Skip to main content


Blandford Throwback Facts XXVI

  In 1954 , local amateur dramatics and concert party, the ‘ Footlight Follies’ put on its annual show in the Palace Cinema in East Street. A 42 year-old bachelor and Blandford Electricity Board clerk won £50,500 on the football pools. In 1955 , minesweeper HMS Durweston was launched in Hamworthy. It had a remarkably short service life and was sold to the Indian Navy in 1956. Blandford celebrated its 350 th anniversary by a week of entertainments and the visit of a Government minister. The Dorset Regiment was granted the Freedom of the Borough and marched through the streets with bayonets fixed. A tree was planted by the Mayor to commemorate the event. A Secondary Modern School was built in Lord Portman’s former deer park. In 1956 , Stourpaine & Durweston and Charlton Marshall railway halts closed as economy measures. However, the latter was still used until 1961 for special trains carrying Clayesmore School pupils. In 1957 , located on the north side of East Street,
Recent posts

Russian Master Spy at the Crown Hotel, Blandford

Gordon Arnold Lonsdale was an apparently successful London based, Canadian businessman who had made his money by hiring out and selling jukeboxes, bubble gum and gambling machines. Another of his products, an electronic car locking device was awarded a gold award at an International Inventors’ Exhibition in Brussels. He was a stocky built man of medium height with a broad cheerful face and ‘very intelligent eyes. ’ On the 28 th June 1960, he had booked himself into the Crown Hotel in Blandford Forum. Yet, all was not what it seemed as Gordon Lonsdale was not his real name neither was he Canadian. His real name was Konon Trofimovich Molody and he was a 38 year old, Moscow born, Russian intelligence agent and master spy. He spoke excellent English with an American accent as he had lived for several years in the USA. Molody had stolen the identity of a dead man who had died in 1943. Purpose of his Blandford stay was later to meet two associates at a house in Meadow View Road, Weymouth

True Lovers Knot - a Tragic Tale

True Lovers Knot public house describes itself as a traditional  inn set in a picturesque Dorset valley in Tarrant Keynston. Yet, this historical hostelry is said to have gained its name from a particularly tragic tale and still to be haunted by a distressed former publican. This publican’s son met and fell in love with the daughter of the local squire. Because the young lad was not from the gentry they decided to keep their relationship secret from her father. Unfortunately, a stable hand saw the two young lovers together and told her father. Set firmly against this friendship the squire made plans to send his daughter away from the district. Not able to face up to life without her boyfriend, the young girl decided to commit suicide and hanged herself from a tree in the village. So upset was the publican’s son of hearing of his girlfriend’s death he too hanged himself from the same tree. The Tarrant Keynston publican had, himself lost his wife at child birth and now losing his son b

Blandford Perukes & Periwigs

In the 1700s, if you were looking to order a peruke or periwig then Blandford was most definitely the place to go. But what was a peruke or a periwig? Perukes and periwigs were an expensive fashion statement in the 18 th century. All members of the gentry, who were anybody, would delight in flaunting their latest acquisition. A visit to Richard Kerby’s barber shop in Salisbury Street, Blandford in 1790 would cast light on what perukes and periwigs were. Both were types of powdered wigs. As 18 th century Blandford was neither clean nor hygienic, the regular delousing of wigs was a lucrative sideline for hairdresser, Kerby. As a show of wealth, periwigs became larger, more ostentatious and bizarre. Consequently, they became more and more valuable so wig snatching from the heads of wearers became quite common. The fashion of wig wearing had begun in France with Louis XIV. As baldness was considered to indicate a lack of masculinity so to hide his follicle challenge, Louis appeared i

Maryland - Dorset's Lost Village

  Maryland is a lost village which could be found on the west side of Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour. Originally the island had been called Branksea but apparently so many visitors got off trains at Branksome by mistake that later the island became better known as Brownsea. The lost village was named after the wife of its founder, Colonel William Petrie Waugh. The Edinburgh born Scot’s wife, Mary Murray Halloway-Carew was an amateur geologist. Apparently she was convinced after poking her parasol in the soil that the  island held clay suitable for making high quality pottery. Former Indian Army officer, Waugh had decided to buy the island for £13,000 as a money making scheme. It is said he had returned to England with little property of his own. The purchase was after he had been told by a geologist that Brownsea Island contained a ‘ valuable bed of the finest clay’ worth ‘ at least £10,000 an acre .’ As Waugh was a recently appointed director of the London & Eastern Banking C

