Dorchester 2016 – Day 4

Thursday, June 23rd 2016

The Hawker
The Hawker

Today began with breakfast in the branch of Costa beside our hotel. When we emerged afterwards, we discovered that a small crowd had gathered around this gentleman in the street. Engaging personality though he was, the main interest centred on the personage sitting on his glove.

Harris Hawk
Harris Hawk

This was a Harris Hawk and I describe her as a personage for she emanated a definite personality of her own. She sat very quietly on the glove, showing no signs of nervousness or concern, though she darted her gaze here and there, keeping tabs on all the activity around her.

Harris hawks are widely used where certain other species of birds are considered a nuisance. For example, they were used to clear pigeons from Trafalgar Square and I found one being used for deterrent purposes in St Pancras Station (see The Sheriffs and knitters of Nottingham) and another in King’s Cross (see Some sculpture and a hawk). Hawks are used in Dorchester to reduce the numbers of gulls.

An animal lover like me is likely to enquire, with trepidation, ‘Does she actually kill any?’ but the answer has always so far been a reassuring ‘No. Her presence is enough to deter them.’ This is likely to be true, at least in the case of gulls, for these birds are protected and not allowed to be killed. The frequent presence of hawks is enough to persuade the gulls not to nest or congregate here.

The day’s outing involved another long bus ride which, happily, turned out more successful than the interrupted journey to Salisbury (see Dorchester 2016 – Day 2). This time our destination was the little town of Blandford Forum. For its location relative to Dorchester, see the map below. (Click for the Google Map of the area.)

A bus for Blandford runs from Dorchester South railway station, just a few yards from the hotel. This time, the bus completed its journey without any breakdowns, bringing us safely to our destination.

Blandford Forum and Dorchester
Blandford Forum and Dorchester
Click for Google Map

Known more usually as simply Blandford, this town has borne the official name of Blandford Forum since 1288. A clue to its importance is its alternative name, Cheping Blandford, in which the first word (a variant of ‘Chipping’) indicates that it was an important market town.

A naive etymology might suggest that the town began as a settlement that sprang up beside a ford across a putative river called the Bland. This, of course, is not the case. Blandford lies within a curve of a river called the Stour – you may have to expand the Google Map to see the course of the river.

The Domesday Book called it Blaneford and there is an earlier ancient reference to a Welsh-sounding Blaen-y-Ford. A theory has it that the first part of the name (Blane- or Bland-) derives from an Anglo-Saxon word, blǽge, which is the name of the blay or bleak, a small fish. According to this, the name of the town would mean ‘bleak fish ford’. In the absence of plausible alternatives, this explanation has gained general acceptance but we cannot be entirely sure of it.

Street view, Blandford
Street view, Blandford
(Salisbury Street)

The name of the river, Stour, occurs in many forms all over Britain and the continent of Europe as a name for a river. Various theories suggest a range of possible meanings, though the most plausible proposes the meaning ‘large’ or ‘powerful’, indicating that it could be the name of the major river in a given area. Considerable uncertainty remains, however.

Ryves Almshouses
Ryves Almshouses

Further down Salisbury Street we found this handsome set of almshouses. They were founded in 1682 for ten poor persons by George Ryves, a local landowner, sometime warden of New College, Oxford, and later Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University. He was also involved in the translation of the New Testament for the King James Bible. The almshouses are Grade II* listed.

Tutelary Goblin

Tutelary Goblin
Tutelary Goblin

A niche above the doorway in the house has been occupied by what I take to be a tutelary goblin. Where does it come from, I wonder? Is it modern or does it come from an old building?

Blandford has suffered at least four fires in its history. The first was in 1564 and destroyed buildings but without lost of life. The second occurred in 1677 and destroyed some 30 homes. Two more fires took place in the 18th century, the first of which was in 1713, when part of East Street was burned out. In 1731 there occurred a conflagration so serious that it has been recorded as the Great Fire. This destroyed most of Blandford and only a few buildings survived it, one of which was the almshouses mentioned above.

