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Illustrations of the Geologic Scenery of Purbeck by Philip Brannon (date unknown)

Old Harry, by Philip Brannon

Geoscientist 20.03 April 2011

Philip Brannon (1817-1890) was an Irish artist who produced a number of engravings and watercolours of the Dorset and Hampshire coasts during the 1850s. This collection of eight postcard-sized illustrations, ‘Engraved on steel […] after careful examination and accurate drawings made on the spot’, are intricate and beautiful depictions of various vantage points in the Purbeck area, from the Upper Chalk at Old Harry Rocks down to the Forest Marbles of Radipole near Weymouth.

There is in all the engravings a human presence that marks the Victorian interest in the picturesque: cane-toting gentlemen pointing at the distance, ladies in bonnets being helped into caves, sailing-boats circling Pinnacle Rock. That the booklet was published not only in Poole but also in London indicates the part such pictures played in luring tourists from the capital. Mostly, though, the drawings show the rocks of the Dorset coast in all their gnarled and knobbly glory, and include brief details of the geological strata to satisfy the scientific interests of the time. And there are two among the eight that illustrate the working man in the Purbeck quarry, Swanage, one guiding his horse in the mill, another raising his pick-axe in the glow of a candle lamp.