About Swanage

Anvil Point Lighthouse

Anvil Point Lighthouse

The sandy beach and the sheltered bay are the assets which attract the holidaymaker to Swanage, which today is still a rather Victorian seaside resort. Since the town lies at the eastern end of the Purbeck wealden valley, on either side the bay is stopped by a hill.

On the north lies the huge gleaming edge of Ballard Cliff, the end of the Purbeck chalk ridge. To the south the oolite mass of Peveril Point reaches into the sea, its strata twisted, with sharp reefs below the surface – perhaps those on which a Viking fleet was destroyed by a storm in 877.

Beyond Peveril Point, to the south-west, is Durlston Head with the Tilly Whim caves, which lead below it to a broad rock platform formed by quarrying. Similar platforms occur in several places along the coast, for instance at Dancing Ledge.

Indeed, for centuries quarrying gave the whole area some importance, and the predominant grey of the buildings at its centre marks Swanage as a Purbeck town built of Purbeck stone. Until the late nineteenth century the stone was transshipped here from quays called bankers, where it was manhandled into boats which took it to freighters lying offshore.

The coming of the railway in 1887 saw the end of this activity and the demolition of the bankers, which have left no trace on the holiday scene.