Progress Reports

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Milton Abbas Local History Group

Dec 2017

Documents

  • We have downloaded wills and indentures from Ancestry
  • 150 new records have been added to the database which now contains 2543 entries. Some of these have been from Chris Fookes’ shed. Also added were 81 records of finds from the Portable Antiquities Scheme website.
  • Following a visit to the Dorset History Centre we now have more on the Milton Abbas Grammar School, 3 reports of the excavations for the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments c.1955, and Kelly’s Directory entries for Milton Abbas back to 1848 when the Earl of Portarlington owned the manor and the pub was named ‘The Portarlington Arms’.
  • Carol Sastradipradja (Australia) has transcribed 2 more pages of the Overseers of the Poor Book and has found that “Samuel Fiander, his son Robert Samuel, and Thomas Ridout, elop’d”. We are trying to find out where they went.
  • I am writing up Milton Abbas in the 17th Century using published books (Underdown, Hutton) and Marleen Hawkins’ transcription of the Churchwardens Accounts.
  • We now have the Milton Abbas entries for the Post Office Directory of 1855 and Kelly’s of 1848. These have not yet been transcribed. We also have the 3 articles from the Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Volumes 77, 78 and 79 concerning the excavations at Milton Abbey for the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments around 1955. These are three interim reports, and do not give any conclusions. The full report must be elsewhere, but we have not yet found it.
  • We have requested Wilts & Swindon Archive Service to digitise the documents for us, as mentioned in last month’s update, for £15.

Dorset History Network

Pamela and Bryan attended this day school on Sat 18 Nov. Pamela also attended the AGM and is now on the committee. From the presentations it is clear that in the last 10 years the “cultural sector” has changed significantly, possibly as a result of the process of application for grants for projects from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Now requirements are for buzzwords such as community engagement, involvement, etc. These terms now extend to the visitors attending exhibitions and museums with “storytelling”. The new Shire Hall project “Justice in the Balance” will display just 5 case studies which will “tell the story”. This project being Council led and HLF funded will open “sometime next year”! Although the council website still says “The attraction is set to open in autumn 2017″. Anyone who has been in the traffic jam which is in High East Street will know, work has already started and is likely to go on for some considerable and unspecified time. The research carried out has focused on the Quarter Sessions records in the Dorset History Centre, unfortunately they have concentrated on the 19th and 20th centuries exclusively and ignored the earlier records which go back in unbroken sequence to 1625. However Dr Rose Wallis, University of the West of England, gave us some interesting ideas to incorporate in our future publications and exhibitions.

Mark Forrest gave a presentation on the latest volume (19) which has just been published by Dorset Record Society. This group is now independent of Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society. This is the first time that they have used print on demand which is suitable for small print runs. The book contains some interesting details on the Tudor history of surveying, and of the use which such surveys were put to to manage estates. For example the acres of meadow, pasture and arable are given because they attracted different rents. Also there is some discussion of land tenure and manor courts.

Our proposal to DRS to publish our work on the Overseers of the Poor was declined, we may reformulate this to attract a Dorset wide audience.

A presentation on the Priest’s House Museum, Wimborne, gave details of their application to HLF for £1.8M refurbishment. This seems an exceptionally large amount for a small museum compared to the Milton Abbey restoration project. There are so many hoops to jump through, including museum accreditation, that it would seem impossible for a small history group such as ourselves, to apply for funding. Again “telling the story of the people” is what brings home the bacon (or rather the grant!).

Our presentation of “Damer moves the roads” was met with some interest and we have been contacted by Richard Edwards who has offered assistance with overlaying maps in QGIS. The Bankes Archive archivist used GIS to overlay maps but used the Dorset County Council team who run the http://explorer.geowessex.com website.

Emily Faulkner Foundation

Following an article in last month’s Bulletin by Vice Chairman John Rose, we had a meeting with him on 23 Nov. He gave us photocopies of 2 documents showing the move of Milton Abbas Grammar School in 1927, and its closure and setting up of the Milton Abbas School Foundation in 1932. This latter trust merged with the Emily Faulkner Trust in 1998. If there are earlier documents he will let us know.

