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Author Signs Landmark Ball Clay History Book at the Unique Award-Winning Purbeck Mineral & Mining Museum

Published: August 28, 2014

Story and pictures by Andrew PM Wright
Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer

 

A dedicated author who has spent more than 50 years researching the history of the Isle of Purbeck's important ball clay mining industry has signed copies of his new landmark book at the unique award-winning Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum near Corfe Castle.

Growing up in Wareham and going to school in Swanage, Chris Legg signed copies of 'Fayle's Tramways – Clay Mining in Purbeck' at the Norden museum, next to the Swanage Railway's Norden station and Purbeck District Council's park and ride car park, on Bank Holiday Monday, 25 August, 2014.

With the free admission volunteer-run Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum opened for the day, the occasion was marked with a special appearance by a Victorian narrow gauge steam locomotive No. 542 'Cloister' which was named after a horse that won the Grand National during the 1890s.

Published by the Twelveheads Press based at Chacewater near Truro in Cornwall – and featuring 225 illustrations – copies of Chris Legg's hardback 'Fayle's Tramways – Clay Mining in Purbeck' are £28.00 each.

The new landmark book by the retired pharmacist, who used to work in Wareham, covers some 200 years of history and six different gauges of narrow gauge railways that transported ball clay from the Isle of Purbeck for use in the potteries of the Midlands which exported their ceramic wares across the world.

Chris Legg said: "I was delighted to sign copies of my new book at the Purbeck Mineral and Mining museum because it's not only located in the area where ball clay was mined for hundreds of years but it's also unique – the only place telling the important and fascinating story of Purbeck ball clay extraction and transportation.

"It is absolutely amazing what a small group of dedicated volunteers has achieved across some 12 years in creating this ball clay mining museum from scratch on land that was used for dumping waste clay.

"When you go down the museum's re-created mining tunnel, it feels as though you are actually underground. It's very evocative and a real asset to the area. The displays are also excellent and the fact that track has been laid for the running of narrow gauge steam and diesel locomotives is tremendous," added Mr Legg.

Explaining the history and technology behind ball clay mining – which has been taking place in the Isle of Purbeck since the 16th century – the museum features a realistic reconstruction of an underground mine tunnel, a rebuilt ball clay trans-shipment building, a 300 metre section of narrow gauge railway and an engine shed with viewing area.

Part of the Swanage Railway Trust and its educational remit, the museum is the result of some 40,000 hours of work – and has been achieved thanks to a £100,000 European Union grant from the Chalk and Cheese organisation as well as £40,000 donated by museum members.

A 0-4-0 wheel arrangement saddle tank steam locomotive, 'Cloister' was built by Hunslet of Leeds in 1891 for the Dinorwic slate quarry – once the largest slate quarry in the world – at Llanberis in north Wales a cost of £500.

Planned and built by a small team of dedicated volunteers over more than a decade, the award-winning Purbeck and Mineral Mining Museum is open on Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 11am and 4.30pm. Admission is free.

Donations are welcome to help fund continuing preservation and development work at the Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum – just go on-line and visit 'www.pmmmg.org' or call 01929 481461.