Beer Regatta Week
9th August 2014 - 16th August 2014
The Village of Beer
Beer is situated in Lyme Bay on the 95-mile long Jurassic Coast, England’s first natural World Heritage Site and its picturesque white cliffs, form part of the South West Coastal Path. The name is not derived from the drink, although you’ll find plenty of good pubs in the village, but from the old Anglo Saxon word “bearu” meaning grove which referred to the forest that surrounded the settlement. The brook that winds its way in an open conduit alongside the main road down to the sea adds to the charm of the village and you are not a true Beer person until you have fallen in it at least once!
Historically, the village’s main industry has always been fishing, but today the major source of income is from tourism. In fact we’ve always been a favourite spot for tourists – first came the Romans who planted vines here and quarried the limestone and later, according to tradition, a Spanish ship was wrecked off shore in the late 17th century. The population of the village had been decimated by plague and the survivors were warmly welcomed! After that, neighbouring villages often referred to the residents of Beer as ‘Spaniards’ because of their dark hair and eyes and Mediterranean complexions. In Tudor times, the manor house at Bovey (still standing today) and surrounding land formed part of the dowry of Henry VIII’s 6th wife, Catherine Parr.
Flemish refugees escaping persecution settled here between 1568-77 and brought with them the craft of lace making. The women, and even fishermen who could not go to sea in bad weather, made the delicate pillow lace which was taken to Honiton to be put on the stage coach to London. The reputation of Beer-made lace became so great that some was specially commissioned for the trimming to Queen Victoria’s wedding dress.
In the late 18th century Beer’s relative isolation in a secluded valley made it a perfect place for smuggling and the infamous smuggler, Jack Rattenbury, known as The Rob Roy of the West plied his trade from the village often hiding contraband in the quarry caves. In later years the limestone was commercially quarried as it was highly prized because of its workability for carving and it can be seen in cathedrals such as Exeter, Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral.