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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
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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. 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. 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. Phillips - chemist, East Street. Philvic – garage, White Cliff Mill Street. S

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

Crown Hotel

It is reckoned there has been a Crown Hotel on the current site in Blandford since at least the 17 th Century. After the Great Fire of Blandford in 1731, the Crown Hotel had to be completely rebuilt. While highwayman John Poulter subsequently claimed that in 1762 he had stolen gold, silver and other valuables from the hotel which he had taken away to London. Arrival of the horse-drawn coaching era much benefitted the Crown and the nearby Red Lion and Greyhound Hotels. For Blandford was on a main coaching route between Exeter and London. A coach known as the Blandford Flyer claimed it could transport its passengers to the capital in just two days. By 1820, the town was also a stopping point for horse drawn coaches to Brighton, Portsmouth, Bath and Plymouth. This traffic required the building of extensive stables and outbuildings at the rear of the hotel. In 1859, before the opening of Blandford station, there was a ‘ well-appointed’ horse drawn omnibus which left the Crown Hotel e

Blandford Rats Tale

In addition to the threat of German bombing during World War II, Blandford also suffered from an infestation of rats. This infestation resulted in a bizarre incident witnessed by a local businessman and Town Mayor. Late one night he was counting the multitude of rationing coupons that he had collected that week when he experienced an amazing sight. He was working in his grocer’s shop at the corner of the Market Place and Salisbury Street when he heard a loud swishing noise. He put out his light and lifted the wartime blackout curtain. It was a moonlit night and he could clearly see hundreds of brown rats marching from the river through the Greyhound Yard and up Salisbury Street. Another man witnessed this army of rats and was so shaken he fell off his bicycle. It appears that at the time large quantities of corn were stored in the Blandford Station Yard and when river levels were low the rats would go to the yard to supplement their diet. There was much discussion at Blandford Ru

Blandford Throwback Facts XVIII

  In 1906 , Blandford railway station’s signal box was burnt down after being struck by lightning during a great storm. Luckily signalman, Charlie Whiting escaped unharmed and said at the time he had experienced ‘ slight shock .’   Reverend Dr Nevill, Bishop of Dunedin & Primate of New Zealand was married in Blandford Church. His lordship was in his 70 th year and his new, young wife, Margaret Fynes-Clinton was aged 30 years.    The town celebrated its tercentenary by the pealing of church bells and a grand procession of 35 floats which ‘ perambulated ’ through the town. The procession featured the Stourpaine Brass Band, the Town Band and the Blandford Mouth Organ Band. Blandfordians were then treated to a free afternoon tea.    A pony and trap careered down Salisbury Street and crashed into a lamp post losing its wheels. Then, the horse galloped across the Market Place at speed smashing into a shop’s glass window. Fortunately, both the horse and driver escaped with just shock and

Cherries Cash Call

Forty years ago AFC Bournemouth, in 1982, had just celebrated promotion to a higher division. However it was not to the Premiership but to what was then called the Football League’s Third Division. So unlike today’s Premiership, the club could not look forward to the receipt of shed loads of money. While the club opened the season with a three goal victory over Walsall, the attendance at the Dean Court stadium was just 5,330. The Cherries were losing £2,000 per week and needed gates of 7,000 to break even. Club Director Derek Lever had launched an appeal to raise £50,000 over the coming season. The appeal would involve a series of money raising events to include a race night, a sportsman dinner, a sponsored walk and a medieval banquet. Mr Lever said that while the Cherries were not in danger of going to the wall he emphasised that the appeal target must be met just for general running expenses and to provide manager David Webb with some finance to strengthen the side during the season.

Benjamin Harris - Dorset Rifleman

Benjamin Randell Harris was a rifleman who served in the British Army between 1803 and 1814. Born in Portsmouth, his family moved to Stalbridge in North Dorset when he was still a child. His father, Robert was a shepherd and Benjamin as a youngster would help tend the sheep across the Blandford Downs.   Later, Benjamin would train as a cobbler. In 1803, Benjamin was selected by ballot to join the British Army for which he was paid a bounty of eleven pounds. Forty five years later, a book would be published recounting his army experiences. Like most ordinary soldiers of the time, he was illiterate so he related his memories to Captain Henry Curling who produced the book – A Dorset Rifleman . It is one of the few accounts of the life of a common soldier of the time. During his service, he was randomly selected to be part of a firing squad to execute a deserter – an experience understandingly, he found particularly disturbing. Benjamin Harris served in Ireland, Denmark and in the Span

Farquarson's Doggie Tale!

Henry Richard Farquarson was the outspoken and at times controversial Member of Parliament for West Dorset from 1885 until 1895. He was passionate about giant Newfoundland dogs and he lived at Eastbury House, Tarrant Gunville and was a major landowner. Farquarson had built up, over twenty five years, a pack of one hundred & twenty five giant Newfoundland dogs.  They were his pride and joy and among them was a Crufts prize winner. His dogs had been brought to Dorset from Newfoundland in Canada.  There had always been strong links between Poole and Newfoundland and the coastal town had become known as the best place to buy this breed of dog. In the early 1800s, Newfoundland dogs were often used to pull carts and were a common sight in the streets of Poole. Fear of rabies led to this practice being banned. Farquarson would regularly travel to Poole to collect his acquisitions. The Newfoundland is a huge animal and there is a story that one saved the life of Napoleon Bonaparte by preve

Blandford Throwback Facts XVII

  In 1899 , Blandford railway station sold 120 five shilling (25p) special excursion tickets to visit the Birmingham Onion Fair. In 1900 , there were 20 public houses, 10 butchers, 8 grocers and 5 greengrocers in the town. Local born athlete and railwayman, Charles Bennett, known as the ‘ Shapwick Express ’ celebrated winning his gold medal in the Paris Olympics by visiting the Folies Bergere night club. When the River Stour burst its banks, shops in West Street were flooded and guests in the Crown Hotel had to make their exits by way of a ladder from the hotel’s first floor. Two old fire-fighting machines belonging to the town’s Volunteer Fire Brigade were put up for sale but there were no takers. Hector’s Brewery on the banks of the River Stour, and acquired by Hall & Woodhouse in 1882 was destroyed by fire. In 1901 , following the news of the death of Queen Victoria, a day of mourning was declared in Blandford and all business was suspended. ‘ VR’ and ‘ RIP ’ were displaye

Murder at Gussage St Michael

Gussage St Michael is a quiet North Dorset village with a population of few more than a couple of hundred. Yet for several months in 1913, it made headlines across the world as far away as Australia and New Zealand. William Walter Burton, a rabbit catcher, was found guilty of murdering his lover, 24 year-old Winifred Mitchell and had buried her in a lonely wood. Winifred Mary Mitchell was 5ft 5 ins tall, dark haired and was employed as a cook. She was known as ‘ Winnie ’ and ‘cookie’ . Winnie wore false teeth that had been given to her by a former employer. On the 9 th August 1913, South Australia’s Adelaide Advertiser reported. ‘ In the annals of crime, there have been few murders so carefully planned and so ingeniously carried out and it will be remembered that the judge in passing sentence of death intimated that Burton was beyond human forgiveness.’ William Burton walked alone to the scaffold and was hanged at Dorchester Prison on the morning of Tuesday 24 th June 1913.