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Parish 42

Date of Agreement / Award

Date of Confirmation of Apportionment


11/3/1841 29/12/1841

Date on Map

Scale of Map


None Various
Abbotsbury pt 1 3 chain

John Martin Evershot

Rodden pt 2 6 chain

John Martin

Look Farm pt 3 6 chain

John Martin

Sketch Map of Parish pt 4 12 chains

John Martin


From Highways and Byways of Dorset Fred Treves illustrated by Joseph Pennell 1906

Living in Abbotsbury could be dangerous. The third edition of Hutchins relates: Since the close of the last century, the population here has been on the decline; which has been occasioned partly by the decay of trade, but chiefly by the frequent fires which have at various times destroyed the greater part of the town”. Many of the houses that were burnt down were seemingly never rebuilt and the general feeling was that the town was in decline. Hutchins starts his description “This village, which was anciently famous for its monastery, but now is eminent for nothing but its ruins, the swannery, and decoy, takes its name from its ancient lords, the Abbots, the Abbots Town.” The sea and the land provided the chief occupation: “A considerable trade was many years ago carried on here in weaving cotton stockings and piece cotton; but both branches of industry are now entirely relinquished. The women and children are chiefly employed in braiding nets; the occupations of the men whilst not absent on voyages, or engaged in the fishery, are confined to shoemaking, carpentry, and the other ordinary pursuits of an agricultural and fishing village”.

Abbotsbury was well known to Martin as he had inclosed the parish in 1810. The parish was a large one, five thousand six hundred and sixteen acres yet the Rent-Charge was a meagre £127 10s 11d. The reason for this is that huge swathes of the land were tithe free. There were two examples of prescriptions that achieved this. The first has no explanation of its origins, “Certain Lands- in the said Parish situate at a place called or known by the name of Rodden….of which Isaac Sparks [plus five others] are the Owners are by Prescription exempt from the payment of all Tithes.” No account is given as to why the land was exempt but it was a large area – four hundred and eight acres and possibly the land had become exempt by real composition.

The second reason is explained; “four thousand four hundred and sixty nine acres are absolutely exempt from the payment of all Tithes as well Great as small The Same having been parcel of the dissolved Abbey of Abbotsbury otherwise Abbodesbirig one of the Greater Monasteries by which the same were held and enjoyed free from the payment of Tithes at the time of the dissolution thereof..” It is doubtful that the meagreness of the £127 would have worried the lay impropriators much; the bulk of it, £108, went to the Earl of Ilchester.

Strip lynchets to the right and St Catherines chapel to the left. Built in the 14th century by the monks of nearby Abbodesbrigg Abbey it is dedicated to St Catherine who was ordered to be executed on a wheel by Emperor Maximus I. An angel intervened to break the wheel but failed to prevent her execution. The English Heritage site records that “after her subsequent execution Catherine’s body was said to have been conveyed to the heights of Mount Sinai by angels. She became the patron saint of virgins, particularly those in search of husbands, and it was the custom until the late 19th century for the young women of Abbotsbury to go to the chapel and invoke her aid. They would put a knee in one of the wishing holes in the south doorway, their hands in the other two holes, and make a wish.”

In 1543 Hutchins relates “this manor, &c as recited in Melbury Sampford; Prior’s Garden, Covent Garden, Fermoury Garden….and several parcels of land in Abbotsbury, val. £35 1s 9d were granted to Giles Strangeways, Knt.” Over the years the family lost the middle ‘e’ but gained more lands in the manor and in 1592 when John Strangeways died he held “the fishery called East Flete, and the flight of wild swans called the game of swans yearly breeding, nesting and coming there”. He also held the “West Flete” and it’s swans. Abbotsbury is of course famous today for it’s swans and one wonders how many generations have bred there. Aside from the Queen the owner of Abbotsbury, currently Charlotte Townsend, grand-daughter of the 7th Earl of Ilchester is the only person in the country allowed to own swans.

Taken at the subtropical gardens in Abbotsbury looking over the west ‘flete’ towards the isle of Portland in the distance. Chesil beach to the right.

In so far as the commutation was concerned the consequence for Martin was that those parts of Abbotsbury which were titheable, by now reduced to seven hundred and thirty seven acres, were scattered around the parish. In the end he made four maps that were submitted to the TC. The first map is labelled Part 1 and is a map of Abbotsbury village drawn at 3 chains to the inch; it is possible that this portion was to be used for Poor Rate Assessment. Parts 2 and 3 are the only parts published on Ancestry and are of the area known as Rodden and a farm, Look Farm.

