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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
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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

George Long, 'Blandford Riot Leader!’ - Part I

  Politics can stir powerful feelings and nothing since, not even Brexit, has quite matched the raw emotion and riots in Blandford after the declaration of the 1831 Dorset by-election result. Blandford born George Long, aged 23 and unmarried, was judged to be the rioter leader. There were two candidates in the by-election, the Lord Ashley and William Ponsonby. George Long was a supporter of the latter. At the time the parliamentary system was quite corrupt. Lord Ashley’s expenses show he paid for accommodation and drinks in twelve Dorchester public houses in addition to the King’s Arms where he was staying. No doubt William Ponsonby offered similar hospitality to his supporters. Entitlement to vote was mainly limited to the landed gentry and the clergy. While, for example, Shaftesbury had two MPs the large city of Birmingham had none. Ponsonby wanted parliamentary reform while Ashley’s desire was to preserve the status quo. George Long was among a crowd of about one hundred who wer

George Long, 'Blandford Riot Leader!' - Part II

  On Thursday 22 March 1832 in a Dorchester courtroom, the jury found George Long guilty. He had been indicted of having both riotously assembled and of beginning to demolish the property of lawyer George Moore. Stephen Gaselee was the judge and he passed sentence of death on Long leaving him with no hope of mercy. Author Charles Dickens allegedly caricatured Judge Gaselee as having ‘ a broad pink face surrounded by a big and very comical wig .’ Dickens also wrote ‘ his temper borders on the irritable and brooks no contradiction. George Long was sentenced to be hung in Dorchester Jail on 31 st March 1832. In Blandford and surrounding villages there was strong opposition to the severity of the penalty and a petition for clemency was organised which many signed. No doubt fearful of further rioting, and despite initial reluctance, Gaselee commuted the sentence to transportation for life. George Long was transferred from Dorchester Jail to the Captivity, a rusting prison hulk berthed

Wend-al Toys of Blandford

These days most toys seem to be made in China. Yet 70 years ago, some very fine toys were made in Blandford. Wend-al was a Blandford company which was a highly regarded maker of aluminium toy figures. Edgar Kehoe was its founder. Immediately after World War II he was looking for a business opportunity. Travelling in France, he discovered his opportunity in the town of Luxeuil-les-Bains where a company named Quirala was making die cast aluminium figures. At the time, lead was more commonly used in the manufacture of toy figures. This company, located in the French region of Bourgogne-Franche-Compte, did not use lead but solid aluminium. Quirala was a combination of the company founder’s surname Quirin and the word aluminium. Edgar Kehoe realised that solid aluminium was stronger and lighter than lead and would not break. As a consequence, he struck up a deal to use French moulds and so production began in Blandford in 1946. He opened his factory in the former Blandford Isolation Hospita

Blandford Throwback Facts VI

          In 1759 , John Ayliffe, who had a house built in East Street, was executed for forgery at Tyburn in London. In 1760 , Dr Dansey was paid six pounds and six shillings (£6.30p) for cutting off Samuel Tucker’s leg. In 1 761 , the Court of Records in London threatened to fine Blandford forty shillings (£2) if the pillory, sixty shillings (£3) if the stocks and five pounds if the pound were not all immediately put into good repair. In 1762 , highwayman John Poulter, with five companions, stole items of gold and silver from the Crown Hotel which they took onto London. In 1766 , a ticket on the horse drawn ‘ Blandford Flying Machine’ cost twenty-five shillings (£1.25p) and it took two days to travel from Blandford to London. In 1769 , fines were imposed on a number of Blandford householders for throwing filth into the streets. In 1770 , a cockfighting contest was held between the gentlemen of Dorset and Wiltshire in the Red Lion Inn. In 1771 , the Sergeant at Arms and the Clerk w

Durweston's Early Aussie Teacher

Born in 1811, Frances Jeans was one of Australia’s earliest teachers. In the villages Durweston and Stourpaine there were several Jeans families. At this time, Stourpaine had a particularly unsavoury reputation for unsanitary living conditions and extreme poverty. The Hampshire Telegraph was to write in 1840 of the village: ‘The first feature which attracts the attention of a stranger entering the village is the total want of cleanliness which pervades it. A stream, composed of the matter which constantly escapes from the pigsties and other receptacles of filth, meanders down each street, being here and there collected into standing pools, which lie festering and rotting in the sun so as to create wonder the place is not the continual abode of pestilence – indeed the most malignant fevers have ravaged here at times. It may be sufficient to add for the present that the inside of the cottages in every respect corresponds with the external appearances of the place.’ In October 1836, Franc


  Blandford’s town council has been giving away free land! Sadly, this is not Blandford, Dorset but in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford which can be found just about an hour’s drive to the south-west of Quebec City, Canada. Despite being mainly French speaking, the small Saint-Louis-de-Blandford town of around 900 people was still named after Blandford in Dorset. To discourage Saint-Louis-de-Blandford’s young and not so young residents from moving away to the city the municipality acquired land which it has been giving away. Applicants have to put down a $1,000  payment and then to commit to build a house worth at least $125,000 within a year. The town then refunds the down payment. Saint-Louis-de-Blandford is well-known for growing excellent cranberries and is regarded as Canada’s capital for this fruit. The town enjoys a proper continental climate of warm summers but the winters are exceedingly cold. If there was a competition for the countries with the most Blandfords then Canada would win