Removals and storage in Blandford Forum, Dorset

Pitman’s offer house removals and commercial removals in Blandford Forum, Dorset, with specialist packing services for antiques and fine art. Whether it’s a full house move or a single item, within the UK or across Europe, we offer a professional, safe and friendly service with full insurance, giving you peace of mind throughout the process.

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Blandford Forum: A potted history

Blandford is where we are based, and we’re proud to call it home.

It’s a busy market town with a large army base on its outskirts, threaded through by the the River Stour.

The town is worth visiting to see its beautiful Georgian architecture, the result of rebuilding after most of the town was destroyed by a fire in 1731.

The rebuilding work was assisted by an Act of Parliament and a donation by George II, and the rebuilt town centre – to designs by local architects John and William Bastard – has survived to the present day largely intact.

Blandford Camp, a military base, is sited on the hills two miles to the north east of the town. It is the base of the Royal Corps of Signals, the communications wing of the British Army, and the site of the Royal Signals Museum.

Dorset County Council estimates that in 2013 the town’s civil parish had a population of 10,610. The town provides employment for about 4,000 people.

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. The name Blandford derives from the Old English blǣge, and probably means ford where gudgeon or blay are found.

By the 13th century it had become a 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.

In Survey of Dorsetshire, written by Thomas Gerard of Trent in the early 1630s, Blandford was described as “a faire Markett Towne, pleasantlie seated upon the River … well inhabitted and of good Traffique”. In the 17th-century English Civil WarBlandford was a Royalist centre; most inhabitants supported the king.

In the 18th century Blandford was one of several lace-making centres in the county; Daniel Defoe stated that lace made in the town was “the finest bonelace in England… I think I never saw better in Flanders, France or Italy”. In the 17th and 18th centuries Blandford was also a malting and brewing centre.

Almost all of Blandford’s buildings were destroyed on June 4, 1731 by the great fire, which was the last of several serious fires in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The fire began in a tallow chandler’s workshop on a site that is now The King’s Arms pub. Within a few hours almost 90 per cent of the town had gone; all fire-fighting equipment had been lost to the fire and the church’s lead roof had melted.

Even properties west of the river in Blandford St Mary and Bryanston were burned, though notable buildings that survived in the town include the Ryves Almshouses and Dale House in Salisbury Street, Old House in The Close, and much of East Street.

An Act of Parliament was introduced that stated that rebuilding work must be in brick and tile and should begin within four years. With assistance from the rest of the country—including £1,000 given by George II—the town was rebuilt over the next ten years to the designs of local architects John and William Bastard. Bottlenecks were removed and streets realigned in the new town plan, which also provided a wider market place. As well as residential and commercial property, new buildings included a new town hall, school and church. The redesigned town centre has survived to the present day virtually intact.

After the post-fire reconstruction Blandford remained a thriving market town. Wool spinning and button making were also significant, and the brewing and hostelry trades expanded.

The turnpike road between Salisbury and Dorchester was made in 1756 and passed through the town, and the arrival of the coaching era increased the town’s prosperity, though the built fabric of the town changed little until the first half of the 19th century, when houses for wealthier inhabitants were built to the north alongside the roads to Salisbury and Shaftesbury.

Later in the 19th century, perhaps following the installation of piped water, more densely packed buildings were built to the northeast, replacing gardens and barracks for the poor (that had been erected following the fire) between the roads to Salisbury and Wimborne Minster.

Rail transport arrived in Blandford in the 1860s.

Blandford’s weekly animal market disappeared in the 20th century, perhaps a casualty of motorised transport that enabled larger markets to be held in fewer centres (the market at nearby Sturminster Newton increased significantly). By the middle of the 20th century Blandford Fair, a seasonal sheep fair held in summer and autumn, had also disappeared, due to changes in animal husbandry and a reduction in sheep numbers in the county.

Blandford Forum has two primary schools: Archbishop Wake and Milldown. A new Archbishop Wake school, built on the old St Leonards Middle School site at the bottom of Black Lane, opened in November 2008. The other feeder schools for The Blandford School are Blandford St Mary, Downlands, Dunbury and Durweston, Pimperne and Spetisbury Primary Schools. Pupils move at the age of 11 to The Blandford School.

A number of independent schools are also located near Blandford, such as Bryanston School, Canford School, Clayesmore School, Hanford School, Knighton House School and Milton Abbey School.

Blandford Georgian Fayre, a one-day celebration of the town’s Georgian heritage, is held in the town centre every year in the first week of May. The event includes cultural presentations, stalls, historical reenactments, music and dancing, and a fun fair on the meadows along the banks of the River Stour. The town also hosts an annual carnival and the Great Dorset Steam Fair is held at nearby Tarrant Hinton.

There are three museums in the Blandford area: Blandford Town Museum in Bere’s Yard, Blandford Fashion Museum in The Plocks, and the Royal Signals Museum at Blandford Camp military base. Blandford Town Museum has no admission charge but is not open on Sundays or during the winter. It has artefacts from the history of the town and the surrounding area, and a small Victorian garden that was created in 2008. Blandford Fashion Museum has collections of fashions between the early 18th century and the 1970s; it is also closed in the winter. The Royal Signals Museum contains items relating to the history of the Royal Corps of Signals and military communication since the Napoleonic Wars.

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

Blandford Forum railway station which is now gone – the train line to Blandford was removed in the 1960s – was mentioned in the 1963 song Slow Train by Flanders and Swann.

BFBS Radio broadcasts across Blandford on 89.3FM from a studio at the military base as part of its UK Bases network.

Blandford Forum has a Non-League football club, Blandford United FC, who play at Blandford Recreation Ground. Blandford Bowls Club play in several men’s and women’s leagues and have a six rinks green, also on the recreation ground on Milldown Road. Blandford Cricket Club has three men’s teams that play in divisions in a local county league, plus several youth teams that compete in the North Dorset Junior leagues. The club has its own cricket ground at the top of Whitecliff Mill Street. Blandford Rugby Football Club are based at facilities beside the leisure centre at The Blandford School.

Blandford Community Hospital on Milldown Road provides minor and day surgery, occupational therapy, outpatient and community rehabilitation services, palliative care, community mental health services and physiotherapy. Blandford Library, located on The Tabernacle, has music and feature films for hire as well as books, and has internet access and reference works available.

Public open spaces in Blandford include Park Road Recreation Ground, which has football and cricket pitches and associated pavilions, and Larksmead Playing Field, which has two rugby pitches, and is the home of Blandford Rugby Club. There are also local authority-controlled football and rugby union pitches at The Blandford School in Milldown Road. Next to the main post office in the town centre is Woodhouse Gardens, a small public garden that contains a pavilion that can be hired for events.

Blandford Forum is twinned with Mortain, France and Preetz, Germany

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