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Independent and King Barrow Quarries

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69072511LRThis area covers the huge area of quarried land. The white area to the south in the aerial photo is a working quarry, the green area to the north is made up of disused and overgrown quarries - now a nature reserve - and the light brown area near the centre of the red square is a huge hole in the ground which was filled in with commercial waste.

In the lower left-hand part of the red square are two limekilns, a garage and a small area of industrial buildings.

Originally a large number of small quarries, these have merged into a huge area of abandoned workings; one of which - King Barrow - is now a Nature Reserve operated by the Dorset Wildlife Trust.

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Please click here to see a large scale late Victorian map of this area. Click the BACK button on your browser to return to this page. Note the huge area of quarry workings a century ago and the network of tramway lines that transported stone blocks from the quarries to the gathering area at nearby Priory Corner.

We explore this area by travelling north from Easton Square starting at the junction with Grove Road. On the left is a small industrial estate. On the right is a garage which was once the site of The Sawmills public house - a great favourite with thirsty quarrymen working nearby.

On the east and west are limekilns although only the former can be seen from the road. By the eastern and well preserved limekiln are the remains of fossilized trees whilst, on the western side of the road, a derelict quarry crane is rotting and rusting away.

A huge area of abandoned quarries stretches to the east; part of which (King Barrow) is now a Dorset Wildlife Reserve. Within this area are an open air swimming pool, a site of geological importance now vandalized by the quarry owner and an old tramway bridge.

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On the site of this garage north of Easton was once a famous old pub - 'The Sawmill' - as seen below. In the far left edge of the above picture is the finely preserved limekiln.


The special slab of stone was produced for the King Alfred memorial in Winchester. The slab is being taken into the sawmill.



The Easton Street limekiln in its days of neglect, late 1989. The kiln on the right was open to the wind, rain and vandals whilst the main northern associated building was derelict.


Another view of the disgraceful state into which the limekiln had been allowed to decay by the late 1980s. The rusty metal roof offered no protection at all.

It was from this humble building that lime was sent to the Drury Lane Theatre in London to provide its 'limelight' to illuminate the stage. This was created by an intense flame playing on a lump of lime. This produced an intense and very pure white light.


The grate and chimney breast of the old kiln as vandalised in 1989. Coal and limestone were piled into the chimney from above and burned. The coal burnt away leaving lime (Calcium Oxide) which could be used as fertilizer, for making mortar and for the limelight in theatres and large Victorian rooms.


The limekiln in 2002 - turned into a residence and craft workshop.

Opposite this limekiln is another larger example. This lies on private property and the following pictures were provided by an anonymous correspondent.










This lorry was a long way from a motorway!


On the west side of the main road almost opposite the garage is a small business estate. One of the businesses is the long established Comben’s Electrical Shop.





At the rear of Comben’s shop is a coastguard office and store.


There are a few other small businesses in the area.

A century ago this was a gathering area for wagons taking stone from the many nearby quarries and transferring to a tramway which lead to the Merchants Railway. On the site of the Coastguard building was a transfer bridge where a tramway passed over a similar line. This is seen at the centre of the old map here.

There is no sign of this activity left now.



Just north of the Business Park and off the main road is a rough parking area which has a footpath leading to Tout Quarry. Alongside this path is an old crane sadly rotting away.















On the east side of the main road and behind the garage are several interesting features which are largely unknown to the public. One of these is Portland Town Council’s recently installed open air swimming pool. Although lacking changing and showering facilities it does offer the opportunity for a dip in locally sourced rain water.








Above and below we see an old bridge rather like a smaller version of Lano’s Arch in Tout Quarry which I photographed in July 1989. This was somewhere behind the garage in Easton Street in the area of buildings and small commercial yards and close to the present position of the Recycling Centre.  I searched for it several times over the following twenty years without any luck.

Did it still exist? I assumed it had been destroyed by quarrying.

Tramways ran above and below it so that blocks of stone could be lowered onto the wagons that would take it to Priory Corner for dispatch to the main incline of the Merchants Railway down to Castletown.




