I first visited Milton Abbas in 1908 – it was early summer and the chestnut trees were in full bloom and I thought it was the most beautiful village I had ever seen. I little thought then that I should spend a great part of my life here.
The village was very different then, most of the houses were inhabited by employees of the Milton Abbey Estate. There was no electricity or drainage. The water was provided by pumps at intervals down the Street and people had to fetch their water in buckets. On washing day the dirty water ran down each side of the Street in the gutters. Each cottage hid its own earth closet, and these were cleared at dead of night by a cart provided by the estate. Most of the gardens were well maintained, the villagers growing their own vegetables, especially potatoes. Although wages were very low the rents for these houses were about two shillings and sixpence a week.
The village was very self-supporting in those days. We had our own bakery, butcher, forge, shoemaker) a hospital and a brewery all to serve local residents. People used to bring their mid-day Sunday meal to be cooked in the Bakery bread oven which was presided over by Mr Parsons who wore a white apron and a chef s hat. The forge was run by Walter Evans, the father of Winnie Sweetapple. He was a famous wrought iron worker as well as being a Farrier and mending all agricultural machinery. Many people in the parish still have some of his work. Walter Evans
was Churchwarden for many years and kept the Church Registers (now in the Museum) meticulously.
The village shop, owned by Mrs Marlow, and later by Mrs Parsons, was a great centre. The Post Office also sold sweets etc., and was run by two sisters, Louie and Jessie Vacher, who were pillars of the Wesleyan Chapel. Miss Louie was tall and thin,
Miss Jessie short and fx. Next door was the boot-maker, Mr Stayner.
At the top of the village was the Hospital where the village Nurse lived. It was not much used as people preferred to be ill in their own homes, but Nurse Mather was very much loved. She is reputed to have delivered a baby in a tent on Bulbaffow. Mr and Mrs Bussell lived at No. 51 where they carried on a butchery business. Mr Fookes’ brewery was at the bottom of the village. This was a very flourishing concern and produced some of the best beer in Dorset. The business was sold in 1951.
The only transport was a horse-drawn village carrier which went to Blandford once or twice a week. Later this was superceded by a motor bus driven by Douglas hall. Where the Post Office now is lived an old woman called Nan Lane. She was reputed to be a witch and could cast an evil eye on people and many were frightened of her. For years after she died no-one would live in her house.
There was very little entertainment in the village and no village hall. What there was, was provided by the Abbey. The school children had atreat every year and at Christmas bullocks were slaughtered in the Abbey yard and Sir Everard Hambro) gave all employees a joint. Every November 5ft there were fireworks and a bonfire on the top of the hill. Because there was so little amusement, a large number of people came to these things. In the 1920′ s the Women’s Institute was started and held in the Reading Room until the village hall was built also about that time. in spite
of many hardships and low wages it was a very happy village when I knew it then – long may it remain so.
Regarding Houses 29 – 44 Catherine’s Well
These 16 houses were built specifically for employees of Flight Refuelling who were living on site at Tarrant Rushton airfield. The land had to be returned to the farmer who owned it, so all tenants had to be rehoused. The converted Nissen huts had originally been used by the forces stationed on the airfield during World War Two, where gliders took troops over enemy lines dropping them by parachutes.
The eight houses on the road to Winterborne Stickland numbers 37 – 44 were built and occupied in 1957. The ones on the surgery road were finished in 1958. Owing to a delay in getting electricity to these houses which also delayed the building of the road, tenants destined for some of these houses were offered to move in without electricity or road at half rent i.e. fifteen shillings a week (old money).
My husband and I were the only tenants who took advantage of the offer and we moved into no. 33 on April 1st 1958.
It was an interesting time spent watching 29 and 30 (the last two built) and electric cables being laid and finally the road tarmaced. Once more we were a community again.
I am the only person left, some moved back to Essex, some moved away to new jobs, one family emigrated to Australia. After Flight Refuelling re-located to Wimborne some, like my husband, were made redundant and therefore moved to obtain work. We stayed because we loved being here and I am still contented in my 1950s house.
