Dorset, England
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Blandford Forum, Dorset, England         OS Map Grid Ref: ST885066
 The County of Dorset
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 Parish Church, Blandford Forum

A market town in a loop of the river Stour.

Blandford is the Shottesford Forum of Hardy's novels.

Only four substantial buildings of the town survived the Great Fire of 1731; the Old House, the Ryves Almhouses, Dale House built in 1689 (both the latter in Salisbury Street) and an old barn with 15th doorways and windows which was attached to the st Leonard's Chapel.

  • What is now known as the 'Old House', in The Close to the north-east of the Church, was the home of a German doctor, Dr Sagittary, who lived in it at the time of the fire with his son. Its steeply pitched roof has a single dormer window and clustered chimneys with square pillars at their angles.
  • The Ryves Almshouses are a range of low brick buildings which were built in 1682 - their founder was knighted for his loyalty to King Charles I.

    A shelter standing on pillars near the church has protected a fountain since 1760 to commemorate the Great Fire and is inscribed;-

     The Portico
    . . . and to prevent, by a timely supply of water (with god's blessing) the fatal consequences of fire hereafter

    Apart from Market Place, one of the best georgian buildings in Blandford Forum is that of the British Legion in Church Lane.

    The Town Hall is an elegant georgian building raised on four square pillars carrying round arches. A medallion of
    Alfred Stevens is attached to its wall. One of the rooms contains the bust of the 1st Viscount Portman.

    The church with a copula atop the tower dates from the 18the century and replaced that burnt down in the Great Fire. It is galleried and has the box pews so typical of the time of its building. The pulpit stands on six pillars. The mayor's chair bears the three lions of Blandford over his head. The gilded reredos is carved with a pelican feeding its young.

    Among the tablets is one to Christopher Pitt, poet, who translated Virgil. Another is to two members of the Creech family - Thomas and Thomas, father and son. Thomas Creech the younger translated Lucretius and the memorial tells us about...

    . . . the learned, much admired, and much envied Mr Creech of Oxford

    Bridget Creech, his sister, married a Blandford man, Thomas Bastard. His memrial describes him as;-

    a man useful and industrious in his generation, a peaceful an inoffensive neighbour, eminent for his skill in architecture

    . . . it was two of Thomas's sons who rebuilt the church after the Great Fire.

    The bridge to the south of the town whose six arches span the slow-moving and weed dappled river Stour bears a plaque common to Dorset bridges to the effect that any-one 'injuring' the structure is 'liable to be transported for life'.

    The town was known for its button-making (a collection of the buttons may be seen at the Shaftesbury Museum), stained glass and for lace which sold at £30 a yard.

    Located in the centre of a rich farming area comprising dairy and arable, and the distinct industry of water cress growing, the town serves the locality as an agricultural market town. The brewing of beer is a major industry in the town and there is an industrial estate to its north-west.

    The presence of the military at Blandford Camp on the downs about 2 miles to the north-east of the town has been long established (both Wolfe and Wellington reviewed troops there) and makes a considerable contribution to Blandford's trade.

    The River Stour harbours some rare aquatic plants; the Loddon pondweed (Potamogeton nodosus) inhabits gravelly reaches of the river upstream of the town to Child Okeford and downstream, to Wimborne Minster the native subspecies of the summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) is found on the riverbanks and islands.



    The Great Fire of 1731 destroyed some four hundred buildings, reducing all but
    three buildings to ashes.

    The disasterous fire started at a tallow chandler's on the site now occupied by the King's Arms about 100 metres to the north-west of Market Place. Driven by a northerly wind, the flames rapidly devoured everything in their path as they swept southwards through the town. Within an hour, all the fire engines available to the townsfolk had been burned and the same fate befell the ladders shortly after. An eyewitness recounted that the bells of the church which was destoyed by the conflageration "dissolved and ran down in streams".

    In 1341, Richard Bryan left three shillings in his will for the repair of the bridges at Blandford Forum, Sturminster Marshall and Wimborne Minster.

    See also: The Great Fire of Marlborough, 1653

    The town was known for its button-making, stained glass and for lace which sold at £30 a yard.

    John Angell James was born in Blandford Forum in 1785, the son of a linen draper. In 1805, he began a long and distinguished nonconformist ministry at Birmingham. "He wrote a book which brought Wordsworth into his pew one Sunday and led the poet to introduce himself to the preacher."

    Alfred Stevens, the sculptor and painter, was also born here in 1818 and raised in the town. Orpen described him as "the most thoroughly educated artist the county has seen". A medallion of him is fixed to a wall of the Town Hall and the shop in Salisbury Street where he was born bears a tablet to remind us of the fact. His genius was recognized when he was a boy in the town by the rector of nearby Blandford St Mary who arranged for him to study art in Italy. His best-known work is his monument to Wellington in St Paul's Cathedral, London. The Alfred Stevens rooms at the Tate Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington are named after him.

    Three bishops were born at Blandford; one of these, William Wake, became Archbishop of Canterbury.

    A story is told of how the Archbishop's father was threatened with hanging for his part in a rising during the Civil War. To his good fortune, the judge who tried his case was an old schoolfriend of his from westminster School with whom he had engaged in some horseplay and taken the blame. It is said the judge spoke on his behalf to Oliver Cromwell who pardoned him.

    William Wake was born in Blandford in 1657. He rose rapidly in the Church and became the last Archbishop of Canterbury to ride from Lambeth Palace to the Houses of Parliament in a boat.

    BibliographyLinksLocallyMaps etc.Time-Line

    Blandford Museum

    The museum records the history of Blandford Forum and the neighbouring villages from the Stone Age to the present. Includes WW1 and WW2 memorabilia and recreations of bygone life and childhood in Blandford. Victorian children s playroom with splendid doll s house and toys. Some items with smuggling links.
    April - September, Monday-Saturday 11.00-4.00
    Dr Peter Andrews, Blandford Museum, Bere s Yard, Blandford Forum, Dorset DT11 7HQ
    tel:   01258 450388

    Cavalcade of Costume

    Founded by the late Mrs Betty Penny, the museum is housed in a fine Grade II Listed Georgian building. The growing costume collection covers 250 years. New exhibits regularly displayed. Returning visitors will always find the experience friendly and enjoyable. Pretty tea-room and shop.
    Thursday - Monday inclusive. October - Easter, Tea-room/shop 10.00-4.00, Museum 11.00-4.00. Easter-September, Tea-room/shop 10.00-5.00, Museum 11.00-5.00. Last admission half an hour before closing. Closed: early December - Mid February
    Gordon Boutelle, Cavalcade of Costume, Lime Tree House, The Plocks, Blandford Forum, Dorset DT11 7AA
    tel:   01258 453006
  • see also:   WEST-COUNTRY MUSEUMS

    see also: Museums in Dorset
    Museums in the West Country
      Costume Museums

    BibliographyLocallyMaps etc.MuseumTime-Line
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