Pump House
Pump House 1860

The Pump House was built in 1760, both as a memorial to the Great Fire and to supply water to citizens of the town. It was designed and gifted by John Bastard (c.1688-1770). John and his brother William (c1689-1766), architects, furniture makers, carvers and plasterers, were responsible for rebuilding the town after its 1731 devastation by fire. They worked in a classical style that was already a little old fashioned by their day. Nonetheless, they can fairly be said to have recreated Blandford from the ashes and the town has been duly grateful to them. (The pump house is Grade I listed.)

The German House
The German House

This robust house has rarity value in being, like the almshouses, one of the few survivors of the fire of 1731. It was built in the mid-17th century by Dr Sagittary who held German and English degrees in medicine and practised as a doctor in Blandford. He was a native of the Palatinate (South-West Germany) and this is thought to explain the Germanic character of the design. (Grade I listed.)

Sculpture by Jo Burchell
Sculpture by Jo Burchell

Further along on a green beside the Methodist Church is a sculpture by Jo Burchell. I don’t know if it has a title but it was commissioned in celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and a notice tells us that you can find hidden in the structure a diamond (presumably a diamond-shape, not an actual gemstone), ‘2012’ and an ‘R’.

Church of St Peter and St Paul
Church of St Peter and St Paul

We didn’t visit the parish church this time around. Perhaps we will do so on another visit. Dedicated to St Peter and St Paul, it was build in 1832-9 and is the work of John Bastard. He apparently designed the tower with a steeple but, finances giving out, this was never made and was substituted with a wooden cupola, much to the architect’s recorded disgust. The church is currently in poor repair, which no doubt explains the scaffolding, but has merited a Grade I listing.

Next we went along to have a look at the Blandford Town Museum.

Tableau of the Blacksmith's Shop
Tableau of the Blacksmith’s Shop

Tableau of the Shoemaker's Shop
Tableau of the Shoemaker’s Shop

We received a friendly welcome at the museum and we conscientiously viewed all the exhibits. The museum is quite small as far as space is concerned and could probably do with larger premises as it is packed with material. The history of the town is covered and include two mock-ups of old businesses which I photographed.

Clock by Robert Hood
Clock by Robert Hood

Being interested in clocks I could not fail to notice that this nice pendulum wall clock was made by a local clockmaker called Robert Hood. (The lighting was not conducive to photography in that area.) I wasn’t able to find out much about Robert Hood though I have putative dates for him of 1800-79.

Town Hall and Corn Exchange
Town Hall and Corn Exchange

This large and imposing building combines the roles of town hall and corn exchange. It is dated 1734 and is now Grade I listed. Guess who built it? Here’s a clue: it’s signed ‘Bastard, Architect’. No prizes for that, then. It’s a nice piece of work faced with Portland Stone.

The Corn Exchange
The Corn Exchange

We popped inside for a quick look at the Corn Exchange. I doubt whether any corn is bought and sold here nowadays and the interior has been rearranged as a space for events and entertainments. Today there was a market of jewellery and other small objects, and a cafe.

Simla Indian Restaurant
Simla Indian Restaurant

Before undertaking the journey back to Dorchester, we went for a late lunch. We chose the Simla Indian restaurant. Here we enjoyed a good lunch and this rounded off our visit to Blandford nicely.

The bus did not break down on the ride home, either. Bonus!

(Edited 24/07/16 to resolve errors of location.)

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Dorchester 2016 – Day 3

Wednesday, June 22nd 2016

This evening we are going to the house of friends for dinner. They too are vegetarian which makes things that much easier and more confortable. We will spend the day in Dorchester (or ‘Dorch’, as I have heard it called locally), as there are a few things to see.

Dorchester Market
Dorchester Market

We started with a visit to the market which is not far from the hotel. It takes place on Wednesdays on a special site off Weymouth Avenue. Dorchester has had markets since time immemorial but the present site has been in use since the late 1800s.

