This is a recent example of the kind of transcription that takes so many hours of painstaking work.

It is a tiny part of the will of Richard Squybbe 1591.

At least it is in English! Some wills of this date are in Latin – and one of our transcribers is now working on one of those.

A huge thank you to all our transcribers, who have made such an enormous contribution to our understanding of Milton Abbas history and to our heritage. Future researchers owe them a great debt.

Not all our documents are as difficult as this – please get in touch if you would like to help.

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Milton Abbas house history

For those exploring their house histories we have just transcribed the 1920 Electoral Register, and are transcribing all of the available Registers. We have saved the electoral rolls using the Dorset Library free access to Ancestry. There seems to be a large increase in the number of voters in Milton Abbas between 1877 and 1890, probably because eligibility to vote changed.

We have completed the transcription of the 1911 Census, and the 1939 Register. These are the most useful to begin with because they give the house numbers, which are not available in earlier documents, although they can be worked out from earlier censuses with care. 

We already have all Kelly’s Directories of Milton Abbas transcribed, and the censuses of 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1891, and 1901 are all available at 

Thus members can now easily search these records to build up a picture of who lived in their house over time..

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A House Through Time, BBC2

We have been watching David Olusoga’s third series on ‘A House Through Time’ broadcast on BBC2

This is a fascinating programme showing how good research can bring to life ordinary people and how they faced tragedies in a particular household. These programmes would be a great way to teach children history, and make it relevant to them. The major historic and political events such as Spanish flu, WW1, Suffrage, etc are introduced as incidental to people’s life stories, but always in relation to their family life.

I hope you are all watching this series and that you have been encouraged to do your own house history, and see how former tenants and owners coped with everything that life threw at them. I think these stories help us cope with our own lives by putting in context what our forebears had to deal with. In particular, for the cottages in Milton Abbas street built around 1780, it is possible to determine how many people were living in one address, how badly they were overcrowded, what their occupations or trades were, their baptisms, marriages and deaths, their poverty, and so on. 

It is clear, for example, from a brief look at the Censuses, that for women in Milton Abbas, there was a dramatic change in circumstances from the growth and collapse of the Dorset Button industry and then the growth and collapse of the glove making industry. Both cottage industries were destroyed by mechanisation. The overcrowding and living conditions in the street were reported as a disgrace in the national press. Most of the men were agricultural labourers working for the estate, and their working conditions, life expectancy, and medical complaints show what life was like.

We have transcribed plenty of records such as Kelly’s Directories, Overseers of the Poor, wills, settlement examinations, etc which can be used to find out more of the history of the house where you live.

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Free Access to Ancestry

During Covid19 Libraries West are giving free access to the library edition of Ancestry to members at home, (previously only available at the library).

If you have a Dorset Libraries card you first need to log in to your Libraries West account. You will see this screen:

If anyone finds any other free information please let us know here.

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The National Archives free downloads

TNA are providing free downloads of some of their digitised documents. These are mostly probates of wills. These were previously £3.50.

Go to their website to find out more. The downloads are pdf.

We have taken advantage of this to download all the wills concerning people from Milton Abbas. We found about 30 that we had not downloaded previously. These are currently being transcribed. They date from 1638 to 1851.

We would welcome any help in transcribing these – something to do during lockdown!

Other documents are available, particularly Admiralty records.

List of wills downloaded from TNA:

