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Child Okeford Inclosure

Inclosure awards are numerous but it is comparatively rare to find any documentation about the manors before inclosure or the effects on the parish after inclosure. Child Okeford is of some interest in the story of John Martin as it is one of the few parishes where a concatenation of events occur in close temporal succession. In 1834 a map was produced for one of the local farmers, William Wiltshire. This in turn formed the basis of the 1840 tithe map. In1841 came the first census where people were named and in 1845 John Martin inclosed the parish.

The parish was unusual in that it appears always to have been divided into two manors. Even before Domesday one moiety, or part, belonged to Earl Harold and the other a Saxon named Alwin. After the conquest it belonged to the Conqueror and the other part to his half brother- Count Robert de Mortain. In the mid 1840’s the parish was still divided between two manors: the first belonged to the Trenchard family and the second the Seymer’s.

The Trenchards were a very ancient and extensive family with land all over Dorset some of which was in Child Okeford. In 1829 the last male in the line of succession, William, died and his illegitimate sister Elizabeth Trenchard inherited [1]. Nothing can be found about her and she died in 1840 when the manor passed [eventually] to Henry Luke Smith Dillon, a grand nephew of William’s wife, Hester. He took the family name and dropped another to become Henry Luke Dillon Trenchard [HLDT]. His estate was called Child Okeford Superior.

The other lord of the manor was Henry Ker Seymer, one of the MP’s for Dorset who lived just down the road at Hanford. During the 1840’s he owned the second manor, Child Okeford Inferior. The lands of both manors were intermingled and whilst there was no manor house in the village there was a manor farm and the parish had two rectors. They had individual rectories but shared the church until the rectories were combined into one in 1815. For reasons that even Hutchins could not explain, the parish included a substantial area, 90 acres or so, known as Angers [or Angiers] Farm and Gobson Common which were wedged between Okeford Fitzpaine and Sturminster Newton. Why or how this area of land came to belong to the parish of Child Okeford is not known. It was detached from the main lands of the parish, by several miles and no longer exists [or at least it’s name doesn’t]. Even more curiously the parish also contained a few houses and what is now the Fiddleford Inn, in the distant hamlet of Fiddleford, and again nobody knows why.

In 1845 there were three areas of waste in the main parish together with another area called Gobson Common near Okeford Fitzpaine. There was a large close of common pasture known as Netmead.This has been superimposed on a modern map.© OpenStreetMap contributors

Child Okeford is now a large village in North Dorset just outside of Blandford Forum. In John Martins time it was a small village, with roads leading into the village, from the south east at Hanford, across the Stour at Haywards bridge, technically in the parish of Shillingstone and from the north east a road entered by way of the common from Shroton [Iwerne Courtney]. At its northern end the parish had a large area of what had, at one time, been exclusively waste. Over the centuries, nobody knows when, closes had been carved out of it but apart from a rough undefined track there was no communication across it to the next parish to the north – Manston. In 1845 the parish had no open arable fields although as we will see there was some evidence still of strip farming but it did have one large common meadow known as Net Mead [2].

As far as is known Martin’s involvement with the parish possibly [with a big P] began around 1834 when he appears to have copied a map for William Wiltshire one of the local farmers. [3] Martin had no links to the parish but William Jennings Jnr. appears to have mapped the parish at some stage as the 1834 map says that it is a copy made by Martin. It is possible that John Baverstock Knight, who was educated in the village and who worked extensively with Martin, also put in a good word for him. As tithe commutation preceded the inclosure we are able to see what the village was like before and after it. The parish was inclosed under the Common Fields Inclosure Act [4] of 1836 and its provisions were dealt with earlier. The principle novelty with the act was that land could be inclosed without application to, or assent from, parliament. It might be thought this would give considerable power to the landowners, and it probably did, but it was still tempered, in theory at least by the requirements of the 1801 which demanded that the Commissioner be impartial.

