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Blandford Throwback Facts XXII

  In 1925 , a Bournemouth man was sued for breach of promise by a 24 year old Blandford girl for failing to marry her. He explained he was already engaged to a Shrewsbury girl while another Bournemouth girl had successfully sued him for breach of promise.  During the 1920s, Hall & Woodhouse had a football team nicknamed the ‘ Tubbs’ . In 1926 , twenty seven people were killed and 40 were injured in the Great Blandford Rail Crash. However, this was not in Blandford, Dorset but Blandford, New South Wales in Australia. In 1927 , Charles Hunt, the last surviving member of the Blandford Town Band which had won the National Brass Band Championship in 1863 died.  Draper, A Cherry & Son of Salisbury Street published an apology in the Western Gazette newspaper stating that an employee had spread a false and ‘ entirely untrue’ rumour that a Blandford doctor was leaving the town and giving up his local practice.  Mr Warrilow, a blind organist and Director of Music for the National In
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Blandford Camp's German Prisoners of War

There were four German prisoner of war camps in the Blandford area during World War One. These were on Blandford Camp, at the Blandford Milldown, at Crichel and in Iwerne Minster. The last two were small agricultural camps. Blandford Camp was by far the largest and in March 1917 held nearly 1,400 prisoners. It covered 12 acres together with another 17 acres for recreation. The majority of prisoners were German although there were some Austrians. Reflecting the class structure of the time, officers were accommodated separately from the men and in better conditions. The Camp had around 50 wooden huts including 34 dormitories heated by stoves and lit by electricity. One way in which internees kept themselves entertained was by what was known as ‘Schiebung’ . Life in the camps was lived under strict rules which internees would challenge to break whenever it was safe to do so. The more ingenious the initiative the better it was enjoyed. Alcohol was prohibited but empty bottles would be co

Dorset & Jack the Ripper!

  Three local men believed they had sound theories to identify Jack the Ripper. This was the name given to the murderer who savagely killed five women in London’s impoverished Whitechapel district in 1888. The three men with these views were Henry Richard Farquarson, Frederick George Abberline and Sydney Godolphin Osborne. Henry Richard Farquarson, who has been unkindly nicknamed ‘ loose-lipped Farqie’ was the controversial and outspoken Member of Parliament for West Dorset from 1885 to 1895. He lived at Eastbury House in Tarrant Gunville. Apparently, Farquarson claimed that the murderer was the son of a surgeon who had committed suicide. Fearing libel, he did not identify him specifically but his description pointed to Wimborne-born, Montague Druitt. In February 1892, the Western Mail later confirmed that the West Dorset MP’s theory was that ‘ the author of the outrages killed himself. ’ Druitt had committed suicide in November 1888 and his body had been recovered from the River Th

Western Gazette - an Appreciation

At one time, the Western Gazette was the most widely read newspaper across Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire. Apart from the readership in the three counties it was also highly valued by those who had left these districts. One reader wrote: ‘I am not certain about Tibet or Mars but it is quite safe to say there is not a country on earth which does not receive its quota of Western Gazettes. In hundreds of cases, it is the only remaining link between exiles and the land of their birth.’ For one man in Kenya, it was reckoned to be part of his ritual every Sunday to sit on the equator and read his Gazette. Another read it overlooking Lake Victoria ‘ not far from slimy crocodiles nearly 30 ft. long and hippopotami almost as big as submarines.’ In a little community not far from Calgary, in Alberta, Canada there were six families who regularly received the ‘Western’ . Another, who had worked himself into a position of trust on the Canadian Pacific Railway called it the ‘ Zet ’, at one time

Blandford Throwback Facts XXI

  In 1919 , a thousand Royal Air Force servicemen stationed at Blandford Camp went on strike. They were protesting about slow demobilisation after the end of the First World War. The recently opened RAF base published the first edition of its house journal, the ‘ Albatross’. Former pupil Lord Grenfell described the town’s grammar school as the ‘ Eton of the West.’ He also claimed that no pupil had suffered in the Spanish Influenza pandemic because they were so well cared for and had eucalyptus on their pillows at night. The branch railway line between Blandford station and Blandford Camp, nicknamed the ‘ Powder Puff Line’ opened. It had a short life as it no longer had a purpose after it was decided to close the RAF base. Victoria Cross winner, Jack Counter led a procession of Great War veterans through the town to mark the previous year’s end of the Great War. In 1920 , comrades of the Great War Veterans, later the Royal British Legion, met at Langton House. In 1921 , the town’s sew

