For many years a small narrow-gauge train periodically stopped the traffic on the road from Wareham to Swanage, and for many people this was the only manifestation of an important local industry.
Ball clay had been extracted in Purbeck since the 16th century, but it was the beginning of the 19th century that saw the start of serious exploitation.
Benjamin Fayle built Dorset’s first railway in 1806 to transport his clay to the coast, and over time this developed into a network of very individual narrow gauge railways that lasted into the 1990s.
This book is a triumph of local knowledge and meticulous research by a writer with a life-long interest in, and enthusiasm for, the Purbeck clay industry.
The introduction is the best essay on the ball-clay industry I have read, and it is followed by a detailed and extremely well-illustrated history of the tramways and light railways that served it, with many hitherto unpublished photographs, maps, plans and drawings.
The author includes social history too, with accounts of children from Goathorn and Newton travelling to school at Studland in converted clay wagons, and of the miners themselves working at the clay face.
This is a superb book which would make a great Christmas present for anyone interested in railways, industrial archaeology, or the Dorset’s social and industrial heritage.
Fayle’s Tramways by Chris Legg – Clay mining in Purbeck; 200 years, six different gauges.
ISBN 978 0 906294 796
Twelveheads Press, hardback, £28