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Ode to Blandford Army Camp

  There’s an isolated, desolated spot I’d like to mention, Where all you hear is ‘ Stand at Ease’, ‘Slope Arms’, ‘Quick March’, ‘Attention’ . It’s miles away from anywhere, by Gad, it’s a rum’un, A chap lived there for fifty years and never saw a woman.   There’s only two lamps in the place, so tell it to your mother, The postman carries one, the policeman has the other. And if you want a jolly night, and do not care a jot, You take a ride upon the car, the car they haven’t got.   There are lots of little huts, all dotted here and there, For those who have to live inside, I’ve offered many a prayer. Inside the huts, there’s RATS as big as any nanny goat, Last night a soldier saw one fitting on his overcoat.   For breakfast every morning, just like Mother Hubbard, You double round the bloomin’ hut and jump up at the cupboard. Sometimes you get bacon, sometimes ‘ lively’ cheese, That forms platoon upon your plate, orders arms and stands at ease.  
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Bridport Branch Line

Opened in November 1857, the stations on this line were: Bridport West Bay . Opened 31-3-1884: closed to passengers 22-9-1930: closed to freight 3-12-1962. Bridport (East Street ). Opened 31-3-1884: closed to passengers 22-9-1930. Passenger station only. Bridport (from 1887-1902 was known as Bradpole Road ). Opened 12-11-1857: closed to freight 5-4-1965: closed to passengers 5-5-1975. Powerstock . Opened 12-11-1857: closed to freight 13-3-1961: closed to passengers 5-5-1975. Toller . Opened 13-3-1862: closed to freight 4-4-1960: closed to passengers 5-5-75. Maiden Newton. Opened 20-1-1857: closed to freight 5-4-1965.  (Featured: Bridport Station in August1954.)

Shroton Fair

At one time, Shroton Fair was a most important event in the Dorset calendar. It was reckoned to be one of the finest in the West of England and became well-known for its sale of horses, sheep and dairy products. It also served as something of an employment exchange for the hire of agricultural labourers, grooms and servants. There were also entertainments such as roundabouts, swings, shooting galleries, fortune tellers and jugglers.  In 1261, Shroton had received a grant from King Henry III allowing it to hold two annual fairs, one in May the other in September. While the former lapsed, the latter continued for many years. The Portman Hunt would meet regularly at Shroton and participate fully in the Fair’s entertainments. Old North Dorset men would recall bygone events by the number of months that had occurred either before or after the event. Both Thomas Hardy and William Barnes wrote of Shroton Fair as did the Reverend RW Bennett in 1926: ‘What an idyllic meeting place! The gre

Crown & Anchor, White Hart and the George

Crown & Anchor, the White Hart  and the George are just three of the almost 100 pubs, inns & hostelries that have, over the years, quenched the thirst of both locals and travellers to Blandford. As early as 1390, there is a report of twelve Blandford men and one woman being taken to court for brewing beer contrary to the regulations. Indeed, in 1882, it was reported there were 37 public houses in the Blandford district and all had had their licenses renewed. Crown & Anchor (1757) in West Street was originally called the Cock & George and was famous for hosting cockerel fights. However, when this was made illegal its name was changed to the Crown & Anchor in 1845. Three years later, James Soper was advertising that a horse-drawn ‘ omnibus ’ left the Crown & Anchor daily, except Sundays, at a half past eight for Wimborne to arrive just in time to catch both the down train to Dorchester and the up train to Southampton and London. That year also, James Soper was

Dorset-named, they also served

Dorset named vessels to have served in the Royal Navy: HMS Bridport was a Sandown class minehunter built in Vosper Thornycroft’s Southampton shipyard in 1992. Fourteen years later, she was sold to the Estonian Navy. HMS Dorsetshire was a heavy cruiser launched in Portsmouth Dockyard in 1929. She was involved in the sinking of the German battleship, Bismarck and the search for the German heavy cruiser, the Graf Spee. HMS Dorsetshire was sunk by the Japanese in the Indian Ocean in 1942 with the loss of 400 of her 1,500 crew. HMS Weymouth was a light cruiser launched back in 1910. She was one of seven vessels named Weymouth to serve in the Royal Navy. HMS Weymouth served in the Mediterranean, Atlantic & Home Fleets and in the Adriatic. HMS Sherborne was a cutter which operated against smugglers in the English Channel between 1763 & 1784. HMS Cattistock is a mine countermeasures vessel launched by Vosper Thornycroft in 1982. HMS Blandford was launched back in 1720. After ser

