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Abbotsbury, 1810.

St Catherine Chapel, Abbotsbury. Hutchins 3rd ed.

On Sunday 20th May, after spending a week at Bishopstone surveying, Martin set off on the 86 miles or so taking him two days to get home. Almost immediately he set off for Abbotsbury for a meeting on the Tuesday, another 20 miles on horseback. Abbotsbury was rather dismissively described by Hutchins as “This little market-town, anciently famous for its monastery, now eminent for nothing but it’s ruins, the swannery and decoy…”

The Abbotsbury petition was introduced on the 15th February 1809 and the phrasing is identical to that used at Bishopstone. By this time the sponsors of an award knew what formula to use in order to get a petition accepted:“A Petition of several Owners of Estates in the Parish of Abbotsbury in the County of Dorset was presented and read: setting forth That there are in the said Parish certain Open and Common Arable Lands, Common Meadows, Common Pastures, Common Down and other Commonable and Waste Lands which might be improved if inclosed…”

A bill was soon introduced, an Act quickly passed and on the 12th May was given the Royal Assent. The manor had been owned by the Strangways family since 1645 and doubtless the speed with which the bill passed was due to the fact that the Manor was owned by the Earl of Ilchester and there was no dissent in obtaining the Act. The inclosure commissioners were Richard Webb and John Martin’s cousin and friend William Jennings Jnr. and the Lord of the Manor was the Earl of Ilchester.

Martin appears to have started work in Abbotsbury in August 1809. Somewhat unusually a set of invoices and notes that he submitted during the inclosure have survived and have been transcribed by the Abbotsbury Heritage Research Project.[1] It is clear from this that he was keeping two sets of accounts and records, why he did this is not known but the two are shown below. These transcribed entries are in yellow. It is not clear where these notes derive from, as they do not appear to be in the Martin archive and there are no other notes of a similar nature. The entries are of some interest as they show how he worked and how much he was paid.

The first entry is informative as it shows how much he was paid for surveying. Typically the surveyor was paid two guineas2 2s 0d] a day, against the commissioners three. This varied however according to the nature of the work undertaken. Here he seems to be being paid a rate for each job. Note too the use of the transparent overlay. It was either the qualities survey over layed on the particulars map or vice versa.


Measuring and mapping commonable lands 1352 ac. @ 2s. per acre £135.06. 00

Measuring and mapping the town and certain old enclosures. Homesteads etc. the better to ascertain situations for allottments 250 ac. @ 1s. per acre £ 18.15. 00

Made a sketch on transparent paper for the use of the Commissioners in valuing. 1352 ac. @ 1d £ 5. 12. 08

Finding out state of property and adjusting claims. 10 days £ 21. 00. 00

Although the surveyor had the responsibility of mapping the land the actual valuation was done by the Commissioners. He is always very correct in his form of address, even though one of them was his cousin he rarely referred to him by anything other than the Commissioner or Mr Wm Jennings. In this series of entries we find Martin attending the Commissioners in ‘qualifying’ or valuing the land. Note his use of the word qualifying, in later inclosures he refers to qualities.

2nd -6th August 1809

Attending on the Commissioners Qualifying the land

8th -12th August 1809

Attending on the Commissioners when they proceeded further on the valuation. 12 days £ 31. 10. 00

19th -23rd September

As above 5 days £ 13. 12. 06

12th -26th November

as above when the qualifying of the land was finished. 6 days £ 15. 15. 00

The following year starts with a conundrum. He appears to have been in two places at once, the diaries show that he was in Bishopstone but he is claiming for work at Abbotsbury. The probable explanation is that he was using an assistant [see below].

16th -20th January 1810

Attending on the Commissioners when claims were received. 5 days £ 13. 2 6d

Collecting properties and making particulars of each person’s estate.

£12 12 00

1st – 21stJanuary 1810

Surveying at Bishopstone

After the particulars were made he started making out the roads; the inclosure notes are a little more comprehensive than the diary entries.

20th February 1810

Went to Abbotsbury to Stake out Roads and settle the Claims finally

Carriage of map 5s

21st -25th February 1810

At Abbotsbury

23rd -24th February 1810

Staking out public roads. 2 days £4 4s

Undated February 1810

Made two reduced maps of public roads.

£ 6. 6. 00

He returned home on the 27th February but returned in March. Once again the notes to his accounts are more comprehensive than the diary entries. At the beginning of the month he mentions Mr Palin who he set measuring at Shipton Gorge just down the road from Abbotsbury.

