As my two-day butterfly trip to Portland next week has now morphed into a 4-day trip courtesy of the Rail Unions, I thought I would repost some posts on Portland I originally posted back in 2016.
Portland in Dorset is not an island but an isthmus, as it remains connected to the mainland by a narrow spit of land. It is 4.5 miles long and 1.7 miles wide and rises to 400 ft above sea level at the northern end.
It is a large piece of limestone of exceptional quality and is much in demand as building stone. Portland stone was used By Sir Christopher Wren for the rebuilding of London, including St Paul’s Cathedral and around 50 other churches, following the Great Fire in 1666. It was also used for the Cenotaph in Whitehall; War grave headstones in France and Belgium and the UN building in New York.
It has a strong military connection dating from 1539 when Henry VIII built a castle on Portland (together with Sandersfoot castle at Wyke Regis on the opposite side of Portland bay) to defend the bay from the French and Spanish. In 1872 the newly enclosed Portland harbour became a naval base, which it remained until recent years when facilities were transferred to other ports.
More recently the bay has been developed as watersports venue and was the location of the 2012 Olympics sailing competitions.