Blandford Forum

Blandford Forum was a major market town during the later medieval period. This was principally due to the fact that both the main road from Salisbury to Dorchester and that from Poole to Shaftesbury crossed the River Stour at this point, explaining, at least in part, the derivation of the name.

In 1605 the town became a borough with its own mayor and burgesses. It was one of the polling places for county elections, giving it an added significance. Until 1836, the Bishop of Bristol’s registry for the archdeaconry of Dorset was also maintained in Blandford Forum.

Blandford Forum - Corn Exchange
The Corn Exchange

In the early 18th century, fire decimated much of the town. The only earlier buildings remaining today are two 17th century buildings: the Old House in The Close, and the Ryves Almshouses on Salisbury Street. The town was rebuilt following the second fire in 1731 and is now a wonderful example of Georgian architecture. Most town centre buildings date from this early period and were designed by the Bastard brothers, noted architects of the times.

When the Earl of Dorchester destroyed the neighbouring market town of Milton Abbas in the late 18th century, replacing it with a smaller “model” village, Blandford Forum grew more prosperous. This development increased and was further enhanced by the coming of the railway to the town.

Blandford Forum Georgian architecture
Georgian architecture

The week long Great Dorset Steam Fair takes place every September, when there is a large gathering of steam tractors and suchlike. There is a local history museum in the town centre and the Royal Signals museum is not far away at Blandford Army Camp.

There are many shops and restaurants in this old market town. Tea rooms include one at the Blandford Fashion Museum, a museum of historical costume. Many of the cafés are in particularly attractive old buildings and some of the old inns also cater for tourists, offering food and accommodation.

Chettle House
Chettle House

Nearby Chettle House is partially open to the public on the first Sunday of each month during the summer season. It is a gem of a Queen Anne set in beautiful gardens. The Hall & Woodhouse Visitor Centre in Blandford St Mary offers a unique collection of brewery artefacts and old advertising materials. In addition to such attractions, there are many lovely walks in and around town.