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Blandford Throwback Facts XV

  In 1874 , Londoner, John Lewis Marsh acquired the Kings’ Arms public house and then founded the adjacent Blandford Brewery. The Somerset & Dorset Railway announced it would introduce a new third class of travel in addition to its existing first and second class. In 1878 , Reverend Charles Henry Fynes-Clinton bought the Black Bear public house in Salisbury Street and converted it into the British Workmen Coffee Rooms. The building also housed the Temperance Hotel. Fynes-Clinton was largely responsible also for getting Blandford Church extended in 1895. He was Blandford’s rector from 1877-1913. In 1880 , Blandford station was using a horse for wagon shunting duties. In 1881 , a fire broke out in Shapwick making 80 residents homeless. It started on a shed‘s thatch roof at lunchtime with a strong wind blowing.  Blandford Workhouse was very much a family business. John Turner was the workhouse master, his wife, Mary was the matron and his daughter, Hannah was the school mistres
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Highwaymen Skulduggery

  In the 1700s, travelling along Dorset’s roads was a precarious pastime. One day in September 1756, accompanied by his servant, an Oxford clergyman was to discover these perils at a cost. As he was making his way from Blandford towards Shaftesbury, the Reverend Collins was ordered to halt and ‘ stand & deliver’ by two mounted highwaymen. One spoke with a Welsh accent while the other had an olive-skinned Latin look about him. However, the two highwaymen presented a somewhat bizarre sight as one was riding an extremely tired old nag. As they were both holding a blunderbuss gun, the cautious clergyman reflected but then wisely decided to obey. The unfortunate ecclesiastic was then robbed of his horse, cloak and eight guineas. The highwayman, whose transport had been much improved, presented the Reverend Collins with his old nag enabling the unfortunate clergyman to continue on his way. Emboldened by their success, the two robbers decided to make their way to a public house in Pi

Spitfire 'WHO'S AFEAR'D?'

WHO’S AFEAR’D is not just the motto on the Dorset Coat of Arms but also the name of a Spitfire which crashed near Meopham, Kent on 23 rd June 1942. This fighter aircraft had been funded by local contributions from Blandford & Sturminster Newton district people and paid for in a manner which today would be called crowd funding. Many years later, Graeme Sinden was excavating for a swimming pool in his back garden near Camer Park, Meopham when he came across aircraft wreckage. Experts were called in and the plane was identified as Spitfire WHO’S AFEAR’D. (P8531) It had been built at an aircraft factory in Castle Bromwich in the Midlands. In September 1940, Shroton had raised twenty six pounds for the Blandford & District Spitfire Fighting Fund. The next month, Child Okeford held a concert in the packed village hall and sent in seven pounds. A Winterborne Whitechurch Dance in November 1940 raised eight pounds, two shillings & sixpence (£8.12) while a Winterborne Stickland So

Blandford Throwback Facts XIV

        In 1863 , Blandford railway station opened on 21 st September when a line that previously ended in Blandford St Mary was brought into the town. Led by the owner of the Crown Hotel, Robert Eyers the Blandford Town Band won the National Brass Band Championship held at the Crystal Palace. There were four Hunt brothers in the Band. On returning to Blandford, they were met by the Rifle Volunteers and marched around the town amidst cheering crowds. After the railway station was opened, seven new inns were built in the town. Reverend William Barnes lectured on Dorset dialect to the Blandford Literacy & Scientific Institution. In 1864 , music hall star in the USA and Britain, Samuel Cowell died in his East Street lodgings and was buried in Blandford Cemetery. He had twice performed before Queen Victoria at Windsor and also before the US President yet died a bankrupt. A charity concert was organised to raise money to pay for his gravestone.  A horse drawn coach from the Crown Hotel

Easter Past & a Local Rail Crash

If you were looking to get away at Easter in 1929, there were plenty of cheap railway excursion tickets on offer from Blandford Station. For six shillings (30p) you could buy a cheap day return to Lyme Regis or Seaton while for just two shillings (10p) you could spend a day in Bournemouth or go to the Steeplechase Meeting at Wincanton. On Easter Monday, you could travel to Yeovil and watch the home team take on Bath City in football’s Southern League at the Huish Park. (Yeovil won 3-1) Following Saturday, the Southern Railway Company was running a football special to London to watch Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic play Crystal Palace at Selhurst in a Third Division (South) match. Claiming, ‘ it’s quicker by rail’ , and leaving Bournemouth Central at 10.00am, the return fare to Selhurst was six shillings & sixpence (32p). The football special was advertised to have both corridors and a restaurant car. For those wanting to spend more time in the capital, there was a late retu

Cumberland Clark - 'England's Worst Poet!'

