It was my birthday recently, so I went to see Big Bro and Li’l Sis down in Dorset.
“What do you want to do?” said Big Bro.
“A real-life pub quiz and a Treasure Trail,” said I.
We’ve been doing Jay’s online pub quiz on Thursday nights so I thought a real life one would be fun, although with social distancing, I could see there could be a problem. To be honest, we are not winners but it’s a bit of fun and we learn a bit along the way. Anyway, Bro couldn’t find a physical one, so we did Jay’s.
The Treasure Trail, well, I participated in one a few years ago, in London. I am hugely competitive, so when my team didn’t win, I was not happy. I stopped short of a full, public sulk though.
They do these treasure trails all over the country and I was pretty sure Bro and Sis would enjoy it. I asked them to choose the town and trail. They chose one in Blandford. It was a murder mystery trail. You can go to the website, pick your trail and once you’ve paid you can print off your booklet. There are a series of questions (I think there are 20). To find the answers you need to walk around your chosen location. One of the reasons I like them, and Bro and Sis liked it was because you get to go to parts of the town that you probably wouldn’t normally go to. And we got the answer right for this one, so it was a win-win.
If I’d ever been to Blandford before, it was a long time ago, and I didn’t remember it, and the Treasure Trail was a good way to learn about the town. Years ago, I spent a lot of time at steam fairs. What is now the Great Dorset Steam Festival was much smaller and was held at Stourpaine in my day, is now held at Blandford. Stourpaine is only about three miles from Blandford so the festival hasn’t moved far.
Blandford is, for the most part, a Georgian town. There was a fire in the early 18th century which destroyed most of the town, so it was rebuilt in Georgian style by the Bastard brothers. They were famous architects at the time, despite the name. Obviously, I had to look up the origin – it’s of 11th century origin. William the Conqueror was also known as William the Bastard and it is believed that those sharing the name were closely associated with him. To put the record straight, in those days, it wasn’t an insult, but the meaning was pretty much the same as it is today.
Back to Blandford. The ‘ford’ part of the name gives a clue: it sits on the River Stour, and there has been a settlement here since Anglo Saxon times. It had established itself as a market town by the thirteenth century. The word Forum was added by the 16th century – it means market in Latin.
As well as being a market town, Blandford was well-known for very fine lacemaking, and later, wool-spinning and button making. With the advent of the turnpike between Salisbury and Dorchester in 1756, the town’s prosperity increased as a result of travellers staying over at the newly built coaching inns.
Like so many other towns, the livestock market ceased in the 20th century (I used to love walking past all those little piggies in our hometown when I was a little girl. If I was good, and quick, I was allowed to stroke them). There are still outdoor markets in the town and indoor markets in the corn exchange.
There are three museums in the town: Blandford Town Museum, Blandford Fashion Museum and the Royal Signals Museum (which is actually outside the town at the military base). That’s quite something for a town of Blandford’s size. And it’s other claim to fame: Inspector Frederick Abberline, known for his part in the Jack the Ripper investigations, was born here.
© Susan Shirley 2020