Swanage students open a new art trail to celebrate the pier’s past

Art students have helped create a new interactive arts trail on Swanage Pier, linking the heritage of the town’s tourism with its industrial past.

Nine Purbeck stone plaques have been installed along the 125 year old pier, each featuring a marine design carved by fine art students from The Swanage School.

Swanage School art students stone rubbing on Swanage Pier

Swanage School students test out the stone rubbing trail on the pier

Artwork will last a generation or more

The aim is to inspire visitors to the pier to make their own pieces of art through stone rubbings – similar to brass rubbings, using the medium of crayons, chalk or oil pastels, transferring the raised carving to paper.

The first to try out the trail were young adults from the Swanage community interest company Allsort’d, who were delighted by the art pieces they produced.

An official opening for the trail was held on Monday 17th October 2022, with Year 11 students who had studied stone quarrying, carving and Swanage’s marine history to create artwork which will last a generation or more.

Stone carving students at Haysom Quarry
The Swanage School

Swanage School students visited Haysome Quarry to learn about Purbeck stone

Stone carving at Burngate Centre
The Swanage School

Stone carving took place in early summer at Burngate Stone Carving Centre

Stone played a huge part in local economy

Zara Saganic, art teacher at The Swanage School, said:

“We were asked to collaborate with Swanage Pier Trust and the Burngate Stone Carving Centre to celebrate local heritage.

“The students went to Haysome Quarry to find out about local Purbeck stone and then developed their own artwork in response to the history of the pier and how stone used to play a huge part in the local economy.

“They studied lino cuts and existing stone carving work, then carved their designs into blocks of stone which have now been mounted on plinths along the pier.”

Swange School art students on Swanage Pier

Fine art students from The Swanage School carved the artwork on the pier

The Swanage School art teacher Zara Saganic with one of her pupils

Themes of nature, science and landscape

Zara continued:

“It’s a celebration of the pier through art making art – where visitors to the pier for at least the next 25 years will have a chance to make their own art rubbings using the carvings our students have created.

“It has really helped the students with their art context, to work themes of nature, science and the landscape into their work and achieve a higher level of understanding.”

Relief stone carving features a dolphin

Carving of destructive gribble worms

The nine rubbing stations along the pier feature relief carvings of jellyfish, starfish, dolphins, seahorses, landscapes, Victorian lampposts and the destructive gribble worms – tiny crustaceans which are responsible for eating away the pier’s wooden supports.

The students who created the carvings as part of their Fine Art GCSE and helped to open the trail were Alfred, Ava, Charlotte, Lily, Lola, Mollie, Wicktoria and Zack. Student Olivia also created one of the pieces of art but was unable to attend the opening event.

During autumn, when it may be too wet and windy to make stone rubbings, the plinths will be moved closer to the pier entrance so that visitors can admire the stone carvings.

Swanage Pier Trust’s learning and education officer Ginny Carvisiglia said the idea had been to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the pier and the town’s heritage through the eyes of the next generation of artists.

Young adults from Allsort’d were first to try out the stone rubbing trail

Some of the stone rubbings completed by Allsort’d

Stone is a very tactile art medium

Ginny said:

“We have been so impressed by the quality of the carvings and already there has been a lot of interest from visitors to the pier who want to interact with the stone art – it is a very tactile medium which people want to touch.

“We will have stone rubbing kits for people to use and believe that it will be a fun activity for visitors of all ages from the youngest children through to adults.”

Art students Wicktoria and Zack try out the rubbing stations with Ginny Carvisiglia

Crayons need to be biodegradable

Ginny added:

“A few changes will be made – we have discovered that the slots in the pier’s wooden deck are exactly the same size as crayons, so we need them to be biodegradable in future, we don’t want too many crayons floating about in the sea!

“We may also have to work out a way to clip paper in place while the rubbing is done, as it is quite often a little bit windy along the pier!”

Further Information

  • Find out what other events are taking place at Swanage Pier this autumn on their website:
  • Discover the world of Burngate Purbeck Stone on their website:

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