  Cumberland Clark (1862-1941 ), the ‘ Bard of Bournemouth’ , is reckoned by many to be England’s worst poet. ‘The Bournemouth air is toney It bucks you up, and fills you out, if Thin as macaroni.’ ‘To learn about the Milk Supply, I nosed about with stealth. Reports I found, were published by the Officer of Health. The cowsheds and the dairies are inspected, you may read And authorities assert that they are very fine indeed.’ ‘That beautiful creature called Kate I met near Kensington Gate. She’d a costume like Eve’s Minus stockings and sleeves But otherwise quite up to date.’ ‘If you go to the Boscombe Arcade No excitement you’ll meet I’m afraid. You won’t find the place is a tax on your strength Four hundred and forty three feet is its length. You walk to and fro with a dignified air: Then you walk fro and to, or you sit on a chair; And there isn’t much else you can do when you’re there.’ ‘Let me say a few words on the Square From which you can get anywhere. A well-designed cent

Florence Nightingale & the Dorset Clergyman

While Florence Nightingale may be regarded as the pioneer of modern nursing a now almost forgotten Dorset cleric played a not insignificant role. Reverend Sydney Godolphin Osborne from Durweston travelled out to Turkey, at his own expense, to witness the appalling conditions in a British military hospital in Scutari, Constantinople. This was during the Crimean War (1853-56) when the British, French & Turks were fighting the Russians. He found soldiers wounded and dying in horrifying conditions. There were rats and lice in the hospital which was located close to a cesspit. He observed men lying in bed with dysentery or with open sores who had not had a change in linen for months. It is reckoned for every British soldier who lost his life in battle there were seven who died due to disease. He wrote: ‘I sought the truth and took my own way to arrive at it. Whether that truth would please or displease the public or the Government was to me a matter of indifference.’ Osborne spe

Blandford Station Remembered

Blandford railway station opened in 1863 when a line that previously had ended at Blandford St Mary was brought into the town. After just over 100 years of service Blandford station was closed to passengers in March 1966 and soon after for goods traffic. Blandford station is remembered by songwriters, Flanders & Swann in their eulogy to the many quaintly named stations closed by the notorious Dr Beeching’s axe. Slow Train 'No more will I go to Blandford Forum and Mortehoe, On the slow train to Midsomer  Norton and Mumby Row. No churns, no porters, no cat on a seat At Chorlton-cum-Hardy and Chester-le-Street. We won't be meeting again on the slow train.' Blandford Station was one of the largest stations on the Somerset & Dorset line and was brick built with canopies on both platforms. These platforms were connected by a subway. There was also a goods yard, a corn store, landing docks and a seven ton crane. First station to the north of the town on a single track wa

Blandford Throwback Facts XIII

In 1855 , Wimborne born Robert Eyers, a fine musician with many contacts in the musical world, took over the Crown Hotel. He would later also run the Greyhound Inn and in 1883 would become Blandford’s Mayor.         Blandford Cemetery opened. A dispute arose between the Mayor and the town’s inhabitants and the Bishop of Salisbury concerning the cemetery consecration. The Bishop insisted a communion table be placed in the cemetery to which the town objected.           Author, Charles Kingsley who was also Curate at Pimperne wrote ‘ Westward Ho’ . In 1858, Blandford Bank suspended payments with liabilities of £48,792 and assets of only £18,167. The Corn Exchange was built costing £645. In 1859, local newspaper, the Blandford Express was first published by editor, James Bartlett. It continued to appear until 1895. Tickets for the celebratory Corn Exchange opening luncheon cost three shilling & sixpence (17p) while the evening Ball & Supper cost seven shillings and sixpence (37

Blandford Street - champagne at £350 a bottle!

London’s Blandford Street can be found just off Marylebone High Street. The latter was once described as the ‘ best street in London.’ Nearby are Shroton Street, Bryanston Street and Durweston Mews. So why are there so many North Dorset street names in such a select part of the capital where a small apartment can cost several million pounds? The reason is due to the Portman family. The family acquired land in Marylebone in the 16 th century and then bought an estate in Bryanston in the 1680s. Edward Berkeley Portman was the first Viscount Portman (1799-1888) and he served as a Member of Parliament for both Dorset and Marylebone. In 1827, he married Emma Lascelles who became a Lady in Waiting and close confidante of Queen Victoria and keeper of her close secrets. The Portman family benefitted from the growth of London onto agricultural land which they owned north of Oxford Street. They also benefitted from the effects of leases coming to an end which saw the estate’s income increas

Three Blandford Highwaymen & the 'Bridport Dagger!'

