The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Eype – a photo essay

Ken Ayres takes his camera to visit a west-Dorset village by the sea

Eype's pub, the New Inn, with a rather splendid vintage car in the foreground


Jessamine Cottage shows the vernacular thatch and render finish of Eype's prettiest cottages

The origins of Eype – at least as far as its name is concerned – are Old English. First recorded in 1300 as Estyep, then as Estrhep in 1329, its name derives from the word gēap (meaning ‘a steep place’) and ēast and ēasterra (‘east’ and ‘more easterly’). It is tantalising to wonder of which place of early 14th-century importance it was to the east, but a steep place it most certainly still is.
Eype lies south-west of Bridport, and south of Symondsbury. It is a two-part village (Lower and Higher Eype) and also has a beach and where its stream hits the sea there is Eype’s Mouth. All of Eype lies to the south of the highway, here described by poet William Crowe:

Many indenting wheels, heavy and light,
That, in their different courses as they pass
Rush violently down, precipitate,
Or slowly turn, oft resting, up the steep;
This extract is taken from Dorothy Gardiner’s Companion into Dorset, but she has little to add on the village except the brief, but helpful, annotation: ‘Eype is to be called “Eep”.’
This brief note is positively prolix when compared with the output of other normally loquacious Dorset authors. Sir Frederick Treves ignores Eype completely in his Highways and Byways, as do Roland Gant in his Dorset Villages and Arthur Mee in The King’s England. Monica Hutchings’ Inside Dorset describes ‘Eype and Eype Mouth [as] little places…, with an inn and cottages and a minute stream finding its way to the shore’. She continues: ‘There is a small beach here and the prospect of mackerel fishing,’ adding, ‘there is an ancient earthwork on Eype Down.’

Eype is dominated to the west by Eype Down and Thorncombe Beacon

Jo Draper’s Dorset – The Complete Guide starts in more lyrical note: ‘A small village close to the sea, approached down a deep and leafy narrow lane.’

Some indication of the steepness of the village's thoroughfares can be gleaned from this shot


The imposing chapel of ease of St Peter cost around triple the average build-cost of a Victorian parish church; it was built in memory of the former rector, Gregory Raymond

The subsequent phrases of: ‘The church of 1865 sits on a prominent lump…,’ and, ‘the rather plain stone cottages sit a little way back from the sea,…’ are perhaps less inspiring, but whilst Eype has not always been a sleepy backwater, mostly it has. It is normally taken as part of Symondsbury, and even when it is lauded, as in the 1863 verse by F Bartlett, it is in a poem entitled Symondsbury. Bartlett wrote:
The cliffs with slopes and flats abound,
All facing the warm south;
And quietly you may lie down
In Summer at Eype’s mouth.

The sea is calm, the air is soft,
The beach is like a floor;
You fancy you could soar aloft,
While bathing near the shore

There is no frost or chilly wet,
The place scarce knows such things;
The seasons there are summer heat
And pure delightful springs.

Beach and cliffs at Eype

Eype’s next brush with fame came eighteen years after this poem, when the balloon Saladin touched down at Eype, spilling out two of its passengers who were attempting to offload ballast to avoid a fully-fledged crash in the village. The third passenger, Walter Powell, MP for Malmesbury, stayed aboard, waved as he rushed out to sea and was never seen again. On New Year’s Eve, the balloon’s barometer (or ‘a thermometer with a single human hair’, depending on which source one believes) was found off Chesil beach. Two years later, the balloon’s remains were found… again variously described as in the Pyrenees or in Sierra del Pedroza, in the Asturias in northern Spain; of the MP, no trace was ever found.

Clematis and Aubretia add colour to Pilgrim's Latch Cottage, which is formed from half a terrace previously known as Balloon Cottages

The origin of Railway Cottage's name is evident in this image

Well-weathered and repainted, this postbox replaced 'a hole in the wall' post box described by Victorian visitors to Eype.

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