Will of The Honorable Henry Dawson Damer of Milton Abbey31 Aug 1841
Will of Mary Jarvis18 Feb 1784
Will of John Gover, Mariner of Milton Abbey, Dorset3 Jan 1709
Will of Elijah Leach, late Servant of Milton Abbey , Dorset26 Jan 1837
Will of John Butler, Yeoman of Milton Abbey, Dorset20 Feb 1666
Frederick Cross . Age: 19 years 2 months. Place of birth: Milton Abbey
Will of Robert Welsted of Milton Tregonwell, Dorset9 Apr 1567
Will of Joseph Damer of Roscrea , Tipperary11 Feb 1743
Reginald John Sprules, b 5 Feb 1905, Milton Abbas
Certificate for House of Margery Pooke set aside for Dissenting Protestants15 Jul 1707
Seal of John Bradley, Abbot of Milton1530
Petitioners: Abbot and convent of Milton. Addressees: King1347
Will of Ann Bridge, Widow of Abby Milton, Dorset23 May 1825
Will of Elizabeth Squib or Squibe, Widow of Middleton, Dorset16 Jun 1604
Will of Richard Squybbe, Yeoman of Middleton, Dorset8 Oct 1580
Will of Jane George, Spinster of Abbey Milton13 Dec 1853
Will of James Dyer, Plumber, of Abbey Milton8 Apr 1824
Will of Benjamin Smart, Barber of MA Dorset12 May 1806
Will of Andrewe Lanckford, Yeoman of Milton Abbas, Dorset5 Sep 1639
Will of Symon Alner, Weaver of Milton Abbas, Dorset20 Nov 1640
Sentence of Samuel Adams of Milton Abbas , Dorset30 June 1748
Will of William Wood, Tailor of Milton Abbas , Dorset20 May 1763
Will of Henry Jeanes, Collar Maker of Milton Abbas, Dorset14 July 1641
Will of Sarah Elford, Spinster of Milton Abbas , Dorset20 Aug 1851
Will of Letitia Spinney, Widow of Milton Abbas , Dorset15 Jun 1848
Will of Mary Woodard, Widow of Milton Abbas , Dorset3 Aug 1840
Will of William Kiddle of Milton Abbas , Dorset25 May 1835
Will of Samuel Adams, Yeoman of Milton Abbas, Dorset14 Jul 1748
Will of Henry Shepheard, Husbandman of Milton Abbas, Dorset18 Oct 1638
Sentence of Francis Sheparde or Sheppard of Milton Abbas, Dorset19 Feb 1591
Will of John Almond, Tailor of Milton Abbas, Dorset3 Sep 1639
Will of John Shepheard or Shephard, Husbandman of Milton Abbas, Dorset17 Sep 1640
Will of John Sheaperd or Sheperd, Baker of Milton Abbas, Dorset18 Oct 1638
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Milton Abbey Customary 1317

I am so excited by the fantastic progress one of our translators is making on this strange, but interesting document.

It gives the terms of the tenancies for the villeins on the estates of Milton Abbey in 1317.

These were turbulent times with the country in meltdown. Edward II had his favourites and advisers (the greedy Gaveston and the Despensers) and there were many disagreements with the rest of his barons. Not to mention the battles with the Scots, including Bannockburn, 1314.

In addition, the great famine of 1315 – 1317, which struck the whole of Europe, left many people in England starving and dying. This is just the time when our customary (aka custumal) was written.

part of the entry for the manor of Wydecombe, now Whitcombe, near Dorchester, Dorset

The terms of the tenancy are very surprising to a modern outlook, but this was still a feudal society, and the tenants had to provide many days of work for the lord of the manor, that is the Abbot of Milton in our case.

As an example, Alice Cutches holds one messuage & half a virgate of land: “…she will mow half an acre in Wyldemede & receive nothing & the value of the work is 2d. And if necessary she will be responsible for stacking into cocks a quarter of the lord’s corn & she will receive 8d for a sheaf, which is the customary receipt. And in death she will give a Heriot as is aforesaid for a virgators. And she will have one son quit of chevage as long as he remains with her. And she will prepare 3 bushels of barley against the Nativity or after & she will dry them with the lord’s straw…”

This is a tiny fraction of the commitments she and other half virgaters had to make. Her entry in the customary extends over several pages.

We are researching to compare the terms of the Milton Abbey estates with other monastic estates, and the estates of other nobility in the first half of the 14th century.

If anyone can help our research then please contact us.

