Portland Stone has been used to construct some of the world’s most iconic buildings, including St Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace in London, and the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.
Quarried from the Isle of Portland, Dorset, this beautiful, pale rock is also the one most closely associated with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as it is used to create many of the headstones for the 1.1 million graves that they care for around the world.
Around 6,000 headstones a year are replaced, using an incredible 408 tonnes of stone
The Commission spends an incredible amount of time and effort inspecting those graves to ensure that they are kept with the dignity and honour that they deserve.
Over time, weather erodes the headstones, making some illegible, and one of the constant duties of the Commission is to repair or replace them so that their inscriptions are not lost.
Portland Stone is a finite resource, and one that the Commission values greatly, so they take great care to recycle and give it a new purpose wherever they can. When headstones are replaced as they are beyond reasonable repair, the old ones are often recut and reused for repairs to structures and paving.
Around 12,000 headstones are re-engraved by hand where they sit by the CWGC stonemasons every year
Designing this garden, my goal was to capture the heart of the CWGC and the work that they do, but I also wanted to capture the craft with which they do it. Using as much authentic, recycled material as I could from the Commission meant that I could bring that heart right into the centre of the garden.
The Commission’s ethos of recycling these beautiful headstones means that we are able to use them to form the steps and platform at the centre of the Centenary Garden, carrying with them the history of their service, and echoing the way that the Commission itself uses these stones in their sites across the continents.