Progress Reports

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Milton Abbas Local History Group

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.

Our next meeting will be on Wed 4 Oct at 7:30pm. This will be our AGM and there will be a presentation on the Roads and Tracks of Milton Abbas, ancient and modern.

Hope to see you there.

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 will have an exhibition at the Street Fair on 29 July, why not come and see what we are up to – look forward to meeting you there.

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.

We will have an exhibition at the Street Fair on 29 July, why not come and see what we are up to – look forward to meeting you there.

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