Removals and storage in Swanage, Dorset
Pitmans offer house removals and commercial removals in Swanage, Dorset, with specialist packing services for antiques and fine art. Whether it’s a full house move or a single item, within the UK or across Europe, we offer a professional, safe and friendly service with full insurance, giving you peace of mind throughout the process.
Swanage: A potted history
Swanage is a coastal town and civil parish in the south east of Dorset. It is at the eastern end of the Isle of Purbeck, approximately 6 1⁄4 miles south of Poole and 25 miles east of Dorchester. In the 2011 census the civil parish had a population of 9,601. Nearby are Ballard Down and Old Harry Rocks, with Studland Bay and Poole Harbour to the north. Within the parish are Durlston Bay and Durlston Country Park. The parish also includes the areas of Herston, just to the west of the town, and Durlston, just to the south.
The town, originally a small port and fishing village, flourished in the Victorian era, when it first became a significant quarrying port and later a seaside resort for the rich of the day. Today the town remains a popular tourist resort, this being the town’s primary industry, with many thousands of visitors coming to the town during the peak summer season, drawn by the bay’s sandy beaches and other attractions.
During its history the bay was listed variously as Swanawic, Swanwich and Sandwich, and only in more recent history as Swanage.
The town is located at the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site. The town contains many listed buildings and two conservation areas – Swanage Conservation Area and Herston Conservation Area.
While fishing is likely the town’s oldest industry, quarrying has been important to the town and the local area since at least the 1st century AD. During the time of the Roman occupation this industry grew, with the distinctive Purbeck marble being used for decorative purposes in buildings as far away as London. When the Romans left Britain, quarrying largely ceased until the 12th century.
The town is first mentioned in historical texts in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 877. It is stated as being the scene of a great naval victory by King Alfred over the Danes: A hundred Danish ships which had survived the battle were driven by a storm onto Peveril Point, a shallow rocky reef outcropping from the southern end of Swanage Bay. A monument topped (historically incorrectly) by cannonballs was built in 1882 by John Mowlem to celebrate this event and is situated at the southern end of the seafront promenade.
In the 12th century demand for Purbeck Marble grew once again. While Purbeck marble is not suited to external use, as it does not weather well, it is however strong and suitably decorative for use as internal columns. As such the stone was used in the construction of many large churches and cathedrals being built at the time.
In contrast to the decorative Purbeck marble, Purbeck limestone, or more commonly ‘Purbeck stone’, has been used in construction locally since the early days of quarrying on Purbeck. Its use is less well documented as it was taken for granted as the default construction materials in the area. However, the arrival of more modern quarrying techniques in the 17th century resulted in an increase in production. The Great Fire of London in 1666 led to a period of large-scale reconstruction in the city, and Purbeck stone was extensively used for paving. It was in this time that stone first started being loaded upon ships directly from the Swanage seafront; before this time quarried stone had been first transported to Poole for shipping.
The idea that Swanage could become a tourist destination was first encouraged by a local MP William Morton Pitt in the early 19th century, who converted a mansion in the town into a luxury hotel. The hotel is noted for having been visited in 1833 by the (then) Princess Victoria, later to become queen. The building was later renamed the Royal Victoria Hotel, now the building has been converted into flats and a bar and nightclub in the left and right wings respectively.
The town’s greatest prominence came during the Victorian period. John Mowlem (1788–1868), a Swanage resident, became a successful builder in London, creating the Mowlem construction company, which still existed as recently as 2006, when it was acquired by another company, Carillion.
John Mowlem made his business in London by importing stone into the city from around the country, including Purbeck limestone. Through this process, many relics and monuments were brought from London to Swanage in the 19th century by Mowlem and his nephew George Burt (1816–1894) who took over the business when Mowlem retired. It is said that these items brought from London were used as ballast for the empty vessels which transported the Purbeck stone to London.
