Caught by the River


14th April 2023

Originally written, drawn, lithographed and bound for friends in 1960 in an edition of only 30, ‘Portrait of Dorset: The South-east’ by the printmaker, author and artist Rena Gardiner is just-published in a brand new edition by Design For Today. Read an excerpt below.

Lobster pots, fishing boats, old salts, and ice-cream-sucking tourists are the essential ingredients of the famous Cove; which is rapidly becoming a miniature seaside resort. During the season it is packed with trippers and their cars and it becomes a place of hotels, cafes and souvenir shops. Out of season it is much more attractive. The situation is superb, but the approach to the village is past the grotesque bulk of two tanks and the sprawl of the army camp. The road sweeps down to the long street of stone cottages, past the charming Castle Inn, and ends at the Cove itself. It must be one of the most photographed harbours in England and is a geologist’s paradise; where the hills tower above the circular cove, striped with tilted strata.

Lulworth’s past is much more exciting than the present. When the whole coast was infested with pirates of many nationalities, West Lulworth was one of the chief places offering lodging to them. Whole families there were engaged in the traffic, the effects of which spread right over the countryside, involving in some way respectable shopkeepers, gentlemen and even nobles. The pirates preyed on foreign merchantmen and employed a large staff ashore to dispose of the captured goods: salt, cloth, wine, furniture, wheat, raisins, almonds, etc. They were violent days with brawling and occasional encounters with Authority — when it could not be corrupted. On one occasion a Customs officer was assaulted and kidnapped for being too zealous. His captors threatened to ‘marke him as he should be knowen therby, for that he was one as did dyscover ther doings’, if he was caught spying round the waterside again.


‘A Portrait of Dorset: The South-east’ by Rena Gardiner is out now, published by Design For Today (£75). More info/copies here.