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Throwback Facts XI

In 1827, Edward Berkeley Portman of Bryanston married Emma Lascelles who became a Lady in Waiting and close confidante of Queen Victoria. In 1830 , the ‘Tally Ho’ horse drawn coach called at the Greyhound Inn on alternate weekdays on its way from Weymouth to London and similarly on the way back.           Edward Portman ‘ regaled ’ the returning Blandford horsemen with strong beer after they had   ridden north to put down riots in villages around Sixpenny Handley. This refreshment was ‘ received with good cheer.’ In 1831 , Dragoon Guards were sent to Blandford from Weymouth to put down rioting. The soldiers fired upon and cut with sabres many of the rioters. Richard Bleathman and George Long were sentenced to death for taking part in the riots. Many of the windows in the Greyhound Inn were broken in the riot.         Button making was a major Blandford business. A workhouse inmate was capable of producing up to 200 handmade buttons in a day. Many women were attracted to butto
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Lardy Cake: Pimperne Cricket's Secret Weapon!

  Village cricket in Dorset goes back many years. Dorset County Chronicle reports a cricket match between the villages of Pimperne and Chettle which took place in August 1867.  In the 50s and early 1960s, the Pimperne club played at Langbourne on a concrete batting pitch overlaid by matting. Cow pats were a particular hazard as the pitch’s more normal use was for dairy cattle. If there was one match in the 1960s the Pimperne club was determined to win, it was against a village that it would be politic not to name. Their team, which seemed to consist mainly of members of the same family, were masters of gamesmanship. If Pimperne’s tail end batsman was a youngster, they would collectively seek to undermine his confidence. While the Pimperne scorer had to keep an eagle eye on the recordings of his opponent’s counterpart!   Yet Pimperne in their tussles with this opposition had their own secret weapon…lardy cake. This calorie laden, greasy, fatty delight had a key tactical part to play

Del boy, Dorset & a Chandelier

  Del boy, Rodney and Grandad, from the comedy series Only Fools & Horses, are normally associated with Peckham, South London. Yet one of their most memorable scenes was filmed at Iwerne Minster in North Dorset. The December 1982 programme ‘ A Touch of Glass’ attracted over 10 million television viewers. It is frequently regarded as Only Fools & Horses’ fans favourite scene of the show. Derek Trotter had been given the job of cleaning a valuable glass chandelier at country mansion, Ridgemore Hall. With Del and Rodney up ladders, and only an old sheet between the priceless chandelier and the floor, it was inevitable something would go wrong. Grandad detached the wrong chandelier and it smashed on the floor. As Grandad queried, ‘ Is it very valuable? ’ To which Del retorted, ‘Not really. It was bleeding priceless when it was hanging up there, though!’ Ridgemore Hall was in fact Clayesmore School at Iwerne Minster. However, as the school would not allow the floorboards to be pull

Sooty - a very local bear!

  There’s Sooty, Sweep and Soo, who make up the Sooty Show, and Harry Corbett, the Show’s creator, who lived locally for many years in Child Okeford. Sooty is, of course, a naughty little bear glove puppet who loves squirting his best pal, Sweep with his water pistol. He is also a magician and despite having no voice has his own special magic spell, ‘ Izzy wizzy, let’s get busy!’ Sweep is a little dog with a distinctively squeaky voice and a liking for sausages and Soo is a panda whose dream is to be a ballet dancer. Harry Corbett was a Yorkshire man and the nephew of Harry Ramsden who founded a chain of fish & chip shops. Corbett bought the original Sooty glove puppet at the end of a Blackpool pier for seven shillings & sixpence (37.5p). In 2019, a complete set of original Sooty Show puppets would be sold for £3,100. The original bear was yellow but so it could be seen on black and white television it was given a black nose, mouth and ears. The additions gave Sooty his nam

'Splicing the Christmas Mainbrace!'

  Blandford Camp has always been associated with the British Army. Yet at Christmas 1914, the Camp was jammed packed with sailors…and they weren’t happy! These miserable matelots had joined the Royal Navy to serve at sea in, what was at the time, the world’s largest, most powerful and prestigious maritime force. However, they now found themselves on land at wet, muddy Blandford Camp.  They were billeted in poorly heated wooden huts many of which were leaky. Furthermore on the exposed downs it was bitterly cold, it was raining continuously and there was mud everywhere. These sailors were being trained to be soldiers. They had been allocated to the Royal Naval Division which had been set up by Winston Churchill because too many volunteers had applied to join the Royal Navy. Many of this unhappy crew were naval stokers who were renowned for their resourcefulness, rowdiness and heavy drinking. Their normal role was to stoke and maintain ship boilers, a dirty, dusty, thirsty and extremely h

