Transcript of the description for Portland from Hunt & Co.'s Directory of Dorsetshire, Hampshire, & Wiltshire 1851

PORTLAND, is a very curiously shaped rocky peninsula, extending about 5 miles S.S.E. into the English channel from the main land to which it is united by a remarkable ridge of pebbles forming a natural embankment, that extends 9 miles in a north westerly direction from the village of Chesil, having the sea on the south west and the Swannery Fleet water on the north east, (see Wyke Regis.) At the nearest point of the peninsula towards Weymouth, a bridge connects the divided land* making the distance to that town only 4 miles, otherwise along its almost impassable pebble beach and by Abbotsbury it would be at least 17 miles. The isle of Portland as it is called is bounded on the north by the Fleet, on the north east by Portland road, and on the west by West-bay; its name is supposed to have originated (and with much propriety) from the proximity of the port of Weymouth to the land of the Peninsula. It is about 1¾ miles in width at its broadest part, and 4 in length, measuring from a point near Portland castle, exclusive of the long narrow stony embankment or isthmus to the north west, known as the Chesil bank which as before stated, joins the main land, and forms the peninsula. The circumference of the measured part is rather more than 9 miles, and consists mostly of romantic, craggy, inaccessible, and in some parts perpendicular rocks rising their lofty summits with stern grandeur from the depths below, and for ages past, have braved the destructive action of time, and the repeated assaults of angry elements, and still remain to attest the primitive level of some parts of their stony sides that have long since disappeared, and probably now form that curious phenomenon of nature, the Chesil bank; towards the south however the aspect is different, as in that direction the land slopes away to a low shelving shore; the northern part of the island is the loftiest, being 490 feet above the level of the sea, here the eye in clear weather ranges over a vast expanse of water - the English channel - enlivened by numerous ships wending their way to foreign climes or seeking the hospitable shores of Britain. The peninsula of Portland is in the diocese of Salisbury and union of Weymouth, and contains the eight villages or hamlets of Chesil, Castletown, Easton, Fortune's Well, Reforne, Southwell, Wakeham and Weston. The islanders are the descendants of the ancient Belgæ, who were noted, as gunpowder was not then invented, for their great strength and dexterity in slinging stones, being denominated the British Baleares; the present inhabitants are a hardy race of human beings, and many of the male adults find employment in the quarries and fisheries.

*The entrance to the peninsula is on the north over the Fleet, and was formerly reached by means of a ferry boat; but in consequence of a great quantity of land being displaced by the gale in November, 1824, it was dangerous to cross this passage in stormy weather, to obviate this, the bridge was built, it is constructed upon anti-dry rot piles which are cased with copper above the height of spring tides, this viaduct is 600 feet long and 20 broad.

The island of Portland is an immense mass of free stone resting upon a stratum of blue clay and the stone was first employed for building as early as the time of James I.; during whose reign its peculiar properties and fitness for architectural purposes were first discovered by Sir Christopher Wren. It is noted for the extreme facility with which it will yield to the chisel or saw even in a diagonal or any other direction, hence it is very properly called freestone. After the great fire of London in 1666, it was used most extensively in rebuilding that city, St. Paul's cathedral, and many of the other metropolitan public buildings, are constructed of stone from the quarries of Portland, as are also Westminster and Blackfriars bridges. At the present time, about 50,000 tons of this stone are annually exported, and the blocks varying in weight, from one to six tons, are conveyed to the shipping places by a railroad, the quarries lying elevated, the loaded trucks descend the line by their own gravity, drawing the empty ones up to the top of the hill. A peculiar small breed of sheep (the flesh of which is much admired for its fine flavour) find a subsistence upon the short sweet grassy turf, as do also large numbers of those rare little migratory birds, wheatears, which when properly cooked are considered to be so great a dainty, as to have obtained the eulogizing appellation of English ortolans. At the base of the highest part of the island is Portland castle, it was originally erected by Henry VIII., since whose time it has experienced many vicissitudes having been taken and retaken by both parties during the struggle between Charles I. and his parliament. This strong and handsome structure is in times of hostility mounted with 12 and 24 pounders; the interior of this castle (to which the public are not admitted) is adorned with beautiful pictures, articles of vertu and many curious fossil remains both animal and vegetable; it is the residence of Capt. Chas. Manning, who is a magistrate, and her Majesty's lieutenant of the island. Near the village of Wakeham is Pennsylvania castle a handsome mansion commanding a beautiful view of the broad British channel, farther south is 'Bow and Arrow' castle said to have been built by William Rufus, son of William the Conqueror, continuing still more southerly are the upper and lower light houses, situated about a ¼ of a mile apart, and are so placed as to be visible at sea from all points of the compass, about 1 mile S.S.W. from these is that perilous place to mariners 'Portland race,' and about 4 miles thence E. or 3 S.E. from the Bill of Portland, is a dangerous sand bank called the shambles.

