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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Milton Abbey Customary 1317 – update

How wrong I was! Now we have had an expert Latinist look at this document – the first line reads “David le Beau holds one messuage and……”

Translating the names is the trickiest part, and it seems some initial capitals are not consistent. However the rest of the text is easy to read.

We would welcome more volunteers to help with the translation of the remaining 60 pages.

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Milton Abbey Customary 1317

Here is the first page of the customary:

The first line reads (I think): David Le Oean holds one messuage and one furlong of land paying per annum 3s 8d.

The document, which is in the British Library, tells us the names of tenants, their land holdings, their service obligations, field names, and other information of great interest to the history of Milton Abbey in the 14th century. The document was put together by the Benedictine monks of the Abbey shortly after the disastrous fire of 1309, when all their documents were lost.

On other pages are listed freeholders, life holders, virgatarii, and cottagers. Their land holding and service provided to the Abbot seem to be very feudal, with many days of work per year in reaping, sheaving, threshing. ploughing and carting for little or no reward. The monasteries were no better as landlords than the rest of the aristocracy.

The writing of the manuscript is in Anglicana font and very neatly written.

We are trying to transcribe this ourselves, but would welcome any input. Contact us if you would like to help.

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Tudor Cartoons

We have just found these images in a Customary of Milton Abbas of 1320. They have been added later by an unknown author. Can anyone help interpret them? There are several more like this.

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Is there history in your attic, garden or fields, sheds or barns?

On 23-25 May 2020, Milton Abbas Local History Group will be holding a free entry exhibition in St James Church and the Reading Rooms, Milton Abbas, featuring village life before the 20th century. We are looking for any objects or documents that may be of interest and that you are willing to lend or share with us.

We are looking for anything that might be of historical interest, that we could show to visitors. These could feature any crafts or trades of the times gone by, e.g. old woodworking, smithing, plumbing, shoemaking tools, Dorset buttons, gloves, lace, etc. Or village school related items. It might be something that has been dug up from your garden or found in your attic, ploughed up in a field, metal detected, or old letters and documents. You may have even researched a local family. Even fragments of old pottery can be interesting. We already have a spinning wheel, a floorboard with writing on the back, wig curlers, quill and inkpot, kindling, and brewery items. 

If you have anything that you think might fit the bill and you are willing to lend, or allow us to photograph, please Contact us

And please put the 23-25 May 2020 in your diary. We look forward to meeting you at the Milton Abbas Local History Group Exhibition.

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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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