History 2017-06-27T15:16:25+01:00

History of Portland stone

Portland Stone Firms continues over 120 years of involvement of natural stone on the Isle of Portland.

Throughout the decades Portland stone has adorned small to commercial projects. Our quarries and factories on the Isle of Portland continue to supply the world with natural limestone, from Finsbury Circus and St James’s Park in London, to monuments and war graves around the world.

From the very beginning in 1918 a steam driven 3 meter Anderson Grice primary saw was installed for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. These early steps of manufacturing led to modern works such as carving capitals for the National Gallery Sainsbury Wing.

A wealth of history has been supplied using our natural stone.

Portland Stone Firms Limited history

Since the Romans

Limestone has been extracted since the Roman period. It became widely popular in London the early 17th century, after being used by Sir Christopher Wren on St Paul’s Cathedral.

Our history

Over the years we have supplied more Portland limestone into London than any other company.

Stone Firms Ltd dates back to before The Bath & Portland Stone Firms Ltd 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. Paul’s Cathedral. Hence it has been operating out of the same factories on Portland for over 100 years.

We have had various owners since that time and as many names. The last of which was Hanson Bath and Portland Stone, part of Hanson PLC. The Portland side of the business was separated from the Bath side in 2004 and became Portland Stone Firms Ltd once more.

Since then the Portland stone factories, quarries and mine have had considerable investment in excess of £3.5 million. This was spent on new machinery and modernisation, making us one of the most efficient and modern stone masonry works in the United Kingdom.

Computerised equipment and highly skilled operatives allow us to achieve high quality work, meeting the industries ever-increasing standards and specifications.

Photographs of the past

Generations of families have worked our natural Portland stone.

Portland stone history on Jurassic coast

1970’s Main factory with Fred Jacobs as foreman measuring quarried block.

1918 Anderson Grice three meter primary saw for war graves

1918 Anderson Grice three meter primary saw installed to cut war graves. Originally this machine was steam engine driven and later converted.

Lead carver Harry Garland finishing Portland stone coat of arms.

Lead carver Harry Garland finishing a coat of arms.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones in Portland limestone

Harry Hounsell, Charlie Gibbs and Mike Donovan producing Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones.

Historic photograph of Portland stone masons yard

General shot of masons yard. John Collins-Dryer operating a boring machine for memorial vases and masonry team.

John Selman working portico stones

John Selman working portico stones.

General photograph of Portland stone yard in the late 1970s

General yard shot with Pat Donovan as foreman in the late 1970s.

Frank Wadham rubbing a Portland limestone memorial cross

Frank Wadham rubbing a memorial cross in the last stages of production.

Letter cutting a Commonwealth War Graves Commission panel

Letter cutting a Commonwealth War Graves Commission panel.

Planer working Portland limestone fluted columns

Planer working on fluted column stones.