Blandford Forum is located in the heart of Dorset, with spectacular scenery stretching in every direction. Nestled in a wooded valley on the banks of the River Stour, surrounded by gently rolling hills, it is one of England’s undiscovered treasures. The town’s focal point is its grand Market Place. It is fringed by outstanding Georgian architecture, unrivalled in the South West. Many independent and interesting shops have settled here. Blandford Forum was destroyed by fire in 1731 and rebuilt in the succeeding decades by two brothers, John and William Bastard. The Old House, which survived the fire, the Corn Exchange and the Great Fire Monument all contribute to the town’s wonderful architecture. There are also museums, attractions and facilities to suit all interests and the dramatic Jurassic Coast is within easy reach.
The History of Blandford Forum
Blandford Forum is located on the banks of the River Stour in Dorset. Which explains why its name comes from Blaen-y-ford meaning ‘the place near the ford’. The 13th century saw Blandford Forum as an important market town. It enabled access by a bridge running over the Stour and early visitors to it included King John in 1216.
By 1305 it was sufficiently important to send 2 members to parliament whilst its market was a major one in Dorset. In 1307 a grant was given by Edward I to Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, who was Lord of the Manor of Blandford, to enable him to hold a fair, twice a year, at his ville of Blandford. The Manor later passed to Henry, Duke of Lancaster, and became part of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1399 on his becoming King Henry IV. The present Duke is Prince Charles and it is the ceremonial badge of the Duchy which has been adopted by the town as its own.
By the time of the first Elizabeth the town’s markets and fairs had achieved considerable fame and Blandford, as well as being home to several wealthy residents, had its own grammer school and was the venue of assizes. Its status as a borough, recognised from early medieval times, was confirmed by a Charter of Incorporation granted by James I in 1605.
Blandford suffered from serious fires in the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries. The first known fire of Blandford occurred in 1564 and although it devastated many buildings within the town, it avoided fatalities.
The second recorded fire was in 1677, which destroyed the homes of over 30 families. Decades later, on 9 July 1713, part of East Street was ruined by a third fire. There is not much information available about the level of ruin caused by this fire but records suggest that it was started intentionally.
The fourth and final ‘Great Fire’ of 4 June 1731 destroyed many significant buildings that had survived the preceding fires, such as the parish church, the almshouses, the school and the town hall. It left only a few houses, public buildings and business premises standing, (The Old House in The Close, the Ryves Almshouses in Salisbury Street and some of the buildings at the front of Nightingales Court ) although it did help to end the smallpox epidemic that was overwhelming the town at the time.
Despite suffering from serious fires in the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries, Blandford continued to prosper and Defoe, writing in 1724, called it a ‘handsome, well built town, but chiefly famous for making the finest bone lace in England’.
Funds to help rebuild the stricken town poured in from all over the country including £1,000 from King George II. Within a few years rebuilding was well under way and by about 1760 the new Blandford was complete. Its very special character arises from the fact that the architects, surveyors and principal builders were William and John Bastard who were civil dignitaries of the town and 2 of the major sufferers from the damage. They designed and supervised the building of the new church, the town hall, grammer school and many of the houses and business premises. The resultant town centre, still largely unchanged today, forms one of the most pleasing and complete Georgian groups anywhere in England. Rebuilt as a single work, the town is basically uniform in design yet has individual flourishes to provide relief.
Gradually life returned to normal in the town, the market continued to prosper and button making, wool spinning and gloving became major industries. Further wealth came with the coaching era, the building of fine hostelries to serve this new trade and an expansion of the town’s brewing industry. In the 1860s the railway from Bournemouth to Bath came to the town but this was closed in the 1960s.
Blandford today still retains its former role as a market town that serves an important farming district, and even though the town of Blandford Forum has suffered great architectural loss through flames, it is considered to be among the best preserved Georgian market towns in the country.
Click here to see a map of listed buildings in the town, provided to us by Steve Richardson.
Town Team Survey
The Covid-19 global pandemic has had an enormous impact on all our lives and, for many, has changed the way they feel about our town centre. A survey has been drawn up by the Blandford Town Team and Blandford Forum Town Council to provide evidence in support of any changes you would like to see. It is crucial that changes are based on what people think – those who live, work, do business in or visit the local area. The evidence needs to be compelling so that funding can be secured at a time when funding is going to be scarce.
The result of the survey, which ended on 30th September 2020, are currently under review.
There are a number of places to visit in and around Blandford Forum. For more information please contact the Tourist Information Centre:
Blandford Tourist Information Centre, Riverside House, West Street, Blandford Forum, DT11 7AW
Tel: 01258 454770
April – September, Monday to Saturday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
October – March, Mondays to Saturday, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm
Walks and Strolls
The Blandford Information Centre has put together some really useful walks and strolls around Blandford. Please click on the documents to find one to suit you. These are normally sold at the Blandford Information Centre in the Marsh & Ham car park, so please feel free to make a donation to them, which would be very much appreciated.
Blandford Stroll 1 – Brewery
Blandford Stroll 2 – River, Trailway, Milldown
Blandford Stroll 3 – Town Centre
Blandford Stroll 4 – Historical Town
Blandford Walk 1 – Railway Heritage and the Portman Estate
Blandford Walk 2 – Medieval lepers, an 18th century disaster and two World Wars
Blandford Walk 3 – Religious houses and the Pines Express
Blandford Walk 4 – Wood, Woofs and Whinnies
There are 10 council car parks in Blandford Forum, owned by Dorset Council. Please follow the link to find out more information about the car parks.
https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/parking/find-a-carpark/find-a-car-park.aspx#/ Information about parking from DC.
http://www.traffweb.dorsetforyou.com/ Map that shows on-street parking restrictions currently in place.
TravelDorset has a range of useful information to help you travel easily around Dorset by car, public transport or other means. This includes up to the minute traffic information, the location and cost of car parks and live information about bus times.
Local government, market towns and the countryside
Tourist information, local interests and attractions
Blandford Town Team website – a guide for visitors, residents and businesses
Dorset Live Weather
Twitter page twitter.com/DorsetLiveWeath
Facebook page www.facebook.com/dorsetliveweather
Driving Guides and Resources
List of Defibrillators in Blandford Forum
Blandford currently has Community Publicly Accessible Defibrillators (CPADS) at the following locations:
Alaska House Dental Practice, 80 Salisbury Street
Blandford Masonic Lodge (Opposite The Crown Hotel), West Street
Parish Centre, The Tabernacle
Blandford Bowling Club, Park Road
Blandford Evangelical Church, Albert Street
Hall and Woodhouse Brewery (outside shop), Bournemouth Road
There are also defibrillators inside the following locations, available during their opening hours and most dental practices also have defibrillators:
The Crown Hotel, West Street
Blandford Rugby Club, off of East Street in the clubhouse, and at Larksmead Pavillion
The Blandford School, Milldown Road
Knees Up (in a cabin at the rear of M&Co./car park)
Blandford Leisure Centre, Milldown Road
Amfax Ltd, Unit 3 Clump Farm Industrial Estate/Blandford Heights
Metrol Research Ltd, Holland Way
Bristol Maid Ltd, Blandford Heights, Plough Estate
Morrisons, Marsh & Ham Car Park,
Tesco, Stour Park, Blandford St Mary
Dorset Council Offices, Salisbury Road
Archbishop Wake Primary School, Black Lane