New additions to our Library

Thanks to one of our members, Alistair Bond, we now have an additional 20 books. These are on all topics Dorset, and a starting point for research.

They will be available for members to borrow and are listed on the Members Section of this website.

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Vestry Minute Book

One of our amazing transcribers, Shirley Chick, has just completed the Milton Abbas Vestry Minute Book 1863 – 1924. The original book is in our possession.

The resulting 65 page document is now available for our members to research. The book is name rich, and contains over 50 occurrences each of the names TETT, HAMBRO, FOOKES, SPILLER, GEORGE, COX, ROBERTS, PLAYER, LOVELL and incidences of many other names then living in Milton Abbas.

Here is part of the first page 1863

The Hambro Arms is still our village pub, although I don’t believe it holds Vestry Meetings anymore!

If you want to know more about this document, please contact us.

We have thousands, yes thousands, of other documents concerning the history of Milton Abbas. Many have already been transcribed but there are still plenty to do. If you would like to help then contact us. We have high resolution images of our documents which can be shared online.

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Our new season of meetings starts on Wednesday 6 Oct in the Reading Rooms, Milton Abbas. For our more distant members, we will also be using ZOOM.

We have had several trial runs and spent many hours researching how best to run a ‘hybrid’ meeting. We are in the process of buying more equipment such as speakers, webcam and microphone, with the additional cost of a ZOOM subscription. Hopefully it will all work on the night!

However, all this takes time to set up and relies on one or two members to sort it all out. Our meetings WILL START AT 19:30 GMT+1. We also need some members to arrive early and set out the chairs and tables and put them away at the end of the meeting.

We ask all our members to please bear with us. We will be audio recording and video recording and the reports and presentations will be available later on the Member’s Section of our website.

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Walking in History’s Footsteps

Our members, Clive Barnes and Sheila and Peter Arnold have been walking the old roads and tracks of Milton Abbas and compared maps of the 18th century when Joseph Damer, Lord Milton moved the roads to build his landscape.

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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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Changing views of ‘Justice’

Our Old Town Project group have been busy researching our rural Dorset village over the past few years. We have found out the things that you won’t find in the history books – forget mad King George and his profligate and dissolute son, find out how the vast majority of people lived and worked and struggled for justice. Why were six MIlton Abbas men sentenced to two months hard labour by the notorious James Frampton, 30 years before he sentenced the Tolpuddle Martyrs? What had they done, and how did they break the law? This is such an important part of our nation’s culture and heritage that the story of the Milton Abbas Martyrs should be more widely known and appreciated.

Come and find out more at our major new exhibition 28 – 30 August in the Reading Rooms and St James Church Milton Abbas.

We can’t wait to share our research with you!

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More News!

Do you know how people lived in Georgian Britain? Most of them didn’t go to Bath to take the waters, nor live in towns. Most of them, 80%, worked on the land, were very poorly paid and lived in crowded and dilapidated cottages. All Dorset villages were like this. We have found some bills which show just what the farm labourers were being paid, their names, and what work they were doing throughout the year.

If you would like to know more about them come along to our new major exhibition 28 – 30 August in the Reading Rooms and St James Church Milton Abbas. The farming year is just one of the many features that we will be showing.

To find out more click here.

We very much look forward to discussing all our recent findings with you.

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New information revealed

We are working our way through transcribing the Surveyors of the Highways records that we have in our possession. They show both the people paying the poor rates and their assessment, and the accounts which give the names of the labourers being paid and how much. This is important information because it comes before the first Census of 1841 for Milton Abbas.

We have completed the rate book for Milton Abbas 1837 (our ref #496). This shows the names of those paying poor rates:

The Honorable H Damer
The Revd L Masterman
Thomas Fox Esq
George Roberts
Robert Ingram
Samuel Jerrard
George Tett
John Keynes
Robert Rogers
Jacob Webber
James Wallis
Robert Miller
John Ham
Mariah Hawkins
David Bertie
John Jacobb
William Jeaffery
John Masey
Fanny Dyer
John Jukes
Robert Lovell
Jonathan Morey
Revd T Tyrwhitt
William Smith
Lititia Spinney
Richard Bellamy
Thomas Caddy
John Keynes
John Ham
Elizabeth Bellamy
John Cross
Elizabeth Woodward

These are the wealthy people of Milton Abbas. If you have any of these people in your family tree then please contact us for more information. We would love to hear from you.

There will be a list of the labourer’s names coming soon. And a long list of those who were too poor to pay the rates! Then there will be a list of the poor who were being paid for mending the roads for a little as 6d per day. Poor indeed.

There will be more information about the ag labs of Milton Abbas at our forthcoming exhibition 28 – 30 August in Milton Abbas. Looking forward to seeing you there and discussing your ancestors.

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Overseers of the Poor Account Books

The Milton Abbas Local History Group have transcribed 60 000 records of all their Overseers of the Poor Account books from 1771 to 1836, and we are finding they are a fantastic resource for researching local and family history. They are unique records in which the poor are detailed with their names, and what things cost. Every aspect of life is covered – illness, doctors, medicines, treatments, nursing care, moving, funerals, lying in, travelling, old age, clothing, shoes, bedding, chimney sweeping, house rent, who is paying rates and how much. This information gives an insight into the social history of each parish. As just one example, this entry occurs in the Overseers accounts for Milton Abbas in April 1800 “Mr White for Extra Gristing £7 8s 6d”. This led me to explore the events around this time concerning the poor, and write an article and a presentation on the subject. It was possible to chart the price of grains, the amount spent by the Overseers, the amount received by each of the farmers and the amount of rates paid. This information, together with the mortality and birth rates for just this parish show just how tough the years around 1800 were, and how the tenant farmers, miller and overseers handled the situation. Another example is how smallpox was dealt with by the parish – but that is for another blog.

Also for family historians the Overseers of the Poor account books can tell the story of their individual ancestors in need, what illnesses they had, when they suffered from poverty, when they had enough to live on. This information with other documents such as bastardy records, removal records allows a full picture of an ancestor’s life to be told.

I am surprised that family historians are not using their parish records of the Overseers of the Poor moor. A trawl through magazines such as Who Do You Think You Are? and Your Family Tree produces nothing relevant. The great thing about these records is that they are available for many parishes before the censuses and the Union Workhouses, so if you have traced your family back before 1841 they are an essential resource, why not check out the Dorset History Centre catalogue to see if your parish Overseers Accounts are there? Also search this website to our progress on the Overseers of the Poor.

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Exhibition 28 – 30 August 2021

At last! Now we can hold our exhibition. We have so much to show that it will be in both St James Church, Milton Abbas and the Reading Rooms, Milton Abbas.

Lots more details here.

We do hope you can get here to meet us – there is lots to talk about over a cup of tea and cake, and we are very much looking forward to meeting you in person to share our excitement.

In case you can’t make it, we are hoping to video our displays with a commentary and put it on this website.

A huge thank you to our researchers who have made this possible.

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