Blandford Throwback Facts X

  In 1817 , sculptor Alfred Stephens was born in Blandford. He created the Duke of Wellington’s monument in St Paul’s Cathedral. In 1818 , the Portsmouth mail coach overturned in a collision with a cart near the churchyard. While at the November fair, pickpockets were active and also Mr Kerley lost his crossbred dog. In 1820 , two Blandford brothers  were executed in  Dorchester for highway                      robbery. Horse drawn coaches left the Crown Hotel every day for Poole, Weymouth, London, Portsmouth, Brighton, Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth and Falmouth. In 1821 , forty members of a single family were found to be living in the same Blandford house.                Robert Wilson, innkeeper at the White Hart Inn was fined ten shillings (50p) and was deprived of his licence for three years for allowing ‘ tippling ’ in his public house during Divine Service. A Ball was held in the Greyhound Inn to celebrate the coronation of King George IV. In 1 822 , the Sheep Fair was moved fr

Henry Durden of Durden's Corner

  He has his own dedicated memorial plaque and Corner in Blandford but is now almost a forgotten man. His name is Henry Durden and he was the founder of the town’s first museum. Henry Durden was born in 1807 and in 1859 was listed as a grocer and seller of wines and spirits. The Durdens were a respected Blandford family and they played an active part in the town’s life. There is a Durden listed in a 1791 trade directory as a Blandford grocer. Henry’s father, John was Mayor in 1837. Henry held this role on three occasions while his son, another John, was Mayor in 1893. In his shop, he opened a highly regarded museum. On display were 60 urns which were over 2,000 years old and all found within eight miles of Blandford. Most exhibits in the museum were from Dorset including prehistoric items from Hod Hill and various local barrows. There were also flint arrowheads, bracelets and coins including a ten shillings piece of Elizabeth I’s reign. So respected were his acquisitions that in th

Blandford Throwback Facts IX

  In 1794 , it cost five hundred pounds, eleven shillings and six pence (£500.57p)) to install an organ in Blandford Church. A further five shillings (25p) was spent purchasing beer for the men who helped unpack it.               Assembly Rooms in West Street were opened. Concerts were held there particularly during Blandford Races Week. In 1799, Lady Charlotte of Wales dined in the Greyhound Inn with her lady-in-waiting. Charlotte was 3 years old. In 1803 , beacons were prepared across the country to be lit in the event of an invasion by the French. In 1804 , Monsieur Fialon, formerly of Paris, taught all types of dancing in his Blandford Academy of Dance. In 1805 , James Shatford, manager of the Salisbury Company of Comedians, built a theatre in White Cliff Mill Street.            Photography pioneer, Thomas Wedgwood, father of famous potter, Josiah Wedgwood was buried in Tarrant Gunville. In 1806 , an Admiralty Shutter Telegraph Station was installed near Blandford Racecourse. It

Blandford Camp's Fatal Flu

  Around 100 years ago, there was an influenza outbreak in Blandford and the surrounding villages which had similarities with the corona virus pandemic. Just as Boris Johnson and Prince Charles have been viral victims so were Prime Minister David Lloyd-George and King George V in 1918. Called ‘ Spanish Flu’ , there is little on record showing how the Blandford district was affected. This was because of widespread press censorship. At the end of World War I, newspapers were not allowed to publish stories that might have undermined national morale. However, at Blandford Camp there were so many ‘ Spanish Flu’ deaths that the authorities were unable to suppress this story. Today, the camp is associated with the British Army yet in 1918 it was a massive Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force base. Blandford Camp’s story broke in October 1918, when it was suggested that sick recruits had to lie on dirty straw mats and there were insufficient doctors and nurses. Despite this, new recruits co

Chettle's John West

John West is an almost completely forgotten cleric who was the Rector of Chettle from 1828 to 1845. In fact, he is far better known in Canada for his pioneering missionary work than he is remembered in his home country. In the Canadian Calendar of Holy Persons, 31 December each year is John West Commemoration Day. Yet in the 1830s, he helped many poverty trapped families from the Blandford villages secure a far better life in New South Wales, Australia. Families helped included agricultural labourer, George Butt and his wife, Charlotte and their six children from Winterborne Stickland. Emigrating with them were his brother, Stephen and his wife, Martha from the same village. There were also Samuel and Ann Arnold from Child Okeford and their baby daughter, Sarah Ann. Samuel was a wheelwright by trade and became a successful businessman. His inn which he founded, the Plough & Harrow just outside Sydney is still open for business today. John West had worked with the Australian landown