8th March 1810

Went to Shipton Gorge with Mr Palin to set him Measuring

13th -16th March 1810

At Abbotsbury

17th March 1810

making alterations by Commissioners orders on the Map

13th -16th March 1810

Attending on Comm. to hear objections to public roads. 4 days £ 10. 10. 00

The basis of any allocation of land was the proportional value of the landowners estate before inclosure compared with the value of the whole manor. One of the most important stages in any inclosure was to calculate the value of the landowners share of the manor. Martin refers to this as Moneying the different estates. Suppose that the whole value of the manor was £1000 and a particular land owners existing estate was £100 he would be allocated l0% of the lands that were to be inclosed. Of course he already had land in the manor; where this would really make a difference was in the allocation of the common lands which hitherto had not been owned by individuals.

17th March 1810

Extra time taking up different boundaries in the Common tracks, Furze etc. 2 days £ 4. 04. 00

To Moneying the different Estates preparatory to making the scheme. 6 days £ 12. 12. 00

The land of a common field manor was divided up into several large fields which were in turn broken up into groups of individual strips, often several thousand in number. Landowners owned various numbers of these strips and they were distributed irregularly throughout the fields. Before inclosure everyone in the manor had to work together; the same crops had to be grown, ploughing, sewing, harvesting and so on all had to be done at the same time.

After inclosure the land of the manor was to be divided up into smaller ‘closes’ surrounded by hedges which were said to be owned and worked in severalty. In other words each landowner could do did his own thing with his land, independent [in theory] of his neighbours. The surveyors art was to ensure that the land allotted to the landowners kept everyone happy. This was not an easy task. A man’s estate worth £100 might have comprised one hundred one acre strips of value £1. After inclosure he might well have been allotted fifty acres of land worth £2 per acre.

On the same day as the above entry he records the following in which this process of allotting is mentioned.

17th March 1810

To making scheme for allotting being the various Interests of the proprietors brought in one view and by which the ultimate demand on the Commonable lands were ascertained & by which the Commissioners allotted and making fair copy of the same. 8 days £ 16. 16. 00

Making out general Survey for the Commrs to allot by. 4 days £ 8. 08. 00

26th March 1810


At Home making off on Map the bounds of ye different Stocks on the Comon to be charged for

The beginning of May up until the 12th was spent on the Abbotsbury inclosure [less one day] after which he went to Bishopstone before returning to Abbotsbury on the 22nd. The inclosure process was complex and involved a number of subjective judgements, particularly in regard to valuation. Landowners might well find themselves allocated land in out of the way parts of the parish, or find their one hundred acres reduced to ninety or have a new road built through it or whatever the circumstance might be. It took time to explain to a landowner why he had been allocated the land he had and this took over a week to do at the end of May.

22nd May 1810

Abbotsbury Meeting Allotting

23rd -29th May 1810


23rd -30th May 1810

Attending on the Commrs when the Lands were allotted. 9 days £ 23. 12. 06

To writing of the allotment correctly on the Map after being schemed out by the Commrs. 14 days £ 29. 08. 00

Stocking on the arable, Down Allottments on the Land 11 days £ 14. 14. 00

To 2000 pegs for marking or staking allotments. £ 12. 10. 00

Martin’s working practices must at time seemed like juggling. At any one time he had a number of balls in the air. After this flurry of activity at Abbotsbury he then returned to Bishopstone and nothing more is hear of Abbotsbury until September when, the arable lands having been allocated attention was turned to the grasslands in the parish.

4th September 1810

Abbotsbury Meeting 5 o/k

5th—11h September 1810

At Abbotsbury meeting

4th -11th September 1810

Attending the Commrs when the meadows were allotted. 8 days £ 21. 00. 00

12th—17th September 1810

Staking out allotments

18th September 1810

Returned Home

19th -20th September 1810

Altering allotments in meadow

Making various alterations after they were staked out. 4 days £ 8. 08. 00 Attending on the Commrs when the Stocking was fully regulated. 4 days £ 10. 10. 00

The Commissioners had great power and could order the course of agriculture in the parish. The villagers had little option but to comply. At Abbotsbury there was a particular problem with stocking the common pasture lands. In practice this usually meant the common or waste but even before inclosure there were often closes that were never ploughed and whose purpose was to provide grazing or a hay harvest.

The Commissioners finding it impossible that the fences can be sufficiently made round the commonable pasture lands, so as to enable the different Proprietors to stock their respective Allotments do Hereby order:-

1. That the same shall be stocked in common as heretofore (except the allotment to John Jennings which has already been fenced and partly sown to Corn) in such proportions as are laid down in a certain schedule issued by the Commissioners for that Purpose.

2. That no sheep are to be depastured in Knowle or Plains until after Woodbury tide [2], that such sheep are not to be without a shepherd nor the cows to be without a Coward [sic].

