Burslem has used Portland stone throughout its history for construction of new buildings, restoration of historic buildings and, perhaps most significantly for the
thousands of Portland stone memorials the company produced for The Imperial War Graves Commission following the Great War and subsequently the Second World War. Portland stone was also used by Burslem in the construction of numerous War memorials on the western front, the inscription panels found in the Menin Road Gate in Ypres and many village and town war memorials across England.
The durable and attractive Portland stone remains a popular choice of stone for memorials for our clients today.
What is Portland Stone?
Portland stone is a limestone formation from the Tithonian stage of the Jurassic period. The stone is found on the Isle of Portland, Dorset and has been quarried since Roman times.
Portland hardens and discolours over time, giving it a worn and weathered appearance. Due to the colouring it relies on shadows to read inscriptions, therefore deep cuts and capital letters work best. It is considered a ‘classic’ headstone material that is often used in churchyards.
The natural stone is well known for its strength, durability and resistance to extreme weather conditions.
History of Portland Stone
Portland stone has been used extensively as a building stone throughout the UK and around the world. Notable examples include St Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace and the United Nations headquarters in New York. These buildings stand as a testament to the stone’s durability and strength to withstand the test of time.
From the early 1600s it had become London’s dominant stone. Vast quantities of the stone went into London after the Great Fire of 1666. Up until this point the stone had come from landslips on the east coast of the island of Portland. As demand continued into the eighteenth century, quarries opened up along the northern coast and during the 19th and 20th centuries, in the centre of the island. Despite historically large volumes of stone
leaving the island there are still large reserves of the stone on the island.
Sir Edwin Lutyens used Portland stone to construct the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall following the First World War. This famous memorial commemorates the millions of people killed in this and subsequent conflicts.
Portland stone is also used for Commonwealth war gravestones, including those for the British personnel killed in First and Second World Wars.
The stone quarried today comes in a number of variations dependent on the quarry of origin, whether it is mined or quarried and the bed from which blocks of stone are taken. Traditionally the beds are classified as Roach, Whitbed and Basebed. During the extraction process soil, vegetation and shale is removed revealing the top or Roach bed; often a grey, shell-filled bed with open fissures within the stone profile, beneath which is the Whitbed characterised by a much tighter granular structure, before coming to the Base Bed which is generally free of fissures and with minimal inclusions.
For more information on using Portland Stone for a memorial please contact Burslem here.