Overseers of the Poor – what we have learned

Every month the Overseer paid out the regular payment to the poor, plus “disbursements” – additional payments, goods or services to those in need, and costs of the Overseers.

These disbursements are of most interest to the local historian because they identify the cost of goods and services; who is working for the parish and the names the poor of the parish.

At this time agricultural wages were about 6s per week, and almost of this income went on rent and very poor food. Labourers had no savings for a rainy day.

These documents also show us the spellings of the time – much as they sounded.

All the following information is from just 4 months of entries in 1771. There is much more history still to be discovered.

5 May 1771 Paid John Arnold for Sweeping Sixteen Parish Chimbleys

From this we know that the chimney sweep, John Arnold, was paid 3d per chimney.

5 May 1771 Paid Wm Bragg for a coffen for Mary Biles

From this we learn that a coffin cost 8s., William Bragg was probably the village carpenter, and that Mary Biles died sometime in April or May 1771 – a useful check on the Parish Registers which are not always complete, especially for burials. However in this case the register does show that Mary Biles was buried on 26 May 1771.

5 May 1771 Paid for a New Great Coat for France Vacher and Makeing

Clearly a new coat was an expensive item at 16s 9d in 1771.

25 Jun 1771 Paid for a New Coat and Making for Jethro Lovell boy

25 Jun 1771 Paid for to new shurths for Jethro Lovell to boys

A new coat for a boy at 7s 10d was about half that for a man, and shirts were about 2s 6d each, and that Jethro Lovell had two boys in 1771.

Paid for a pair of shous for Tobias Whifen

Paid for to pair of shous for Lovell boys

Paid for a Pair of Shous for Tho’ Legg boy

Thus a pair of adult shoes were 5s 9d, and boys 3s 8d.

1 Aug 1771 Paid William Campbell half a year House Rent for Mary Vacher, Due Miedsumer Last

Rent for a house was £1 per year. William Campbell was probably a house owner (although he may have been sub-letting) and Mary Vacher a tenant who could not afford to pay her rent.

1 Aug 1771 Paid for the making to load of straw for the Parish house

This is very important piece of information – the Parish house was probably the poor house, this in addition to the almshouses which we know were present. The houses were thatched with straw as one would expect, and that a load of straw cost 4s.

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Overseers of the Poor Book 1781

100, 1781-04

This is new to us, a unique entry in our Overseers of the Poor Book. It reads “At a Vestry held this Sixteenth day of April the following Poor People appeared & Complained; they Wanted as follows

John Piper of Pimperne – Assistance for 3 Children of his sister Ann Segar boy aged 9, 8 & 6 – Gave him 10s. 6d.”

There are thirty other requests, no other money was granted, but shirts, shifts and shoes were given.

Is this common to other villages where the poor can turn up at an annual meeting and ask for more help?

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Milton Abbas village transport

IMG_5963 (2015_11_04 12_54_45 UTC)

This very handsome Victorian semi-detached property replaced one of the original 1780 cob and thatch cottages, probably when the latter burnt down or fell down.

The right hand house was once the location of the village bus service to Blandford and Dorchester.  The bus was parked up the drive, there was a petrol pump here, complete with tank and piping.

Kelly’s Directory for 1939 records: Carriers.–Sidney Harmer, with motor omnibus, to
Blandford, tues. & thurs.; to Dorchester, daily (except thurs).

In 1923 the carriers are listed in Kelly’s as Robert Lovell and Andrew Bolt.

Before motorised transport this property housed the horse and cart and stabling is evident at the rear of the building.

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Milton Abbas Local History Group visit Cerne Abbas


Our history group were given a presentation and a guided tour by the Cerne Abbas Historical Society. This was followed by dinner in the Giant Inn.

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A History of the Tregonwell Family

A History of the Tregonwell Family

We were lucky to be given this 120 foolscap page typescript by the author himself, Sir Mervyn Medlycott. It is his last remaining sixth copy. If anyone remembers carbon copies they will be aware that the quality of the copies decreases with the number of copies. However it is readable and I have the task of transcribing it. Only 30 more pages to go!

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Chris and Debra Wood from British Columbia


What a great day we had – thanks to the Dorset weather it was a beautiful sunny day; thanks to Debra and Chris Wood for coming all the way from British Columbia to visit Milton Abbas; thanks to Helier Exon for his guided tour of the Abbey and thanks to Ann and Chris Fookes for their hospitality.

Here is Chris Fookes signing a copy of his book on Milton Abbas.

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Overseers of the Poor – Paupers House

Overseers, Pauper House, 146, 1786-03

This is the first piece of evidence for a Pauper’s House in the new village of Milton Abbas. From the Overseers of the Poor book page dated April 1786. This is in addition of course to the Almshouses for “6 poor widows” which had been moved brick by brick from the old town to the new.

“Paid 1 Years Rent for the Houses in the New Town where the paupers reside and particulars agreed at a Vestry Meeting 4 Oct 1784 £9 9s 4d.”

This annual rent was of course paid to Joseph Damer, Lord Milton, who had the new village built out of his sight. We have a picture of these houses which were next to the building which is now the Hambro Arms. This is on the front cover of Chris Fookes’ Guide Book.

Thanks to Chris Wood for the transcription.

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Milton Abbas Street Fair 2017

IMG_0985Despite the dreadful weather plenty of people turned out, and many took an interest in our history group stand. Thanks to the great British public. All the volunteers on our stand were in 18th century costume, which added to the sense of history.

Many visitors learned for the first time of the removal of the old town in the late 18th century.

We were visited by others who had ancestors from Milton Abbas.

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Holloways and Sunken Paths, the Mysterious Ancient Highways

DSC01378 (2015_11_04 12_54_45 UTC)I wonder if these holloways coincide with any parish boundary.

In Milton Abbas our parish boundaries often feature a central pathway flanked by a double bank and ditch, each bank topped with formerly coppiced trees. This photo was taken at Gallows Corner, a spot where five tracks meet and two of them are part of the Parish boundary.

The Dorset Rambler


There are thousands of ancient paths criss crossing Dorset’s wonderful countryside but none more fascinating than these labyrinthine paths like the one in the picture above which goes by the interesting name of Hell Lane! These are known as Holloways, although they do have other names such as shutes, bostels or grundles depending on the area they are in, and they are only seen in areas where the bedrock is soft – West Dorset is predominantly sandstone and therefore has many Holloways.

So what are Holloways?

Well the name Holloway comes from the anglo-saxon word which literally means ‘sunken road’, and they date from at least 300 years ago, many going back as far as the iron age. They started life as either drove trails used to move cattle and other animals from farms to markets, routes from inland to the sea ports, pilgrimage routes, or simply boundary ditches. I am not sure…

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Of a once grand abbey, a once thriving village, glorious greenery, and a graveyard

The Dorset Rambler, with thanks.
Some lovely pictures.

The Dorset Rambler

I woke to a glorious sunny morning, eager to get out on the trail again.  I had already decided which walk I wanted to do – it started from the picture postcard village of Milton Abbas.  This is a designer village with one broad main street lined with almost identical houses thanks to Joseph Damer, Lord Milton, owner of Milton Abbey.  In 1780 he decided that the nearby market town of Middleton was spoiling his view so he appointed Sir William Chambers and Capability Brown to design a new village in Luccombe Bottom, just around the corner…….and out of sight!  The result was Milton Abbas.  The old town of Middleton was demolished and the grounds landscaped to form the parkland of his mansion.

Milton AbbasMilton Abbas

It really is a beautiful, pristine village and it was wonderful walking down this street, passing old buildings such as the old bakery, the post office, the church…

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