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Showing posts from October, 2021

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