Point 4: Peveril Point
Walk along Peveril Point Road, or the rough rocky path along the seafront which involves scrambling over rocks, and you'll come to the southern-most tip of Swanage Bay.
On the way to the Point, you’ll see The Wellington Clock Tower - it's another ‘spare’ from London. When the ships taking the stone to London returned for a another load, they couldn’t be completely empty and needed some ‘ballast’ to keep them afloat – hence bits of leftover stone and ironwork were used which can now be found all over Swanage.
The Wellington Clock Tower
One of the biggest was the Wellington Clock Tower.
Originally built as a memorial to the Duke of Wellington, the clock kept poor time and a statue of the Duke proved too expensive and by 1860, it was obstructing traffic around London Bridge – so George Burt brought it back to Swanage in pieces.
The Coastwatch lookout at Peveril Point
So the Wellington Clock Tower doesn't have a Wellington, and it doesn't have a clock either!
It may be beautiful on a clear day, but it’s also one of the most dangerous areas for shipping on the Dorset coast. Strong tides and underwater rock ledges have led to the loss of many ships, and lives, over the years. Apart from the Viking fleet, the Wild Wave was lost in 1875 and the Netto in 1900.
There is now a National Coastwatch look-out station at the Point which is manned by volunteers throughout the year.
It was also an ideal look out position for spotting some of Dorset’s elusive smugglers. The ‘free-traders’ used all sorts of cunning means to try and import tea, tobacco and of course, wine and spirits from the continent to avoid the government taxation.
The coastguard cottages were built to house the men trying to catch the smugglers who would use the remote caves and inlets along the coast to land their contraband whenever there was a ‘smugglers moon’ – a dark night.
Many of the innkeepers around the town were happy to buy and sell the cheap contraband liquor - in fact most of the townspeople probably knew what was going on but chose (if they knew what was good for them!), to keep quiet.
The cliffs of Ballard Down on the other side of Swanage Bay were another favoured landing spot for smugglers – the barrels, or 'tubs' would be hauled up the cliffs and taken along the top of the Down on farm wagons and hidden in the cottage of Jenny Gould on the Swanage to Studland road – she was said to be a witch.
Spreading tales of ghostly goings-on and witchcraft were a handy way of making customs men too afraid to go snooping around looking for contraband!
Fishermen often took part in smuggling.
But the smugglers weren’t always so lucky.
A stranger and his wife were being rowed from Swanage to Poole in the 1820s and were curious to see a line of corks bobbing the the water. The boatman explained that they were lobster pots – they were actually markers for kegs of brandy hidden underwater (known as ‘sewing the line’).
The stranger insisted on pulling up the ‘lobster pots’, only to discover the kegs of brandy – unfortunately for the boatman and the smugglers, the stranger turned out to be the new Chief Customs Officer for Swanage and the smugglers were arrested the next time they went out to collect their loot.Walk back along Peveril Point Road - you can either take the bracing walk up the Downs or get to Durlston along the roadway.
last updated: 29/01/2008 at 15:09