Portland Stone and Quarrying
In the past, the Portland Limestone was worked by hand and waste rock was carefully banked up as quarrying progressed. The result is a landscape of quarry workings and a maize of 'beaches' (massive dry stone walls), passages, trackways and gullies of great 'heritage value' together with exposures of the original geology.
The quarry workings, once left to nature, have been colonised by a limestone flora and fauna of exceptional beauty and international importance. Large areas of the Island, including virtually the entire coastal strip, has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for geology and wildlife while the coast and Kingbarrow Quarry is a Special Area of Conservation.
Quarrying for Portland Stone continues today but quarry methods and products have changed. Heavy machinery is now employed and what was once waste stone is now crushed for aggregate. Some quarries have been extended into the underlying Cherty Series of limestones, which is worked for aggregate. The result is deep and open quarries.
Some famous buildings have been built from Portland Stone; The Original St Paulís Cathedral in London had been destroyed during the great fire (1665). The architect of the new Cathedral, Sir Christopher Wren, designed the new building to be made of Portland Stone, the quarry is still operated by Stone Firms Ltd. He took control of all the Portland Quarries from 1675 to 1717. Weymouth took advantage of his regular visits to the area by electing him as one of its Members of parliament for 1702.
Portland Stone was also used to build New Scotland
Yard, Waterloo Bridge, the Cenotaph, the United Nations Building in New York,
the new British Museum, the Parliament Building in Northern Ireland, the new
Stock Exchange and the Bank of England.
The minerals permissions granted in the early 1950's required little more than the most basic restoration of such sites but even these, left for a decade or more, attract important wildlife. However the Environment Act of 1995 introduced the requirements for a Review of Minerals Permissions (ROMP). Portland Stone remains a prestigious, quality product used throughout the country.
Portland based Albion Stone won three awards, had two project Highly Commended and one Commended in the 2006 Natural Stone Awards in London. The New Build Award (modern non-load bearing stone) was gained for the BBC's broadcasting headquarters where Albion Stone provided 85 cubic metres of stone. Other awards and commendations included repair and restoration work on Temple Bar at Paternoster Square, Interior Award for the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, restoration work on Stowe House in Buckinghamshire and repair and restoration work on St Paul's Cathedral.
Stone Firms Ltd dates back to before The Bath & Portland Stone Firms was originally registered as a public company on 27th December 1897. It was an amalgamation of a considerable number of smaller trading companies, dating from supplying stonework for St. Paulís Cathedral. Hence it has been operating out of the same factories on Portland for over 100 years. Investing over £2m in re-equipping the business and owning 700 acres of the Island, the stone producing too many awards to list over the last century.
The quarry and masonry operations are fascinating. The use of stone for sculpture is promoted by the Portland Sculpture Trust a tennent of Stone Firms, while traditional masonry and sculpture skills are taught in Weymouth College. The Jurassic Coast Project are 'working closely with the quarry operators to promote the concept of a Quarry Park' for the Island, incorporating some of the older sites together with modern sites that are restored for geological conservation, wildlife interest, educational use, recreation and amenity.