The Chiswell Earthworks is a land sculpture which celebrates the completion of the Chesil Sea Defences and heralds a renewed confidence and revitalisation of Chiswell. It is one of Common Ground’s New Milestones’ Projects and was commissioned in 1986 by the Chesil Gallery together with the Portland Town Council. An exhibition, ‘Henry Moore and the Sea’ was held at the Chesil Gallery in 1993 to mark the completion of the sculpture during the summer of that year.
John Maine RA, a sculptor with an international reputation, was asked to undertake the commission. John frequently worked in Portland stone and often employed Portland masons to assist with his public commissions. By 1986, he had just completed Arena, a circular Portland stone sculpture on London’s South Bank. John’s response to the brief for a celebratory sculpture for Chiswell was eloquent. He chose for the site a grassy triangle of hillside above the Sea Wall where the Chesil Beach meets the Island. At first drains were laid to dry out the boggy slope before the drystone walling could commence This helped to retain the unstable coastal hillside.
The five walls which terrace the site echo the various strata of Portland quarry beds, the higher walls constructed of Slat and Topstone, the lower walls made, in descending order, of stone layers found naturally in Portland quarries, Roach, Whitbed and Basebed. A Manpower Services team, under John Maine’s direction, built the two top walls, but the lower walls were entirely the work of John, his student assistants and local volunteers. Each type of stone demanded a different method of working and wall construction, in this way paying homage to the quarrymen, masons and wallers who have worked for generations with Portland stone.
Finally the walls create wave-like patterns and support undulating platforms of earth suggesting the changing form of the beach as the sea breaks upon it at Chiswell.
The Chiswell Earthworks was funded by ARC Southern, The Elephant Trust, The Henry Moore Foundation, The European Year of the Environment, South West Arts, Weymouth & Portland Borough Council, Dorset County Council, the Chesil Gallery and a number of private individuals.
Flowers Weare- March 2002. Shaun repairing the Chiswell Earthworks.
24 May 2003. Celebrating the Chiswell Earthworks at Flowers Weare