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Blandford Forum is a small historic market town on the River Stour in the North Dorset district of Dorset, England noted for its Georgian architecture. The town had a population of 8,745 at the 2001 Census. Blandford is the seat of North Dorset's district council, although it is situated in the far south-east of the district. Nearby are the small village of Blandford St Mary and Blandford Camp military base.
A Georgian Fayre is held in the first week of May each year in the town centre and attracts thousands of visitors. The Fayre combines Georgian celebrations with cultural presentations, stalls, and a fun fair on the grassy meadows along the banks of the Stour.
The nearby village of Tarrant Hinton is home to the Great Dorset Steam Fair which can attract 250,000 in the last week of August each year. The fair is a showcase for steam engines from across the UK and Europe. Craft stalls, camping, and a large carnival are among the attractions.
An unpleasant local resident is the 'The Blandford Fly', a biting insect which has caused several fatalities. In recent years the weed beds in the river have been sprayed to stop it breeding.
Blandford has been a fording point since Anglo-Saxon times, when it was recorded as Blaen-y-ford and as Blaneford in the Domesday Book, meaning ford of the river of blay or gudgeon. By the 13th century it had become an important market town, with a livestock market serving the nearby Blackmore Vale with its many dairy farms. The Latin word Forum, meaning market, was recorded in 1540. It was an important break on the journey between the port of Weymouth and the capital London. There is still a bi-weekly market held in the town.
In 1731 much of the town was destroyed in a fire. John and William Bastard rebuilt the town over the following 30 years and the town centre is an excellent example of Georgian architecture from the 1730s to 1760s.
From 1860 the town was an important stop on the Somerset and Dorset Railway, which ran from Bath to Bournemouth until the line closed in 1966.
Blandford Forum is often given as an example of a Georgian town, as the entire centre was rebuilt at once in the 1700s, due to a fire, and is hence uniformly Georgian. All facades remain in fair to good condition, and notable buildings include The Corn Exchange, and the 1732 parish church of St Peter and St Paul, a classical building with a cupola on top of the tower. To the south of the town a six arch stone bridge spans the slow-moving River Stour.
North Dorset District Council employ a large number of residents. Other employers in nearby parishes are the Badger Brewery, which supplies beer and ale to public houses across the region, Tesco, and Bryanston School.
Some 2 km northeast of the town lies Blandford Camp, which has long been home to the Royal Corps of Signals, the communications wing of the British Army. The base incorporates a modern technology training college plus a cinema for military personnel, and the National Signals Museum (a museum of items relating to the history of the Royal Signals since its inception) which is open to the public. The museum contains many items of interest including uniforms, medals, signals equipment, (some of which is interactive) and not least, an Enigma cryptographic machine, famous for cracking the German High Level ciphers during World War 2.
There are a number of busy industrial estates on the bypass road to the North-East of Blandford.
The early 2000s saw a number of private housing development projects in and around Blandford. These developments were built somewhat sensitively with faux-traditional architectural styles (such as "half-brick" fascias, period-looking eaves, etc.) for a more pleasing, architecturally "vernacular" result than the usual cookie-cutter new home developments seen in most of the UK.