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The Great Globe at Swanage is one of the largest stone spheres in the world. The Great Globe is constructed of Portland stone. It weighs 40 tons and is 10 feet in diameter.
The Great Globe stands within Durlston Country Park, a 1.13 square-kilometre (280-acre) country park and nature reserve stretching along the coastline south of Swanage, on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. The Park is part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. The Jurassic Coast stretches over a distance of 153 kilometres (95 mi), from Orcombe Point, near Exmouth, in the west, to the Old Harry Rocks in the east.
John Mowlem (1788-1868), a Swanage-born man, was a stonemason and builder. He was the founder of the quarrying and construction company Mowlem. John Mowlem and his nephew and business partner George Burt wanted to give something back to their home town, which was the source of their Portland and Purbeck limestone, popular for building at the time. John Mowlem built the Mowlem Institute, a reading room and public library, in 1862.
George Burt (1816-1894) purchased an undulating tract of land covering Durlston Head during the same year. This estate included quarries that supplied their firm with limestone. Burt developed this estate as a tourist attraction.
Upon the crest of the hill Burt established the Durlston Estate and built his folly Durlston Castle. The castle was designed by G.R. Crickmay, and built by W.M. Hardy in 1886-87. It is built entirely of local stone. The ‘castle’ was never a real castle: it was purpose-built by Burt as a restaurant for visitors to his estate.
South of Durlston Castle within the Estate grounds is the Great Globe. Constructed in Greenwich in 1887 in Mowlem’s stone-yard, it was brought to Swanage by sea. The Globe, which is made of Portland stone, consists of 15 segments, with four stones for each of the lower three courses and three in the top-most course, the segments connected by granite dowels. It measures 10 feet in diameter and weighs 40 tons. Its surface is carved in detail and lettered to show the continents, oceans and certain more specific areas of the world. In the year of its creation, it was erected by W.M. Hardy upon a platform chopped 136 feet above sea level into the solid rock of the hill. Around the Globe is a set of stone plaques carved with quotations from English and Roman poets and the Bible, as well as facts about the natural world. These were not completed until 1891.
Durlston Country Park has been owned by Dorset County Council since the early 1970s and is open to the public. Today the castle is the home of the Jurassic Coast Visitor Centre. Durlston Castle and the Great Globe are both being restored over 2010 by the Council. Also within Durlston Country Park and within walking distance of the Globe are Durlston Bay, the Tilly Whim Caves and the Anvil Point Lighthouse.
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