William Selby's Trafalgar Medal

In July 2017, a Trafalgar Medal (1805) presented to Dorset born, Ordinary Seaman William Selby was sold at auction for £2,200. The medal had been struck by Matthew Boulton of the Soho Mint in Birmingham on his own initiative. Boulton was embarrassed that there had been no official recognition given to the survivors who had fought in and had won the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805. Sadly, it is said many of these medals were not particularly well received as not being made of silver they were not easily pawned. So, they were just thrown into the sea by some of the ungrateful recipients. The medals were issued in gold to flag officers, in silver to captains and lieutenants but in bronze or white metal to junior officers and men. William Selby is believed to have originated from Durweston and had volunteered to join the British Navy in April 1803. The following month he transferred to HMS Victory where he served as an Ordinary Seaman during the Battle of Trafalgar. Like many of hi


Where do these local place-names come from? Blandford Forum – a ford where ‘ blay ’ which are small fresh water fish could be found. ‘ Forum’ comes from the Latin for a market. In the 13 th century, the town was known as ‘ Cheping Blandford’ , from the Old English for market. Bryanston – from the Old English meaning ‘ Brian’s estate’. This is named after the man who held this estate in the 13 th century. ‘Tun’ is Old English and means ‘ farm, estate or village’ . Winterborne Stickland – ‘ estate on the River Winterborne with a steep hill.’ A Winterborne is a winter stream. Langton – a ‘ long village, farm or estate. ’ Tarrant Gunville – ‘ estate on the River Tarrant held by the Gundeville family.’ Pimperne – first mentioned in the year 935 and probably comes from the Old Celtic meaning ‘ five trees’ . Thorncombe – the ‘ valley where thorn trees grow. ’ Shroton – ‘ sheriff’s estate or farm. ’ The sheriff being Baldwin of Exeter in the 11 th century. Tarrant

Council Houses & Prefabs

At the end of World War II, North Dorset Councils had a waiting list of around 1,250 families wanting affordable housing. Many of these applications came from families with service personnel who had fought in the War. Councils responded in two ways. Prefabricated ‘ temporary ’ homes, intended to last for ten years, were built. They were called ‘prefabs’ . Thirty five were planned by Sturminster Newton Rural District and another twelve by Blandford Borough. They would provide comfortable accommodation for many families and they lasted so long they were proven to be far from ‘ temporary ’. Secondly, many publicly owned houses were built that became known as ‘ council houses’ . Neither the council houses nor the prefabs were constructed to be easy on the eye but they were well-built and designed to be practical rather than attractive. They had both indoor toilets and bathrooms which many of the new occupants had not known before. However, the ‘ council houses’ and ‘ prefabs ’ looked

Blandford Railway Arches

Blandford’s passenger railway station closed in 1966 when the passenger train service between Bath and Bournemouth was withdrawn. However, the line remained open for another three years until goods traffic was also withdrawn. Originally, the line from the south stopped at Blandford St Mary. Then it was brought across the River Stour, and the newly constructed Blandford Railway Arches at the bottom of Damory Street, to a new more central station.  This new Blandford town station opened in September 1863. It was renamed Blandford Forum in 1953. Around a  decade after the last locomotive had left the town Blandford Railway Arches were destroyed by explosives on 25 th July 1979. (Illustrations: Blandford's Railway Arches)

'Taking the Queen's Shilling'

As in the past joining the British Army was rarely an attractive proposition, recruiting sergeants would result to ruses, often with a publican’s help, to snare unwilling prey. That is what happened to an unsuspecting, ‘ railway navvy’ during a rowdy Saturday night in the Three Choughs Inn, Blandford in November 1858. He was with a group of construction workers who were employed to build the new railway line from Wimborne to Blandford. The ‘ navvies ’ were not particularly popular with the locals and had a reputation for fighting, heavy drinking and general rowdy behaviour. ‘ Taking the King, or Queen’s Shilling’ has long been slang for enlisting in the British Army as for many years a shilling (5p) was akin to a signing-on payment made to new recruits. The recruiting sergeant would ensure his target became drunk and would then slip a shilling into a back pocket. The next day the unfortunate and hung over victim would be hauled before a magistrate who would confirm that he was the Br

