Blandford burns and the Bastards rebuild it.

From the early days of moving to the area, I was well aware of the great fire of Blandford 1731, however I was not aware that fire had brought destruction to Blandford two times before. The first reference to a fire at Blandford I can find in the historial record occurred in the mid 1500s and according to the Borough records the fire destroyed the old guildhall a school and an almshouse. Blandford was not alone from the constant danger of fire during this period, with many thatched roofs, open fires and blocked chimneys, it is suggested that in some cases there was no proper chimney at all just a crude hole in the roof space. The town's officials made the following decree :

"This day is ordered to the assent of the whole town that whatsoever he be which in this town after this present day that having any chimney n his house to be on fire , that he shall lose to the maintenance of the town three shillings and fourpence to be levied by distress by the bailiff and if the bailiff does not levy it then he shall lose to the town for every default five shillings".

The second fire of note occurred in 1677, the historical recorded about this fire is vague , but it is recorded that around 33 families were made homeless, however I cannot find any record of any public buildings that were destroyed. There is a mention of a fire in 1713 that destroyed the lower part of east street , but no further information of lives lost or damage to property. It could be interpreted compared to the previous fire, this one was "small beer".

The 1731 fire, often related to as the "great fire of Blandford". It is recorded that the "great" fire started on the afternoon of the 4th of June and caused utter havoc, destroying the parish church, the school, town hall and almshouses. The fire spread to parts of Blandford Bryanston, Blandford St Mary. The scene at the time must have looked like something out of "Dante's Inferno" some properties did survive, notably "the old house"in the close, "Dale house". Fire is a great purifier, and out of all this devastation came something most wonderful in the form of wiping out the scourge of smallpox that had been cursing Blandford.

who do you call when you need to rebuild a town? answer you call a bastard. Well, actually you call the Bastard brothers, John Thomas and William Bastard to be precise. Both were rising architects, builders and joiners . The brothers were well respected in the area and had learned their trade from their father, the very highly rated Thomas Bastard. The brothers organised much of the design and building of many buildings, including the town hall , the grammar school

Next time you visited Blandford Forum and have a drink, raise your glasses and thank the Bastards.

The old house Blandford Forum

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