The Retreat

Ahead of James Downs presentation I have contacted Ann Becket for permission to photograph.

Metal Detecting

BP attended Milborne St Andrew History Group meeting presentation by David Cobb and Margaret Hamilton. He has contacted them to give a presentation to our group – they have declined. All our efforts to contact metal detectorists have now failed, they are clearly a secretive society who sign contracts with landowners and are unwilling to share their finds and knowledge.

Website

9 new pages have been added and it now totals 41 pages. Also pages have been added to. We are now on the first page of Google search results for “Milton Abbas History”, at number 3!  The website is achieving about 500 hits per month. A secure section of the website for paid up history group members only has been set up. We still have to distribute passwords for this.

Facebook

There are now 35 members and each new post gets about 20 views

Old Town Project

Old Town Project Meeting 6 Dec 14:30. Pamela will report at the main meeting 6 Dec 19:00.

We have searched the Members Interests section of the Dorset Family History Society website for the names of people we are studying from the 1770 Woodward survey. We have contacted the society who will pass on our requests to four of their members who are researching these families.

We have been contacted by John Wickenden, in Hampshire,  who has Morley family ancestors having 8 children baptised  in Milton Abbas from 1773 to 1795. Unfortunately the Morley name is not on the 1770 survey, but we are hoping his wife Elizabeth Hewit was from Milton Abbas.

John Wickenden has joined our Facebook group. His ancestors from Milton Abbas are Morey, Hewitt, Wolridge. He has started transcribing the Overseers of the Poor book for us.

WW1

The group attended the exhibition “Tommy – from Training to Trench” at the Corn Exchange, Blandford 20 Nov, and have plenty of ideas for our Exhibition 6 -7 Oct 2018. Their next meeting is on 22 Jan 2018. Pamela will report at the meeting.

Milton Abbas First School

Ron Karley has been delayed in his write up by illness. He will let us have his documents and photos in the New Year.

Nov 2017

The Word War I group have now started to plan their exhibition for 2018 in the Reading Rooms. They are now researching the activities during the war and would love to involve more people in this, so if you would like to help or have any ancestors who were in WW1, do please get in touch.

The Old Town project group will be meeting in the Reading Rooms in future. Members are busy researching some of the tenants who are named in the survey of 1770. Names such as Wellstead, Gover, Drake, Lovell, Lillington, Woolfrey. A full list of names is on our website. We are in touch with people in Canada and Australia  who have ancestors that were also in this survey, and we are sharing information with them.

Our website (www.miltonabbashistorygroup.com) continues to grow and there are currently 40 pages active, and a blog which is kept up to date. You can also join our Facebook page which has 33 members and growing. Just type in “Milton Abbas History Group”.

One of the visitors to the website has been researching The Retreat, and he believes that it was used by Benedictine monks 1899 – 1901. He will be giving a presentation at our meeting on 6 Dec and we are very much looking forward to meeting him. This will be an entirely new perspective on the history of Milton Abbas which we were not previously aware of. One of our members recounts his father telling him that monks at the turn of the 19th century used to process down to the Abbey with candles – an evocative memory. We know that at this time the Abbey was lit by gas light and we also know the location of the gas holder. We are not sure how the gas was produced – probably by coal collected from Blandford Station.

Bryan Phillips gave a presentation on the roads that Joseph Damer, Lord Milton moved. The first writ was issued in 1763 and changed the course of three roads. The Jurors reported to the Quarter Sessions that this would be of no damage to “passengers and travellers”. The roads concerned have been plotted on the old and new maps. Further road closures were to follow in 1769, 1791 and 1804. These moves, together with the move of the old town left Milton Abbas the quiet and secluded place it is today, and was the death knell to the thriving community that previously existed.

Our next meeting will be on Wed 6 Dec, at 7pm in the Reading Rooms

Paid up members can enjoy free mulled wine and mince pies. There will be a charge for visitors.

Oct 2017

The first meeting of the new 2017/2018 season attracted 34 attendees, including new members. A short AGM and meeting was followed by a talk from Chris Fookes on the old roads and tracks of Milton Abbas. Most of these Chris had ridden on horseback in his younger days, so he has a wealth of knowledge. We have large scale maps and surveys of 1652, 1770, 1808, 1902 and today to plot the path of these roads and tracks. Next month will we use these maps together with four documents from the Dorset Quarter Sessions Order Books to show how the roads were altered by Joseph, Lord Milton in his removal of the village and installation of the Capability Brown designed landscape. Well that’s the plan – it might not be as easy as it sounds!

