Drystone walls separate the fields on Purbeck's exposed and windswept limestone plateau. Where flint tools handled by our Neolithic ancestors lay buried for five thousand years. Worth Matravers an enclosure known in Anglo Saxon times as a "wearth" has mediaeval strip lynchets on East and Westman above Winspit. At St Aldhelm's Head, next to the chapel the coastguard station looks out on the race and to the east cliffs pitted with redundant quarries. Stone, the building blocks of harbour walls and villages. Their school registers and churchyard headstones baring the names of Bower, Harris, Harden, Keates, Bugler, Norman, Bonfield, Haysom and Lander. Some of the local family names associated with a stone industry that has extracted and shaped Purbeck stone for as long as records exist.

In the 1920's quarry manager Titus Lander gave young Mary Spencer Watson the use of a banker, mallet and chisels. A gesture that lead Mary to a life-times work carving figurative sculptures in her studio at Dunshay Manor. Blessed with an abundance of two valuable ingredients, stone from the nearby quarries and the special quality of coastal light. Ideal conditions for professional sculptors like Mike Bizley at Spyway Farm on Priests' Way, Jonathan Sells, Val Quinn, Angelika Seik and Alan Davis to name but a few. In his workshop below Corfe Castle, near Nigel Dragon's bakery, producer of the most palatable creations of all, surrounded by chippings and off-cuts of Spangle, Grub and Cap Tony Viney produces fine polished plates and vessels turned from limestone rich in fossilized shells: Reg Prior and Alan Lander, fourth generation fisherman, set and haul their lobster pots off Chapmans Pool: Collector Raymond Newman, landlord of the Square & Compass, now in the hands of his son Charlie and Cath. Their finds of ancient coins and fossils neatly displayed in the museum. Where Pumpkin, Cider and Beer Festivals and a Fossil Fair are celebrated each year with live music organised by the pub's manager Kevin Hunt.

Three books researched and written by Ilay Cooper encapsulate the lot. Purbeck Revealed a personal account with secrets, tales and gossip, The Spencer Watsons at Dunshay Manor and the Newman Century at the Square & Compass - a watering hole barely a stone's throw from where those Neolithic flints were excavated and today's Stone Industry that first exploited the iconic and beautifully decorative Purbeck Marble nearly two thousand years ago continues to operate.


Copyright © 2021 Jed Corbett