The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Above us only sky? – Blandford Forum

Taking time to pause and look up at the roofs and top storeys of the town's buildings is a rewarding activity in Blandford Forum, reports Hugh Starkey

Looking west down East Street, the variety of roofs – even those atop buildings of a similar period of construction – is characteristic of Blandford Forum's skyline


Three three-storey buildings with radically different approaches. From left to right: this building has a full height ceiling standard roof pitch, the central property has two low-slung mansard in a roof cavity, while the nearest to the camera has a Dutch barn-style roof with half-height sloping walls that nonetheless offer more room without having to build up the frontage

Blandford Forum may be known as one of the most perfectly preserved Georgian towns in Britain, but that does not mean that nothing ever changes. Buildings get enlarged or have new neighbours, attic spaces are opened up, time presses down heavily on roof trusses and causes them to sag, the elements expose the fungible nature of wood and stone alike; nature seeks to establish a foothold as seeds travel up on the wind and decide to stay awhile.

It is not simply roof styles, materials and heights which characterise Blandford's skyline, but also small delights like this impish chap, in his own alcove, on a house opposite the Ryves Almshouses on Salisbury Street

The Victorians' love of ornamentation and detail – as shown on the United Reform Church, is an interesting counterpoint to the plain, fuss-free Georgian exteriors

The cupola of Blandford’s Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul is visible from all around the town, and is often the first thing one sees of the town on approaching it, but whether it’s the parlous state of that cupola, half a grotesque poking out of a terraced house or chimney pots that dwarf the roofs on which they sit, Blandford has much for which it is worth angling one’s head back once one has arrived. From a gentle lift to the ridgeline of the almshouses, to a full 45° for a look up at some of the taller religious buildings, there’s always something to see, if you pause and look. ◗

This triple-gabled Victorian building at the junction of Salisbury Street and Whitecliff Mill Street is one of a number of properties using clay tiles as wall covering as well as a roof material

This relatively modern roof is clearly a result of some interesting movement in the structure beneath

The newer of the two former cinemas in Blandford has an unmistakable 1930s look to it. The plainness of the building's form and its symmetrical and uniform windows is made more striking by the occasional herringbone brick detail and the white mortar pointing


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