The Chairman’s report showed just how much we have achieved over the past year. Thanks to all our members for their contributions to research, cataloguing, donating, organising and helping at events. We are sure that the forthcoming year will be just as busy.

The Treasurer’s report showed a healthy balance, which will allow us to purchase some maps and books.

Our website (www.miltonabbashistorygroup.com) continues to grow and there are currently 34 pages active, and a blog which is kept up to date. You can also join our Facebook page which has 30 members and growing. One of the visitors to the website has been researching The Retreat, and he believes that it was used by Benedictine monks 1899 – 1901. One of our members recounts his father telling him that monks at the turn of the 19th century used to process down to the Abbey with candles – an evocative memory.

This month Barry Laing and his wife Vanessa Morris visited us all the way from Australia. Barry’s ancestors are the Vine family of Milton Abbas who ran the Hambro Arms from 1850 – 1880. He has given us a photo of Samuel Vine, which is published on our Facebook page. Barry also found a gravestone in St James churchyard. He would love to hear from anyone who has any 19th century history, or photos of the Hambro Arms.

Sep 2017

Our exhibition held in the Reading Rooms on 16 and 17 Sep was a great success and the addition of the sale of coffee and cake proved to be worth while. Our displays of a small fraction of our findings were found to be of great interest to our visitors. Most were local people but we had visitors from Northampton, Bournemouth and Poole who came especially to share their documents and family research with us. This new information is vital for our Old Town Project where we are trying to discover what the impact of moving the town had on the ordinary people. Thanks to Ann and Chris Fookes for putting up a display of the Fookes Brewery.

In August we held a BBQ for history group members and were blessed by some good weather for a change. Some thirty members came along and enjoyed the event.

We were delighted to hear that the Milton Abbas Street Fair Trustees were kind enough to grant us our request. This has been used to help us display more of our research and meet our Aims and Objectives.

Our website has been growing in popularity and enquiries have been received from all round the world. In addition we have had offers of help to transcribe the Overseers of the Poor books, and we now have a correspondent in Australia helping us with this, and hopefully another in west Dorset. Visit our website at https://miltonabbashistorygroup.com. Or our Facebook page.

The Overseers of the Poor books are of enormous historical importance revealing how people lived in a poor rural community in the late 18th century. We have just come across a record in these books which is entirely new to us – 1781 “At a Vestry held this Sixteenth day of April the following Poor People appear’d & Complained they wanted as follows – Assistance for 3 children of his sister Ann Segar Boy aged 9,8 & 6…”  This was followed by thirty more pleas. Pleas for cash were not granted, but shoes, shirts and shifts were given. We continue to be puzzled by the cash flow: the income from the annual rates in 1781 is about £3, yet the expenditure was around £120 for that year. How on earth was the difference made up? If anyone has any ideas please let us know.

The visit to Cerne Abbas with a presentation and tour followed by a meal at the Giant Inn proved popular. Phil Pryce, our transcriber from Lytham St Annes was able to join us.

Another visitor and transcriber, Chris Wood and his wife Debra visited us all the way from British Columbia, and were given a tour of the Abbey and St James graveyard where they found memorial stones to their ancestors.

A new book out by Jenny Nater – Secret Duties of a Signals Interceptor: Working with Bletchley Park, the SDs and the OSS, mentions Park Farm and the arrival of the Rifle Brigade during WW2 and being billeted there.

We would like to study the changes in the population of the village over time, for example birth, death and marriage rates, age at death, age at marriage, number of children. If any of our readers would be interested in helping with this please get in touch.

Aug 2017

Well July was the month of the Milton Abbas Street Fair and much time was spent organising an exhibition of some of our work. It is unusual to have an exhibition of display boards outside in the wind and rain and now we know why! But we managed it (just) with some discretely disguised house bricks wrapped in rustic looking hessian. We were pleased by the number of people who took an interest in the history of Milton Abbas.

