Skip to main content

About Blandford’s History

Blandford, or Blandford Forum, is a country town in southern England in the county of Dorset. From the time of the Norman conquests, in the 11th century, to the present day it has enjoyed a long and rich history. Nearly 400 years after a visit from King John, King James I granted the town in 1605 a Charter of Incorporation. Later, King Charles I was to read the lesson in Blandford Church.

In 1731, the Great Fire of Blandford destroyed most of the town. Donations were received from all over the country for its rebuilding. This reconstruction was masterminded by the Bastard bothers which gave the town its distinguished present day Georgian style. In the past, the town gained a reputation for the making of perukes (gentlemen’s wigs), fine lace and Blandford buttons. Now it is better known for the brewing of Blandford Badger Beers. Back in 1790, there were 21 inns in the town but sadly there are far fewer now. The year 1831 witnessed two men being condemned to death for their involvement in the Blandford Riots. However, following widespread protests, they were reprieved. In 1863, Blandford Station opened and that year, the Town Band won the National Brass Band Championship. Later, the town had its popular Mouth-Organ Band. From 1859 to 1895, controversial editor James Bartlett published the local newspaper, the Blandford Express after which this website is named.  In 1906, the town celebrated its Tercentenary when 1,600 locals enjoyed a free tea in Bryanston Lower Park, the latter being made available by Lord Portman.

Nearby, is Blandford Down, now Blandford Camp, where the Blandford Horse Races were held annually.. This became a major social event with attendees including the local gentry, Lord Palmerston and the Duke of Wellington. Barbaric sports such as cudgel and cock fighting were regular events. Blandford Military Camp opened in 1914 and was occupied by the Royal Naval Division and then the Royal Air Force. Both King George V and Winston Churchill visited the Camp in 1915. Three years later, Blandford born Jack Counter was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery. During the Second World War the Camp was reopened by the British Army. Towards the end of the War and in preparation for the 1944 Normandy Landings, a large United States military hospital was constructed there.

Around Blandford, there are many attractive villages such as Pimperne, Shapwick and Stourpaine. Pimperne once had a distinctive Maze, Shapwick its infamous Monster while Stourpaine was reckoned to be, in the 19th century, one of England’s poorest villages. Among the local gentry, the Portman family lived in the nearby village of Bryanston for many years. The family owned valuable real estate in Central London while Emma Portman was a close confidante to Queen Victoria.

Such is the varied history of this North Dorset town.

(Illustration: Tercentenary Celebrations in Salisbury Street -1906)


Popular posts from this blog

True Lovers Knot - a Tragic Tale

True Lovers Knot public house describes itself as a traditional  inn set in a picturesque Dorset valley in Tarrant Keynston. Yet, this historical hostelry is said to have gained its name from a particularly tragic tale and still to be haunted by a distressed former publican. This publican’s son met and fell in love with the daughter of the local squire. Because the young lad was not from the gentry they decided to keep their relationship secret from her father. Unfortunately, a stable hand saw the two young lovers together and told her father. Set firmly against this friendship the squire made plans to send his daughter away from the district. Not able to face up to life without her boyfriend, the young girl decided to commit suicide and hanged herself from a tree in the village. So upset was the publican’s son of hearing of his girlfriend’s death he too hanged himself from the same tree. The Tarrant Keynston publican had, himself lost his wife at child birth and now losing his son b

Tarrant Rushton's Nuclear Secret

Tarrant Rushton was a large RAF base used for glider operations during World War II. It was then taken over by Flight Refuelling for the conversion of aircraft for the development of aircraft in-flight refuelling. However, between 1958 & 1965, the Tarrant Rushton airfield had a much more secretive and less publicised role. This was in support of the nation’s nuclear bomber deterrent, as Tarrant Rushton airfield became a QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) dispersal unit.   During 1958, contractors Costain reinforced the main runway and carried out other work to ensure the giant bomber aircraft could be accommodated. At times just a few miles from Blandford, there would have been up to four RAF Vickers Valiant bombers at Tarrant Rushton ready to become airborne in minutes charged with nuclear weapons. The bombers were from 148 Squadron at RAF Marham in Norfolk. As there was no suitable accommodation at the airfield, an old US Air Force Hospital building at Martin was used. At the time, the

Chimney Sweep Tragedy

Crown Hotel, Blandford is reckoned to be one of Dorset’s oldest hostelries. Yet its most tragic day, during a long history, must surely be when a young chimney sweep lost his life. The chimney sweep, who was just a child, suffocated and was burnt to death in a Crown Hotel chimney which had been alight a little while before. ‘His cries were dreadful and no-one could give assistance. Part of the chimney was taken down before he was got out.’ (Salisbury & Winchester Gazette 27th March 1780) The lad had gone up one chimney and attempting to go down another had become stuck. At the time children were used to climb up chimneys to clean out soot deposits. With hands and knees, they would shimmy up narrow dark flue spaces packed thick with soot and debris. After the 1731 Great Fire of Blandford it was realised that it was important to sweep chimneys regularly while many rebuilt houses had narrower ones. Smaller chimneys and complicated flues were a potential death trap for children. The sw