3. All horses to be tied but not with a Rope of greater length then 9 fathoms.

4. That these orders are not to affect the meadow or stables, which are to be depastured by the persons to whom the same have been respectively allotted.”

There is then a list of proprietors and their rights over the common pasture after which the note continues,

Instead of the above stock on the Common –

3 two year old Heifers or Steers may be pastured in lieu of 2 cows

2 Yearlings or runners in lieu of 1 cow

2 Cows in lieu of 1 Horse

1 Horse in lieu of 2 Cows

5 Sheep in lieu of 1 Cow

The owner for the time being of Mrs Grace Harris’s estate to find a sufficient Bull, as heretofore to run with the Tenantry herd from 5 April to 12 August yearly. No Stallion allowed on the Common. No Sheep suffered to remain at night on common E of the New Fence (above Stone Rocks). Unenclosed part of W mead to be Hain’d on 12 Feb. Cut and cleared before 12 Aug. Stocked with cows on 1 Sept Yearly.

It is from entries such as this that an insight into the farming practices of the time is seen. For example sheep were not to be allowed on certain lands until after Woodbury tide. Agrarian dates were frequently tied to ecclesiastical days such as Michaelmas but Woodbury tide is not one of these. It probably relates to the date of a famous fair, Woodbury Hill, that took place on September 18th. Even today in some areas of the county the autumn sees an almost miraculous appearance of sheep in the fields with the question, where have they been all summer? In order that they should not encroach on any newly inclosed lands they had to be tended by a shepherd or coward.

The commons were stinted- only a certain number of animals were allowed on it and horses were not to be allowed on the common, except as a replacement for two cows, and no stallion at any time. If a mare was admitted to the common they had to be tethered by a rope less than 54’ [16.5m] in length.

One of the accusations frequently made against the open field system was that because the grazing was in common it was not possible to selectively breed high quality stock. In fact this was not true, for cattle at least, as it was not uncommon for a bull to be provided by one landowner, and if of sufficient quality the quality of everyone’s heard benefited. At Abbotsbury this was a Mrs Harris; at Child Okeford it was the Rector. Finally part of the W mead was to be used for the hay harvest. It is not clear what Hain’d means but from the context of the rest of the sentence it probably means that any sheep or cattle were removed on 12th February to allow the grass to grow, the harvest to be before 12th August following which in September the cattle would graze on the ‘aftermath’ until the next February.

The last entries for 1810 appear in October

7th October 1810

Went to Abbotsbury in the evening to stake out Meadow

8th October 1810

Stak’d out Meadow Abbotsbury

23rd -24th November 1810

Do Mr Palin At abbotsbury for me [sic]

25th November 1810

Do Mr Stile at abbotsbury

26th November 1810

Bishopstone Casting

Mr Palin returned from Abby

My Expenses at Abbotsbury & Mr Palins £2 6s 1d

Oddly there are no other receipts or invoices for the rest of this year or 1811 and only one entry for 1812. This is in the transcript notes there are no diary entries as the diary has not survived for the years covered.

July 1812

Making a new Survey of Knolls as the same was again to be allotted. 4 days £ 8.8.0

The inclosure continued into 1813, when an area of furze known as Knolles had to be reallotted and finally in June the draft [note the spelling] award was read, taking over a whole week to do so.

January 1813

Subdividing allotments on the map. 5 days £ 10. 10. 00. Made two plans of private roads. £ 6. 06. 00

5th -12th April 1813

Attending on the Commrs when Knolles was allotted. 8 days £ 21 00 00 Staking out allotment on Knolles which was very troublesome. 4 days £ 8 08 00

3rd -6th June 1813

Attending on the Clerk to Inclosure to give instructions for Award. 3 days £ 6 06 00

7th -13th June 1813

Attending the Commrs when Draught of Award was read over. Made Rate of Expenses. 8 days. £ 21. 00. 00

To show how slow things proceeded it took almost another year before the award was finally signed. It is interesting to see that he charged a flat rate per acre to make the maps.

The surveyors costs alone came in at £616 14s.11d which in today’s terms was over £28,000.

January & April 1814

Jan & April Attending on Commrs at two different times when Award signed. 7 days £ 18. 07. 06

To making Two Fair Maps on Vellum cont. together 3204 ac. @ 3d per acre. £ 40. 01. 00

Paid for Vellum £ 2. 10. 00

Stationary and postage £ 2. 10. 00

Paid labourer etc as per Bill here to annexed £ 19. 08. 03

Made fair copy of Rates of Expenses roads £ 2. 02. 00 ————

Total £616. 14. 11


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1This group used to be on line but now seems to have disappeared.

2 It is not known when this is precisely but a guestimate is given.