Christopher Stocks

Island Life

London rock

London may seem remote from the Isle of Portland – and not just physically, as anyone who’s endured the interminable three-hour train journey can attest, but in so many other ways as well. Yet whenever I’m in London these days I only have to raise my eyes above the shopfronts to be reminded of home, for when you start to look it’s quite staggering how much of the West End and the City is built of (or at least faced with) Portland stone.

I’d always taken the often-repeated claim that there’s more Portland stone in London than there is left on Portland itself with a large pinch of salt, but spend a couple of days walking round town and you start wondering how there’s anything left of the island at all.

Take Regent Street, for example. Its entire length is faced in Portland stone, from the tippety top of Portland Place to the bottom of Pall Mall, but it’s astonishing how many major buildings began life on my island too: St Paul’s, the Banqueting House, the main front of Buckingham Palace, Waterloo Bridge, the Bank of England, the Ministry of Defence, the Liberal Club, the Monument – not to mention pretty much every Wren church there is.

Funny to think that Somerset House is made from exactly the same stone as my house, if rather more finely finished…

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