John HAM – the Millionaire of Milton Abbas

John Ham was baptised on 21 May 1760, the youngest son of James Hobell and Charity Ham (neé Gould, later Hallett).

His parents were married in 1747. They had a daughter, Elizabeth, born in 1749 but she only lived for a few days so John may not even have known about her. His older brother James was baptised in 1751 and his sister Molly in 1754, followed by Ann in 1758. Sadly their father, James Hobell Ham died in 1765 when John was just five years old. His mother remarried the same year to John Hallett.

John and Eleanor are both shown on the 1841 Census aged 80, so being born around 1760. The census states he is a farmer but in his will written in 1844 he describes himself as a Gentleman.

John Ham died a very wealthy man, in fact he would be described as a millionaire today.
According to his will, written in 1844, he distributed just over £11,886 in cash, along with numerous properties he owned. This is quite extraordinary in a village of almost all agricultural labourers in tied cottages.

The will states that he has £20,000 in stocks and shares; this is the equivalent today of:

But where did his wealth come from? There is no doubt that some of it was inherited, but according to the Rev. Herbert Pentin writing in the Parish Magazine in May 1904:

Lord Milton founded John Ham’s fortune by employing him to glaze the whole of the Abbey House, and also the Abbey Church at its restoration in 1789. When Lord Milton commissioned Ham for the work he said significantly:- “Now, John, if you don’t make a fortune by these jobs you’re a fool.” And it is generally supposed that John Ham profited by the hint.”

© Pamela Phillips 2021

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