Welcome to the Burngate Purbeck Stone Centre
The home of stone carving.
The Burngate Purbeck Stone Centre is a small charitable trust that supports the sharing of skills and the advancement of knowledge associated with Purbeck Stone. Burngate specialises in teaching stone carving for people of all ages and abilities, with courses focusing on creative carving and sculpture, the traditional skills of masonry and the discipline of lettercutting.
Our summer programme includes drawing, creative writing and geology- each of which take the unique landscape and geology of Purbeck as their inspiration. Most of our courses are held within the Centre’s specialist workshops, but for the summer several will venture out into the surrounding countryside.
Join one of our courses and find out first-hand what makes Purbeck stone and the Purbeck landscape it comes from so special.
Our courses are ideal for families, friends and individuals, and our varied programme enables anyone- from complete beginner to experienced practitioner- develop their skills and explore their creativity.
The Centre has been sensitively developed to create a meeting room, two covered work spaces and a well-equipped workshop for groups of up to twenty. Our location is an inspiration in itself: look out east over Swanage Bay towards the Isle of Wight, look north over Nine Barrow and Ballard Downs. The surrounding landscape – fields, old quarry workings, and cliff tops above the English Channel – are designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The Area is part of the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World heritage Site, that reaches east to Exmouth, Devon and west to nearby Swanage.
The Isle of Purbeck has centuries-old tradition of stoneworking and many local families can list long lines of quarrymen in their family trees. The Burngate Purbeck Stone Centre has strong links with the Purbeck quarries and as well as members of the Ancient Order of Purbeck Marblers- a local stone-workers’ guild that has met annually since the medieval period.
Purbeck stone in all its types has been used by masons, sculptors and builders since Roman times and to this day is used in modern construction projects, as well as in building conservation. The much-prized decorative Purbeck ‘marble’ embellishes English medieval abbeys and cathedrals such as Durham, York, Wells, Salisbury, Westminster (including the newly restored Cosmati pavement) as well as the Temple Church, Inner Temple, London.
Close by, Corfe Castle and many local villages were built in the local stone and in the nineteenth century, Purbeck stone was shipped from Swanage to pave London, founding the fortune of John Mowlem and George Burt.
Behind the centre lies the ‘underground’ (the local term for mine) for the quarry, which is mostly hidden by the bushes and trees. At the top of the ‘slide’ (the name given to the slope that connects the underground to the ground level) would have been a capstan that helped pull the stone up to the surface. We are lucky enough to have been donated an original capstan by a local person from Acton. The mine is also home to a variety of species of bats, including the Greater Horseshoe.
Note: Access to the mine is strictly prohibited and disturbing the Greater Horseshoe protected species of bats is a criminal offence. Undergrounds are extremely dangerous places, especially when they haven’t been maintained for decades.