The principal objects of attraction are the "Breakwater," and the "Convict Estabiishment;" The first mentioned great national undertaking is now considerably advanced. It appears that the idea of constructing a breakwater was conceived and made known by the late Mr. John Harvey as early as 1794, (and has been successfully prosecuted by his son Mr. John Harvey the present postmaster of Weymouth) he remarking, "it should extend from the N.E. point of the island to a distance of two miles and a quarter, which would secure a safe anchorage, and form a roadstead of four square miles in extent, situated only 21 leagues N. of Cherbourg, and would doubtless prove the best and most complete shelter during all winds in the British channel. Its central communication between Portsmouth and Plymouth, would form a most effective counteraction to the naval armaments of Cherbourg."

The Convict Establishment is superintended by Captain Whitty; at the present time about 800 convicts are employed in quarrying and loading the stone into trucks preparatory to its being sent down the inclined plane and implanted in that invaluable bulwark of Britain's southern coast that mighty mass of humane marine masonry "the Portland Breakwater", and thus encroach on Neptune's deep domain; but by that trespass on the trident sovereign's terraqueous territory a "Harbour of Refuge" will be formed affording complete security to shipping in deep water at all times, accessible, despite of weather, wind or tide, and its dimensions capacious enough to contain the whole of the mercantile navy that is continually floating along this great channel thoroughfare. Besides the above advantages the bed of the harbour being composed of fine, firm, blue clay forms very superior holding ground, and withal is easily pierced why the anchors flukes. It is remarked by Chambers, "that the Portlanders continued very quietly to pursue their occupation of quarrying, until the commencement of the great breakwater at Cherbourg, excited the apprehensions of those who had hitherto relied on our naval supremacy. Fears of invasion, led to the idea of constructing a breakwater to protect the shipping off Weymouth; but though long agitated, the project did not assume a practical form till very recent times. It was so late as May 1847, that the bill for the construction of a breakwater received the royal assent. It is probable that the idea of making Portland a receptacle for convicts, did not occur to the government until the applicability of convict-labour became apparent, when the peculiar isolated situation of Portland, its desolate aspect, its contiguity to a military depot, added to the loudly expressed dislike of the colonies to the reception of convicts, and the suspension of transportation for a period, owing to the want of demand for convict labour, combined to lead the government to the design of making Portland a large convict establishment, and of performing the great national work in hand by convict labour. Accordingly in the summer of 1847, Lieut-Col. Jebb, surveyor general of prisons, was directed to prepare the necessary plans, and in November 1848, an establishment capable of receiving 850 prisoners was opened at Portland. On the 25th of July in the following year, the first stone of the breakwater was laid by his Royal Highness Prince Albert. For a more detailed account of Portland prison, see Chambers Edinburgh Journal, No. 371, page, 83, Feb. 8, 1851.

The island contains two churches, the parochial one (St. George's), situated at Wakeham, is a handsome cruciform structure, accommodating 700 persons, and contains some interesting monuments of departed worth. His late majesty George, III., presented £500 towards constructing this edifice. The lower church (St. John's) at Fortune's well was built in 1840, it is in the Gothic style, and has a nave and chancel surmounted by a neat tower, this edifice accommodates 650 persons; there are also an Independent chapel, and a large Wesleyan one; also a free school for instructing the rising generation. It is estimated that Portland at the present time including the inmates of the convict establishment contains about 4,000 inhabitants

POST OFFICE AND MONEY ORDER OFFICE at Abraham Winter's (Royal Portland Arms), Fortune's well. Letters arrive at 8 30 a.m. and are despatched at 4 p.m.

Gentry, Clergy, &c.

Clay Captain (deputy governor of the convict-establishinent) the Grove
Frost Fredk. Spencer, esq. M.D. Fortune's well
Fudge Mr. Robert, Wakeham cot.
Hogarth Rev. David, M.A. Rectory house, Yeates
Jenour Rev. Hen. M.A. Claremount
Manning Captain Charles Augustus Portland castle
Mawkes Rev. J. the Grove
Moran Rev. Henry, the Grove
Whitty Captain (governor of the convict establishment) Grove
Watson Rev. Joseph (Wesleyan minister) Fortune's well

Miscellany of Traders, &c.
Not arranged in the aucceetling lists.

Atwooll John A. shipwright, Fortune's well
Brown Wm. leather cutler, Fortune's well
Coast-guard station, Vanzuilecom Chas. L. chief officer
Comben Richard, superintendent of the lighthouses
Comben Thomas, parish clerk of St. John's
Free school, Easton, Scriven John B.
Mitchell Rebecca, draper, &c. Chesil
Morgan Wm. watch & clockmaker Fortune's well
Pearce Mr. Benjamin, Easton
Thomas Norman, hairdresser, Chesil
Tizard J. solicitor, Fortune's well
Williamson Mrs, Spring gardens

Bakers.

