black, shaggy dog with fiery eyes, just like the description I had heard of the 'black dog'. He passed close by me, and made the air cold and dank as he passed along. Though I was afraid to speak, I could not help turning round look after him, and I saw him growing bigger and bigger as he went along, till he was as high as the trees by the roadside, and then seeming to swell into a large cloud, he vanished in the air. As soon as I could speak, I asked my husband to look at his watch, and it was five minutes past twelve. My husband said he saw nothing but a vapour or fog coming up from the sea."
The last reported sighting of the black dog was in 1959, when a family saw it on holiday after visiting The Black Dog Inn. The three tourists were walking down Dog Lane when it came floating out from a hedge and crossed to the other side.
Footnote: Find out about other black dog legends in Britain by clicking APPARITIONS OF BLACK DOGS. Compiled and researched by Dr. Simon Sherwood, this site is a good introduction into the Black Dog Mythology with links to other interesting Black Dog information.
MYTHS & LEGENDS - A website devoted in promoting storytelling for schools, have produced this wonderful animation about 'The Black Dog of Uplyme'.
There is also mention of the Black Dog of Uplyme on the Uplyme Village website by visiting www.uplyme.com