We had visitors from far and wide, some who had ancestors who lived here, and we have made some new contacts.

We also had visitors from only a few yards away who were very kind in sharing their house deeds with us. It was surprising to see some of the covenants from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of the 1937 sale, including arrangements for water supply and paying an annual sum to the vicar.  If anyone has their house deeds we would love to see them because it does illuminate the development of Milton Abbas over the centuries – information that cannot be found elsewhere.

It was surprising to us just how much we have found out about the history of this place just in the last year. With our transcription of the Churchwardens Books of 1638 to 1664 we now have a much better idea of what life was like for a rural Dorset town in those turbulent times of the Civil War, Commonwealth and Restoration periods. And with our transcription of two deeds from 1780 and 1787 we now know what the terms of the leases were for the newly built village, which gives an insight into the mindset of Joseph Damer, Lord Milton.

July 2017

I am always surprised by the amount of work that the history group are undertaking, and how rich the history of Milton Abbas is – it is a source of endless fascination. We would not have thought that there would be much of interest here during the “Commonwealth” period of English history 1649 to 1660. How wrong we were! One of our members has transcribed the Churchwardens Books (the originals are in the Dorset History Centre) for this time. Firstly the spelling and language are of interest – there was no dictionary to standardise spelling – so people just wrote as they heard and spoke; there are words of which the meanings have been lost, for example paid for  ‘redding’ away of stones, a ‘gannett’ for the great bell, paid for a peare of hooks & ‘Tweskes’ for the same dore, laying of ‘Fellets elswhere’, and ‘fetchet’. We are guessing that a fetchet is a polecat or ferret, but we have no idea what the others may mean. We have not found a dictionary, not even Chambers, which gives us a clue to the meanings. Can any of our readers shed light on these words? We have now established for certain that ‘gayle’ money was payment to the gaol or jail for keeping a prisoner, since on one occasion it was paid to the ‘cunstable’.

Secondly, this part of the country of course reflects what was happening in the nation, the last arms that were held in Milton were carried to Blandford in 1656, well after the end of the Civil War;  George White, a Quaker was prosecuted; a scaffold was erected so that the King Charles’ arms could be erected on the church wall immediately after the Restoration of 1660.

The Old Town project is making good progress, we now have on board a resident from British Columbia who is doing great work on transcribing the Overseers of the Poor books for 1784, and given us his family tree of the Wood family who were here in the late 18th century. We have collected other family trees, leases and wills for the period which will give us a clearer idea of the impact of the destruction of the old town and building of the new village.

We have set up a Facebook page – click on the link, and get the latest news and progress

June 2017

We would not have thought that there would be much of interest here during the “Commonwealth” period of English history 1649 to 1660. How wrong we were! One of our members has transcribed the Churchwardens Books (the originals are in the Dorset History Centre) for this time. Firstly the spelling and language are of interest – there was no dictionary to standardise spelling – so people just wrote as they heard and spoke; there are words of which the meanings have been lost, for example paid for  ‘redding’ away of stones, a ‘gannett’ for the great bell, paid for a peare of hooks & ‘Tweskes’ for the same dore, laying of ‘Fellets elswhere’, and ‘fetchet’. We are guessing that a fetchet is a polecat or ferret, but we have no idea what the others may mean. We have not found a dictionary, not even Chambers, which gives us a clue to the meanings. Can any of our readers shed light on these words? We have now established for certain that ‘gayle’ money was payment to the gaol or jail for keeping a prisoner, since on one occasion it was paid to the ‘cunstable’.

Secondly, this part of the country of course reflects what was happening in the nation, the last arms that were held in Milton were carried to Blandford in 1656, well after the end of the Civil War, George White, a Quaker was prosecuted, a scaffold was erected so that the King Charles’ arms could be erected on the church wall immediately after the Restoration of 1660.

The Old Town project is making good progress, we now have on board a resident from British Columbia who is doing great work on transcribing the Overseers of the Poor books for 1784, and given us his family tree of the Wood family who were here in the late 18th century. We have collected other family trees, leases and wills for the period which will give us a clearer idea of the impact of the destruction of the old town and building of the new village.

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