Blandford's 'Convict Royalty'

Ria and Bill Bleathman are descendants of Richard Bleathman who, with George Long, were condemned to death by Judge Stephen Gaselee in Dorchester for their involvement in the 1831 Blandford riots. Bill Bleathman is the retired Director of Tasmania’s Museum and Art Gallery while Ria is a management consultant and company director. Both Bleathman and Long were found guilty of damaging the property of Blandford lawyer, George Moore following the declaration of the result of a Dorset by-election. Many old Blandford records were lost in the disturbance and others that were recovered were found stained with horse manure. Moore was a political agent of the successful candidate, Lord Ashley who was strongly opposed to extending the right to vote beyond a small number of eligible property owners. Bleathman and Long believed that Moore had used confidential client information to prevent political opponents from voting in the by-election which Ashley narrowly won.  Following protests from both Bl

Midshipman Benjamin Danford

Benjamin Danford was just 14 years old when he was serving in the British Navy as a Midshipman in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. He was the son of Nicholas and Mary Danford who lived in the village of Shroton in North Dorset. When he was baptised, in December 1792, it was quite a family event because also christened there at the same time were his brothers Joseph and young Nicholas junior. Benjamin had volunteered to join the Royal Navy and began his maritime career in March 1805 on HMS Ajax. He saw early bloody action just four months later when his vessel was involved in the Third Battle of Finisterre. This conflict cost Ajax two men killed and 16 injured. The vessel had to return to Plymouth for repairs and then sailed for Cadiz with Nelson’s HMS Victory. At the Battle of Trafalgar, Ajax lost a further two men killed and nine wounded. While this bloody naval battle would have been traumatic and stressful for all involved it must have been particularly so for a 14 year old. After T

George Vince of the Antarctic

First person to lose his life in Antarctica came from Blandford Forum. George Vince was born in the town in September 1880 and was the son of a local fishmonger. He had joined the Royal Navy in October 1895 as a Boy Second Class.  When serving in Cape Town, South Africa, George Vince was transferred to the British National Antarctic Expedition’s vessel, the Discovery. Led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott, the expedition sought to explore the undiscovered frozen continent of Antarctica. The expedition’s aim was to work in the Ross Sea sector and in February 1902 the vessel entered McMurdo Sound.  George Vince was a member of an excursion party which in March 1902 became caught in a blizzard. They had managed to pitch their tents but were unable to prepare any hot food. As frost bite started to set in, and according to their reckoning they were close to the Discovery, they set off for the ship. Believing they were heading towards the vessel, they were in fact walking towards a cliff edge

Blandford Camp Railway

Nicknamed the ‘ Powder Puff Line’ , Blandford Camp railway probably had the shortest and most controversial working life of any railway in Britain. Blandford Camp railway was a small branch line built towards the end of World War I which connected the town with Blandford Camp designed to carry both supplies and personnel. It left the Somerset & Dorset line just to the south of Blandford Station passed along the borders of Langton Long, crossed the Blandford-Wimborne road and climbed up to the military camp. At the Camp end of the line there was a 200 yards long halt style platform. This remained in place until the 1960s. Although today Blandford Camp is an army establishment, its first permanent occupants were the Royal Naval Division to be followed by the Royal Air Force in 1918. The RAF had been formed in April 1918 and its Blandford base of 15,000 military personnel became a major entry point for new recruits. It was also the location of the Royal Air Force’s Headquarter’s Gen

Blandford Throwback Facts XX

In 1916 , a young boy was summonsed at a special children’s court hearing for stealing seventeen shillings & sixpence (87p). He said he was sorry and received three strokes of the birch as a punishment.  An excellent Christmas lunch was enjoyed by inmates of the Blandford Poor Institution consisting of roast beef, roast pork, plum pudding, oranges, etc. The hall was nicely decorated by the cook, Mrs Crabbe.  A crowd of more than 2,000 spectators attended the Recreation Ground to watch the first round of five football matches when teams competed for the Royal Naval Division (RND) Challenge Cup. Before the match, the RND depot band played a selection of melodies in the centre of the pitch.  Members of the Royal Engineers practised bridge building across the River Stour.  Townsfolk asked the military to stop playing the dead march as soldiers who had died were taken to the station. This had become a regular nightly experience. In 1917 , there were 1,400 German internees in the Blandfo

