Blandford-Forum (St. Peter and St. Paul)

BLANDFORD-FORUM (St. Peter and St. Paul), a parish, in the union of Blandford, comprising the borough and market-town of Blandford-Forum and the township of Pimperne, in the hundred of Pimperne, Blandford division of Dorset, 16 miles (N. E.) from Dorchester, and 104 (S. W.) from London; containing 3349 inhabitants. This place derived its name from its situation near an ancient ford on the river Stour, called by the Romans Trajectus Balaniensis. It was nearly destroyed by an accidental fire in 1579, but was soon afterwards rebuilt. During the civil war in the reign of Charles I., it suffered severely for its loyalty to that monarch; in 1644 it was plundered by the parliamentarian forces under Major Sydenham, and, not being fortified, became an easy prey to the contending parties, by whom it was frequently assailed and alternately possessed. In 1677, and in 1713, it again suffered greatly from fire, and in 1731 was, with the exception of forty houses only, consumed by a conflagration, which destroyed also the hamlets of Blandford St. Mary and Bryanston, in which only three dwellings were left. After the last calamity, which is recorded on a marble tablet over a pump near the church, it was rebuilt by act of parliament, in 1732.

The town is pleasantly situated on the road from London to Exeter, within a curve of the river Stour, over which is a bridge; the streets are regularly formed and well paved, the houses modern and uniformly built of brick, and the inhabitants amply supplied with water. A theatre, a neat and commodious building, is opened occasionally; and races, which have been established for more than a century, are annually held in August, near the town, the course being one of the best in the kingdom. The manufacture of lace of a very fine quality, equal, if not superior, to that made in Flanders, and valued at £30 per yard, formerly flourished here: the making of shirt-buttons, for which Blandford has long been noted, and which formerly afforded employment to a very considerable number of females in the town and the adjacent villages, is now almost discontinued. The market is on Saturday; the fairs, chiefly for horses, horned-cattle, sheep, and cheese, are held on March 7th, July 10th, and Nov. 8th, and to each a court of piepoudre is attached. Blandford is a borough by prescription, and is parcel of the duchy of Lancaster, the arms of which are borne on the corporation seal; it has also a charter, granted by King James I., who, by separate letters-patent, gave the manor and vill to the bailiff and burgesses. By the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76, the corporation now consists of a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors; the mayor and late mayor are justices of the peace. A court leet is held; and the county magistrates hold petty-sessions here for the division: the powers of the county debt-court of Blandford, established in 1847, extend over the greater part of the registration-district of Blandford. The town-hall is a neat edifice of Portland stone, supported on pillars, with an entablature. The burgesses exercised the elective franchise from the 23rd of Edward I. till the 22nd of Edward III., when it was discontinued.

The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £12. 8. 1½.; patrons and appropriators, the Dean and Chapter of Winchester. The great tithes have been commuted for £152. 10., and the vicarial for £112. 10.; there are nearly 13 acres of glebe belonging to the appropriators. The church is a handsome modern edifice in the Grecian style, with a tower surmounted by a cupola and ornamented with a balustrade and urns. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans. The free school, to the north-west of the church, is of uncertain foundation: it has a small endowment. The Blue-coat school, for the clothing and instruction of twelve boys, and for apprenticing three of them, was founded by Archbishop Wake, who in 1728 bequeathed £1000 for these purposes: this sum was expended in purchasing New South Sea annuities, and, by repeated additions, the total amount now standing to the account of the trust is £1716, yielding a dividend of £51. 9. There is also a small sum for the instruction of four boys, arising from a benefaction of William Williams, who in 1621 left £3000, laid out in land now producing £465 per annum, for instruction and other charitable purposes. In 1685, almshouses for ten aged persons were founded by George Ryves; the income is about £260. In the churchyard are others supported by property bequeathed by Sir Edward Uvedale, and occupied by five poor women. The union of Blandford comprises thirty-three parishes or places, and contains a population of 13,856. On a hill to the north of the town was formerly an intrenchment, inclosing an area 300 paces in length and 200 in breadth, which has long been under cultivation; the only relic now visible is an adjoining barrow.

Sir Thomas Ryves, LL.D., a learned antiquary and civilian; the Rev. Bruno Ryves, D.D., publisher of the Mercurius Rusticus (an early newspaper in the time of the parliamentary war) and one of the writers of the Polyglot Bible, who was born in 1596; the Rev. Thomas Creech, M.A., translator of Lucretius, born in 1659; William Wake, Archbishop of Canterbury, born in 1657; Edward Wake, uncle to that prelate, and founder of the institution for the Sons of the Clergy; Dr. Lindsey, Archbishop of Armagh; Dr. Samuel Lisle, Bishop of Norwich; and the Rev. Christopher Pitt, translator of Virgil's Æneid, who died in 1748, and was buried in the church; were natives of the parish. Blandford gives the title of Marquess to the Duke of Marlborough.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.