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Mineral Extraction in Purbeck
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The Purbeck Mineral & Mining Museum
Mineral Extraction in Purbeck

It has been discovered that minerals have been extracted from the Isle of Purbeck since the early Bronze Age. Since then the Romans produced Pottery at Wareham & Norden for use all over Britain. They used Kimmeridge Shale for furniture. They used Purbeck Marble for ornamentation on buildings in the form of cornices, mouldings, veneers, inlays, flooring materials, and inscriptions, for columns and other massive items, and made mosaic floors. It was used for pestles and mortars. They buried their dead in it. They used the hard chalk of Purbeck for their mosaics

The Romans transported their materials through the Corfe Gap and processed them on the Norden side. 

            Roman altars stones found at Norden                                          A Roman Well at Norden

The useful materials were then shipped out of Purbeck via a road leading to Ower Quay. This route was used by others through the medieval days and right up until the early 1700's when the exportation of stone was transferred to Swanage. Timber for use in the construction of Corfe Castle was brought into Purbeck via this route (Marblers Road along which a tradition that is still carried out every Shrove Tuesday - 
To all Christian people whome this shall or may concern this four and Twentieth Day of October 1695.
Being an agreement made between John Collins of Ower and the company of Free Marblers of Corfe Castle Swanage or others of the Isle of Purbeck and County of Dorset all whome it shall or may concern:
For and in consideration of A pound of Pepper and a foot Ball to be paid by the said company of free marblers on the next day following Shrove Tuesday or in four or five Days after except Sabbath day then to be paid the next day following to be paid to the said John Collins his Executors Administrators or Assigns at or in the New Dwelling house of the said John Collins being at Ower abovesaid all which being performed and paid by the free Marblers abovesaid they shall have use occupy and possess the way which was formerly allowed to the said company without any hindrance trouble or molestation of the said John Collins His Heirs or Assigns
Ower Quay was once the chief port of Purbeck. In 1286 Edward 1 saw this route and decreed that a new town (Newton) was to be built close by to turn this into a great port. It never happened!

In January 1885 the Harper's New Monthly  Magazine (It is the second-oldest, continuously-published monthly magazine in America ) produced an article on the industries of Purbeck. It compared the three main sources of employment, farming, clay-cutting, and stone quarrying in Purbeck. Click here to see the article

The history of mineral extraction has continued down the ages with still large quantities of well known Purbeck Stone and the world's finest Ball Clay leaving Purbeck every year. Portland stone is still leaving from Tarmac's Swanworth Quarry and St Aldhelm's Quarry . The newest mineral exploitation is that of Oil and Wytch Farm is now Europe's largest onshore oil Field. 

All this happened, still happens and will continue to happen in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - Isle of Purbeck. 

The Isle of Purbeck would be much poorer without this extraction and places like Tilly Whim Caves, and Blue Pool would not exist. (Corfe would look completely different in brick.)

The links on the right of the page take you to pages that provide more information on the different minerals that have been extracted and those that still are being extracted. 

Report on the Minerals to be found in the Wareham Basin.

Minerals Home
Ball Clay
Brick Clay
Clay (other)
Kimmeridge Shale
Portland Stone
Purbeck Stone

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Contacts:-  The PMMMG Chairman (Peter Sills)    Website queries ( John Rowley)