Inside the covered market
Inside the covered market

The market has open areas and covered areas and there are many stalls selling a wide range of goods. It’s very easy to end up buying something you never knew you needed!

Napper's Mite
Napper’s Mite

We walked through a beautiful old building called Napper’s Mite. Today this is a coffee shop and restaurant but its history goes back to the 17th century. In 1615, Sir Robert Napper died, leaving a will in which provision was made for the founding of almshouses to accommodate ten aged men. He had already purchased the land but it was now left to his son Nathaniel to complete the work, which he did, by 1616. Since then, there have been alterations. For example, the west façade, pictured above, was rebuilt and given its upper storey in 1842, when it also acquired the clock from a poor law institution that had been demolished.

Napper's Mite, interior
Napper’s Mite, interior

In one corner of the square complex is the inevitable chapel. (Inmates of almshouses were expected to attend chapel services on Sundays.) In the centre is a courtyard, now furnished as a seating area for restaurant customers but, I hope, a pleasant spot where the original ten aged men could sit and enjoy the sunshine.

Despite the alterations, Historic England (English Heritage) considers the building fine enough to merit a Grade II* listing.

The Corn Exchange
The Corn Exchange

This splendid building, once the headquarters of Dorchester Council (which has moved to new premises in North Square), was designed by Benjamin Ferrey, in his favourite Gothic Revival style, and was completed in 1848, though the clock tower was added in 1864. These days it is the home of Dorchester Arts and the other rooms are available for hire for meetings, conferences, performances, wedding, etc. The Corn Exchange is also Grade II* listed.

Holy Trinity Catholic Church
Holy Trinity Catholic Church

We had a look inside Holy Trinity Catholic Church. It is also by Benjamin Ferrey and was completed in 1876, though there have inevitably been refurbishments and additions since that time.

Stained glass windows Stained glass windows
Stained glass windows,Holy Trinity

Ferrey had to fit the church onto a relatively cramped site and this has led to some unusual features, such as aisles of uneven length and breadth. (Grade II listed.)

Dorset County Museum
Dorset County Museum

We of course paid a visit to the wonderful Dorset County Museum. There is so much of interest to see here and the building alone is an exhibit in its own right.  By G.R. Crickmay & Son of Weymouth, it was built 1881-3 and, to me, feels like a museum should feel. (Deservedly Grade II listed.)

There are too many exhibits to give a representative sample. Any selection will seem arbitrary. Here are a couple of sculptures to start with.

Tribute II
Tribute II
Dame Elisabeth Frink, 1977

Erda
Erda
Elizabeth Munz
(Fibreglass maquette of a bronze in Manchester City Gallery)

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The Victiorian Gallery
The Victiorian Gallery

The above is a general view of the Victorian Gallery in the museum. It is light an airy with an upper gallery and I think it is quite beautiful.

The Rose Window
The Rose Window

At one end of the gallery is a beautiful rose window. Unfortunately, I do not know who made it and assume it was installed when the gallery was built.

The Roman Mosaic Pavement
The Roman Mosaic Pavement

Looking down from the upper level, we have a view of the Roman Mosaic Pavement. As the museum’s Website points out, this is one of the few places in Europe where people are allowed to walk on a Roman mosaic. It was discovered  during building work in 1905 in Durngate Street. It was re-laid here by the then curator Captain Acland. I did walk on it but must admit that it felt almost sacrilegious to do so!

Dorchester Shire Hall
Dorchester Shire Hall

A little further along the road is a relatively unadorned building, Dorchester’s Shire Hall. It was designed by Thomas Hardwick and completed in 1797, if the date impressed on the rainwater head is to be trusted. It is Grade I listed.

