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28 October 2014

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You are in: Dorset > Coast > Point 7: Tilly Whim Caves

Tilly Whim Caves

Tilly Whim Caves

Point 7: Tilly Whim Caves

Follow the coast path along from the Globe towards the rugged Tilly Whim Caves.

These old stone quarries right on the cliff edge are typical of the places where stone has been dug out of the Purbeck Hills for centuries.

Tilly Whim caves themselves haven’t been quarried since the 1810s - the stone would have been hacked out of the cliffs and loaded directly onto boats with the 'Whim' - a special type of wooden crane.  John Mowlem was thought to have worked in this particular quarry.

George Burt opened them as another tourist attraction.  They were closed in the 1970s as they were thought to be too dangerous. 

The caves and quarries were also an ideal spot for smugglers to hide their contraband in the network of tunnels which could extend deep inland.

Workers at a Durlston quarry had a very large block of stone which was unused for years.  When the Revenue officers questioned them, quarrymen insisted it was of too poor a quality to sell - actually it was hollowed out and full of smuggled goods!

Workers in the quarries could also help out by taking the contraband inland hidden in their lunch baskets!

Loading stone in Swanage Bay

Loading stone in Swanage Bay

Other underground quarries peppered the landscape of the Purbeck Hills around villages like Langton Matravers.  Stone was transported down to the stoneyards known as 'the Bankers' on Swanage seafront for shipping to London.

It was hard work down the underground quarries where men had to quarry the stone from tunnels (called 'lanes') which could be as little as three feet high.  Although the relatively dust-free nature of Purbeck Stone underground meant there was very little long term damage to their lungs and many quarrymen lived to a ripe old age.

The Black Swan pub on Swanage High Street has a rail round the outside.  Quarrymen would pay for their beer with blocks of stone left here - that's quite a bar tab!

The Black Swan

The Black Swan

The rough coast path extends from here along the spectacular Jurassic Coast – you’ll see Durlston Lighthouse, one of two lighthouses on the Dorset coast, which was built in 1881 to help prevent shipwrecks – but only a few weeks after it began operation, the Alexandrovna from Liverpool crashed into the cliffs, killing all 22 men aboard.

Cut back along ‘diagonal path’ towards the car park and visitors’ centre where you can learn a lot more about the history, marine, bird and plant life of Durlston.  Then head out of the park back towards town on Lighthouse and Taunton Road and onto Cluny Crescent.

last updated: 29/01/2008 at 15:09
created: 06/07/2005

You are in: Dorset > Coast > Point 7: Tilly Whim Caves

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