A unique award-winning Purbeck ball clay mining museum – planned and built by a small team of dedicated volunteers over more than a decade – was officially opened on 6 June by BBC TV ‘Antiques Roadshow’ ceramics expert and railway author Paul Atterbury.
The pioneering Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum at Norden – located next to the park and ride car park for the Swanage Railway’s Norden station – has taken some 40,000 hours of work to achieve.
Appearing on the ‘Antiques Roadshow’ since 1990, Paul Atterbury – who lives in Weymouth – is an expert in ceramics, with Purbeck ball being used in the manufacture of fine china. He has also written several railway books.
After cutting the ceremonial ribbon with South Dorset MP Richard Drax, a delighted Paul said: “It was a privilege to be part of such an important Dorset event. Thanks to the dedication and skills of the volunteers, the museum is a major achievement and has been created for a comparatively low cost.
“The museum puts the ball clay mining industry and its history clearly on the map. Its planning and construction is a magnificent achievement and a triumph for the volunteers involved.
“The museum’s location is excellent, linking the clay story closely to the Swanage Railway and so offering visitors a more multi-facetted attraction,” he added.
South Dorset MP Richard Drax said: “I congratulate everyone who has worked so hard to reach this very special day –the museum is a monumental achievement and a fantastic moment for everyone involved so very well done.
“It was a great honour to be asked to cut the ceremonial red ribbon with Paul Atterbury to officially open the museum which shows that when people work together, they can achieve their aim.
“The museum will attract more people to the Isle of Purbeck and result in existing visitors spending more time in the area. That is very important because tourism is vital for jobs,” explained Richard.
After enjoying a ride on a Victorian narrow gauge steam locomotive ‘Cloister’, a delighted Paul enjoyed a footplate ride from Norden to Swanage and return on a much larger steam locomotive – 1940s Bulleid Pacific express locomotive No 34028 ‘Eddystone’.
Explaining the history and technology behind ball clay mining – which dates back some 2,000 years – the museum features a realistic reconstruction of an underground mine tunnel, a rebuilt ball clay trans-shipment building, a 300 metre section of narrow gauge railway as well as an engine shed with viewing area.
Part of the Swanage Railway Trust and its educational remit, 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 museum members.
The Purbeck and Mineral Mining Museum is open on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday between 11am and 5pm. While admission is free, donations are welcometo help fund continuing preservation and the development of the museum, just go on-line and visit ‘www.pmmmg.org‘ or call 01929 481461.