Eype Centre for the Arts is an innovative engagement with St Peter’s, Eype. This large Victorian Church has been reordered to retain both its character and use as a church, and as a gallery where frequent exhibitions, lectures, talks, concerts and other arts based events are held. The 2003 conversion and reordering is considered a success and people are attracted to its events from Somerset, Devon and Wiltshire as well as Dorset. It is one of the best and most attractive combined uses for a church to be found anywhere. The church stands on a cliff- top with stunning views over Lyme Bay.
The village of Eype has two main areas – Higher Eype and Lower Eype and a separate hamlet called Watton. Higher Eype is entirely farmland with a few houses along a narrow lane which leads up to the second highest point on the Dorset coast, Thorncombe Beacon, and to Eype Down.
Lower Eype (nowadays just called Eype) reaches down to the sea via a steep lane and is the area where most people live, and where holiday- makers come to stay or just visit the sea. Many of the 70 or so residents first came as visitors and have made their home here on retirement. But there are local families and a working population as well as children.
The centre of Eype has a Schoolroom, built in 1859 as an infant school, which acts as a small village hall, and opposite is a public house, the New Inn. Most of the dozen or so houses that line the picturesque lane are built of sandstone, brick or the local blue lias stones. Descending the lane, houses are fewer and have larger gardens adapted from farmland. The small stream, the Whin, has cut a gully into the soft green- sand and finds its outlet at Eype’s Mouth.
The beach is coarse sand and shingle and subject to erosion. Amusements and toilets are absent, but a small car park on the cliff edge allows parking. It is popular with fishermen and swimmers, but care needs to be taken at high tide or on windy days as the beach slopes steeply out to sea and there are strong cross- currents. Walkers pass through on the South West coastal path, and there are many local footpaths. It is worth ascending the hills either side of the valley, as the views are spectacular – south over Lyme Bay to Portland Bill or Start Point, or northwards across Marshwood Vale to Pilsden Pen or Lewesdon Hill, and of course the parish landmark of Colmer’s Hill.
Eype is special: a friendly village where people know how to have fun, but also to care for one another.