Stourpaine & Durweston Halt

Stourpaine & Durweston Railway Halt opened on the 9 th July 1928. Practically everyone in the two villages at the time had walked down to the Halt to watch the departure of the 8.06am to Bournemouth. Local newspaper the Western Gazette reported that the locals had adorned the Halt with flags. However, just seven passengers joined the train which included local clergyman, the Reverend C Cooke. Unfortunately, because the Halt stood on an open embankment it proved to be exceedingly cold for passengers waiting on the platform the following winter. So, the following April, the railway company built a ‘ substantially-built shelter for the convenience of passengers.’ Although the track through the Halt was single line, there was a passing point just to the north of the Halt. The Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway or ‘ S&D’ connected Bristol and Bath with Bournemouth West, a station now long closed. The line was used for both freight and passengers and its stations included Sta

Dorset Bounty Immigrants

Life in Dorset in the 1830s was pretty tough for ordinary folk. Agricultural wages were among the lowest in the country and farm mechanisation was reducing available work. At the time, there was also much social unrest with riots in Poole, Blandford, Handley & Sherborne. So it was no surprise that several Dorset families decided in 1836 to become ‘Bounty Immigrants’ and seek out a better life in Australia. This was an early assisted passage scheme sponsored by the new colony and the Australian land owning Macarthur family. For its time, the scheme was incredibly progressive. Each family was given a three year contract, a wage, a cottage rent free and a plot of land. Among the first Dorset Bounty Immigrants were the Arnold & Norris families from Child Okeford, two Butt families from Winterborne Stickland, the Coxs & Elliots from Farnham and the New, Thorn, Vincent & three Weeks families from Handley. They all arrived safely in New South Wales on 8 th April 1837 and mai

Tarrant Rushton & Berlin Airlift

Tarrant Rushton airfield played a key role in the 1948/49 Berlin Airlift. At the time, Flight Refuelling was based at Tarrant Rushton and it was Sir Alan Cobham’s company that supplied the German capital with fuel. After the Second World War, Germany was divided into Russian, American, French & British zones. Berlin, the country’s capital was similarly divided but was located deep inside the Russian occupied sector. In June 1948, the Russians decided to block all road and rail access into the Western occupied parts of Berlin. By doing so, they hoped to starve Western Berliners of food and supplies and to force the United States, France and Britain to withdraw from the capital. The Allies responded by supplying Berlin from the air, known as the Berlin airlift. Flight Refuelling operated twelve Lancaster & Lancastrian aircraft which had been converted to carry fuel. The company’s first aircraft, laden with fuel, left Tarrant Rushton for Berlin on 27 th July 1948. The company’ tw

Greyhound Inn

In the 1700s, the Greyhound Inn was one of the three great coaching inns of Blandford and was both stylish and substantial. The other two great inns were the Crown and the Red Lion. In fact, the Greyhound dates back to the early 1600s. This inn was a regular stopping point for horse drawn coaches travelling between London and the West of England. The Greyhound was destroyed in the 1731 Great Fire of Blandford. It was then rebuilt with an impressive Market Place facing frontage together with sizeable back buildings which included stables, a tap room, workshops and a brewery. The front part covered 3,150 sq ft and the back buildings a further 3,100 sq ft. In 1779, the Inn was advertising it had an excellent and much used billiard table. On Bonfire Night in 1805, the Greyhound Inn was one of the many stopping points to change his horses for Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotiere of the Royal Navy. He was taking the news of victory at the Battle of Trafalgar and of Horatio Nelson’s death to

Damory Oak

At one time Blandford could boast of one of the largest oak trees in the country. Known as the ‘ Damory Oak’ , it is reckoned to date back to the 10 th or 11 th centuries. It was said to be 75 ft high and to have a circumference of 68 ft at ground level. As the tree decayed, it became hollow forming a great cavity which could house 20 men. This was 15 ft wide and 17 ft high. During the English Civil War an old man ran the cavity as an ale house. Appropriately, some three centuries later there was a pub nearby at the bottom of Damory Court Street, now closed, that was called the ‘ Damory Oak’ . In 1703, the ‘ Damory Oak’ suffered greatly in a violent storm when several of its largest branches were torn off. After the Great Fire of Blandford in 1731, the hollow trunk provided shelter to two homeless families. Sadly, by 1755 the great ‘ Damory Oak’ was in a sorry state and was sold for firewood for just fourteen pounds.