Overseers of the Poor

We are finding many entries which are baffling. For example in 1781

To Barbara Wife of Saml Fiander (Elop’d) 6
Mary Ridout Wife of Thos. (Elop’d) 2
Martha Vacher Spinster 4
Mary Lillington Wd in ye Almshouse 2
Mary Fiander, Wife of Robt F. (Elop’d) 4

Eloped here meaning absconded, went away. Robert and Samuel Fiander ended up in Newfoundland.

Their wives were left behind on poor relief.

Every year the Overseers paid “Gale money” to the Constable of the Hundred – what was this for?

With no Vestry Minute Books for Milton Abbas in the 18th century it makes it difficult to know what was going on.

Does anyone know of any other research into Overseers of the Poor Books of a rural parish of the 18th century?

Are there any books which cover the administration of the poor law from the point of view of an Overseer, or Churchwarden?

We have J H Bettey, Church and Landscape, 1987.


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The Tragic Tale of Ann Seager

We are transcribing the Overseers of the Poor Book  1771 – 1798. Thanks to John Quinn who transcribed these entries for 1777:

12 October Paid for one Pint of gine for Ann Seager

9 Nov Pd. Dockter Mock help taping Ann Seager

Pd. for Brandey for Ann Seager to wett the cloaths and Bandig when Taped 

Pd. for Cadle and Bandey for ann Seager

Pd. for 3 gurneys to Blandford hors and man for Ann Seager

Pd. Ann Seagers Furnel charges

There are many more tragic stories in this Overseers Book as well as an insight into the history of a rural village undergoing a profound change.

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18th Century weather

In order to understand our Overseers of the Poor records we would like to know what the weather was like in Dorset say 1770 – 1830.

In particular winter temperatures because these may be the cause of the expenditure on wood for the poor.

Also they may be part of the higher mortality in Jan – Mar when epidemics of fatal infectious diseases should have been lower?

One of our readers has found this site  And we know of Gilbert White of Selbourne, Hampshire records.

Now thanks to Pamela for finding this Met Office Hadley website which now gives us exactly what we wanted: monthly average temperatures 1659 – 2017, monthly rainfall 1766 – 2017, and seasonal temperatures 1659 – 2017.


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Gail Money

In the Overseers of the Poor books, once again we find the term “Paid the Gail money” £7 5s 0d, this time on 20 Jun 1779. Sometimes it is spelled “Gale”.

Since one entry said “Paid the Gale money to the Constable” we assume that this is for the gaol or jail somewhere.

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Robert Fiander sent to prison for poaching

Thanks to one of our correspondents we have found the Prison Admission Register which shows that Robert Fiander was committed for 3 months at the age of 15 from April to July 1819, for poaching. He was jailed the following year for the same offence.

At this time Caroline Damer was the owner of the Milton Abbas estate.

There may be more information in a newspaper report.

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Overseers of the Poor 1778

OoP p71 Crovining the grave

This entry is mystifying us. It seems to say “Paid the Expences of Crovining and Buring Burgundeys Child she had by John Hobbes £0 16s 7d”

There is no such word as “Crovining” in the full Oxford English Dictionary.

If the author meant “Crowning” why did he put a distinct dot over the “w”?

If he meant “Crowning” – what does that mean? “Crowning and burying an illegitimate child”?

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Excavations in the north aisle of Milton Abbey


The Milton Abbas Local History Group were extremely fortunate in being able to view the excavations. These will shortly be covered over again probably for another one hundred years. We await the full archaeological report with interest.

This gravestone is important. The crispness of the carving shows that it cannot have been exposed to the weather for long. It bears the date 1754, and we guess that it was broken up in the 1770’s and used as infill for the restoration of the Abbey by Wyatt shortly after.

The decoration at the head of the stone is beautifully carved.

The inscription reads “Here… of …R… died the 19th of Ap.. Aged 73 years… of Elizabeth his Wife …d of Septembr 1754 … years”.

There is sufficient information to figure out who this memorial is dedicated to. I leave to our readers to use opcdorset to discover more.

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The Rise and Fall of Merry England

The Rise and Fall of Merry England, HuttonThis excellent book by Ronald Hutton is a great background to the events in Milton Abbas in the 16th and 17th centuries. It explains a lot of the information in our Churchwardens Books for the 17th century.

For example there are clear changes in the expenses on Communion wine during the Interregnum and Restoration. There is no income from Church ales from the start of the existing records in 1638, since these had been declining since Elizabethan times.


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Kelly’s Directory of 1848


Bertie, David, ‘Portarlington Arms‘, & farmer

Cadie, Thomas, carpenter & wheelwrgt

Calnes Christopher, farmer

Eaton, Henry, tailor

Frizle, Thomas, carrier

Formidge John, farmer

Guy, James, blacksmith

Ham, John, farmer

Hawkins, Mill Maria, shopkeeper

|Hopkins Samuel, tailor

Ingram Robert, farmer

Jacob John, carpenter & wheelwright

Jeffery Wm. beer retailer & shopkeeper

Jerrard Samuel, farmer

Keynes John, farmer

Keynes Thomas, butcher

Kiddle John, shopkeeper

Longman, Thomas plumber

Miller Michae1, farmer

Morey Mrs. Frances, shopkeeper. & beer retailer

Mitchell James, blacksmith

Morey James? mason

Morey, Jonathan, shopkeeper

Rogers John, farmer

Rogers Joseph. Shoemaker & shopkeeper

Sanders Thomas, blacksmith

Smith, Mrs Harriet, shopkeeper

Tett John, farmer

Tuffln Jolm,shoemaker. & post office

Warne Charles, brewer

Webber Jacob, millet

POST OFFICE.-John Puffin, receiver. Letters are received (through the Blandford office, delivered at ½ past 8 a.m. Box closes at 4p.m.

CARRIER.-Thomas Frizle, every tues. &. thurs to Blandford, & wed. & sat. to Dorchester.

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Land Tax Assessments

We now have a good run of Land Tax records for the years 1780 – 1832, and we are beginning to transcribe them. They show the “proprietors” and “occupiers” of each property. There were 25 names in 1780, 20 in 1800, and 35 in 1832 – hardly an explosion in population or wealth! Surprisingly, the amount assessed remained at £277 over this fifty year period.

These records should show the movement of people into and out of the Old Town and new village, at least men of the “middling sort”. Probably not including the agricultural labourers on Lord Milton’s 8 000 acre estate, for which there is only the Overseers of the Poor Books, until the 1841 census.

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