Lest you forget

Charles 2 Comments

Remembrance Sunday brings the nation together in commemoration of those who fought and died in war. Old soldiers don their medals and attend church parades. Those who think this smacks too much of glorification mark the event in other ways.

But no one will pass through Sunday and then Monday (11.11) unaffected by the anniversary. Everyone has their own take on it.

For inhabitants of the Isle of Portland, where this blog will lay its bones, Remembrance Sunday has a particularly poignant resonance. You see, the Cenotaph was dug from the bowels of our island, and we islanders have a strong sense of connectedness with our exiled stone. 

The Cenotaph was actually quarried in virgin ground. Once enough stone had been dug for the monument, the workings were filled in and quarried no more.

The Cenotaph was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and incorporates some sophisticated geometry. The sides are not parallel, but if extended would meet at a point some 980 feet above the ground. The horizontal surfaces are in fact sections of a sphere whose centre would be 900 feet below ground.

Portland stone commemorates those who have died in battle in other ways. All those headstones you see in cemeteries maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and in cemeteries and churchyards across Britain: all Portland stone. 

The National Memorial Arboretum? Portland stone. 

As is, appropriately for an organisation created to bring an end to war, the United Nations headquarters in New York. 

Portland stone is not associated exclusively with solemn occasions. No royal wedding would be complete without an appearance by the happy couple on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Yes, you guessed it: Portland stone. 


  1. Charles

    Thank you for reminding me of what the Isle of Portland gave of itself (as it were). I have been very moved by the grassy quarries on this defiant isle, by the wonderfully carved tall headstones in the windy graveyard and the deeply scratched patterns in the pub table – where presumably the old stonemasons hands could not stay still after finishing work.
    That such magnificent public structures have been created from this forgotten corner goes some way towards explaining the enormous debt that I feel still settles in those silent canyons.

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