Exhibition 2020 – 'The Times They Wuz A’Changin’: Life in a Georgian Dorset Village

We are planning a three day exhibition May 23 – 25 2020.

We are busy researching the Old Town of Milton Abbas, and now have most of the relevant records transcribed.

However there are a few wills, removal orders, settlement examinations, bastardy papers, marriage licenses and miscellaneous documents still to do.

We would be very grateful if any of our readers would help us complete these please?

Here is an example:

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Labourer's Pay 1775

We are just transcribing some bills, vouchers or receipts for Milton Abbey Estate for labouring work. These are answering some questions such as the names of the labourers and how much they were paid, but raising more – the list contains many names that are not paid? Why are there different rates of pay, mostly, but not always, 1s per day? Others getting 8d, 6d or 4d a day – perhaps children, but what were they doing to assist in digging and wheeling? What and where were they digging? The work done is measured by the yard – presumably a cubic yard of soil – but how far was it carried by wheelbarrow?

There are women’s names listed as well. Were they digging and wheeling too?

This is a very interesting set of bills. It is a complete record of a major project of work from November 1774 to May 1775, involving as many as sixty people a month over the seven months.  A dozen or more of these are workmen being paid by the day, the rest are men and some women being paid according to how many cubic yards of earth or other material they have moved. There are also bills for two blacksmiths and a saddler and harness maker for the production/repair of wheelbarrows, pickaxes, shovels etc., and for horse harness, demonstrating that horse-drawn carts and barrows were also used in the excavations.  The work might have been landscaping for the new park, work on the mansion house or abbey church, demolishing the Old Town or preparing the site of the new village, or perhaps all four. Capability Brown delivered his plans for the new village in November 1774, so the work may be in direct response to that. The final bills refer to the building of a stone wall and the construction of a drain from the “west front” to the common “shore” (or sewer). This could possibly refer to the west front of the mansion house or the abbey church. Sam Watson, who was in charge of the project, also appears as a witness on the first lease in the new village and served as Lord Milton’s nomination as Overseer of the Poor in the first few years of the new village. The amount of earth or other materials moved during the work rivals that of other of Capability Brown’s major works at Petworth and Stowe.  There is a question of whether the project was saving the parish on payments to the poor through the winter by putting them to work on the project. Although this is the only set of bills that remain, it may be that similar projects took up some of the winter months for the nearly thirty years it took to complete Lord Milton’s park.

As well as the common Milton Abbas names – Fiander, Vacher, Arnold, Foot, Rogers, etc, there are labourers names which do not otherwise occur in Milton Abbas records – Stokes, Symes, Storrage, Swanger, Burnet, Duke. Where did they come from?

As usual there are more questions than answers.

Samuel Watson was the foreman and was paid one guinea a week. Note that the labourers were working 6 days a week. This continued into the winter months and must have been a vital source of income for agricultural labourers.

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Christmas Tree Festival 2019

St James Church holds a Christmas Tree Festival every year to raise money for children’s charities.

June McAvoy very kindly donated and decorated this tree on behalf of our history group.

Merry Christmas to all our readers!

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Winchester College Muniments

The archives at Winchester College are very important for the history of Milton Abbey prior to the surrender in 1539.

We were fortunate to contact the archivist who gave us access to photograph some of the key documents in this fabulous resource. These are Court Rolls, Account Rolls and grants of leases by the Abbey, and all in superb condition.

We have found only one reference in the literature to these documents: ‘Milton Abbey: A Dorset Monastery in the Middle Ages’, Peter Traskey, 1978.

How the documents came to be in the possession of Winchester College is another story in itself.

We took high resolution images of 170 of the documents, and there are plenty more to do!

We need to transcribe these before we can understand the significance to the study of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in general, and Milton Abbey in particular. The grants of leases are an example of the general phenomenon in the years just before the surrender for monasteries to obtain cash. This cash was used as ‘inducements’ – a euphemism for bribes, to Thomas Cromwell, his commissioners, and the local aristocracy, in the hope that they would support the monasteries.

There are documents of the grants of leases in the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII held at The National Archives (SP/2).

We believe that this information would contribute significantly to a PhD on this particular aspect of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Please Contact Us if you are interested, or for more information.

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Bastardy Examination of Charlotte Vacher, 1829

We have just been given the original of this document. It is now transcribed and available for members to share. Her name is spelled Charlotte Vatcher in the document, and Charlotte Vacher on the reverse. John Sturmy is named as the father of the male bastard child.

The child was baptised in Milton Abbas in July 1829 and named as Stephen Vacher.

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The People who were paid for catching vermin

From an analysis of the names occurring in the Churchwarden’s Accounts 1750 – 1752, it seems clear that it was mostly children and a couple of housemaids who were being paid for catching vermin. These came from many of the households in the Old Town of Milton Abbas, and there are 80 different people paid in just these two years. The payments did not just go to the farmers and their children but to most families. The same family names also occur as paying church rates.

We will examine the Churchwarden’s Accounts further to discover if this remained true after the building of the new village.

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The People of the Parish, Katherine French, 2001

This excellent book uses pre-Reformation Churchwardens Accounts to show what life was like for the people of the parish, including rural parishes in the 14th, 15th and early 16th centuries. How the parish worked as a community, including of course all the religious ceremonies, plays, processions, holy days, dressing the church, candles.

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Overseers of the Poor

We are now working on transcribing Book 3 which covers the years 1818 – 1830. The way of accounting has changed from previous books – here the entries still include about 20 people being paid monthly on out relief, but there are many more bills being paid to tradesmen. The names of the tradespeople are given, but the goods and services are not identified. The “disbursements” are no longer named as such, they are included in the monthly payments. These were additional payments to those in need.

Although there are people on out relief, there was probably a poor house as well, and the bills are probably for supplies to this.

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Movie Clip in Milton Abbas

This 5 second video clip occurred in the middle of the BBC Countryfile program broadcast 1 Sep 2019. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the program which concerned evacuees of Word War 2.

We would love to know where the rest of the film might be, and what it was about. We will ask the BBC, but any information would be most welcome.

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The Will of Sir John Tregonwell 1563

This is the longest, oldest, and certainly the most tedious will that we have ever transcribed.

One of our transcribers has single-handedly completed the mammoth task of transcribing the 19 pages of tightly spaced, 16th century legal writing. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for this.

Although it is in English, the letters are not consistently formed, the spelling is such that Google docs spell checker has had a headache, and the sheer repetition of phrases is mind boggling.

This is an example chosen at random.
Our transcription is :
“the said John Tregonwell myne heire apparent to decease and die w[i]t[h]out heires of his bodie lawfully begotten, that then my said mannor of Estpullam [East Pulham] and all other my lands and tenements in Estpullam aforesaid w[i]th there appurtenances shall holie [wholly] remaine to theires [the heirs] males of the bodie of the said Jane Thornehill my Daughter and to theires males theire bodies lawfullie begotten, the remaynder thereof for lacke of suche yssue to the right heires of me the said Sir John Tregonwell Knight for ever, now my will mynd and intente is that yf the said Robart Thornhill Esquire do not”

The fluidity of spelling is amazing. Although this was written by a professional scribe at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, he can spell the exact same word in two different ways in the same sentence!

The transcribed document gives us entirely new information not found elsewhere. It includes the friends and relatives of Sir John Tregonwell, a room by room inventory, and the manors and estates in Dorset that were purchased between his purchase of the former Abbey of Milton from Henry VIII in 1540 and the date of this will of 1563.

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