Former school archway restored at Wessex Court

19 July 2019

A moving ceremony took place in Damory Street, Blandford, on Saturday July 13, when the Blandford & District Civic Society celebrated the completion of the Damory Street Enhancement project to restore an historic school archway, located at the Sovereign property Wessex Court. 

The group put up information boards detailing the history of the school and a neighbouring former burial ground and organised a celebration of the area.

The archway is all that remains of the former school, built in the middle of the 19th century, which became Blandford Secondary and then Blandford Grammar School. In the 1920s, the archway was also remodelled to become a war memorial to those from the school lost in World War One.

The burial ground next to the site was used for nearly 50 years in the first half of the 19th century and remained in use after the municipal cemetery in Salisbury Road was opened in the 1850s.

Building community links through history

Civic Society Chairman Terence Dear said the project, which had long been an ambition of the society, was its contribution to the commemoration of the centenary of World War I, and was funded in part through an award of over £15,000 from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, supporting the restoration and upgrading of cultural heritage.

The group also hopes to further enhance this corner of Blandford, which has deteriorated over the years, including the burial ground next to school site, with the support Sovereign which owns the land as part of the Wessex Court supported housing scheme.

Emily O’Brien, Sovereign Area Property Manager, said: “It was a wonderful opportunity for Sovereign to be involved at Wessex Court and see the amazing work the Blandford & District Civic Society have done to restore the school archway and detail the history of the school and burial ground. 

“We look forward to building on this relationship going forward. It’s really important to us that we remember the history of sites like Wessex Court and bring communities together in these celebrations.”

Guests at the celebration included the Deputy Lord Lieutenant John Young, former pupils of Blandford Grammar School, which once stood on the site, and representatives of the Blandford 14-18 Commemoration Group, Blandford Masonic Lodge and Shovehapenny League which have contributed to the costs.

Remembering the fallen

A short service of commemoration followed the order of the dedication of the archway as a memorial almost 100 years ago. Participants included representatives of the military, the town council, the Royal British Legion, and of The Blandford School, whose head boy and head girl laid wreaths under the replica plaques, as their counterparts had done in 1925.

Led by the Rector of Blandford, Canon Jonathan Triffitt, names of the fallen in World War I were read by Jay Hambro, the great grandson of Major General Percival Hambro, who unveiled the memorial at the original dedication service.

Caption: Canon Jonathan Triffitt introduces the ceremony with, left to right, Messrs Jay and Pete Hambro, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant John Young, Blandford Forum Town Councillor Roger Carter and Town Clerk Linda Scott-Giles and Chief Constable of Dorset James Vaughan, Rose Platts and Mansoon Tamang, Head Girl and Head Boy of The Blandford School.