Attwooll William, Reforne
Buck Joseph, Claremont
Comben Robert, Fortune's well
Mabey Henry, Chesil
Pearce Richard, Easton
Score Richard (& corn dealer) Fortune's well
Wallis Thomas, Chesil
Way Thomas, Mallams
Winter Abraham, Chesil

Beer Retailers.

Comben Abel, Wakeham
Holder Joseph, Bygrove
Stone Robert, Yeates
Way Jane, Chesil

Blacksmiths.

Collins Benjamin, Easton
Collins Richard, Yeates
Dine John, Reforne
Pearce Abraham, Easton
Pearce Edward, Easton
Pearce John, Easton
White Ambrose W. Fortune's well

Boot & Shoemakers.

Chaddock Richard, Chesil
Dine William, Chesil
Fall Richard, Fortune's well
Hockaday Thomas, Maidenswell
Marwood John, Easton
Roddy William, King street
White Edward, Chesil
White Wm. Richard, Chesil

Butchers.

Galpin John, Maidenswell
White Benjamin, Easton
Winter Richard, Fortune's well

Carpenters.

Hansford Thomas, Chesil
Pearce Abraham, Easton
Pearce Francis, Easton
Pearce William, Easton
Pearce William, Mallams
Spencer William, Easton
White Wm. (& builder) Fortune's well

Chemists and Druggists.

Barling Thomas, Fortune's well
Johnson Thos. Wm. Fortune's well

Farmers.

Attwooll William, Weston
Collins John, Easton
Comben John, Weston
Comben William, Fortune's well
Gibbs William, Easton
Hansford William, Reforne
Hine Charles, Reforne
Lano Richard, Reforne
Lano Thomas, Easton
Otter William, Yeates
Paul Peter, Easton
Pearce Benjamin, Weston
Pearce Edward, Easton
Pearce Robert, Easton
Pearce William, Weston
Spencer & Lowman, Easton
Stone Henry, Weston
Stone William, Weston
White Wilham, Weston

Grocery, &c. Dealers.

Bales John, Easton
Barnes John, (& draper), Chesil
Buck Joseph, Claremont
Cleall Samuel, Claremont
Flew Richard, Chesil
Dine Thomas, Fortune's well
England Thomas, Easton
Hinde Bartholomew, Southwell
Lano Albert Hen. Easton
Paul Peter, Easton
Pearce Susanna, Easton
Rod Robert, Wakeham
Sansom Thomas (& ship chandler) Castle town
Soriven Benjamin, Easton
Stone Hen. (& painter, &c.) Chesil
Stone Shadrach, Easton
Tucker Edmund, (& draper), Portland house, Fortuneswell
Way John, Chesil
Way John, Maiden's well
Way William, Chesil

Inns & Public Houses.

Castle, Castleton, Sansom Thos.
Clifton Hotel, the Grove, White Charles
Crown, Chesil, Flew William
George, Reforne, White Benjamin
King's Arms, Chesil, Comben Bartholomew
New Hotel, Chesil, Dyer Richard
New Inn, Easton, Pearce Edwd.
Punchbowl, Easton, White Thos.
Royal Breakwater Hotel, (& posting house), Castleton, Sansom Thomas
Royal Portland Arms Inn, Fortune's well, Winter Abraham
Sun Inn, Fortune's well, Score Edward Mowlem

Master Mariners.

Allen Edward, King street
Allen William, King street
Atwooll Abel, Fortune's well
Atwooll Robert, Spring gardens
Elliott John, Spring gardens
Elliott Thomas, Mallams
Flew Josiah, Fortune's well
Hellier Thomas, Belle vue house
Read Joseph, King street
Travis Richard, King street
Way John, Clement's lane
Way Nicholas, King street
Way Richard, Chesil
Winter William, Chesil

Millers.

Pearce Edward, Easton
Pearce Edward & Robert, Reforne

Stone Merchants.

Comben Bartholomew, Chesil
Freeman & Co. Fortune's well, agent, Thomas Edward
Stewards & Co. Castleton, agent, Radford John. London agent, Holland William, Whitehall wharf, Abingdon street
Western Quarries, agent, Lano Jonathan, Fortune's well

Surgeons.

Frost Frederick Spencer, M.D. (& surgeon to the Royal Portland Dispensary & one of the County coroners), Fortune's well
Florence Augustus, Yeates

Tailors.

Bayliss Edward, Fortune's well
Scriven Wm. Benfield, Reforne