A small parliamentary borough, and the capital of Dorsetshire, in a pretty part of the South Downs, at the termination of the South Western railway, 141 miles from London.
The town, situated on a rising ground, at the top of Poole harbour was once a Roman station and a port, now a borough (returns one member), in the neighbourhood of which much potters’ and fire-stone clay is found. There was a Norman castle here; and the church of St. Mary is half Norman. The corner of Dorsetshire between this and the sea is called the Isle of Purbeck though only a peninsula about 11 miles long. A chalk ridge runs through it, 640 to 650 feet high, to Swanage and Studland bays; beyond which are the beds of Kimmaridge clay (in which alum and lignite coal have been worked) and Purbeck stone – the latter much variegated, rich in shells, and Saurian fossils, and of a smooth marble quality. The West India Docks, and many old churches, have been built of it. In a gap of the downs, about five miles to the south, is
Corfe Castle, originally Saxon, of which the keep, chapel, king’s and queen’s towers, the drawbridge, &c., remain. Here Edward, “king and martyr” as he is styled in the calendar, was assassinated by his mother-in-law, Elfrida, in 978. It was the scene of other melancholy events; and during the civil war became famous for the gallant defence made by the wife of Chief Justice Bankes, in behalf of the king, Lady Bankes being assisted by her daughters, maids, and five soldiers only. After investing it for ten weeks the Roundheads were obliged to raise the siege. The church is Norman. Studland, the seat of the Right Honourable G. Bankes.
The coast, from this round Durlestone and St. Alban’s Head, and further, is all cliff, without the least shelter. On the summit of St. Alban’s Head, 440 feet high, is an ancient square vaulted chapel, resting on a single pillar, with no windows, but a Norman door. Encombe House, near this, Lord Eldon’s seat. Further along the coast, towards Weymouth, is Lulworth Cove, a beautiful sheltered inlet overlooked by swelling downs, the cliffs of which swarm with sea-birds. Lulworth Castle, the Welds’ seat, was built 1609, in the shape of an exact cube, 80 feet each way, out of the materials of an abbey. Here Charles X. resided for a while in 1830.
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Nothing can be more striking and picturesque than the situation of this delightful watering-place.
Half a mile from the village, on the south side of the Downs in a gap of the cliffs, which rise up 500 and 600 feet above the sea, white and dazzling, producing a grand effect.