THE remains of an ancient quay have been discovered in Poole Harbour which could date from 1250.

Archaeologists have found possible remains of the medieval Ower quay preserved beneath mudflats, where a trackway runs down to the harbour edge.

Little is visible now but 800 years ago this was a scene of bustling activity as Purbeck marble destined for the cathedrals of England was loaded.

Archaeologist Keith Jarvis said: “It is exciting to have found archaeological remains of this important quay.”

The archaeologists had always believed the quay was probably at the end of the ancient track from Corfe Castle to Ower.

A visual survey revealed a few surface stones and a probe survey and trial holes revealed more stones beneath the surface.

They had to work quickly as the quay was only exposed for a few hours between tides.

An unusual feature was a large area of white pipe clay at one corner, showing the core of the quay was not all gravel but included other water-resistant materials.

Project surveyor Alan Hawkins said: “It is amazing that traces of the core and facing stones still survive just under the mud of Poole Harbour.”

Historians have shown that the heyday of the Purbeck stone industry was 1250-1350 and stones from Purbeck were usually transported to Corfe Castle village where they were worked or partially finished.

The stone was then sent to Ower quay and taken to Poole to be put on larger vessels.

Corfe Castle has an ancient Guild of Marblers which still meets. They paid a yearly peppercorn rent and used to kick a football down to the quay to maintain their rights to the ancient route.

The 18th-century historian Hutchins considered the quay to be the main port of Purbeck in medieval times, however it was falling out of use by 1710.

There was a passage house in earlier centuries where farmers and their wives waited on market days for ferry boats to Poole.

Keith, former archaeological officer at Poole Museums and retired building society manager Alan, believe the quay is similar to the later Redhorn quay and are grateful to the Rempstone Estate for allowing access to the site.