There are some local books that should be in everyone’s collection - and The Book of Portland is one of them.

Here’s a look at this comprehensive guide to the isle written by Dorset author Rodney Legg, who passed away in 2011.

Scroll down to see some wonderful old pictures of Portland.

Renowned historian Mr Legg spent years in his childhood travelling around the county, recording and writing facts and figures about landmarks that in many cases are now long gone.

The result of his travels, The Book of Portland, is as concise and informative a book about a place could be. Although he never lived on the island he spent enough time there to capture the nuances and peculiarities of Portland that have bestowed on it its air of mysticism.

Dorset Echo:

A picnic on Chesil Beach between Wyke Regis and Portland in July 1914

Here’s some extracts from an interview Mr Legg gave to the Echo in 2006. “In a way Portland has always been rather cosmopolitan,” he said.

Dorset Echo:

Portland haystacks on staddlestones, 1855

“From a literary point of view it is bolstered all the time with connections with Thomas Hardy deciding to write about it in his novels and poetry. There are all sorts of weird processes and customs. Like the marriage custom for instance, where the wedding would not take place until the woman was pregnant to ensure they were a viable couple. It was all very Darwinian. There is also gavelkind, the process of passing the inheritance on equally between all members of the family including the women, whereas normal medieval custom it would be the first born male.”

Dorset Echo:

Priory Corner in the 1920s - Portland stone still being loaded onto wagons hauled by steam traction engines

Aside from the island’s quirkiness it boasts one of the most colourful pasts of any Dorset town. The book illustrates just how multifaceted the island is, from its links with stone and the sea to the customs, rituals and superstition that leaves users of the word ‘rabbit’ frowned upon.

Dorset Echo:

Convicts wearing clothes stamped with the broad arrow of government ownership as they set off for Portland Prison for work in the quarries

Stunning photographs, many of them over 100 years old, accompany the text and bring the words to life.

It is as encompassing a read on Portland as there could be and for Mr Legg it was a real labour of love.

Dorset Echo:

Armed guards and working convicts pose for the camera beneath a derrick in a corner of the Admiralty quarries in 1890

Mr Legg, who wrote more than 80 books, said at the time: “From the age of 14 I would get on a train from Bournemouth to Weymouth and go from there on my bike just taking notes, pictures and taking measurements of things such as the windmills before they went.

Dorset Echo:

Rufus Castle and Pennsylvania Castle, both clad in creepers, photographed from the north in 1890

“I’ve been doing it obsessively recently. I had done previous things on Portland but I always thought that for one reason or another it wasn’t quite it, that it wasn’t finished. There were other things that would come up so I couldn’t quite get closure on Portland.

Dorset Echo:

Fishermen relaxing beside a ruined cottage at Chiswell in 1938

“That’s always been a problem with Dorset because so much happens there. With Portland it’s always a case of what to leave out rather than what to include. So much that has happened. There are also the convicts, shipwrecks, the navy and quarrying for the capital.

“Portland has such a unique place in Dorset’s psyche. It’s renowned for being so different in every way.

Like Thomas Hardy calling it the Gibraltar of Wessex, it’s literally another world. Stuck onto our green and pleasant land is this island, grey, windswept and full of character.”

Dorset Echo:

Yew Tree Cottage, on the corner of New Road, as Alfred Burridge's Portland Academy in 1888

The book is crammed with interesting facts about Portland, such as Chesil being the Anglo Saxon word ‘pebble’ and that if the shingle was extracted at the historic rate of 27,000 tonnes a year as it was until the 1970s, it would have taken 3,000 years for all of the shingle to go.

Dorset Echo:

Portland haymakers Mrs Carter and Mrs Otter on medieval Lawnsheds stripfields in 1914

Mr Legg said: “Portland is a special place and there are reminders of it all the time. Not just in London but in many other parts of the country. All the most serious architecture in London and other key towns was built with Portland stone. It was, with granite, one of the major building stones for public buildings.

“The whole island has a magnetism to it. It’s a magical place.”

The Book of Portland by Rodney Legg is published by Halsgrove.