Originally named West Street, Broad Street is Lyme's main shopping street which descends from the junction of Pound Street and Silver Street at the top of town to Bridge Street at the bottom. A variety of independent shops and eateries can be found along with some well-known national retailers including WHSmith, Joules, Fat Face, Sea Salt and Costa.
Towards the bottom of the hill on the western side, the pavement and buildings rise above the level of the road, an area formerly known as Cornhill. At one time there was a middle row of buildings here which used to go up to the Royal Lion. In front was the site of the ‘Shambles’ marketplace, destroyed along with several other buildings at this end of town by the fire of 1844. The bell (1647) from the clocktower which was located here is on display in Lyme Regis Museum.
According to The Lyme Regis Society, the properties at the lower end of Broad Street are the oldest, with the Bell Cliff restaurant thought to be the oldest of all with a sixteenth century studding wall and cruck construction.
Further up this hill, two of Lyme's most well-known buildings face each other diagonally across the street, the Royal Lion Hotel and the Three Cups hotel which closed in 1991.
Several of the other notable buildings on Broad Street have explanatory plaques including Pyne House where Jane Austen is thought to have lodged during her visits to Lyme in 1803 and 1804 and number 28 where Mary Anning is said to have died.
A large bronze plaque on the outside of number 45, currently occupied by Boots, reads: “This house occupies part of the site of what was originally known as the Great House of Lyme Regis. Here lodged in the summer of 1773 William Pitt (1708-1778), first Earl of Chatham, the great War Minister of George II and his son William Pitt (1759-1806), the great Prime Minister of George III. Also for some months in 1796-1797 it was the home of Mary Russell Mitford (1787-1855), essayist and dramatist.”
Many of the buildings on Broad Street were modernised during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with the Georgian facades hiding considerably earlier buildings.
At the foot of Broad Street is Cobb Gate, the point of entry until 1800 for all goods landed at the Cobb. The custom house, which was a victim of the 1884 fire, dated back to Elizabethan times and was situated in the space currently occupied by the public toilets in between Arthur Fordham & Co and the Pilot Boat Inn.