Tout Quarry is an old, abandoned stone quarry at the top of the island close to the Heights Hotel. It was worked for the famous Portland stone from 1780 through to 1982 giving important buildings in London and around the world its great look, from St Pauls and Buckingham Palace to the United Nations Building in New York. It is now a sculpture park full of varied stone carvings both free standing as well as worked into the rock faces left over from the days of quarrying allowing sculpture to meet the environment, its geology, ecology and working histories.
The sculpture park first came about in 1983 but the very earliest of pieces have not survived through to today sadly. However the quarry does now have over 70 sculptures dotted around the gullies make a walk around the quarry not only an adventure but a with real surprises around many corners. With the backdrop of the 18 miles of Chesil Beach stretching into the distance and with views right across Lyme Bay on a clear day, Tout Quarry makes a most interesting and picturesque walk.
The Portland Sculpture Quarry Trust (PSQT) also works out of Tout Quarry allowing the layman to get a taste and more of working the stone. They run workshops from May to September each year for beginners and all levels of skill. There is level access with a screed floor and light tarpaulin for weather cover. Tuition is given by experienced carvers and sculptors in direct carving, architectural detail and letter cutting. At the start of the course there is a selection of freshly quarried Portland stone, the finest of carving stones, soft enough to carve, yet extremely durable. Courses are run for the general public over the summer and schools, colleges and university groups during term time.
PSQT is also leading a project during the Cultural Olympiad 2009-2012 to build a unique stone lithophone for percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie to play in a performance to celebrate the opening of the Olympic sailing events in 2012. The stone Lithophone, built on site from stones that ring, explored the distinctive range of tones, harmonics and sustained reverberation found in the geological structures of the different quarries on Portland.