These include the big clock tower near Peveril Point. The clock tower, commemorating the Duke of Wellington, designed by Arthur Ashpitel, was built in 1854 at the southern approach to the old London Bridge. Within 10 years it became an obstruction to traffic on the busy bridge and had to be removed. It was re-erected 1867–68 on its present site at the southern end of the bay on the sea front. A further item transported from London to Swanage is the 1860 façade of the Mercers’ Hall, that was used as the façade of the Swanage Town Hall, which was designed by G. R. Crickmay (1830–1907) of Weymouth, and built during the early 1880s.
Mowlem and Burt were highly influential in the development of the town, taking an active interest in their town of birth into retirement. Between them they were responsible for the building of much of the town’s infrastructure, including the town’s first pier, the Mowlem Institute (a reading room), the first gas and water works, and the development of the Durlston estate and Country Park, at the southern end of the town. The Great Globe which can be found slightly south of Durlston Castle, both also designed by Crickmay, in the Durlston Country Park was completed by George Burt in 1887. It is made up of 15 sections of stone and joined together with granite dowels. The Great Globe weighs 40 long tons (41 tonnes) and is 10 feet in diameter.
Swanage Lighthouse was built in 1880, on the clifftop at Anvil Point, not far away from Durlston Castle.
The railways were introduced to the town in 1885 with the encouragement of Burt by the London and South Western Railway Company. By this time the town was becoming a popular resort destination for the wealthy, noted for its fine weather and clean air. The town previously had been fairly cut off due to its valley location, but the introduction of the railway made the town much more accessible to visitors, with direct services running from London. However the greatest increase in visitors came with the building of the second ‘new’ pier in 1895, built primarily for use by pleasure steamers.
The town enjoyed several decades quietly being successful as a seaside resort. The First World War left few physical marks on the town, however during the Second World War gun emplacements and pillboxes were built at spots along the shoreline at the southern end of the bay. The town also received bomb damage during the Second World War, with 20 people killed. The town and other nearby villages are noted for playing a part in the development of radar.
After the Second World War the town, like many other seaside resorts and indeed the country at large, suffered a recession with few people able to spare the money for holidaying. In 1972 the Swanage branch line of the railway was closed by British Rail as part of larger network-wide cutbacks. A group of local enthusiasts formed a charitable organisation with the purpose of restoring and preserving the branch line and steam and diesel locomotives to run along it, forming the Swanage Railway.
There is a brickworks on the outskirts of the town that uses the Wealden Clay found in the valley for producing bricks, and quarrying still continues to the south.
Swanage has a restored heritage steam railway which operates for most of the year.
Swanage is represented in a number of sports, including football, rugby, cricket, croquet, hockey, sailing and rowing.
Swanage Town and Herston FC, who play in the Dorset Premier League have a dedicated football ground with limited covered seating and associated social club. Swanage & Wareham Rugby Club, who play in the South West 1 East League are based in neighbouring Wareham. Swanage and Wareham Hockey Club have Ladies’, Men’s and Mixed teams. The Ladies play in the Channel 1 and 2 West Leagues, the Men in the Hampshire League Division 4 and the Mixed team in the Mixed Division 5. Swanage Cricket Club has teams in both the Dorset Saturday and Sunday leagues each in Division 1. The town’s Croquet Club is also based at the Cricket Club.
Swanage is twinned with Rüdesheim am Rhein in Germany.
Some of James Blunt’s video “Carry You Home” was filmed in Swanage and Worth Matravers.
The first episode of the second series of the British sitcom, The Inbetweeners, called “The Field Trip” is set mainly in Swanage, although this episode was actually filmed in Littlehampton.
In 1997, a 12-mile diameter crater on Mars was named after Swanage.
Swanage is called Knollsea in Thomas Hardy’s novels. In The Hand of Ethelberta it is described as “a seaside village lying snug within two headlands as between a finger and thumb”.
In E.M. Forster’s Howards End, Margaret and Mr. Wilcox first kiss there at the end of an evening’s stroll, and the town is mentioned frequently throughout the book.
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