However, in 2010 I found it again whilst I was randomly hacking my way through a large area of brambles - as I do from time to time...

The bridge was, by then, very difficult to see and almost buried by rubble and brambles. For those with hand-held GPS devices the latitude and longitude are 50.5533 North, 2.4343 West and it is at the centre of the image seen by clicking here.

A late Victorian map - seen here - shows two tramway tracks crossing close to this location so this is presumably where the bridge is located.


In 1989 I took the picture below. It shows my son looking into the huge depleted Withies Croft Quarry. This was situated opposite Withies Croft wall - a site of important geological interest - which was vandalized by the quarry owner. More of that disgraceful action below.



In the late 1980s planning permission was granted for it to be used for landfill with inert waste.

However, according to the satirical magazine Scallywag, waste rotting food was alleged to also have been dumped here from lorries arriving in the dead of night from outside Dorset - even as far away as the Midlands.

It is impossible to say whether this was true or not but it is a fact that the filled quarry has been generating methane which has to be piped to the surface and dispersed - a very potent 'greenhouse gas' many times worse than carbon dioxide.


The above picture from the 1990s shows the later stages of infilling this huge hole. Note the blue pipes installed to vent methane to the atmosphere.


Here I am in 2005 posing on the rubbish tip whilst wearing my comedy false stomach - if only!

This is the huge quarry seen above after being filled with waste. The pipes are for collecting and dispersing methane generated by decaying rubbish. If the quarry had been filled with inert waste these vent pipes would not have been needed.


By 2015 the area was returning to nature with only the rusting Methane emission pipes to hint at what foul polluting chemicals and food waste lies beneath the surface. It is lucky that Portland no longer relies on water from its wells as these could well be polluted by the toxic cocktail festering underground at this spot.




Adjacent to the infilled quarry on its southern side was a huge rock outcrop - Withies Wall. To read about its highly significant geological importance - please click here.

On top of this wall was a Victorian prison security wall with old sentry posts - a wonderful relic from 19th century convict prison days. Unfortunately, in June 1993 the quarry owner smashed it down - without permission and without any regard for its scheduled status.


Above is Withies Wall in 1989 - a unique and accessible geological feature on Portland soon to be vandalized.



Above is this important feature partially destroyed in the mid-1990s. Part of the ancient prison wall can still be seen. The Victorian sentry box has been smashed up. A similar sentry box, seen below near the Grove, has Grade II listed protection.




Above - Destruction complete! An important part of Portland's geological and cultural heritage turned into crushed aggregate!

Councillor Margaret Leicester was among many Portlanders who were outraged by this vandalism and the Dorset Evening Echo carried a major feature in its issue of 29th June 1993.

Historian Stuart Morris described this destruction as "A tragic loss to the island's heritage."

However, such blatant disregard of the History of Portland - or indeed of Planning Law - has been typical of the behaviour of some of the quarry companies in destroying Portland's heritage over the centuries.

The enormous freedom given to the Portland stone industry after World War 2 was effectively carte blanche to rip up anything irrespective of its historical or cultural value. Locals were unwilling to criticise the destruction being imposed on Portland because so many were dependent on the stone companies for employment.

The plan in the late 1980s to demolish one of Portland's medieval windmills to gain access to the stone beneath it was typical of the profit-driven mutilation of Portland by some of the commercial stone companies until tighter planning conditions were created and imposed in the 1990s.

Plans current in 2015 to quarry a huge area of open landscape between Southwell and Portland Bill are only being proposed because a 1951 permission is being reactivated.


The vandalized Withies Wall in 2015.



Just to the east of the Limekiln on the main road are these fossilized remains of trees as pictured in 1990. To be more accurate, these rings are the fossilized algae that grew around the base of the trees and were turned to stone whilst the trees themselves rotted away.

2015-07-22 10.51LR1

Members of the Dorchester U3A Geology Group examining the fossil trees in 2015.


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Keywords Limekilns Fossil Trees Withies Wall Derelict Crane quarrying Portland Dorset