Blandford Throwback Facts XXV

  In 1946 , Blandford toy maker, Wend-al began making aluminium toys in its Shaftesbury Lane factory. The company prospered until the arrival of cheaper plastic toys came onto the market. In 1948 , Cecil Lambert travelled from Blandford to London to have a tattoo removed from his arm. Mrs Lambert had good reason for not liking the tattoo for it was a picture of the girl he had bigamously married during the war. The perimeter around Blandford Camp was used to form the country’s first post-war road racing track. Attendances of 10,000 spectators were attracted. Sadly, this racing track became notorious for its serious accidents. In 1949 , Bere Regis & District Bus Company, unkindly nicknamed ‘ Bere Regis & Risket’ operated 49 scheduled services across Dorset. The company would continue to operate until 1995.  A London gang blew open the door of Blandford Post Office’s strong room early on a Sunday morning and stole items valued at twelve thousand pounds. Several crow bars u

Soviet Spies Rendezvous in Blandford

It was almost two o’ clock in the morning when civil servant Harry Houghton said he turned his Renault Dauphine into Blandford’s Ham car park. In the car’s back seats were two Soviet intelligence agents. They had been put ashore just before midnight from a submarine or trawler at Church Ope Cove on Portland. Also known as Smugglers Cove, it had been chosen because of its seclusion and was out of the sight of coastguards. Harry had in the early hours parked in Blandford at some distance from the only other parked car. This was driven by a Soviet agent, known just as John. He had met John previously in a lay by between Puddletown and Blandford. The second parked car had a square of white paper in its window, a sign that Harry had been told to look out for. It could have been a spy movie scene set in Blandford Forum but Harry Houghton was no James Bond. He was a middle aged, heavy drinking clerical officer in Portland Naval Base having previously been a Royal Navy Senior NCO. However Harr

Murder at Tarrant Keynston!

When Chief Inspector Hambrook and Detective Sergeant Bell from Scotland Yard arrived in Blandford to investigate the crime, it was like a scene from Midsomer Murders. They had arrived at Blandford Station after a long and uncomfortable train journey down from the capital. Two successive managers at the Coverdale Dog Kennels in Tarrant Keynston had lost their lives from shotgun injuries. Both bizarrely had happened in the village within two years. The two detectives soon felt they were receiving little help from the locals and were being met by a conspiracy of silence. They did however uncover tales of marital infidelities, anonymous poison pen letters and petty jealousies. Blandford's Doctor Kenneth Wilson had examined the body and concluded that the injuries could not have been self inflicted. So the Scotland Yard Chief Inspector called in the Home Office Pathologist, Sir Bernard Spilsbury who shared the Blandford doctor's opinion. The villagers were convinced that both deat

Mary Lovell & the cracked milk jug

Captain Augustus Foster was Sherriff of Dorset, a Justice of the Peace and had a distinguished war record. He had served in the 14th Light Dragoons under the Duke of Wellington in the Spanish Peninsular War. Born in 1787, Captain Foster was also the Lord of the Manor in Warmwell near Dorchester. He was determined to pursue his case for larceny against 13 year old Mary Lovell. So he laid it before his son, Lieutenant Augustus Billet Foster also a magistrate who issued a warrant for the young girl’s arrest. The allegation was that she had stolen a cracked milk jug from the squire’s kitchen. The 84 year old pressed strongly for action to be taken. As a result, 13 year old Mary Lovell was speedily sentenced at Dorset Petty Sessions to 21 days’ hard labour in Dorchester Gaol. Children under 14 years could at the time be tried summarily by two magistrates without a jury. This would be followed by five years to be spent in the Devon Reformatory at Exeter.  Mary Lovell, who was the eldest of e

Blandford Throwback Facts XXIV

  In 1938 , Blandford residents objected to plans for a Royal Air Force bombing range to be built just outside the town. Despite attending a demonstration at Porton they remained unconvinced of the project’s merit. Throughout the 1930s, special services were regularly held at Langton Church for hikers and bikers that the Bishop of Salisbury would attend. In 1939 , Reading brewers, H G Symonds announced that they had bought the brewing business, John Lewis Marsh a small brewery that had traded in the town for many years. Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway offered two low priced excursions. Two shillings and a penny (10p) for a half-day return trip to Bournemouth and two shillings & eleven pence (15p) for an all inclusive return trip to Clifton which included a visit to the zoo.             An edict was issued, at the start of World War II, that Blandford should be deleted from road signs and notice boards to confuse the enemy in the event of a German invasion. In 1940 , M

