Blandford Forum

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Blandford Forum (/ˈblænfəd ˈfɔərəm/ blan(d)-fərd fohr-əm), commonly Blandford, is a market town on the River Stour in Dorset, England. The town is noted for its Georgian architecture. In the 2001 Census the town had a population of 8,760. Blandford is the administrative headquarters of North Dorset District Council. Blandford Camp, a military base, is sited on the hills a mile to the east of the town.

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. It was an important break on the journey between the port of Weymouth and the capital London. There is still a weekly outdoor market and a bi-weekly indoor market held in the Corn Exchange.

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 features Georgian architecture from the 1730s to 1760s.

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

Blandford Forum is often given as an example of a Georgian town, as the entire centre was rebuilt at once in the 18th century, 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. The interior remains relatively unaffected by Victorian interference and retains its galleries, font, pulpit, box-pews and mayoral seat. In 1893 the church was enlarged by moving the apsidal sanctuary out on rollers onto new foundations and building a new chancel behind it.

To the south of the town a six arch stone bridge spans the River Stour.

Five district electoral wards (Blandford Damory Down, Blandford Hilltop, Blandford Langton St.Leonards, Blandford Old Town and Blandford Station) comprise the town and parish of Blandford Forum, with a built-up area totalling 310 hectares (770 acres). Census returns for the town show that it had a population of less than 4,000 until 1981, after which it increased rapidly; in the 2001 Census, the town had a population of 8,760.

Census 1931 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001
Population 3,370 3,670 3,570 3,650 3,920 7,850 8,760

North Dorset District Council employs a large number of residents. Other employers in nearby parishes are the Hall & Woodhouse (Badger) Brewery, which supplies beer to public houses across the region, Tesco and Morrisons.

Blandford Camp is 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) north east of the town and 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, and an Enigma cryptographic machine, used to produce German high level ciphers during World War 2 but cracked by the Allies.

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 21st century saw a number of private housing development projects in and around Blandford. These developments were built with traditional architectural styles.

A Georgian Fayre is held in the first week of May every other 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 meadows along the banks of the Stour.

Blandford Forum has a Non-League football club Blandford United F.C. who play at Blandford Recreation Ground.

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.

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