Lymington on the west bank of the Lymington River is a port on the Solent, in the New Forest district of Hampshire, England. It is to the east of the South East Dorset conurbation, and faces Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight which is connected to it by a car ferry, operated by Wightlink. The town has a large tourist industry, based on proximity to the New Forest and the harbour. It is a major yachting centre with three marinas. According to the 2001 census the Lymington urban area had a population of about 14,000.
The town has many shops, catering for tourists and sailing enthusiasts alike. There is a local market every Saturday, which takes place in the main High Street. The market is fairly typical for southern England, selling a selection of cheap general household items, craft items and a selection of food produce from the local area.
Due to the recent change in planning legislation, many traditional areas of the town have been redeveloped; older houses have been demolished and replaced with new blocks of flats and retirement homes. The high street has also seen rapid change over the last couple of years with an increasing presence of chain stores and coffee shop franchises. In recent months approval has been granted to a large development of retirement flats adjacent to the historic quay area. In a recent channel 5 program, Lymington received the accolade of 'best town on the coast' in the UK for living, due to its beautiful scenery, strong transport links, low crime levels, and high quality of life.
Lymington itself began as an Anglo-Saxon village. The Anglo-Saxons, probably Jutes, arrived in what is now South West Hampshire in the 6th century. They founded a settlement called limen tun. The Saxon word tun means a farm or hamlet. Limen is believed to be a Celtic name meaning either elm river or possibly, marshy river.
The town is recorded in the Domesday book of 1086 as "Lentune". About 1200 the lord of the manor, William de Redvers gave the town its first charter and the right to hold a market. The town became a Parliamentary Borough in 1585 returning 2 MPs until 1832. Lymington continued to return 2 MPs until the Second Reform Act of 1867 when its representation was reduced to one. On the passage of the Third Reform Act of 1885 Lymington's parliamentary representation was merged with the New Forest Division.
From the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century Lymington was famous for making salt. Saltworks comprised almost a continuous belt along the coast toward Hurst Spit.
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth century Lymington possessed a military depot that included a number of foreign troops-mostly artillery but including several militia regiments. At the time of the Napoleonic Wars the King's German Legion was based here. As well as Germans and Dutch, there were French émigrés, and French regiments were raised to take part in the ill fated Quiberon bay expedition (1795), from which few returned.
From the late seventeenth century it had a thriving shipbuilding industry. Much of the town centre is Victorian and Georgian, with narrow cobbled streets, giving an air of quaintness. The wealth of the town at the time is represented in its architecture.
Lymington is particularly famous for its smuggling history, there are unproven stories that under the High Street are smugglers' tunnels which run from the old inns to the town quay.
Lymington was one of the boroughs reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. In addition to the original town, 1932 saw a major expansion of the borough, to add Milton (previously an urban district) and the parishes of Milford on Sea and Pennington, and parts of other parishes, from Lymington Rural District - this made the borough extend west along the coast to the border with Christchurch.
Under the Local Government Act 1972 the borough of Lymington was abolished on April 1, 1974, becoming an unparished area in the district of New Forest, with Charter Trustees. The area was parished as the four parishes of New Milton, Lymington and Pennington, Milford-on-Sea and Hordle.
Lymington is mentioned in 'The Children of the New Forest' by Captain Marryat. It also features in the historical novels of local writer Warwick Collins (namely 'The Rationalist' and 'The Marriage of Souls') and 'The Forest' by Edward Rutherford.
In Tom Clancy's 'Patriot games', a wight link ferry heading from the Lymington ferry terminal is intercepted and a prisoner is extracted in heavy seas. Several men on board the ferry are murdered.
Lymington also occasionally featured in the 1980s series Howard's Way.
There are two Sailing Clubs in the town, both active. The Royal Lymington Yacht Club, founded in the 1920s as the Lymington River Sailing Club, now has over 3000 members, and now plays host to major keelboat and dinghy events. The Lymington Town Sailing Club, founded in 1946, plays host to the popular Lymington Winter Series known as the Solent Circuit.
Sailors from Lymington continue to dominate Olympic events, most notably Ben Ainslie and Pippa Wilson.