One of the more important functions of the building was that it served as the local Crown Court until 1955. This earned it a place in history because of a famous trial that took place here in 1834. There is now a plaque on the façade commemorating the event.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs Plaque
The Tolpuddle Martyrs Plaque

The plaque, by Ian Walters, shows a scene that encapsulates the story of the trial and transportation to Australia of the six persons named around the edge, Thomas Standfield, James Hammett, James Loveless, John Standfield, James Brine and George Loveless. The six are collectively remembered today as the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

Briefly, the story is as follows. In the 1830s there were locally too few jobs to employ all those seeking work, and landowners were profiting from this by lowering wages. Previously, it had been illegal for workers to band together to seek better working conditions but in 1825 this law was repealed. The six men mentioned, all from the village of Tolpuddle, therefore banded together and formed the Friendly Society of Agricultural Workers, swearing an oath to support the Society and its aims. In particular, members refused to take employment for a wage of less than 10 shillings a week.

This did not suit the landowners and they sought a way to destroy the Society. They could not do so directly as such organizations were no longer illegal but were advised by Lord Melbourne, then Home Secretary, to use the Unlawful Oaths Act of 1797. This prohibited the swearing of secret oaths and could be used against the Society’s members. In consequence, all were found guilty and sentenced to transportation to Australia.

Use of an obscure law never intended for such a purpose was clearly a breach of justice and there were protests and marches in support of the convicted men. The protests were successful and in 1836 they were pardoned and allowed to return home. (More information on the Tolpuddle Martyrs will be found here and on many other sites on the Web.)

We next walked to Colliton Park where, in the 1930s, Dorset County Council planned to build its new County Hall. Before building began, the site was surveyed by archaeologists, resulting in an important find. The Council’s building plans had to be modified in order to preserve this important site. It has been stabilised and protected and can now be freely visited by the public,

The Roman Town House
The Roman Town House

Known as the Roman House or the Roman Town House and now listed Grade I and given the status of a scheduled ancient monument, it was probably first built in the early 4th century and added to subsequently. The house now exists as various lines of stonework on and below the surface. The roofs you see in the background are those of a modern shelter set up to protect the most fragile part of the site.

Part of the hypocaust
Part of the hypocaust

Roman houses usually included s hypocaust or under-floor heating system. Letters home from Roman soldiers in Britain often complain of the cold, especially in the north of the country. The warming effect of the hypocaust must have been very welcome in winter. The floors of some rooms were supported by blocks or columns, leaving a space through which hot air from a specially kindled fire could circulate. The hypocaust in this building has crumbled but we can still work out its structure.

The Mosaic
The Mosaic

The jewel of the site, so to speak, is the fine mosaic. Both the hypostyle room and the room with the mosaic are protected by glass screens. Photographing through glass is problematic but there were narrow gaps around the edges of the screens, just wide enough for me to insert my hand. They were too narrow for my camera to pass through but just wide enough for my hand holding my mobile! The last two photos above thus come courtesy of my iPhone.

We now started back to the hotel, intending to make tea and have a rest before going out for dinner in the evening. On the way we passed the Borough Gardens, a pleasant public park first opened to the public in 1896.

The Gregory Memorial Fountain
The Gregory Memorial Fountain

There we found this rather splendid 16-foot tall fountain, decorated with lions, birds and ferns and still n working order. It was presented by Charles Hansford Esq in honour of  George John Gregory Gregory, Alderman and JP (and also his brother-in-law, I believe), who was mayor of Dorchester 5 times and in 1895 responsible for the purchase of the land that became the park.

The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower

Near the tennis courts we found what I think is a very fine clock tower, cheerfully painted in red, green and gold. It is Grade II listed, quite deservedly. Erected in 1905, it too was presented to the town by Charles Hansford and his head, in profile, appears on the body of the tower. It is quite a masterpiece of the clockmakers’ art.

We later left the hotel and caught a train to a station a few stops up the line where (so we thought) we had arranged to be met by our friend with his car. It later turned out that the message had become scrambled and our friend had gone to Dorchester South, the station from which we had just left! However, in the age of the mobile phone, such hiccups are easily sorted out and we were soon collected and taken to dinner.

