Blandford Forum, Dorset

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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The centre of Blandford forms one of the most satisfying Georgian ensembles anywhere in England; not only was it rebuilt in a single campaign, but there is a distinct architectural flavour about the whole, the basic uniformity of design and materials being relieved just enough by spirited individual touches. The passing of the last two centuries has marred the picture remarkably little. ... 
Defoe called it a 'handsome well built town ...'. Less than a decade later the fire of 1731 consumed almost the whole of the town's centre. The special character of the rebuilt town was given by the fact that the surveyors in charge of rebuilding were William and John Bastard, civic dignitaries of the town and architect-surveyors. Rebuilding began at once, and it seems to have been completed about 1760. ...

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The N and S sides of the Market Place establish the full range of the post-fire style. In the centre of the former the Town Hall, signed and dated Bastard architect 1734 over the central window, a suitably municipal three-bay facade, with an overall triangular pediment, pedimented first-floor windows, and the ground floor open as an arcade of piers. So, a broad but textbookish design, executed with as much carved enrichment as the textbooks allowed.

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The rest of the Market Place was redeveloped throughout with three-storeyed facades, but not altogether uniformly. In general facades are four or five bays wide, the walls faced with vitrified bricks laid all as headers, the dressings of rich crimson brick, especially rubbed window heads, and in the centre of each window head a white keystone. ...

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The S side is distinguished by three more grandiloquent facades. Nos. 75 East Street and 26 Market Place (first picture, i.e. East Street becomes Market Place in the middle of the building), and the Red Lion Inn, at the E end, are two versions of the same design. Central carriage entrance. Giant pilasters frame the central bay, their capitals with incurving volutes, a form taken from Rossi's engraving of a Borromini capital, and popular with more than one West Country master mason around the 1730s. The pilasters are made to carry a little pediment, broken with a round-headed window pushing up into it. The other top windows have ears and shaped aprons. The l. of the two houses also has rusticated frames to the first-floor windows. Yet this front was not built, like the other, for an inn, but for a trio of houses, in the l. one of which John Bastard, certainly its builder and no doubt its designer, himself lived. ...

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At the far W end (of Market Place) the Old Greyhound Inn ... which takes facade decoration to Bavarian extremes. Seven bays, the centre four with Corinthian pilasters through two storeys, carrying a pediment. All the window frames very much enriched, the top ones with elaborately shaped aprons too.  

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For the Bastard brothers' parish church in the Market Place, see separate page (many interior and exterior photographs).

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The Fire monument, erected (and doubtless designed) by John Bastard in 1760 (see the inscription on the back) ... Crisply detailed tabernacle of Portland stone, with Doric columns carrying an entablature and triangular pediment. Its practical purpose was as a head for a water supply, should firehoses be needed in the town in future.

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West Street continues the W side of Market Square with more post-fire facades on both sides.

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The vista is very successfully closed by the neo-Georgian Crown hotel, of 1937-8 by L. Magnus Austin, built to deceive and succeeding, except at close inspection. 

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Round the corner the town abruptly stops, with water-meadows and the river, and the wooded cliffs of Bryanston beyond. ... Handsome stone bridge over the river, mainly of two dates, 1783 and 1812. ...
On the other side of the river  the gateway at the start of the mile-long drive to Bryanston School. The gateway was built c.1778 by James Wyatt to go with his new house for the Portman family. Lofty arched entrance, with Doric half-columns l. and r. and a pediment on top. Low lodges attached on each side. ... The house was demolished in 1890 when it was replaced by a new house by Norman Shaw which later became Bryanston School.

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In White Cliff Mill Street Eagle House, a good but untypical house of the 1730s, standing free. Five bay E front, blue brick and red dressings. Angle pilaster for bays 1,3,5. Further along two eye-catching painted houses.

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In Salisbury Street ... beyond the reach of the fire ... the one-storeyed Ryves Almshouses, or Gerontocomium as the inscription on the building has it. 1682. U-plan open towards the road. Central gablet with a shield of arms and flamboyant mantling over it. Prominent panelled chimneystacks.

