About Blandford Forum
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 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 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.
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.