Blandford Forum


Blandford Forum

Infobox UK place
official_name= Blandford Forum
country= England
region= South West England
static_

static_image_caption= Blandford town centre
population= 8,745 [Census, 2001]
os_grid_reference= ST886069
latitude= 50.86156
longitude= -2.16273
post_town= BLANDFORD FORUM
postcode_area= DT
postcode_district= DT11
dial_code= 01258
constituency_westminster= North Dorset
civil_parish= Blandford Forum
london_distance= mi to km|118|precision=0
shire_district= North Dorset
shire_county= Dorset

Blandford Forum is a small historic market town on the River Stour in the North Dorset district of Dorset, England noted for its Georgian architecture. The town had a population of 8,745 at the 2001 Census. Blandford is the seat of North Dorset's district council, although it is situated in the far south-east of the district. Nearby are the small village of Blandford St Mary and Blandford Camp military base.

A Georgian Fayre is held in the first week of May each year in the town centre and attracts thousands of visitors. The Fayre combines Georgian celebrations with cultural presentations, stalls, and a fun fair on the grassy meadows along the banks of the Stour.

The nearby village of Tarrant Hinton is home to the Great Dorset Steam Fair which can attract 250,000 in the last week of August each year. The fair is a showcase for steam engines from across the UK and Europe. Craft stalls, camping, and a large carnival are among the attractions.

An unpleasant local resident is the 'The Blandford Fly', a biting insect which has caused several fatalities. In recent years the weed beds in the river have been sprayed to stop it breeding.

Location and travel

Blandford is situated between Cranborne Chase and the Dorset Downs, at the south eastern corner of the Blackmore Vale, 24 km (15 miles) northwest of Poole and 35 km (22 miles) southwest of Salisbury. The town lies at the junction of the A350 and A354 main roads but is skirted by an eastern bypass.

The main road running through the town is the B3082, connecting Blandford Forum to Wimborne Minster. The local travel links are located 11 miles from the town to Holton Heath railway station and 16 miles to Bournemouth International Airport.

History

Blandford has been a fording point since Anglo-Saxon times, when it was recorded as "Blaen-y-ford" and as "Blaneford" in the Domesday Book, meaning ford of the river of blay or gudgeon. By the 13th century it had become an important market town, with a livestock market serving the nearby Blackmore Vale with its many dairy farms. The Latin word "Forum", meaning "market", was recorded in 1540. [Mills, A.D., 1986. "Dorset Place Names". Ensign, Southampton.] It was an important break on the journey between the port of Weymouth and the capital London. There is still a bi-weekly market held in the town.

In 1731 much of the town was destroyed in a fire. John and William Bastard rebuilt the town over the following 30 years and the town centre is an excellent example of Georgian architecture from the 1730s to 1760s.

From 1860 the town was an important stop on the Somerset and Dorset Railway, which ran from Bath to Bournemouth until the line closed in 1966.

Architecture

Blandford Forum is often given as an example of a Georgian town, as the entire centre was rebuilt at once in the 1700s, due to a fire, and is hence uniformly Georgian. All facades remain in fair to good condition, and notable buildings include The Corn Exchange, and the 1732 parish church of St Peter and St Paul, a classical building with a cupola on top of the tower. To the south of the town a six arch stone bridge spans the slow-moving River Stour.

Economy

North Dorset District Council employ a large number of residents. Other employers in nearby parishes are the Badger Brewery, which supplies beer and ale to public houses across the region, Tesco, and Bryanston School. Some 2 km northeast of the town lies Blandford Camp, which has long been home to the Royal Corps of Signals, the communications wing of the British Army. The base incorporates a modern technology training college plus a cinema for military personnel, and the National Signals Museum (a museum of items relating to the history of the Royal Signals since its inception) which is open to the public. The museum contains many items of interest including uniforms, medals, signals equipment, (some of which is interactive) and not least, an Enigma cryptographic machine, famous for cracking the German High Level ciphers during World War 2.

There are a number of busy industrial estates (with, for example, builder's supply yards) on the bypass road to the North-East of Blandford.

The early 2000s saw a number of private housing development projects in and around Blandford. These developments were built somewhat sensitively with faux-traditional architectural styles (such as "half-brick" fascias, period-looking eaves, etc.) for a more pleasing, architecturally "vernacular" result than the usual cookie-cutter new home developments seen in most of the UK.

Education

Blandford Forum has two primary schools, Archbishop Wake and Milldown schools. A new Archbishop Wake school is currently under construction on the old St Leonards Middle School site at the bottom of Black Lane, and is due to open in September 2008. The other feeder schools for The Blandford School are Pimperne, Blandford St Mary, Downlands, Spetisbury, Dunbury and Durweston Primary Schools. Students move at age 11 to The Blandford School which is a specialist technology college lying in the West of Blandford; the School also has a sixth form.

A number of renowned private schools are located near Blandford, such as Knighton House, Hanford, Bryanston School, Canford School.

hopping & Places of interest

Blandford has a blend of small unique shops as well as well known chain stores. The town also has a number of banks, none of which open on Saturday. Very few shops open Sundays. For a town of Blandford's size there are a surprising number of barbers, owing to the nearby military base. There are also large number of cafés, pubs and bars within walking distance of the town centre.

Places to stay

There are two hotels and several bed and breakfast establishments.

The Crown is the largest hotel in the town, located in the town centre next to the river Stour. An old Georgian Coaching House with an interesting history, the Crown was originally an old galleried inn, but burnt down in the fire of 1731. The subsequent Georgian building was damaged by fire in 1937 requiring further rebuilding.

Literature

Blandford features in Thomas Hardy's novels as the Wessex town of "Shottesford Forum".

In 1590, Edmund Spenser mentioned the town in "The Faerie Queene".

Blandford Forum railway station which is now gone - the train line to Blandford was removed in the 1960s - was mentioned in the song "Slow Train" by Flanders and Swann.

References


* [http://www.north-dorset.gov.uk/blandford_profile.pdf Blandford Forum Information] at Dorset County Council (pdf) - Accessed January 2006

External links

* [http://www.oldstratforduponavon.com/blandford A Few Old Postcard Views of Blandford]

Photographs

* [http://www.imagesofdorset.org.uk/Dorset/019/intro.htm Images of Dorset: Blandford]
* [http://www.rachaelpiper.co.uk Photographs of Blandford Forum by a local photographer (Includes images of monuments to the Bastard Brothers)]


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