When the Venerable Archdeacon Charles James Hoare was looking for a subject for his sermon in Blandford on the 13 th August 1820 his choice was obvious. Everyone was talking about the execution by hanging of the two Blandford brothers, John and Moses Blanchard. They had been found guilty of highway robbery. The day before the delivery of the clergyman’s sermon both had been hung ‘ at the new drop’ at Dorchester Jail. This was after their trials at Dorchester Assizes. Using a slang term, the two highwaymen were ‘ stabbed by the Bridport Dagger’ . The hangman would have used rope made in Bridport which was one the country’s biggest rope making centres. It is hard to believe but for many years public executions were a popular form of entertainment. Many Dorchester folk turned out to witness the ’Hang Fairs’ held just below the Jail.  By daybreak, the best places would be taken. Time spent waiting for the executions would be spent dancing and drinking. Executions would be delayed pend

Pimperne Churchyard’s Ghostly Severed Hand.

Pimperne Churchyard is said to be haunted by the severed hand of a soldier called Blandford. Despite his surname, trumpet-sergeant Blandford came from the village of Pimperne. So, when in 1780 he was posted to Blandford, soldier Blandford was delighted to renew the acquaintance of his old chums. A popular character in the village, he was well known for his dry sense of humour. Like his Pimperne mates, Blandford had a lucrative pastime and that was poaching. A local tenant farmer wrote at the time to his landlord: ‘ Poaching has got to such a thing in our parish, that almost every boy at the age of 14 years practises it, which I fear will lead to further mischief.’ Most popular location for poaching deer was Cranborne Chase, particularly around the village of Sixpenny Handley. So, trumpet-sergeant Blandford soon organised a group of Pimperne poachers to head north in the direction of the Chase. Sadly, for the villagers, there had been loose talk and a group of local gamekeepers had been

Blandford Throwback Facts XII

In 1841 , controversial and militant clergyman Sydney Godolphin Osborne was appointed as Rector of Durweston. He supported the cause of the Dorset agricultural labourer, the hospital work of Florence Nightingale during the Crimea War and took a close interest in the Great Irish Famine.  Mr C Hill from Pimperne was drinking cider from a cup with a bee in it. He swallowed the insect which stung him when he coughed. Sadly, he later died as a result of the inflammation caused by the sting. In 1844 , the last Blandford Race meeting took place on Blandford Down which is now Blandford Camp.  A night time attack on a horse drawn mail coach travelling from Bere Regis to Blandford provided two highwaymen with a haul of just £1.35p. In 1848 , award winning photographer, George Conway Nesbitt was born in Blandford. He had three brothers, Tom, Albert and Charles who all became highly respected photographers. In 1849 , it was a time of extreme hardship in North Dorset. Organised by the Blandf

Bravest Village Controversy

A Dorset village was once recognised as the bravest in England. That village was Shillingstone in North Dorset. After the outbreak of World War I, the newspaper the Weekly Dispatch inaugurated a competition for the village that sent, in the first six months of the war, the highest percentage of its population into the British Services. According to local newspaper, the Western Gazette Shillingstone sent 90 men out of a total population of 565. (Western Gazette Friday 26 th September 1919) Across the country,  365 other villages sent in their returns. However, the competition would not prove to be short of controversy. The award was made to Knowlton in Kent which with 39 inhabitants and six houses had sent 11 men. However, the Rector of Shillingstone, Dr Cooke protested that Knowlton was too small to be a village and in fact was a hamlet. The matter was referred to the Attorney General, Sir Frederick Smith who held that the original decision should stand as no minimum population ha

Great Freeze of 62/63

  There have been harsh winters since but nothing has quite compared with the Great Freeze of 1962/63. This long cold spell was reckoned to be the most severe in Dorset for two hundred years and the month of January 1963 was the coldest ever recorded. On the 29 th & 30 th December 1962, a two day continuous snow blizzard swept across the county. There were massive snow drifts and outlying villages were completely cut off. The River Stour froze over completely at Blandford and for around 15 miles of its length and it remained so for around two months. This enabled both ice skating and ice hockey to take place on the thick ice. While at Poole harbour, even the sea froze over. While roads were blocked, the Somerset & Dorset railway line and Blandford station still operated. Somehow, the line’s steam locomotives were able to push their way through the snow. At the time, there were proposals to close uneconomic lines like the ‘S & D ’. This led to some tongue in cheek ple