Dorchester has today shown us some of its treasures but I am sure many more remain to be discovered on other visits.

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Dorchester 2016 – Day 2

Tuesday, June 21st 2016

Today did not go as planned and as a result I took very few photos. That is not to say that the day was a total wash-out: we did get to where we wanted to go and in the evening enjoyed a restaurant meal in good company.

The plan was to go to Salisbury, spend some time there, and then return in time to meet our friend in the evening. Salisbury is in the county of Wiltshire and is a city with a cathedral. The name (pronounced ‘SAWLS-bree’) has very ancient origins, as indicated in the following. (I have italicized the passage so that you can skip it if not interested.)

The settlement dates from at least Neolithic times and became a fortified Celtic town that we remember as Old Sarum. The Celtic name ended in a suffix (possibly ‘-dunon’) meaning ‘fort’ and was Latinized under the Romans as Sorviodunum. The Anglo-Saxons replaced the putative -dunon with their equivalent, –burh and called the town Searoburh and later, Searobyrig.

The Normans, who always had trouble with English place names, wrote it down as Sarisberie or Seresberie. In the medieval period, this became Salisberie (‘l’ and ‘r’ are often interchanged as a language evolves) and the name eventually found a stable modern form in Salisbury but also with a simplification of the pronunciation.

Salisbury at last
Salisbury at last

We decided to travel to Salisbury by bus, as there is a regular scheduled service connecting it with Dorchester. The journey takes between two-and-a-half and three hours. Or should do.

We made our way to the upper deck and enjoyed a good view of the countryside as it rolled past the windows. Soon we were out of town in open country where official stops were few and far apart. It was now that the bus chose to suffer a fault. I have no idea what the fault was but it was serious enough for the driver to halt the bus and radio back to base for instructions.

The instructions were that the bus must not continue and that a relief vehicle would be sent to take us passengers onward to our various destinations. We settled down to wait, the driver appearing from time to time to keep us informed of the situation. This report generally resolved itself as the phrase ‘The relief bus will soon be here’.

‘Soon’ is one of those words that mean different things to different people in different situations. It is my experience that there are short soons and long soons. This particular soon turned out to be a long one. A very long one. We sat and watched the road (in both directions) and grew hopeful every time we saw a bus approaching but again and again our hopes were dashed.

When at last the relief arrived, we all filed obediently and without complaint or recrimination out of the broken bus into the – we hoped – unbroken bus. The driver drove – to coin a phrase – like the clappers. We were sitting in front seats on the upper deck and I was impressed by the speeds this old crate managed to reach. I was also a little nervous at times, as when, for example, the bus sped round a blind bend, where, had there been a halted or slow moving vehicle, a collision would have been inevitable.

The bus followed the scheduled route, dropping people off here and there, and eventually arrived in Salisbury, happily without any blind-bend collisions.

The first thing we did was to check the times of buses back to Dorchester. In London, despite our frequent complaints, we enjoy good and frequent bus, tube, train and tram services running to a 24-hour timetable. Outside London, things may be different and in some places, buses and even trains, often shut down completely in the evening. Traveller and tourist, beware!

We chose the last but one service returning to Dorchester and this left us precious little time to visit the town, especially as we were famished and needed to have lunch.

The Guildhall
The Guildhall

We looked here and there for a good cafe or restaurant and found ourselves in Guildhall Square where there is a Pizza Express. The Guildhall is the headquarters of the Salisbury City Council (there is also a Wiltshire Council with its seat in Trowbridge, the county town). It was built in 1788-95 and one of the more noticeable features is what is called a hexastyle Doric portico, that is, a portico with six columns. (We didn’t have time to go any closer.) It is a Grade II* listed building.