Greetings from Melbourne, Australia.
Milton Abbas is a long way from Melbourne, but it’s always remained close to my family’s heart since we left England in 1951.Before then, and on trips back since, we’ve made a point of visiting whenever possible, if only for a couple of hours.My first visit as a child to our ‘ancestral home’ left an unforgettable impression – and the attached piece tries to convey something of that.
Another bunch of memories of Milton Abbas in the 1940s, and beyond…
Bristol was in the throes of the blitz, my mother was expecting another baby, and her Aunty Tilly in Dorset adjusting to life as a widow. The family thought it good that I should go to Milton Abbas for a while, so off I went, escorted by an aunt with Teddy safely in my suitcase. My mother suggested that I remember my manners, as Aunty Tilly had been a lady’s maid and was disposed at times to be a little ‘particular’, but she thought that the custom of bobbing a curtsey if and when ‘the gentry’s’ carriage passed by (usual in the village in her own childhood) was no longer practised. After wartime Bristol the sunny serenity of Milton Abbas was another country… and they did things differently there. You took a walk with a big jug to collect the milk, and another with a bucket to get the water from a pump up the street. I used to collect as much water in my socks and shoes as in my small size bucket, but the ladies who chatted at the pump were usually helpful and friendly. In the little bedroom under the thatch I felt tall for the first time ever but, like Alice, immediately reduced by the huge chestnut tree alongside the cottage. It kept the passage between the cottages in constant shade, grown green with moss, and smelling damp. Aunty Tilly lived at No 57, and had been the wife of John Kennington, the carpenter mentioned in Mary Battrick’s memoir. As Matilda Ridout she had been born in the village in the 1860s, and she told me that since then the family had lived in several other cottages there. She said that as houses in the street were repaired one by one, families had had to move out and along, or over the street. My grandfather’s hymn book is inscribed ‘1899. Harry Ridout, 15 Milton Abbas’ After Aunty Tilly’s death in 1956 the family was offered her cottage at 57 for £60, but regretfully had to reject it. How my generation gnashes its teeth! From Aunty Tilly I heard several stories about Milton Abbas and the past; one concerned a custom on, I think, the night of the first of May when local unmarried girls went to St Catherine’s Chapel to promote their marriage prospects. Their prayer ran, as I remember: St Catherine, St Catherine, give me your aid, And grant that I never will be an old maid. Arn a one, St Catherine, Not narn a one, St Catherine. (I can’t recall hearing anything about the success rate of this strategy.) She also had a yarn about a wicked Lord of the Abbey who turned villagers out of their houses and ripped up the cemetery to make a nice lawn for himself, and a famous writer who used to visit the village had apparently written a story about these awful doings. Many years later I found that she must have been speaking of Thomas Hardy and his short story “The Doctor’s Legend”, and that the events she described so vividly had taken place in her great grandfather’s day. The villagers, it seems, had long memories. On a visit to Milton Abbas in 1991 with aunts and uncle we found a damaged gravestone of James Ridout 8 August 1776 propped against an external wall of the Abbey, and concluded that this must be a relic of the wretched Lord’s activities. When I look at the photographs of it now, I wonder if it’s still there. After several hundred years in Milton Abbas, the other Ridouts have gone.
I now live in Lincolnshire but I was born in Milton Abbas in November 1940 and spent my first six years living in the village followed by numerous summer and winter holidays up to the age of 15 visiting my grandparents. What follows represents my memories of those years and some of the people living in Milton Abbas at that time Grandad hailed from Milborne St Andrew and Gran from the Keepers Cottage situated in Milton Park Wood. Her father (Charles Mills) was the head gamekeeper for the then owners of the Abbey house, the Hambro family of bankers. Grandad (Austin Charles Derrick 1882-1962) was also employed by the Hambro’s at the time he met Gran (Mary Derrick née Mills) and worked as an indoor servant. Family tradition has it that he was eventually Sir Everard’s valet. He courted and married Gran, the ceremony being held at the Abbey Church on Sept 26th 1907 and conducted by the Rev. Herbert Pentin, vicar of Milton Abbey. They both lived in the Abbey grounds, again, with family tradition stating that they occupied what is now Green Walk Cottage.