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Overseers of the Poor Accounts Books

There are four books in all which cover the period 1771 – 1836. No others exist.

One of our transcribers has single handedly just completed the transcription of all 229 pages of the third book in this series which covers the years 1818 to 1836 and we now have a spreadsheet containing 18291 rows of records.

We have now completed the transcription of all four books producing about 60000 records – a fantastic achievement.

A huge thank you to all our transcribers who have spent hundreds of hours working on this.

A great resource for local and family historians. A great legacy for our group.

Our members now have access for their research.

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Charter of bounds between Middelton and Helton, 1319

The Milton Abbey Priory Archive is a roll of parchment in the Dorset History Centre which contains twenty separate documents all written in Medieval Latin. The first document is the Metes and Bounds of Milton Abbas with Woolland, dated 1384/5. This was translated by Peter Traskey and is given as Appendix XII, in his book ‘Milton Abbey: A Dorset Monastery in the Middle Ages’, 1978.

The second document in the roll is a charter of the bounds between Milton Abbas and Hilton, dated 1319. This arose over a dispute between the Abbot of Milton and the Abbot of Abbotsbury (who held Hilton at the time). It begins:


Omnibus evident appareat quod cum quedam contencio mota esset inter Benedictum [de Loders, 1297-1320] Abbatem de…

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During the coronavirus outbreak our research is continuing:

Although our meetings and exhibition have been postponed, monthly updates will continue to be emailed to members, and research is continuing as follows:

Ham family of Milton Abbas research – all wills and other documents have been transcribed and searched. Writing up is in progress.

18th century Clothing and dress – research in progress ready for exhibition.

Milton Abbas Grammar School – research complete, writing up for exhibition.

Milton Abbas Occupations – research in progress.

Milton Abbas Martyrs – six men given 2 months hard labour for “Combining with others to increase wages” in 1803 – thirty years before the Tolpuddle Martyrs, completed but we would like more information on the Dorset Justice “James Frampton”

Vermin – Churchwardens Accounts transcribed and searched.

St James Church, Milton Abbas, consecrated 1786, research ongoing.

1317 Milton Abbas Customary – translation and transcription from medieval Latin ongoing. A D Mills, Place Names of Dorset, Parts 1 – 4 are being searched to corroborate field and other place names in this customary. A presentation is ready to be given as soon as our meetings can resume.

The Tudor cartoons from the 1317 Customary have been put on the Facebook site Medieval and Tudor Royal History We are hoping that someone can interpret these. The post has had plenty of likes, but no useful comments. I have tried to put these cartoons on Susannah Lipscombe’s Facebook page, but not succeeded.

Milton Abbas First School – we now have a comprehensive diary of the years 1985 – 1991. Now available for future local and family historians to research.

Overseers of the Poor Account books – transcription almost complete of all existing records 1771 – 1836. That is 60 000 records! Thanks to our wonderful transcribers. These records are in spreadsheets and available for searching and research.

The ‘Lloyd George Domesday Survey’ of 1911 is being transcribed.

Hoare’s Bank Archives have been visited and initial search for Damer family accounts of the 18th and 19th centuries has been done.

We have purchased new display boards for our exhibitions thanks to a local grant.

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Overseers of the Poor Accounts Book 1830 – 1836

These are the final entries in the final book:

After this date there are no more payments by the Overseers of the Poor of Milton Abbas. Poor people then had to use the Workhouse which had been set up in Blandford Forum – one of the much feared ‘Union Workhouses’, which had been brought about by an Act of Parliament.

A huge thanks to the single handed effort of our transcriber from Canada. The sigh of relief on completing the transcription of 8611 records into a spreadsheet, was audible from across the Atlantic Ocean. He is now taking a very well earned break.

Our members can now search for the names of people in Milton Abbas, whether they were Overseers, Justices, Poor Rate payers, paupers, or the occasionally ill or out of work.

A magnificent achievement, and a legacy of the Milton Abbas Local History Group for future generations of researchers and family historians.

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