Church of St Thomas and St Edmund Church of St Thomas and St Edmund
Church of St Thomas and St Edmund

In Minster Street, a passageway between shops gave us this attenuated view of a church. Salisbury has a cathedral but this is not it. This is the Church of St Thomas and St Edmund. (Originally, it was dedicated solely to St Thomas who acquired his room mate in 1973 when the parishes of St Thomas and St Edmund were merged.) It was probably founded in the 13th century but was rebuilt and extended in the 15th. It would have been worth a look, if we had had time and is Grade I listed.

Salisbury Market
Salisbury Market

Salisbury has an open-air market. The charter for this was given in 1227 but the market had already been in existence for some years. Walking round it, we found a wide range of goods on sale and a lively atmosphere with plenty of customers.

Poultry Cross
Poultry Cross

Old markets often have a structure called the Market Cross and what we see above is definitely a market cross. However, it is actually called Poultry Cross and was once a member of a set of four, the others being the Cheese Cross, the Linen Cross and the Barnwell or Bernewell Cross (possibly named after a family called de Bernewell), the latter marking the cattle market. The Poultry Cross was built in the 14th century and repaired or restored in the 19th. It is Grade I listed.

After this all too short visit to Salisbury, we made for the bus stop, getting there in good time. We did this in deference to the First Law of Bus Travel. This law states that 1. if you are early for the bus, then the bus will be late and you will have to wait long enough to begin to suspect it has been cancelled; 2. If you are exactly on time for the bus, the bus will have come (and gone) early, so you’ve missed it; 3. If you are late for the bus, see 2.

I mentioned that we chose the last but one bus. We do this because when travelling out of town, you should always leave yourself a fall-back. If you plan to travel by the last bus or train, this may be cancelled and often is, in which case (and we know this from experience) you either have to spend the night where you are or undertake a very expensive taxi ride…

We returned to Dorchester and celebrated our safe arrival without any blind-bend collisions by resting and making tea in our hotel room. We then sallied forth to meet our friend, whereupon there arose the question of where we should go to dine. Happily there was a branch of Wagamama nearby who have a choice of vegetarian dishes on the menu.

After dinner and before going our separate ways, we went for a walk. This took us to an ancient historic site called Maumbury Rings.

Maumbury Rings
Maumbury Rings

Maumbury Rings is very old though, as the guide books tell us, it shows three stages of development. The first stage occurred in the Neolithic Period when it was constructed by heaping up earth to construct a high bank with an inner ditch to enclose a circular area. It is not known for certain whether it was defensive, i.e. a fort, or a place of ritual. The latter interpretation is supported by the existence around the banks of about 45 shafts or holes that had been dug and then deliberately filled with red deer skull fragments (and possibly fragments of a human skull) together with figures carved in chalk.

In the second phase, the Romans made use of the Rings to create an amphitheatre by digging out the centre and adding the spoil to the banks. Finally, the Rings were modified in 1642-3 by Parliamentary Forces in the Civil War to create an artillery emplacement to defend the southern flank of the town against advancing Royal Forces.

We walked to the station to put our friend on the train back to Weymouth, on the way passing Brewery Square. This was once the centre of operations of the Eldridge Pope Brewery. Founded by the Eldridges in 1833, the brewery closed in 2003 and the area has now been redeveloped as a centre of entertainment and events, with shops, restaurants and apartments.

Drummer the Dray Horse
Drummer the Dray Horse
Shirley Pace

As a memorial to the site’s previous use and as a pleasant decorative motif, a bronze statue of the dray horse has been put in place. He is called Drummer and stands for the generations of horses who would have transported beer from the brewery during its 170-year history.

The sculpture was first modelled in clay and then cast in bronze. The sculptor was Shirley Pace, an acknowledged portraitist of equine subjects, who also sculpted Jacob, the dray horse who stands on the re-developed site of the Courage Brewery near Tower Bridge in London. Drummer was installed in 2014 and Shirley Pace, at 81, was allegedly called out of retirement to sculpt him.

The day started with a hiccup but wasn’t too bad as a whole. Let us wait and see what tomorrow brings.

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