Strange Dorset Place Names

  Dorset has some quite quirky, strange and rude place names. Among them are: Aunt Mary’s Bottom , a valley near Rampisham Hill but who was Aunt Mary? Belchalwell , near Blandford. Was once the home of television personality Jack Hargreaves. Burnt Bottom, near Hooke in West Dorset. Crumpet’s Drive , Lytchett Matravers. It sounds quite tasty! Droop , a hamlet near Blandford. The name just means an ‘ outlying farm .’ Eype , seaside village near Bridport from the Old English meaning ‘ steep place. ’ Happy Bottom , a hamlet near Corfe Mullen which has its own nature reserve. Melbury Bubb , near Sherborne. Bubbe was a landowning family and Melbury meant ‘ a multi-coloured hill.’ Piddletrenthide & Piddlehinton , near Dorchester and all things to do with the River Piddle. Not forgetting also Tolpuddle, Briantspuddle and Puddletown . Ryme Intrinsica , near Sherborne which means on the ‘ rim of a ridge.' Scratchy Bottom , near Lulworth and was featured in the 196

'Conkering' the Enemy!

During World War I, an urgent call went out to scouts and school children to collect acorns and conkers. This request came from the Royal Naval Cordite Factory at Holton Heath. Young collectors were told this was valuable war work. The reason was not explained but an assurance was given to the gatherers that they would be paid for their collections. The factory had been built after the Admiralty had decided it needed its own cordite manufacturing facility. Holton Heath site had been chosen because it was away from centres of population yet still had good road, rail and sea links. The factory had its own site railway built and a jetty in Poole Harbour from where the cordite was shipped to Priddy’s Hard at Gosport. Cordite was a propellant used in gun and artillery ammunition. During World War I, vast quantities were required and the chemical acetone was one of its constituents. At first acetone was distilled from wheat much of which washed imported from the USA. However by mid 1917, whe

Holton Heath's Secret Military Site

  A military site between Wareham and Poole was so secret it was deliberately left off an Ordnance Survey map published in the 1940s. At its peak it was the largest industrial complex in Dorset employing around 2,000 people. It was the Royal Navy Cordite Factory. Cordite was a smokeless material developed to replace gunpowder as a military propellant. It was used in large weapons such as tank guns, artillery & naval guns. It was so called because of its cord like appearance. The explosives site was built during World War I at Holton Heath with the help of around 500 bricklayers. First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill had decided the Royal Navy needed its own cordite manufacturing facility. During this war, certificates were issued to men working at Holton Heath to prove they were engaged on important war work and were not avoiding joining the armed forces. The factory included a power station, two acid factories, a reservoir, various buildings and a hospital area. Adjac

Wellington at Blandford Races

Duke of Wellington was Prime Minister twice and defeated Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo. Reflecting his status, his Apsley House, London home in Hyde Park had the distinguished address of Number One, London . It was therefore quite an event when Arthur Wellesley, 1 st Duke of Wellington decided in August 1827 to visit Blandford. Purpose of this visit was to attend Blandford Races held annually on Blandford Down which is now Blandford Camp. These dated back to the early 1600s and by the late 1820s, Blandford Races were at their most prestigious – as famous in that decade as Doncaster or Newmarket. The Duke of Wellington had arrived at the Races as a guest of the Course Steward, William John Bankes of Kingston Lacy. He had become a friend of Wellesley during the Spanish Peninsular War. Their arrival together was a splendid sight involving eleven carriages pulled by 44 horses driven by coachmen accompanied by splendidly dressed footmen. The two day event was crowded

Ken Baily

Ken Baily was the England football and rugby cheerleader for three decades and Bournemouth Football Club mascot from the 1950s. An eccentric character and lifelong bachelor, he had a love of trifle and in his spare time could be seen riding his bicycle around the town dressed as either Winston Churchill or the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie. As a cheerleader, he was recognisable in his trademark costume of Union Jack waistcoat, scarlet tails, white gloves and top hat. When meeting royalty, Prince Charles is said to have once remarked ‘ where did you escape from?’ He is also the only man to become both a Freeman of Bournemouth and a Subbuteo figure. Ken Baily was a keen runner and swimmer and maintained his fitness by regular sea bathing. This included regular dips in the Bournemouth briny on Christmas Day and on New Year’s Eve. He worked as a clerical assistant in a Bournemouth telephone exchange and also wrote a gossip column for a local newspaper using the pen name Genevieve