More than three centuries ago, Blandford was famous for the making of fine lace. This was no ordinary handcrafted item as it was lace of the highest quality. Known as bone or bobbin lace, because of the slender bone bobbins used, the trade came to Blandford around 1570 with the arrival of Flemish refugees in the town. Lace made in Blandford is known to have been worn by Queen Mary.
Daniel Defoe was a merchant and prolific author and is most famous for his novel, Robinson Crusoe. This tells the story of a man shipwrecked on an island for 28 years and of his adventures
The author visited Blandford and in 1724, he wrote glowingly of its lace:
‘This city (viz. Blandford) is chiefly famous for making the finest bone lace in England, and where they shewed us some so exquisitely fine as I never saw better in Flanders, France or Italy, and which, they said, they rated above thirty pounds a yard but it is most certain that they make exceedingly rich lace in this county, such as no part of England can equal…surpassing all England in fine lace.’
Because of its quality, lace made in Blandford commanded high prices and noblemen paid good money to have their daughters learn the skill.
Blandford lace making reached its peak around the start of the 18th century. When lace making died out in the town it was replaced by buttony…but that is another story.
(Illustration: Daniel Defoe)