Tilly Whim caves is the most easterly quarry in a stretch of quarries that exist along cliffs of the southern Purbeck ridge. Located between Anvil Point and Durlston Head the caves used to be accessible along the coastal path near Durlston Castle but have since been closed to the public for safety reason.
Originally excavated during the Napoleonic War, the limestone quarries were used up to the start of the 20th century. The galleries reach back deep into the Purbeck ridge in horizontal Jurassic strata.
All of the stone excavated from the Tilly Whim quarries was shipped via sea using barges in calm weather using a winch to lower the stone from the cliff face to the waiting barges below. Up to 50 tons of stone was removed in solid blocks from the galleries before being broken down into more manageable sizes using only hand tools.
Removal of the stone to Swanage Bay using the barges could only be carried out in the summer months while the weather was calm enough.
The wood used throughout the caves came from shipwrecks that occurred regularly around the Purbeck shoreline. The name Tilly probably came from the owner of the quarries.
The stone excavated from the Purbeck quarries was used to build much of London with places including St Pauls Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament built using Purbeck stone.
None of the cliff side quarries are in use today. All stone from the Purbeck area is now excavated from surface quarries where large holes are dug in the ground using mechanical excavators and shipped away using large stone carrying lorries.