BLANDFORD-FORUM, a market town and parish in the hundred of PIMPERNE, Blandford (North) division of the county of DORSET, 16 miles (N. E.) from Dorchester, and 104 (S. W.) from London, on the road to Exeter, containing 2643 inhabitants.
This place derived its name from being situated near an ancient ford on the river Stour, called by the Romans, Trajectus Belaniensis. It was nearly destroyed by an accidental fire, in the year 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 casy prey to the contending parties, having been frequently assailed, and alternately possessed by each of them.
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 this 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 within a flexure of the river Stour, over which is a bridge of six arches; there are also two other bridges, erected to facilitate the entrance into the town, during occasional overflowings of the river: the streets are regularly formed and well paved, the houses modern and uniformly built of brick, and the inhabitants amply supplied with water. The theatre, a neat and commodious building, is opened occasionally; and the races, which have been established for more than a century, are annually held, in August, on a fine down near the town, the course being one of the finest 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, affords employment to a considerable number of females in the town and the adjacent villages. The market is on Saturday: the fairs, chiefly for horses, horned cattle, and cheese, are held, March 7th, July 10th, and November 8th, to each of which a court of pie powder is attached.
The government, by charter of incorporation granted in the 3rd of James I., who made the town a free borough, and confirmed and extended the privileges which it had previously enjoyed by prescription, is vested in a bailiff, seneschal, and ten capital burgesses. The bailiff, who, with the inferior officers of the town, is chosen annually, at the court leet of the lord of the manor; the seneschal, who holds his office for life; and the two senior capital burgesses, hold a court of record, for the determining of suits, and the recovery of debts under £10, but they do not exercise magisterial authority. The county magistrates hold petty sessions here, for the Blandford division of the county. The bishop's and archdeacon's courts are held here monthly. The town hall is a neat edifice of Portland stone, supported on pillars of the Doric order, 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, in the archdeaconry of Dorset, and diocese of Bristol, rated in the king's books at £12. 18. 1½., and in the patronage of the Dean and Chapter of Winchester. The church, dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, is a handsome modern edifice in the Grecian style of architecture, with a tower and spire, and ornamented with a balustrade and urns. There is a place of worship for Independents. The free school, to the north-west of the church, is of uncertain foundation; it has a small endowment. Archbishop Wake is said to have received the rudiments of his education here. The blue coat school, for the clothing and instruction of twelve boys, was founded in 1729, by Archbishop Wake, who endowed it with £1616, producing an annual income of £48. 9. 8. Almshouses, for ten aged persons, were founded and endowed by George Ryves, Esq., who, in 1685, bequeathed the residue of his estate for the apprenticing of poor boys: the entire annual income is about £120. In the church-yard are others for six aged persons, which were rebuilt by the corporation, in 1736. William Williams, in 1621, gave £3000, since laid out in land producing £300 annually, for teaching four poor children, and other charitable purposes.
On a hill to the north of the town, was formerly an intrenchment, enclosing an area of three hundred paces in length, and two hundred in breadth, which has long been under cultivation, and the only relic now visible is an adjoining barrow. Sir Thomas Ryves, L.L.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 Polyglott Bible, 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, born in 1700, and who, dying in 1748, was buried in the church; were natives of this parish.
Blandford gives the title of marquis to the Duke of Marlborough.
Volume 1, page 170