In 1887, John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles described Portland like this:
Portland, Isle of, peninsula, in S. of Dorset, 4 mile S. of Weymouth and 50 miles SW. of Southampton by rail, 2890 ac., pop. 10,061; P.O., T.O. (at Castletown, Easton, and Fortuneswell). Portland is 4½ miles long by 1½ mile broad, is connected with the mainland by a long narrow ridge of shingle called the Chesil Bank, and is surrounded by high inaccessible cliffs, the only landing-place being on the N. side, opposite to Weymouth. The inhabitants are employed in agriculture, sheep-farming, fishing, and especially quarrying, Portland having extensive quarries of oolitic limestone, called Portland stone, which is widely famed as building stone, and is exported in large quantities. ...
Portland Prison, erected in 1848, has cells for 1500 convicts. Portland Castle, built by Henry VIII. in 1520, is occupied by the lieutenant of the island. Portland Harbour, formed by the construction (1849-1872) of a breakwater 1½ mile long, has a sheltered anchorage of 6745 ac., and is defended by two strong forts mounted with heavy ordnance. Between the Bill of Portland, a bold projection of rock forming the 8. extremity of the island, and a bank called the Shambles, is the Race of Portland, a dangerous current. Near the Bill are 2 lighthouses 50 and 85 ft. high, with fixed lights (Portland) 210 and 136 ft. above high water and seen 21 and 18 miles. Portland is a liberty, a par., and a local government district.
A Vision of Britain through Time includes a large library of local statistics for administrative units. For the best overall sense of how the area containing Portland has changed, please see our redistricted information for the modern district of Weymouth and Portland. More detailed statistical data are available under Units and statistics, which includes both administrative units covering Portland and units named after it.
GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Portland, in Weymouth and Portland and Dorset | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time.
Date accessed: 10th March 2014
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