The Memory Stones

The Isle of Portland is a remnant land form, its attachment to the Dorset mainland hollowed out, eroded away over time. The site of the Memory Stones is at a high point on the N/S axis of the island overlooking Chesil Beach and the sweep of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. One of the huge megaliths honours Prof. Denys Brunsden who, along with Dorset Coast Forum, recognised the geomorphic importance of this site, situated at the centre geographically and geologically of the Jurassic World Heritage Coast.

Dating back beyond times of stone circle builders, this site has been recognised as sacred. It was believed to be a temple to Venus, and viewpoints on the Isle were used as moon observatories by Druidic elders. The twelve Memory Stones could now be considered a cathedral of knowledge and a cathedral of light. They are aligned to the passage of the sun and point towards features of both land and ocean, connected to a ‘Living Land Archive’ of a landscape measuring only 4.5 x 1.75 miles that is in continuous change and transformation.

The archive includes discussions with early artists whose work saved the landscape from further mineral extraction, alongside local naturalists research into the environment, naturally regenerated over time with rare grasses, butterflies and orchids, field study research of the quarrying, and geology of stone as a living material.

The North Memory Stone was set true North and aligns with Bincombe Bumps Iron Age burial ground on the Ridgway. This keystone will have an important role in carrying interpretation of the site, with the semi-circular alignment creating a forum for exchange of knowledge between disciplines transmitted through QR codes embedded in the stones. This new model for regeneration tried and tested through DEFRA R&D 2002-2007 developed new structures and partnerships to support the next generation in their quest for greater awareness in the regeneration and stewardship of our environment. The knowledge of ancient times is held within the stones geologically, metaphorically and digitally.

The Gatekeeper stone, standing apart and slightly below the main stones, has its own very special history. It is the last stone to be extracted from Inmosthay Quarry that shows a gully. The Gullies are the rifts created from the island being pushed out of the sea, when the Alps and Pyrenees were formed. The gullies trend in direction approximately north/south at about 5 metres apart across the whole island. They vary in width (c. 16inches wide) and run deep. The quarrymen used to access the gullies by walking into them to extract the stone by hand (these days by machine). They are a result of the geomorphology which underlies the whole of the Jurassic World Heritage Coast. The Gatekeeper Stone stands as a marker to this and a timeline of a journey of 150 million years of previous landscapes that underpin Portland.

Hannah Sofaer/Paul Crabtree - Portland Sculpture & Quarry Trust lead artists
The Memory Stone Circle

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