AskDefine | Define swanage

Extensive Definition

Swanage is a small coastaltown in the south east of Dorset, England. It is situated at the eastern end of the Isle of Purbeck, approximately 10 km south of Poole and 40 km east of Dorchester. The town has a population of 10,124 (2001). Nearby are Ballard Down, Old Harry Rocks and Studland Bay to the north and Durlston Country Park to the south.
The town was a small port and fishing village until the Victorian era when it became a seaside resort. It also has a long history in quarrying along the cliffs to the south at Durlston, and was one of the largest producers of Purbeck stone and marble. Today, tourism is the main industry, employing many who live in the town, while some 40% of the workforce commute to Poole. Swanage has several pubs in proximity to the town square. The square itself has three takeaway restaurants, though only one has a seated dining area.
The town has a wooden 19th century pier with two branches; one was refurbished in 1999 and the other is derelict. Sightseeing and angling boats operate from the "new" pier. Scuba diving takes place under the piers and at nearby coastal wrecks. Indeed Swanage is considered by many to be the home of British Scuba diving as not only is it one of the most popular sea water training sites for dive schools and clubs to take trainee divers due to the sheltered conditions within the bay, but the dive shop still situated on the pier was the first dive shop ever to open in Great Britain. There is a sandy beach, on Swanage Bay, along the edge of the town. The beach was improved in 2005/6 by construction of new greenheart timber groynes and the placement of 90,000m³ of sand as beach nourishment . In the summer jet skis and pedal boats can be hired from the beach. Cliffs to the south-east of the town are used by climbers. The town is a gateway town for the Jurassic Coast, a popular world heritage site, and because of this it is a popular destination for educational field trips and romantic meals. Swanage is one of the few towns in the UK to have a crater on Mars named after it. Swanage hosts a carnival at the beginning of August each year.


The town gets it's first mention in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 877, as being the scene of a great naval victory by King Alfred over the Danes: "This year came the Danish army into Exeter from Wareham; whilst the navy sailed west about, until they met with a great mist at sea, and there perished one hundred and twenty ships at Swanwich." A hundred of their ships which had survived the battle were driven by a storm onto Peveril Point. A monument topped (historically incorrectly) by cannon balls was set up in 1882 by John Mowlem to celebrate this event and is situated at the southern end of the promenade (Ward Lock’s).
During its history the bay was listed variously as Swanic, Swanwich and then finally on maps.
The town's prominence came during the Victorian period when Purbeck stone was transported from local quarries and then by sea from Swanage.


Since the turn of the century tourism has been a very popular holiday destination for the working class/middle class. Nowadays it attracts all sorts of people around Europe. Many GCSE and other school students come to Swanage for coursework or other pieces of school work.

Language School

A large English Language school, Harrow House, is located in the centre of the town, and provides year round educational courses for students from more than 60 different countries.

Twinned with

Cultural references

Swanage is stated as the hometown of John Cleese's character Basil Fawlty in the sitcom Fawlty Towers.



  • Cooper, Ilay. (2004). Purbeck Revealed. Bath: James Pembroke Publishing.
  • Ward Lock’s (no date). Swanage and South Dorset: Illustrated Guide Books. (Twelfth edition). London: Ward, Locke and Co. Ltd.

External links

Travel information:
swanage in Spanish: Swanage
swanage in French: Swanage
swanage in Romanian: Swanage
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1