Blandford Forum Parish Church
St. Peter and St. Paul
By the beginning of the C18 Blandford was a 'hub' for the coaching business with numerous coaching inns and there was a thriving button manufacturing industry making it a most successful town. In 1731, it suffered a quite catastrophic fire, which left 480 families homeless and created countless orphans. It was, however, an opportunity to rebuild most of the town and the result is that succeeding generations have been bequeathed some of the finest Georgian façades in the country. Without question the jewel in this architectural crown is the parish church designed and built by the Bastard brothers, John and William, between 1733 and '39. It is probably the best C18 church outside London and has a plain classical exterior with a western tower surmounted by a wooden cupola. This last element was not by the brothers, who had intended a spire
Inside, the building is exceptionally fine with Portland stone columns and impressive roof. There is a very grand mayoral chair made by the Bastards for the Bailiffs of Blandford, dated 1748 (John occupied it from 1750 to '52). In 1794, a gallery was built over the west end and a new organ installed. This superb instrument with Crown and Prince of Wales feathers adorning the top was destined for the Chapel Royal, Savoy, but proved to be too large. More galleries, north and south, were created in 1819, but have since been removed. Originally, there was just a shallow apse, however in 1895 this whole end of the building was moved bodily eastwards so that a chancel could be inserted. This was Victorian ingenuity at its best and the decorated ceiling of the 'new' chancel is most attractive
There are box pews and a Wren pulpit from St. Antholin in London. An interesting C18 octagonal font, probably designed by the Bastards, rests on a beautifully tiled floor at the rear of the church and is very similar to the font in Charlton Marshall.
Outside the west entrance, note the monument to the Blandford Fire.
This is an exceptional building and worthy of any effort required to visit it!