Blandford Forum, Dorset - Church of St Peter and St Paul

Notes in italics from Dorset by John Newman and Nikolaus Pevsner (2002)
Yale University Press, New Haven and London

      Click on photos to enlarge    

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St Peter and St Paul. 1733-9 by John and William Bastard. A large church to demonstrate the self-confidence of the smitten town.
A disastrous fire destroyed the greater part of the town in 1731.

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The church is a noble and eminently interesting building. It has a high W tower with a top cupola, not by the Bastards, who had intended a spire. The W portal has Doric pilasters and the window over it has side volutes at the foot. The tower rises just behind a big broken pediment.

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The side views are typically Georgian in that they introduce a nave mid-frontispiece into the longitudinal flow from W to E. On the N side this is plain; on the S side it has Doric pilasters. Both sides have pediments. The window feature above is less classical and indeed rather Baroque. To its l. are three large arched windows, and to its r. the same. Originally at the E end was only the apse. In 1896 Charles Hunt interpolated a chancel, a skilfully done job (original photos at church website). The building is of greensand ashlar, with even quoins and a top balustrade.

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The interior is exceptionally fine. Giant Portland stone columns, unfluted with Ionic capitals carry a straight entablature, a motif of a severity on the Continent accepted only from the 1760s, but in England appearing already in the 1660s (Charles Church, Falmouth). The transeptal axis has a wider intercolumnium. To its E are three bays, and to its W it could be the same if the tower did not fill the W bay. The transeptal extensions ... were originally entirely open to the aisles.

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The West Gallery with its nicely convex front and its fluted Ionic columns is of 1794, the extension across the aisles is of 1819. N and S aisle galleries followed in 1837. Their removal has been a visual blessing. 

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The vaults are groin-vaults with decorative groins, square over the 'crossing', oblong over the nave bays.

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The first picture shows the interpolated chancel inserted in 1896 between the nave and the apse. In 1896 the E end was made more Cinquecento than Georgian, largely by colouring and the coffered tunnel-vault of the chancel. But the apse vault and the reredos aedicule are original (fluted Corinthian columns, triangular pediment, topped by a pelican-in-piety).

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The altar in the apse, and the chancel pews. Pulpit. From Wren's St Antholin in London. Nicely restrained. Richly carved Mayor's Chair, dated 1748.

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The organ in the west gallery is the same date as the gallery, 1794 (by G.F. England). There are many tablets in the church, among them John Gannet, died 1778, and his wife Hester. Elaborately decorated font in Portland stone (probably from the Bastard family workshop).

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In the churchyard, the Bastard family tomb with, at the head of the sarcophagus, a nicely decorated obelisk, dated 1769.
As well as building the church, the brothers John and William Bastard largely rebuilt the town centre after the fire of 1731. See their buildings in the link below.

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The Town


The Church Website
with more information and many old photos


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