Monday, April 13, 2009

South London in Swanage

The town of Swanage in Dorset is not a place you would automatically associate with London history, but oddly it does feature a number of monuments that previously graced the streets of the capital. The most prominent is the Wellington Clock Tower, erected at the Southwark end of London Bridge in 1854 but moved to Swanage in 1867, where it still overlooks the sea.

The tower and other London relics were brought to the town by George Burt (1816-1894), who ran the construction company set up by his uncle John Mowlem, (1788-1868). Stone from quarries in the Swanage area was shipped to London for use in building projects, and on the return journey the boats were filled with material from London, partly for ballast and partly because Burt thought that some of the unwanted London relics could be put to use in Swanage.

At Durlston Country Park on the edge of the town, there is 40 ton Portland stone globe displayed by Burt with plaques including quotes from Virgil and Tennyson and astronomical information.

The globe was actually constructed in Greenwich in 1887, where Mowlem had a yard from the 1840s (the location of Mowlem's yard on the Greenwich peninsula by Cadet Place is discussed here).



One hope that you took the Swanage Bollard Trail that can be found in a little guide book. Basically a trail of old London bollards scattered through the town.

That Clock Tower can be seen in a drawing in 'From Hell' by Alan Moore during Gull and Netley's carriage ride through London's occult sites. Having said that it wasn't there in 1888, having been built later on. Oops!

All this Clock Tower stuff forthcoming in Escape The Elephant, soon (!) to be written and published from Past Tense Publications! Keep 'em peeled!!


1888...Clock Tower having been moved to Swanage is what I meant!!

Transpontine said...

Thanks for the Swanage tip Ruinist, it certainly added a different dimension to the Dorset trip. Looking forward to the great unfinished novel!

Anonymous said...

we want our clock back campaign

Mary said...

I did a lot of research on this some years ago - and there is of course a very famous picture of the globe being made in Greenwich - which they sell as a postcard in Swanage. The Greenwich site is now being redeveloped (it was roughly where the medieval tide mill has been found recently - please see link to that on There was a wall of random stone nearby in Cadet Place which was described by a geologist as 'a history of the stone trade in the Thames Estuary' and which has been copied in Somerset - hopefully it will be re-erected on site when the new flats are finished.