PURBECK STONE by Treleven Haysom
Perhaps the most overdue of any book about Dorset is a full account of the Purbeck stone industry. That the author is its foremost living authority is further cause to celebrate the long-awaited publication of Purbeck Stone. Treleven, ‘Trev’, Haysom’s family has been quarrying on Purbeck since the 17th century. His practical experience gained from a lifetime of quarrying and masonry work transforms the bare bones of the industry’s history into one enriched by oral and working traditions handed down from one generation to the next.
Uniquely in Britain, stone has been continuously quarried on the Isle of Purbeck since shortly after the Norman Conquest. Purbeck Marble decorates many of our most famous buildings, including Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral. The skill of Purbeck’s medieval masons embellished cathedrals and country churches alike with everything from delicately carved columns to fonts and tombs. Purbeck’s clifftop and inland quarries provided the stone for a more robust vernacular architecture: bridges, harbours, cottage walls, street paving, the stone tile for roofs.
Gifted storyteller, meticulous scholar, working quarrier – the author’s accomplishments allow him to cast a wide net. A description of the various types of stone and their beds is followed by the history, use and spread of Purbeck Marble. More widespread than the Marble beds are the inland limestone quarries, whose underground workings have long provided a livelihood for Purbeck’s quarrymen and masons. Perhaps most remarkable – certainly the most hazardous – are the now abandoned cliff quarries, whose stone was lowered into small boats and then transferred into sailing vessels anchored offshore.
The uses to which the stone was put and the methods used to extract it, give way to a fascinating social history of the men, merchants and quarry owners on whom the industry relied. As Trev himself says, all had a powerful sense of place and of practices and traditions that until the recent past had barely changed since medieval times.
Publish date: October 2020
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Casebound and Jacketed
Large format: 297 x 230 mms
312 pages, including 360 illustrations