Blandford station was once a significant employer. By 1901 it had a workforce of around 50 which included porters, clerks, permanent-way men, signalmen and a large general labouring gang. Within a decade the number had roughly doubled. Among the eight porters was foreman porter John Hockey. His great grandson, Vernon Rattenbury reckons nine of John’s ten children were born at Blandford Station. The 1891 census lists John and his family living in Station Yard, Edward Street. Most of the station’s staff lived to the north of the station. Shunting duties within the station yard were carried out with the help of two railway horses.
The Somerset & Dorset Line was nicknamed the ‘Swift & Delightful’ but more often the ‘Slow & Dirty!’ Had the proposed Wilts, Dorset & East Devon Railway been built connecting Salisbury with Exeter, via Blandford & Dorchester, then ‘Blandford Railway Junction’ would have been even busier.
Today, it is difficult to realise what an important role Blandford Station played locally in the past. As an example, around a century ago every newspaper advertisement with property for sale in the area would list the distance to the station.
Frederick Barrett was the station master or ‘railway agent’ in 1901 and he lived with his wife, Henrietta in Eton Villas, Alexandra Street. Theirs was a railway family and both their sons worked on the Somerset & Dorset Railway. Apart from passengers, coal wagons would arrive regularly in the station yard for the local coal merchants. Sheep would pass through the station for the town’s sheep fairs. Young lads would enjoy helping to herd dozens of flocks to and from their destinations. With cattle following the same route quite a lot of cleaning up would have been necessary. The Council had a special horse drawn cart that swept and watered the streets. A good sized cattle market took place each week.
(Illustrations: Blandford Station)