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Volunteer-run purbeck clay mine museum near Corfe Castle wins prestigious national award from the Heritage Railway Association.

Published: January 28, 2014

A small team of dedicated and determined volunteers who spent 12 years planning and building a pioneering Dorset ball clay mine museum near Corfe Castle is celebrating after winning a prestigious national award for quality.

Part of the Swanage Railway, the Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum at Norden has been granted the Heritage Railway Association's highly regarded Interpretation Award for 2013 which is sponsored by the monthly 'Heritage Railway' magazine published by Morton's Media of Lincolnshire.

Located next to the Norden station Park & Ride car park, the Museum features a realistic reconstruction of an underground tunnel, a rebuilt mine building, a 300 metre section of narrow gauge railway and also an engine shed with viewing area.

The judges praised the Museum and its underground experience for being "unique" in explaining the history and technology behind Purbeck ball clay mining - which dates back some 2,000 years - and for being "a valuable education resource" as well as "a quality visitor attraction".

The Heritage Railway Association's Interpretation Award also praised the Museum for bringing narrow gauge industrial steam trains back to the Isle of Purbeck for the first time in 60 years during September, 2013.

A delighted Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum chairman Peter Sills said: "This prestigious national award is the best present that everyone associated with the Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum over the past 12 years could want.

"It's an important national recognition and endorsement of some 30,000 hours of hard work by a small team of dedicated and committed volunteers in researching, planning and building the clay mine museum from scratch on the site of the old Victorian ball clay works demolished during the 1970s.

"The museum has been achieved thanks to a £100,000 European Union grant from the Chalk and Cheese organisation as well as £40,000 donated by generous members of the Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum," explained Mr Sills.

One of the Heritage Railway Association award judges, Heritage Railway magazine editor Robin Jones, praised the Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum for being "of enormous education value and national interest."

He said: "I first visited the Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum last summer and was astonished at just what had been achieved by the volunteers who have developed it from scratch.

"This museum is, by far, one of the best I have come across in recent years. It is Dorset's unsung gem and a real jewel in the crown of the Isle of Purbeck.

"This museum highlights the ball clay industry of Purbeck, where narrow gauge steam railways were once as important as the better known ones that served the slate mines of North Wales, like the Ffestiniog and Talyllyn," explained Mr Jones.

The Interpretation Award - along with the other Heritage Railway Association annual awards - will be be presented at a dinner at the Bath Guildhall Banqueting Room on the evening of Saturday, 8 February, 2014, during the weekend of the Heritage Railway Association's Annual General Meeting.

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'.