During their time at the “big house” they produced seven children, six girls and a boy. When Sir Everard died and the Hambro family sold up, they were re-housed at No.5 in the village. They later moved to No. 44 where I was born and then raised by my Gran from age 18 months while my mother worked in London in order to pay my hospital bills from Cornelia and East Dorset Hospital in Poole. This came about as follows: my mother (Ivy Mary Derrick) and father (Corporal William Dymond) met when he was billeted at my Gran’s house during the so-called ‘phoney’ war. He was a regular soldier from Whitechapel in London and they married in April 1940. I was born the following November. By this time, my father had been sent abroad with his regiment – the Rifle Brigade – and been captured in the defence of Dunkirk at Calais, spending the next five years as a POW in Polish and German camps.
In the 50’s/60’s there came two further moves for Gran and Grandad: from No. 44 to No. 1 Almshouses, and then to No. 27 Catherines Well.
My Gran died in 1970 and was cremated and her ashes were interred by me in the Churchyard where her memorial stone is in the shape of a book. Granddad died of bowel cancer in Dorchester hospital and his remains were buried in the Cemetery at the top of the village.
NB: other members of the family and myself had searched for his grave and never found it, so we were pleased to discover that it had been found and that it had a headstone – although badly weathered.
When I was 18 months old I ran out into the road and was knocked down by a cyclist. The only injury apparent at this time was a grazed and bruised right elbow. However, after a short time my arm began to swell and discharge pus. Doctor Hensel was called from his house just above the school yard and I was sent to hospital. After a short stay, I was diagnosed as having osteomyelitis – a disease of the marrow of the bone – at that time untreatable (and potentially fatal) except by repeated operations and draining and cleaning the area as much as possible.
I therefore spent the next five years being taken to and from Poole Hospital until penicillin was again available at the end of the war (having been restricted for use by the armed forces only) and my illness was eventually cured in 1946. In the November of that year my parents moved to Dagenham in East London and I was taken with them.
Remembrance of the times I spent at Gran’s between operations, from ’42-’46 and the summer/winter holidays subsequently spent in Milton until I was 15 – the happiest times of my life during that period – make up the remainder of this narrative.
There were two shops in Milton Abbas (as there are now). The one at the top of the village just below the Wesleyan Chapel was called Steptoe’s (now the Post Office) and as far as I remember sold hardware and household goods. The other shop (now The Studio but formerly a tea shop) was called Parson’s and was run by two widows named Parsons and Lovell who sold groceries, greengroceries and bottles of pop secured by a metal lever with a glass marble for a stopper. It was not unusual to find foreign objects in the drinks and I remember one with a spider in and another containing a beetle.
Both shops, like most shops of that time I expect, were small and crammed tight with goods. The biscuits came from large square tins and were weighed out into paper bags; the cheese came from a whole round with a thick rind (which I ate with relish!) and was cut with a cheese wire; sugar came from sacks and was weighed out into blue paper bags; butter came from the dairy at the bottom of the village (opposite Walter Evans’ blacksmith business), and was scooped up from a large container behind the counter, roughly shaped, and then wrapped in greaseproof paper.
Walt Evans was a kindly man who didn’t mind the children of the village watching him work – so long as they were a safe distance from the forge and anvil (Health & Safety was alive even then!). The most exciting times for us was when he was re-tyring a wagon/cart wheel and placed the hot iron band around the wooden wheel in the circular trough outside in front of the forge when the water hissed and bubbled away into steam as the iron rim cooled and shrank around the wheel.
The milk came from the dairy, and villagers used to collect it in white enamel cans each day. I believe that the dairy was owned by the Spiller family – but I may be wrong, it is a long time ago.
In so far as I remember, there was no electricity or piped water supply to the village until the 50’s, but again, I may be wrong. However, I know that there was no street lighting: oil lamps and stoves (mainly Valor) were used to provide lighting and cooking -supplemented by candles and battery torches- and Gran’s radio was powered by a huge glass accumulator/ battery which needed regular re-charging at the garage in Mill Lane.
