In wonderful synchronicity to the previous post, (Stone Soul Places), enjoy this fascinating audio story about the Portland quarries of Dorset, UK. It was produced through the radio consortium In The Dark‘s Sound Bank Grant Scheme, where young broadcasters are mentored by radio and audio professionals.

singing rocks on the Lyme Regis, Dorset beach

From Stone Soul Places: singing rocks on the Dorset beach, photo by author

The story follows the history of when whole families hand quarried stones of 5-8 tons. Listen to them “pick” together…

I’m struck how close this story brings us to the ancient masons who quarried stone for the mosaic of the Roman Empire. The story reminds the way in which STONE was so central to livelihood, camaraderie, and community.

stone masons cut and carry rock for mosaic, from bas relief panel found at Ostia, Antiquarium, Rome, 270-280 AD

Stone masons cut and carry rock for mosaic, from bas relief panel found at Ostia, Antiquarium, Rome, 270-280 AD

Here’s a poem transcribed from ‘Ringing the Rocks’  (~13:10′)

What happened to the quarrybells that rang each working day?

for many years I haven’t heard a single roundelay

I heard them on the way to school

I heard them coming home

I knew the men who made them ring in galleries of stone.

Time also rings the changes,

the old gives way to new

what once supported many is now supporting few.

Old skills become redundant

eroded by machines

and quarry bells no longer ring 

except in old men’s dreams.

Go to this LINK and scroll down to listen!  (sorry, I can’t embed the audio here.)

The story is about 18 minutes long. I really liked around 9:00′ > 12:00′, you’ll hear some wonderful old rock picking chants and songs.


from InTheDark, Mair Bosworth, UK, 2012

from, Mair Bosworth, UK, 2012

Ringing The Rocks (Mair Bosworth, UK, 2012)

The limestone of the quarries on the Isle of Portland – which was used to build St Paul’s Cathedral, The Cenotaph and half a million gravestones for war cemeteries – was traditionally ‘rung’ by quarrymen to check the purity of the rock. But machines have long since taken over the work of cutting stone and the ‘quarrybells’ – the sound of picks striking stone in unison – have now fallen silent. Ringing the Rocks will explore the acoustic properties of stone and look at how Portland stone is being made to ring once more…

Mair is a recent graduate of the MA Radio Production course at Bournemouth University and won Gold for the Charles Parker Prize for student features in 2011. She is currently an intern with Sound Women and is managing a community radio project, working with older people in Dorset to help them tell their stories in sound. She blogs about radio at

Mair was mentored for this project by Nina Perry



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