Of all the stone we supply, Portland Stone must be the most famous. It takes a special role this month, as it does every November, when the Cenotaph features in the news as wreaths are laid in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday. Portland Stone was an ideal choice for the monument. It offers crisp carving and a consistency of colour that complements the design's simplicity and supports its quiet dignity.
There's more to this simple design, though, than is immediately obvious. Architect Edwin Lutyens designed its vertical lines to meet at a point 1000 feet above the ground, and its horizontals to form part of a circle, the radius of which is 900 feet below ground.
For us, however, one of the most fascinating parts is the entasis. This subtle bulge on straight lines is a recognised device in classical architecture, used to counteract the impression you sometimes get that vertical lines are bending inwards.
Entasis can be virtually invisible to the eye—so invisible on the Cenotaph that there is some argument about whether it exists in the finished monument. It certainly wouldn't be an easy element to apply with precision by hand.
How things have changed. We're not saying it would be a piece of cake to create such a subtle effect nowadays but, with a programmable CNC machine, placing a line absolutely precisely is certainly easier and faster.
Portland Stone takes to carving as easily as a drawing master sharpens his pencils. That's one of its joys and why it has been so popular for hundreds of years. It's a hard-wearing, long-lasting limestone which is, nevertheless, easy to work, and few stones speak of the distant past so beautifully.
Director Gavin Walley, who heads our Bespoke Stone Centre, says, “The thing I love about Portland is the way the character of the stone is revealed once the stone has been honed. We usually start honing with a 40 grit paper and work up to a 220 grit. By the time we've finished we can often see the fossils and shells that give a glimpse of the stone's history.”
Recently we put our own curves into Portland Stone with our first ever bespoke curved Portland risers. As you can see, the consistency of colour and smooth texture make the shape and precision of the edges really stand out. They're almost sculptural. If you were standing right by them, I bet you'd reach out and run your fingers along the surface. I'll admit I couldn't resist it.
Portland Stone is always worth considering for that really special feature or entrance. We have paving available in standard sizes from 600 x 300 mm to 900 x 600, as well as 600 mm x random sizing. Such a remarkable stone, though, deserves the addition of bespoke elements, and with our state-of-the-art equipment we're ready to create exactly what you want, however subtle a touch it needs.
Attribution for Cenotaph:
"UK-2014-London-The Cenotaph" by Godot13 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:UK-2014-London-The_Cenotaph.jpg#/media/File:UK-2014-London-The_Cenotaph.jpg