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Just beyond on the l. two suburban houses of the C18. First Dale House (No.79) which has an E front of red brick with stone quoins at the angles and outlining the central bay. Steep one-bay pediment in the centre, coved eaves l. and r. So it is mid-C18, but not quite Bastard-style. Round the corner to the S a reset stone doorcase dated 1689 in its segmental pediment.  (So why date the house mid-C18? It looks late C17, not mid-C18. In an article* of 1925 by Geoffrey Webb, he states "Dale House, 1689, might well be by Thomas Bastard the elder, but while it is a good simple house of its time, brick built with Portland stone dressings and a coved cornice, its merits are those of its time and character, and do not indicate an architect of any marked individuality".)
No. 81 is three-storeyed, of three wide bays, and is perhaps as late as c.1780. Red brick. Wooden canted window-bays l. and r. and a doorcase with fluted Composite pilasters. Beyond the crossroads The Badger, a red brick pub
(no longer) by Crickmay & Son, opened in 1899, and a nice example of the neatly witty picturesqueness of the turn of the century.

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In Church Lane Old Bank House, a simple five-bay house, post 1731 and beyond it the pedimented triple entrance to the Almshouses, of greensand, rebuilt in 1736. No almshouses now. ... At the top Lime Tree House, a modest five-bay, two-storey front, purple brick with red dressings including vertical chains of bricks between the windows. A plaque states that it was built by the Bastard brothers in 1760 for their five sisters.

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Opposite this, Coupar House, the finest post-fire house in Blandford. It has the advantage of generous bowed forecourt walls, with rusticated brick piers and stone urns on top, and a stable court to the S. The house itself has a five-bay front, faced with bricks laid all as headers, purple brick in the centre, red at the sides. This centre bay is defined by Ionic pilasters of Portland stone carrying an entablature with a bulgy frieze, and has in the third storey a round-headed rusticated window breaking up into a triangular pediment. Channelled angle quoins. Pedimented Doric doorcase, and a window over with very fanciful side scrolls. The design then is essentially the same as the Red Lion but elaborated another way. ...

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The vista up the street is closed by the symmetrical front of No. 2, The Plocks, 'new built' in 1759.
Behind the church the Old Rectory. 

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Now turning E into The Plocks one soon comes to The Old House, a remarkable survivor of the fire, and a tour-de-force of cut and moulded brickwork. The front is of three bays, the two l. bays symmetrical about a boldly projecting porch. The whole surface here is rusticated. Round-headed entrance, with two rows of radiating voussoirs, and where the two systems leave odd spaces little hearts and mouchette wheels in cut bricks are popped in. Also a blank panel flanked by gouty balusters. Windows of three lights, mullioned and transomed. The r. bay is plain, with small two-light windows, and houses the kitchen, but must be an afterthought. Yet the second thoughts came quickly, for the huge hipped roof, on far-projecting timber brackets, is clearly unaltered and includes everything. The crowning glory is the pair of short polygonal chimneystacks, set on square bases, and ringed by colonnettes, each bearing a piece of entablature. All this is brick too. A date c.1660 seems indicated for the house, and it suggests links with the Home Counties, where such games with brickwork were freely indulged in in the mid C17.

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East Street, where C18 houses catch the eye, though this part of the town was unaffected by the fire, having suffered from an earlier one, in 1713. The completest house front is that of Lyston House ... On the other side Eastway House. The five-bay brick facade, with its shaped top parapet, going up by a curve, a step, and a double curve (?) to a point, with urns and balls upon it, has a flavour not quite like the rest of Blandford's architecture. The house is set back a pace or two behind railings, with urns and balls to match those on the parapet. ...

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No. 1 East Street, and Artisan House with mathematical tiling intended to appear as brickwork.

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Beyond East Street on the Wimborne Road a brand new house in the Bastard brothers style.

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Nearby, St Leonard's Chapel. Originally built as a hospital and leper hospice in the 13th century and rebuilt in the 15th century (hence the perpendicular tracery in the windows). Apparently last used as a chapel in the 18th century, and was part of farm buildings until recent housing development.

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Blandford Parish Church


* John and William Bastard, of Blandford, Geoffrey Webb, The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 47, No. 270 (Sep., 1925). Quote found at JSTOR


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