Tilly Whim Caves are located within the Durlston Country Park, about 1 mile or 1.6 km south of Swanage. Tilly Whim Caved consists of three stone quarries and it is part of the Jurassic Coast. The name for the area “Tilly Whim” is thought to have come from a former quarryman who was named George Tilly, along with a form of primitive wooden crane which is known as a “whim”, sometimes also known as a derrick or gibbet. There is another theory as Tilly Whim lies at the south end of the Manor of Eightholds, at the northern end of the estate, there is a common field called Tilly Mead.
At the present time, the caves are an undisturbed roost and home for a variety of bats. The cliffs and ledges act as nesting grounds for seabirds. The area that is surrounding Tilly Whim is also used as a lookout point for marine life, including a number of grey seals and dolphins.
History of Willy Whim Caves
Till Whim Caves, much like many quarries around Swanage were limestone quarries that were used mostly during the eighteenth century. Purbeck Stone, a valuable limestone variant was extracted from Tilly Whim Caves. Workers used metal punches, wedges, and hammers to split the rock into smaller more workable blocks, the quarrymen worked ina horizontal manner taking the stone out of the cliff face.
The quarrymen who worked at the quarry were also known for being skilled stonemasons, they worked with the stones within the quarry, either building them into blocks or finished products. The stones and finished products were lowered onto ships below the quarry which then too them either to Swanage Quay or to larger sailing ketches that were anchored offshore.
The quarry was closed in 1812 due to a reduction in the demand for the stone, in 1887, Goerge Burt opened up the caves as a tourist location for his Durlston estate, however, in 1976, the caves were closed off to the public due to rockfalls and other aspects making the caves too dangerous for the public to use.
Interesting Tilly Whim Caves Facts
- Notable people that have visited Tilly Whim Caves include T.S. Eliot who was a poet, he visited the site when studying at Merton College in Oxford.
- Tilly Whim Caves were limestone quarries that were worked mainly during the 18th century.
- The caves have not been quarried since 1812.
- Today, the caves are an undisturbed roost for bats.
- The cliffs and ledges are nesting grounds for seabirds.
- The area surrounding Tilly Whim is a lookout point for marine life, including seals and dolphins.