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Stone Cold

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Regarding Specifier’s Choice in AJ Specification 12.07, we at Albion Stone find it puzzling that Francis Terry explained his selection of French Anstrude stone for the new infirmary at the Royal Hospital Chelsea by claiming ‘difficulty in getting English stone’. We supplied Portland stone samples that exactly matched the stone on Christopher Wren’s existing Grade I-listed building. We understood that the project would require approximately 100m3 of stone – we had over 5,000m3 of Portland in stock and ample capacity at the factory to manufacture the stone. So why the difficulty?
The article then suggests that Terry thinks Portland stone conveniently pops up in the middle of France from under the Channel. Unfortunately, geology is never that simple. Dimension stone characteristics are always very localised and, besides, the Anstrude is part of the Bathonian (Middle Jurassic) geological sequence. Portland is Portlandian (Upper Jurassic).
According to the article, Terry believes that ‘Portland is revered simply because a Duke of Portland apparently once insisted on its use’. Unfortunately, this statement presents a timing problem. The first Duke of Portland was made a Duke in 1716 – 100 years after Inigo Jones used Portland for the Queen’s House in Greenwich and Banqueting House in Whitehall. Surely it is Christopher Wren we should thank for the countless Portland buildings – again, predominantly built before the Duke was even born. He, incidentally, later lived in Jamaica and went on to become its governor.

Michael Poultney, managing director, Albion Stone

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