Purbeck Marble

Purbeck Marble

Purbeck Marble is a fossiliferous limestone quarried in the Isle of Purbeck, a peninsula in south-east Dorset, England. It is one of many kinds of Purbeck Limestone, deposited in the late Jurassic or early Cretaceous periods. Purbeck Marble is not a metamorphic rock like a true marble, but like true marble it can take a fine polish. Its characteristic appearance comes from densely-packed shells of the freshwater snail Viviparus, which are also seen in Sussex Marble (also known as Petworth Marble or Winklestone) with generally larger Winkles of the same species.

In seams of the stone, which lie between layers of softer marine clays and mudstone, laid down in repeated marine ingressions, mineral impurities give some Purbeck Marble fine red and green varieties.

During the Romano-British period, Purbeck Marble was used for inscriptions, architectural mouldings and veneers, mortars and pestles, and other articles.

Purbeck Marble was also quarried in medieval times and can be seen in virtually all the cathedrals of the south of England, in columns and slab panels and flooring.

It has been less used in modern times, but a remarkable example is the church at Kingston, Purbeck, Dorset built in 1874–1880.

Though other strata of Purbeck Limestone are being quarried at the present time (2008), there are no active quarries in the Purbeck Marble. However Purbeck Marble is required from time to time for restoration work, and some was extracted in 1993.

Purbeck Marble is used by a number of contemporary sculptors and examples of sculpture can be seen at the biennial Asthall Manor exhibition of stone sculpture.

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