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Portland Bill

Portland, Dorset


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All the pictures on this page showing a thick border are thumbnails. Clicking on the picture will produce a larger version. Use your browser BACK button to return to this page.

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The above image is copyright Dorset County Council 2000 and is reproduced here with permission.

Portland Bill - world famous because of its picturesque and wild location.

The lighthouse is perhaps the most photographed feature on Portland.

The area has suffered much under the trampling of millions of tourists' feet over the past century since the road was built.

Please click here for a detailed street map. Click the BACK button on your browser to return to this page.

Please click here to visit the satellite image of this area on Google Maps. Click the BACK button on your browser to return to this page.

Please click here for many historic pictures of Portland Bill and its three lighthouses. Click the BACK button on your browser to return to this page.

Please click here to view the area close up using Google Street View.

For an incredible 360 degree panoramic view from Portland Bill please click here. It's almost better than actually being at Portland Bill!


Portland Bill Lighthouse and the Old Lower Lighthouse stand silhouetted against the sun-lit sea.

On a misty afternoon the lighthouse appears to be shining but it is only the sun glinting through the optics.

The first proposal to build a lighthouse at The Bill was made in 1669 but it wasn't until 29th September 1716 that the first coal-fired lamp shone out from where the upper lighthouse now stands.

In 1789 a second lighthouse was built where the lower - bird observatory - lighthouse now stands (please go to 680685 for that lighthouse).

The main lighthouse on The Bill was built and first shone out on 11th January 1906.

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Moonrise behind Portland Bill.

This unusual view of Portland Bill Lighthouse was taken in the early hours of a cold, misty February morning in 1990.

I wanted to record the light beams but a short exposure did not work.

So, the camera was set up with the shutter open but covered by a black card. Every time the light beams reached this position the card was removed to make a one-second exposure and then the lens was covered again. 

This picture is the result of repeating this procedure twenty times.

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An unusual view of Portland Bill Lighthouse swathed in scaffolding and polythene undergoing a facelift, 1990.

Please click here for a picture of the lighthouse under construction in 1905.

Please click here for more pictures of the Portland Bill area and its lighthouse.

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The stars of Orion shine above the Portland Bill Lighthouse January 1990.

The pinkish object  in Orion's sword is the Orion Nebula where millions of stars are being created from interstellar gas and dust.

This picture was taken from the Portland Bill car-park at 2 a.m. on a freezing winter's morning. It was a 20 second exposure using Fujichrome ISO400 film at f2.8 with a 50 mm lens.

I won a 15 prize with this picture awarded by the magazine Astronomy Now in 1990. It was almost worth nearly freezing to death for!

This old lamp holder from Portland Bill lighthouse can be seen in the Portland Museum close by Pennsylvania Castle in Wakeham. 67568033.jpg (29731 bytes)


67568029.JPG (49638 bytes) In August 1999 a total eclipse of the sun passed within 1 kilometre of Portland Bill. It was very dramatic.

Thousands of people travelled to The Bill for the experience , as seen by the number of cars parked in fields. 

The Higher Lighthouse is in the background of the picture at left. 

At right, my very good friend Sandy (with 'eclipse' glasses) and two friends are amazed at how dark the scene became at the time closest to total phase. 

Although midday, it was too dark to see across the Pulpit pub car-park.

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A wild day at Pulpit Rock, February 1990.

This 'lectern' was formed by the quarrymen in the 1870s after a natural arch was cut away.

Climbing Pulpit Rock is not recommended!

That's me on top - but I am old and stupid...

In the rock near the Pulpit someone has carved their name. The graffiti reads "B Low 1890" - Victorian graffiti has a rarity and interest value that modern graffiti will not acquire.


Picture above left reproduced by kind permission of Stuart Morris from his book "Portland Camera"  - see links for publication details.

A century separates the above two photographs of the lighthouse and Pulpit Rock. Quarrying had all but ended at The Bill by the early years of the 20th century. In fact, the lighthouse was built with stone from these quarries and the area then abandoned. There was no road reaching to The Bill until well into the period between the World Wars and visitors had to face the rigours of a rough track. 


In the foreground the remains of a tramway are visible. This transported stone from the cliff-edge quarries by the Trinity House obelisk to the Red Crane for lowering into boats. The tramway predated the lighthouse (built in 1905) and therefore appears to run directly beneath it. The line of this tramway is shown on the extract from this 1903 Ordnance Survey map which was published just before the present lighthouse was built.


The route taken by the tramway from Portland Bill quarries can be traced in the left-hand 1989 photograph and in the 2002 picture to the right. It route curves around to the crane on the right of the first picture above. Please click here for a pre-World War 2 picture showing the same view as above left.


The storms of January 1990 ripped out an area of cliff top to reveal old rails from the tramway where it curved round to meet the crane. These photographs show the remains of the Victorian tramway rails.


My photograph taken in the late 1960s shows the old wooden crane being used to lower a fisherman and his boat into the water.

This wooden crane was attacked and destroyed by vandals - as has so much else on Portland. It has now been replaced by the much less attractive steel crane seen below.

Below we see memorial plaques to loved ones who clearly had a great deal of affection to this spot.



The pictures below show a thick foam that developed at The Bill on the 27th October 2004. It caused great interest but turned out to be a natural effect and not pollution.

In October 2002 a planning application was submitted to demolish "The Cosy Cafe" - for long a familiar landmark at Portland Bill. 


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Then as it was in April 2003 - GONE!


Sunset illuminates the Trinity House obelisk - which was saved from threatened demolition in 2002. 

Close by is a viewing platform - now demolished.

For a really spooky treat for children - and adults with young hearts - go to this point after dark and watch the lighthouse beams swinging silently over your head and reaching, like monstrous ghostly fingers into the sea.


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