Part 4, was an overall map of the parish with the titheable parts marked on it. It is labelled “Sketch” map and is drawn at the smallest scale of all the maps, 12 chains to the inch. All the maps signed by him with a flourishing type 2 signature and part one has a type 1 signature as well. Part 4 has no scale on it but is the one that was endorsed by the tithe commissioners, William Blamire and Thomas Buller.

These maps went to and fro to London. Part 3 has a stamp from the TC dated 21st December 1844 whilst parts 1 and 2 were received on 23rd December. These must have been sent back to the parish for the next stamp is dated 29th March 1845 on parts 1 -3 and part 4, the sketch, arrived on 1st April 1845. In this context the entry in the diary for 31st March is of some interest indicating the speed that the mail coach could reach.

The total rent charge for the titheable parts of the parish was divided between two impropriators; nineteen pound was paid to two tenants in common’, owners of the tithes of a part of the lands and one hundred and eight pound to the Earl of Ilchester, the lay impropriator of the remaining lands. A fact he probably already knew. The bulk of the tithe was payable by a single landowner, Richard Brinsley Sheridan [Jnr.] of Frampton.

There are many entries in the diaries relating to the commutation all from the 1845 diary,

25th February 1845 Writing Various Letters Arthur went to Abbotsbury and deposited Tithe Apportionment 2-2-0
17th March 1845 Taking of Skeleton Map of Abbotsbury for Tithe Commutation
18th March 1845 Working on Abbotsbury Skeleton Map and went to Abbotsbury in the Afternoon
19th March 1845 Abbotsbury Tithe Commutation Attending Commutation at Abbotsbury hearing objections to Apportionment. £4 4s 0d
24th March 1845 Working on Abbotsbury Skeleton Tithe Map
26th -28th March 1845 Do Do
31st March 1845 Finished the Abbotsbury Sketch Map and sent the same to London and attending Timber Sale at the Acorn Mr Mayo’s

It is interesting to note that the map was received the next day in London.

11th April 1845 Preparing Paper for Sketch Maps of Abbotsbury Comm of Tithes
30th April 1845 Sending out Yeomanry Notices and sent off the Two Sketch Maps of Abbotsbury to the Tithe Office
Accounts July 1845 Received of the Executors of the late Mr Chas Hawkins his T Commutation Expenses for Abbotsbury £6 12s [sent to the bank this day].
4th October 1845 Working on Abbotsbury Enlarged Plan of the Town for Lord Ilchester
6th October1845 Working on the Abbotsbury Town Plan for Lord Ilchester

sent Mr Wm Roberts Check to Bank £23.0s 0d

7th October1845 Went to Abbotsbury correcting the Village and finding out Owners and Occupiers
8th October1845 At Abbotsbury
10th October1845 Sending out Yeomanry Notices and working on Abbotsbury &c
11th October1845 Working a Little on Abbotsbury and on Farming works &c -some one stole two small Tubs from Marsh Orchard House [in which I fed my Cows with oil cake in] last night.
14th October1845 Enlarging the Village of Abbotsbury for Lord Ilchester
19th November1845 Working on the Abbotsbury Town Plan and writing Circular for Chilfrome Rate
20th November1845 Working on Abbotsbury Plan of the Town writing Chilfrome Circulars &c
24th November1845 Working on Abbotsbury Town Map and making up Potatoe Rents
1st – 2nd December1845 Working on the Abbotsbury Town Map
6th December1845 Working on Abbotsbury Town Map and writing Various Letters
10th December1845 Working on the Abbotsbury Town Map and altering the Hillfield Commn Rate
12th December1845 Working on Abbotsbury Town Map &c
15th December1845 Working on Abbotsbury Town Map and settling with Mr Benjefield &c
19th December1845 Working on Abbotsbury Town Reference
29th December1845 Making out Bishopstone Prebendal Valuation and Examining the Abbotsbury Town Reference with Mr Wm Jennings

Included for no other reason than to celebrate the Dorset coastline. Looking west from the subtropical gardens.

List of Commutations under the Tithe Commutation Act

Abbotsbury Inclosure Abbotsbury, 1810.