The village bus was garaged next door to Gran’s at No. 42 and was run by Mr Doug Hall. So far as I remember, it used to go to Blandford via Whitechurch and Stickland three times a week – on market days and on Saturday evening for the pictures – and to Dorchester on Saturday mornings. I clearly remember worrying that it was going to go backwards as it groaned its way up the hill out of the village when going to Blandford. It went so slow that it was sometimes overtaken by pedestrians. Mr Hall had a fuel pump on the premises situated near the front of the house, while at the rear was a very large garage with a loft containing old seats etc., which I, and other village children, used to love playing in. Mrs Hall kept a large number of chickens and sold excess eggs to Gran and other villagers.
Next door to Mr Hall was Mr Harris, the village policeman, his son Bobby and I were good friends and often roved about the plantation at the top of ‘Lovely Steps’ making camps and generally playing amongst the trees or farther out in the fields or on Luccombe Down. The stream at the foot of Luccombe was a great place for catching minnows and sticklebacks using jam jars placed with their open ends facing upstream towards the lake.
Further up the village the Hambro Arms was run by my Uncle (William Oliver Old) through marriage to my Auntie Vi, (Violet Rose Derrick) Gran’s second eldest daughter. This was his second marriage, his first wife having eventually died of cancer after being nursed for a very long time by my Aunt, whose full-time job was as the Hambro Arms’ cook.
Granddad was a regular customer at the pub and was occasionally made to sleep outside if he came back drunk or too late, Gran would lock the door on him!.
Uncle Billy gave up the pub shortly after the War and then ran his own private car hire business from both No. 48 and later No. 18, until he became too old to drive safely. By then, the Abbey house was a private school, and they had moved to No. 32 Catherines Well He and my Aunt worked there in the kitchens for the princely sum of 2/6 (twelve-and-a- half pence) an hour, in order to eke out their pensions. They eventually moved from the village to Dorchester, where one of his daughters (Winifred) lived, after she had married Leslie Frisby, who owned an electrical retailer’s in South Street, and was also a professional photographer.
Finally, the cottage round the corner to the left at the bottom of the village – Dale Cottage – which nestles in the dip to the left of Mill Lane was, for most of my time in Milton Abbas, the only place where cream teas and other light refreshments were available for visitors. I often went there when very young and was fascinated by the stream at the bottom of the garden – the run-off from the lake – which was crossed by a small hump-back bridge.
as related and written up by Terry Hawker
Intro by Terry Hawker
In 1996 whilst working at Milton Abbey two elderly ladies who had visited the Abbey Church were coming back when I heard one say to the other – “This isn’t how it used to be”. I just asked if she had been here before, she said “I used to live in the village many years ago”. She asked me my name and when I replied “Terry Hawker, not Bill Hawker’s son”. The lady’s name was Joan Brockington, and her mother was Mrs Lovell who used run the shop with her sister Mrs Parsons. She kindly posted me the following on who lived where in the village in the year 1939 with added knowledge of children born well after that year.
Recorded memories of Joan Brockington
The Abbey was bought by the Church Commissioners in 1939. I can remember the Rev. Maillard was living at the Abbey, running a Faith Healing home.
Major Fane lived at Hill House, as Capt. Hambro lived at Merley House. Hill House was not big enough for his family.
Major Hewlett lived at The Retreat
Major Norris lived at Milton House
Major Turner lived at Crincombe
Mr Watson lived at Delcombe
Local Farms and farmers
T R Spiller at Luccombe had two sons, Jack and Rex. Jack married a Miss Lovelace and had a daughter Susan. Rex married Naomi Squires and had three sons. Farm workers at Luccombe were Bill Hawker, Mr Steel, Bert Butt, Percy Moores, Jack Riman.
At Milton Mills garage Rex Spiller, Hatcher, Saunders.