Jack Withrington - Blandford Highwayman

  There were five Withrington brothers, all born in Blandford, and they were all hung at the gallows for their crimes. It is known because of his notoriety that brother Jack was hung at the infamous Tyburn, near Marble Arch in London. His brothers met their fates in different parts of the country but no records remain as to where these hangings occurred. Jack Withrington was the youngest brother and he trained initially to be a tanner. However, he left his apprenticeship in Shaftesbury to become a soldier. He joined the Earl of Oxford’s Horse Regiment where he gained quite a reputation. This was as a result of being involved in two fights in which it was said he behaved with great valour. The first was with a man famous for his fighting in which Jack showed great skill and bravery. The second fight was with a man of great wealth, who was generally regarded to be a coward, when Jack behaved with much dignity. Unfortunately, having achieved minor celebrity status Jack became, as is s

Robert Young: Poet from 'Stur'

Robert Young is a now almost forgotten poet born in Sturminster Newton in 1811. He wrote in the Dorset dialect about life around his home town in the 1800s. Living until he was 97, he was able to remember back to celebrations when Napoloeon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. He wrote with intelligence, kindness and great humour. He had a character, called Billy Sweet who kept a pet toad called Maria. Liking a drink too much, he would delight in taking his pet to the pub. After a few pints, Billy would take the toad out of his pocket to entertain fellow imbibers. Placing it on a table, he would urge his fellow imbibers to look into the toad’s beautiful eyes. Robert Young was also amused by the local pigs who after devouring the remnants from a cider press would charge drunkenly through the streets of Sturminster Newton. In fact, he was concerned about alcohol abuse in the countryside and was a supporter of the Temperance Movement. Another of Young’s characters was the argumentative

No Longer Being Served.

Blandford businesses where you can no longer be served: A Cherry – draper, Salisbury Street. Alex J Hicks – outfitters & cafĂ©, West Street. Art Shop – art & models, Salisbury Street/White Cliff Mill Street. Ashford – draper, Market Place. Backway – draper, Salisbury Street. Blandford Radio – radio & television, Market Place. L Bunce – footwear, Salisbury Street. Chamen & Richards -  wine & spirits, the Close. Cleal - confectionary, Salisbury Street. C Collier – butcher, East Street. Durden – grocer, Durden’s Corner. Eyers & Kerridge – clocks & watches, Salisbury Street. E Jeans – tobacconist & confectionaries, Market Place. Fianders – garage, White Cliff Mill Street. Fricker – baker, Market Place. Hobbs – stationers, Salisbury Street. Lindsay & Dalryple – ironmonger, Market Place. John Lewis Marsh – brewer, Bryanston Street. L Jay – tobacconist & confectionaries, Oakfield Street. Loader - newsagent, East Street

Blandford Throwback Facts XIX

  In 1911 , Blandford Poor House had 76 inmates.  Three ladies spoke in the Market Place in favour of giving women the vote. Several drunken men in the crowd pelted them with rotten fruit. They were escorted back to the station for their safety by members of the adult school. The police, it was reported, did nothing to help. In 1912 , Mounted Cavalry of the Dorset Imperial Yeomanry held an exercise at Blandford.  The town was covered by four feet of snow.               In 1913 , sixty sheep were killed when they were struck by lightning at Thornicombe. A metallic shepherd’s crook was blamed for the accident. During the thunderstorm, two houses were struck by lightning in Queens Road and a flag pole on the Recreation Ground was destroyed. In 1914 , a military camp was built on Blandford Down, to accommodate the arrival of the Royal Naval Division. The Division consisted of sailors being trained to be soldiers. It had been set up by Winston Churchill because too many volunteers had

Not Just One Blandford!

Blandford, Massachusetts is in the USA and was first settled by Scots and named ‘ New Glasgow.’ However, the locals had misspelled the name as ’Glascow!’ William Shirley was the newly appointed Governor of Massachusetts and had just arrived from England. He decided to change the settlement’s name to Blandford after the vessel that had brought him across the Atlantic. However, the new town was to pay a price for this. The people of Glasgow, Scotland had promised settlers the gift of a bell if they named the new settlement after their city. With the town now called Blandford, the bell was never sent. The White Church in Blandford Massachusetts was built in 1822 and in September 2022 the New England town celebrates the Church’s bicentenary. This historic building is owned by the Blandford Historical Society and is maintained by volunteers. Originally, the pulpit was near the entrance so that late arrivals could be seen by the congregation. However, in later modifications it was moved. B