Tuesday 12 June 1990

Dorset's Industrial Heritage


As Dorset is now a rural county, it may be surprising to hear about "Dorset’s Industrial Heritage."

But Dr. Peter Stanier of Shaftesbury told Warminster History Society, at their June meeting, held at Warminster Library, that there is widespread industrial archaeology throughout the county.

The geology of Dorset accounted for some of the activities. The Portland stone quarries – made fashionable after Sir Christopher Wren decided that St. Paul’s Cathedral should be built in this material – supplied the building trade all over the country for centuries. Their proximity to the coast made transport convenient.

The well-known beauty spot in South Dorset called the Blue Pool is an old clay pit; and lime kilns are to be found on the chalk.

There is no reason to believe that Dorset men were thirstier than people elsewhere, but the county still has some very fine brewery buildings. The Devenish brewery in Weymouth was working until recently. The Crown Cork was invented in the brewery in Fontmell Magna.

The sea created its own industries. Hemp was imported from the Baltic for net-making (and also for rugs), and there were plans to exploit the oil shale at Kimmeridge. This did not become a commercial prospect, but breakwaters were built and piers designed.

Cottage industries included making the Dorset button.

There are still windmills to be seen in the county; and two working water mills are to be found south of Shaftesbury.

Evidence of iron founders and brick makers is to be found on their work, which often bears their names.

Next month, Mr. Russett will talk about the taming of the Somerset Levels; and there will be an evening walk at Stourhead with Mr. Chris Bubb.