Barnes Hill Farm: Bussell
Hewish Farm: Cox
Long Ash Farm: Chilcott
Delcombe Farm: Joyce
Bagber Farm: Kellaway
Long Close Farm: Warren
Hambro had one daughter by his first wife, Peggy, who died. Four more daughters with his second wife, and a son who was killed in the war. (check this with The Hambros)
Ms Stout lived at Dale cottage, had a son Billy. Mr Stout’s sister Mrs Squires had a daughter, naomi, who married Rex Spiller.
The vicar was Rev Collis.
Doctor Gaster was killed in a car accident on Stickland Hill.
Brewer Fookes had two sons Robert and Arthur. Robert worked at Milton Abbey. Arthur was brewer. There were also two daughters. Kathleen lived with her mother, and Betty married Mr Lys of Bere Regis.
The landlord at The Hambro Arms was Mr Old.
Mr Marsh the builder lived in the house on Barnes Hill.
The Street in 1939
- Evans: blacksmith
- Evans: father
- Vacher: 2 sons Donald, George
- Hillier: thatcher, 2 daughters Mary, Anne
- Bill Butt: worked for Parson the baker
- Mitchell: 2 sons Jack, George, daughters Cissy, Marjorie
- Frank Churchill
- Curtis: sons Frank, Geoffrey
- Vacher: son Bill
- Rolls: son Arthur, daughter Mrs Laws
- Abbot: son Charlie
- Miss Guy, Sunday school teacher
- Scott: son Bill
- Legg: daughters Doreen, Joan
- Young: daughters Dorothy, Audrey, Jean, Valerie
- Fripp: Jess worked at Luccombe Farm
- Stayner: shoemaker, Jessie, Jen, colin
- Bolt, Philip, son also Philip. Vacher: once had a shop, Guy: clerk to the PC, daughter Dorothy
- Lovell, Harry: postman, daughters Nora, Betty
- Miss Penny: music teacher
- Rolls: one time postman
- Guy: dairyman, had land in front of Hill House, son and granddaughter
- Steptoe: shop
- Mrs House
- Adams: brewer for Fookes, daughter Netta
- Hall, douglas: bus driver for Sprackling, son killed in the war, daughter Valni
- bolt, Jack: Post Office
- Vacher: son Ronnie, daughter Norah
- Churchill: sexton for the church, sons Harold, Frank, daughters Mary, Hattie, Daisy
- Parson; shop
- Miss Rolls
- Kennington: carpenter
- North, Jim: baker for Parsons, daughter Peggy
- Barter: granddaughter Maisie
Capt. Hambro came back to Milton just after the war started
Mr Mason was Hambro’s butler and lived in the bungalow next to the Cox family from London
Wilf Fripp was the gamekeeper in Milton Wood, children Herbie, Betty, Sylvia
Brockway family live at Top Lodge
Lee family one time lived at Middle Lodge then moved to Deer Park
Rev. Tyndale-Bisco lived at Bottom Lodge
Albert Leslie Bolt lived by the lake
Mr Gill (an American) lived at Park Farm House
George Durey gardener for Hambro lived in the (Old Chapel) Hill Cottage
Capt Hambro never owned the estate. It belonged to his brother Sir Eric. When it was sold, Sir Eric’s son Sir Charles lived at Hedge End which was not sold. Sir Charles lived in the USA during the war
Dale Cottage, now a private dwelling, was a tea-room. Nearby was the sheep dip. I remember seeing the sheep being driven down through the village by the shepherd. Also, close by, at Pond Head, one of the sheds was used by Mr Kennington (carpenter) who lived with his wife at No. 57. As children we would watch him making coffins etc.
There have only ever been two adult swans on the pond (as the lake was called). Always driving away their young when they were old enough to go on their own. We picked primroses and blackberries in this field (Lake Field), owned by Bob and Arthur Fookes. They also owned the farm opposite, which is now ‘The Maltings’. I remember fetching our daily milk in our milk can and seeing the milk go through the cooler.
