The Isle of Purbeck's Limestone Plateau, exposed and windswept. It's drystone walls separating estate boundaries and ancient agricultural fields. Where flint tools, handled by our Neolithic ancestors, lay buried for five thousand years in Worth Matravers an enclosure known in Anglo Saxon times as a "wearth". The valley to Winspit, with mediaeval strip lynchets on East and West Man. At St Aldhelm's Head a Norman chapel and the silhouette of a Radar memorial, where the eyes of a Coastguard look out on a race and to the east a cliff-face with redundant quarries and caves explored as kids. From villages made of stone where school registers and churchyard headstones are inscribed with the names Bower, Harris, Harden, Keates, Bugler, Norman, Bonfield, Haysom and Lander - names belonging to a community and industry that has extracted and shaped Purbeck stone, for building and memorials, for as long as records have existed.
In the 1920's quarry manager Titus Lander gave Mary Spencer Watson the use of a banker and tools. Later 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. 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 in Worth Matravers.. now in the hands of Charles (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 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.