THE wartime years produced many ups and downs for the Portland stone industry.

We pick up the tale today in the wartime years as we follow the journey of the stone that helped shape this nation's history.

Gill Hackman's fascinating book Stone to Build London tells the story of the Dorset island's natural resource which has proved invaluable as a building material.

Problems arose with the General Strike followed by an economic depression in 1931 with unemployment rising to nearly three million.

There was little spare money for non-military government building projects.

Hackman writes: "Following the First World War, government and other public buildings were no longer the main users of Portland stone in London.

"Despite the growing use of other materials, Portland stone was used in a wide variety of projects designed to impress or catch the eye.

"They included war memorials, buildings for industry and commerce, transport, education and the professions."

Every year on Remembrance Sunday hundreds gather round the Cenotaph in Whitehall and thousands more watch the televised ceremony.

This impressive centrepiece, 35ft high, is of course built of Portland stone.

The stone came from a small quarry in the village of Wakeham, near where Portland Museum is today.

Portland stone was used for headstones and memorials for those killed in the First World War and it was also used at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium, and on the panels with the names of the dead at Thiepval in northern France.

The Bank of England was rebuilt in 1916 and was clad in Portland stone over a steel frame and embellished with sculptures.

The redevelopment of Regent Street used stone from the new inland quarries on Portland.

The BBC's Broadcasting House, recently extended as New Broadcasting House, was built of the stone provided by Stone Firms Ltd in 1931.

Also springing up in the 1930s was the Imperial Airways Terminal near Victoria station, which is now home to the National Audit office.

The art deco facade was clad in Portland stone. The terminal opened in 1939 and a rail link would take passengers to the flying boat base at Southampton.

Purpose-built prestigious office blocks were also built at this time, often clad in Portland stone.

Hackman writes: "One of the most striking is the former headquarters of the Shell-Mex Company which stands out between the Strand and the Victoria Embankment."

The author also gives us a taste of the life of a quarryman from 1914 into at least the 1920s.

"The quarryman's working day was from 7am to 3pm, with 'lunch' of bread and cheese at 10am and dinner at midday.

"Quarrymen nominally worked a five and a half day week, but rain and freezing weather reduced this to an average of just over four days a week, with consequent loss of pay."

The ups and downs of the stone industry were like a rollercoaster ride for stone workers on Portland.

There were times when jobs were plentiful in the 1920s and in the late 1930s to times of unemployment immediately after the First World War and in the early thirties.

Hackman writes: "This was disastrous for those involved." But she points out that new jobs on Portland and easy communications with the mainland had less impact on the overall economy of the island than in the 19th century - improved roads had made travel to Weymouth and further afield to jobs much easier.

*Next week we’re looking at the new challenges the stone industry faced up from 1945 up to the present day

Stone to Build London’ is available from Folly Books for £24.99. See It can also be bought in Books Afloat, 66 Park Street, Weymouth.