We also picked primroses in the vicarage garden, where our vicar lived (until early 1950), to take to the Mothering Sunday service. The bungalow next to the vicarage was the vicar’s gardener, Mr Ted Day. A wonderful garden with flowers, vegetables and apple and pear trees. He always won lots of prizes at the village produce show.
No. 1 was the blacksmiths. I can remember watching them making horseshoes, besides many other metal articles. The shoes were hung on hooks waiting for the horses. The horses were taken up through the alley between the forge and the house to the shed where the shoes were nailed on (Phew! What a smell). Then there were the cart wheels to be bonded. That was done on the grass outside the forge on a large metal ring with a hole in the centre.
I lived at No. 49 where I was born, for two years before moving to No. 4. My father was the local thatcher working on the village houses and hay and straw ricks. I watched dad making spars for thatching. I counted 250 for each bundle. Thatching has been in my family for many generations.
No. 6 was the bakery owned by Mr and Mrs Parsons, who also owned the village store (now the Tea Clipper) where they sold everything from paraffin to butter and sewing needs etc. I can remember Mr Parsons walking across the road from the bakery to his shop with bread and buns to sell, wearing his white clothes and tall white hat. The baking assistant, Mr Bill Butt, helped with baking and deliveries. I would go in to collect our bread and buns from the bakery. They worked on a long table which was in the front, with the ovens on the back wall. The stairs from this room led to the flour store.
Outside of No. 7, where I now live, was one of three water taps. So, it was buckets to be taken there and filled full of water, or as much as you could carry, for use indoors. There were wells between some houses, including No. 4 where I lived before being married. I can remember dad and his neighbour, Mr Harry Vacher, drawing water from the well, to be used for washing clothes and taking baths. Baths were had in front of the fire in a tin bath.
At the back of the cottages there were sheds, one was for coal and logs and the other had a copper for doing your washing. This was built of brick and had a hole in the bottom where a fire was lit to heat the water.
The garage now at No. 21/22 was our cobbler’s shop, Mr Stainer, who mended our shoes. Opposite this was our Post Office, a wooden construction adjoining the house, with the letter box on the outside.
Next door, above the Post Office, was the bus station, which had its own petrol pump. The buses went to Blandford and Dorchester.
Where our Post Office is now located was another grocery shop, owned by Mr and Mrs Steptoe., who, I remember, didn’t seem too keen on serving children.
Sunday School was at the Chapel, which is now a private residence. I attended the Village School. We had individual desks, which were wooden with brass inkwells. The cane was always kept on the Head Teacher’s desk, used sometimes, but more often it was the ruler across the knuckles. Hot dinners were brought from Whitechurch where they were cooked. After dinner scraps were collected and my friend and I would take them to Mr and Mrs White in St Aldhelm, next to the Chapel, because they kept chickens. Occasionally we were given one egg.
There were approximately sixty children in all, with two classrooms, Standard 1 for the eldest, with, next door, Standard 2 and Infant class.
The playground was very rough, not nice to fall on, which I once did. In the corner of the playground was a large cedar tree. Drawing lessons were always to draw this tree. We were all very pleased when it was cut down. The School garden had many fruit trees which were a benefit when we had to go gardening.
Between each cottage there were chestnut trees. So on the way to school we collected the conkers and had good contests at school (now not permitted).
We were taken from school on Mr Fookes’ truck to the top of Fishmore hill to pick up potatoes in the war.
Opposite the School House gate there was a long wooden house with about twelve steps up to a verandah and a good sized garden. Beside the steps was a rambling rose, it still flowers today although the house has long gone.
Above the school was the doctor’s house and surgery, where I went to live as an assistant nanny when I left school.
Opposite the cemetery was our village hall where we had parties etc and, later, dances.
Hill House, which is now called Milton Manor, was the home of Capt and Mrs Angus Hambro. There was a path through their grounds from the Coach House to Hill Cottage where their chauffeur and gardener lived. We had many village fêtes and other activities in Hill House gardens.
Finally, I remember that there lived in one of the cottages an old lady who always dressed in black, even covering her head. As children we thought she was a witch. She always seemed to know all about us and when our birthdays were, but we never received any cards from her