Peter Braid's Miraculous Escape

  Between 1948 and the early 1960s, Blandford Camp was nationally known for its racing car and motor cycle circuit. Racing at the time was particularly dangerous with few safety measures and frequent accidents some of which were fatal. Some observers reckoned the Blandford Camp roads were far too narrow for passing. On the 27 th August 1949, the first post-war closed circuit, racing car meeting was held at the Camp and involved several races. During the day’s third race for sports cars, Gordon Woods lost control of his vehicle when it hit the kerb and demolished a bus shelter. The driver was thrown out of his cockpit and suffered serious head injuries. He later died in Blandford Hospital. Despite this accident, the race meeting continued. Major Peter Braid was leading in the next race but had not been racing for long. At the same point as Woods’ accident, Braid hit the kerb and then at speed hit the damaged bus shelter. It acted like a ramp and his racing car was catapulted over a dit

Blandford Throwback Facts VIII

  In 1786 , Lord Milton of Milton Abbey, Lord Shaftesbury of St Giles and Lord Arundel of Wardour Castle all attended Blandford Races.            When 74 survivors from a Swanage shipwreck stopped off at the Crown Inn in Blandford on the way to London, the Inn Master gave them all a good dinner and two shillings & sixpence (12.5p) to see them on their way. In 1787 , the Blandford Bank was founded. In 1858, it had to suspend all payments with liabilities of £48,792 and assets of only £18,167. In 1788 , Mr Bailey’s Annual Ball was held in the Assembly Rooms for the young ladies of Mrs Smith’s and the young gentlemen of Mr Chisholm’s and the Reverend P Warton’s Boarding Schools. In 1789 , it cost eighteen shillings and eight pence (93p) for beer and brushes to clean the streets for when King George III passed through the town. He received a ‘ tumultuous ’ reception on his way to Weymouth where he would regularly bathe in the sea waters. In 1790 , a ‘ balloon coach’ called a

Samuel Johnson - Our Man at Trafalgar!

When Admiral Horatio Nelson defeated the French and Spanish Fleets at Trafalgar on 21 st October 1805, there was a Blandford man aboard his flagship, HMS Victory. Able seaman, Samuel Johnson had been born in the town in 1770. By 1805, he was an experienced seaman having served in the British Navy for at least five years. Such were his capabilities, he was able to take over from the Victory’s helmsman and ensure the vessel remained on course. He had joined the Victory in April 1804. Why and how he joined the Navy is not known. He could have been forced to join by a marauding ‘ press gang’, he could have volunteered or chosen the sea as an alternative to a spell in prison. The latter was a frequent method of sailor recruitment at the time. Initially, Samuel during his first year at sea would have been described as a ‘ landsman ’, then an ‘ ordinary seaman’ before promotion to ‘ able seaman’ .  Samuel Johnson survived the Battle of Trafalgar on HMS Victory, a vessel that suffered

Rioter Richard Bleathman

  Politics can stir powerfully strong emotions yet nothing since in Blandford has matched the town’s riots of 1831. Back then only those with property could vote so most ordinary men and women were disenfranchised. In North Dorset discontent was heightened by low wages and widespread unemployment among the agricultural labouring poor. Most of the Dorset landowners were against reform although locally Mr Portman at Bryanston was more sympathetic. Matters rose to a head in October 1831 when following the suicide of the sitting MP, John Calcroft a Dorset by-election was called. Candidate Willian Ponsonby was in favour of reform to which the second candidate, Lord Ashley was opposed. With strong feelings and vested interests on both sides, the battle lines were drawn up. Richard Bleathman, George Long, William Kent and Thomas Jackson were among a crowd of around 100 waiting in the Market Place for the arrival of the mail coach from Dorchester. This would bring news of the by-election r

Blandford Throwback Facts VII

In 1777 , a horse drawn coach from Exeter was robbed by a highwayman just a few miles short of Blandford.            In 1778 , smugglers firing their pistols attacked the house of the Supervisor of Excise in Blandford and took away 16 cwts of tea and nine casks of liquor. In 1779 , the Greyhound Inn advertised that it had a ‘ very good billiard table .’ In 1780 , a young boy chimney sweep was burnt to death when cleaning the chimney in a Blandford inn.           In a battle royal between poachers and gamekeepers, Pimperne born poacher trumpet-sergeant Blandford had a hand cut off by a gamekeeper’s cutlass. Nine hundred & eighty four gallons of spirits seized from smugglers were put up for auction in Blandford. In 1781 , the British Army fought in the Battle of Blandford. However, this skirmish did not take place in Dorset but in Blandford, USA. In 1782 , prizes for Blandford Races were one of £100 and three of £50. In 1783 , it cost eight shillings (40p) to send a