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Showing posts from April, 2021

Not Only One Blandford!

In September 1926, there was a major railway accident just outside Blandford. Two passenger carriages telescoped together and others overturned. Occurring late on a Monday night 36 were killed, including the locomotive driver, and 42 were injured. Yet this tragic accident did not take place in Dorset but in Blandford, New South Wales. It was one of the worst railway accidents in Australian history. Blandford, New South Wales is a small village some 190 miles north-west of Sydney. While today, trains still pass through, the village station has been closed for many years. 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.

Blandford's 'Convict Royalty'

Ria and Bill Bleathman are descendants of Richard Bleathman who, with George Long, were condemned to death by Judge Stephen Gaselee in Dorchester for their involvement in the 1831 Blandford riots. Bill Bleathman is the retired Director of Tasmania’s Museum and Art Gallery while Ria is a management consultant and company director. Both Bleathman and Long were found guilty of damaging the property of Blandford lawyer, George Moore following the declaration of the result of a Dorset by-election. Many old Blandford records were lost in the disturbance and others that were recovered were found stained with horse manure. Moore was a political agent of the successful candidate, Lord Ashley who was strongly opposed to extending the right to vote beyond a small number of eligible property owners. Bleathman and Long believed that Moore had used confidential client information to prevent political opponents from voting in the by-election which Ashley narrowly won.  Following protests from both Bl

‘Hang the Blandford Rioters!’

Sir Stephen Gaselee was an irascible judge who used to sit in judgment at the Dorchester Assizes in the 1820s & 1830s. He was well-known for his prosecution of radicals and reformers. This was evidenced in March 1832 when he sentenced Blandford’s George Long and Sturminster Newton’s Richard Bleathman to be hung in Dorchester Jail for their involvement in the 1831 North Dorset riots. Both were found guilty of having ‘ in their minds wholly to destroy’   the house of local lawyer, George Moore. They believed Moore was using confidential client information to disqualify political opponents from voting in a Dorset by-election. Sir Stephen had connections to author Charles Dickens which went a little further than their shared birthplace of the dockyard city of Portsmouth. It is said that Justice Stareleigh, who featured in the Pickwick Papers famous legal case of  Bardell v Pickwick , was based on Dickens’ knowledge of Sir Stephen Gaselee. Stareleigh is indeed something of a synonym of

Henry Maidment – Forgotten War Hero

Henry Maidment was an agricultural labourer who lived in the village of Pimperne.  In 1866, Henry was one of the few surviving British Army veterans who had fought Napoleon Bonaparte’s French Army in the Spanish Peninsular War.  At 83, he could not work and had hit hard times. He was surviving on a parish handout of just two shillings and sixpence (12.5p) per week and a single loaf of bread. The octogenarian pauper had, in fact, a distinguished military record but had left the army without a military pension.                                                                      Henry Maidment fought in the Battles of Talavera, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle and Toulouse. For this, he was entitled to a Military General Service Medal with clasps. Each of his major battles was represented by a clasp on the ribbon. Such a medal was valued in 2006 to be worth £3,700. In August 1815, his battalion had even accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte into exile on the island of St Helena.  In March