Blandford Forum is a market town which grew up by a ford on the River Stour. The name Forum comes from the Latin meaning market place. The town is described as the most complete Georgian small town in England. This north Dorset town has stunning architecture, a charming parish church, and wonderful market place. It is also home to one of Dorset’s breweries: Hall & Woodhouse.
The town served the dairy farms of the Blackmore Vale and prospered with the arrival of the coaching road from Salisbury to Dorchester in the 1700’s. Brewing and lace making were early industries, followed by button making.
A Georgian Town
The “Great Fire” destroyed much of the town in a single day in 1731. Funds to help rebuild the stricken town poured in from all over the country. King George II gave £1,000 from, equivalent today to £200,000.
Within a few years rebuilding was well under way and by about 1760 the new Blandford was complete. The special character of the town arises from the fact that the architects, surveyors and principal builders were William and John Bastard. They lived in the town and were two of the major sufferers from the damage. They designed and supervised the building of the new church, the town hall, grammar school and many of the houses and business premises.
The British Army has a military camp just outside Blandford. It has been used as a military camp for many hundreds of years. In 1724 a troop of the Hussars were stationed in the area for anti-smuggling duties. Over time it has acted as a Royal Navy base, a base for the RAF and a US Army hospital after the D Day landings in World War 2. It is currently home to The Royal Signals. The Royal Signals Museum is also located at Blandford.
Blandford motor racing circuit
The first recorded use of Blandford Camp was as a racecourse giving rise to the naming of part of the area as Race Down. Race meetings began in the late 16th century. An annual race week was held until the end of the 19th century.
In 1948 the 5 km perimeter road around the camp was used to form the UK’s first post-war road racing circuit. Around 10,000 spectators attended the first event which was a motorcycle race. By the time the third event was held 1949, the circuit had obtained a reputation as the fastest in the country. Speeds over 110 mph being achieved down the straights. Car racing and hill climbs were introduced in 1949.
However, a number of fatal accidents occurred on the circuit and it was closed in 1961.