At some time during 1840 or 1841 “three of the Proprietors or Persons interested in certain Open and Common Pasture Lands” in the Parish of Child Okeford decided that the time had come to inclose the remaining Common Land. The three proprietors were not at first sight the most likely to desire inclosure. The first, and youngest at the age of 35, was Sir Edward Baker Baker 2nd Bart. Born in 1806 at Ranston House, in the neighbouring parish of Shroton [Iwerne Courtney] he succeeded to the family estate when his father, also Sir Edward Baker Baker died in 1825. When the young Sir Edward came of age in 1828 his birthday party was attended by over 400 people and there was much local celebrating. He went to Oxford but did not take his degree. This was not too much of a surprise since the main purpose of both Oxford and Cambridge was to generate clergymen and as the first born son, that was not his intended fate. He rapidly threw himself into country life being an active member of Blandford Agricultural society, forming his own Yeomanry troop and eventually becoming Sheriff of the county. He was clearly popular for it is probably after him that one of the Inn’s in Child Okeford is named after him. Originally called the White Bear it was renamed the Baker Arms in the 1820’s; a name it retains to this day. He is also one of the few people for whom we have a picture. In 1867 a public subscription was raised to fund a portrait of him. We even know how much the portrait cost for the subscriptions were limited to a guinea each and four hundred and eighty eight people subscribed. One of these was John Pyne whose friend and mentor had been John Martin and who had been working with Martin in 1841.

Sir Edward Baker Baker, 2nd Bt by John Richardson Jackson, after George Richmond. mezzotint, mid 19th century NPG D7473 National Portrait Galle

Sir Edward died in 1877, unmarried and was succeeded by his brother – a clergyman. It is not clear why Baker was involved in the Child Okeford inclosure as he lived at Ranston House in the neighbouring parish of Shroton [Iwerne Courtney] and his land holdings in Child Okeford were not large – at the time of the tithe commutation in 1840 he owned a mere 10 acres 2 roods and 30 perches of mostly meadow land.

The second of the trio was George Peach, an ex-army surgeon who had made his name in the Peninsular wars fighting the French. He became famous for developing a rather dramatic treatment for an eye condition, known as trachoma. This required bleeding the patient until he fainted! It was apparently successful and since the alternative was eventual blindness it found some favour with his patients. On leaving the army he retired to Dorset. It is not clear quite where he was living. He was probably living at Forston House near Charminster, the property of Mr F J Brown one of the Justices of the Peace in Dorset. John Martin had been employed by Brown in 1827 to survey the house and grounds. In 1837 Brown donated the house to the County to become – in their words- a lunatic asylum and George Peach had to look elsewhere for a permanent home. This simple story is complicated by the fact that in an advert in the Dorset County Chronicle of the same year Peach was letting Herringstone house in the same area.

In any event he settled on Millbrook House in Child Okeford and assumed the life of a country gentleman.[5] He had substantial land holdings in the village which included an Orchard, a Pleasure Garden and Pond and a Mansion House and Gardens. In total he held 132 acres of which he occupied twelve acres himself the rest being tenanted. He was 62 in 1841.

The final member of the triumvirate was John Baldwin aged 59 a member of an old and established village family. It would appear that for most of his working life he farmed elsewhere, initially near Sherborne and then in Hammoon, a parish adjacent to Child Okeford. Houseley [6] records that he was “very well known and respected in the local neighbourhood. While farming in Hammoon he entered livestock in the Sturminster Agricultural Show winning prizes for the best fat cow, fat wether sheep and fat ox. After retirement he chaired the Tenant Farmers of the Blackmore Vale Society and in 1844 was a founder member of Sturminster Agricultural Protection Society set up to lobby parliament, through the Earl of Shaftesbury, regarding the Corn Laws.” He was recorded in the 1851 census as being a landed proprietor but he occupied four acres of glebe land in the village, as a tenant of the Rector, Charles Edward North.

The tithe survey from the year before inclosure shows that the parish had, for the most part, been inclosed previously, although when is not known. There were 328 closes given over to agriculture comprising some 1752 acres in total but there were no open arable fields. With one exception, a close known as Net mead none of the fields were commonable. All the rest were owned or held in severalty.[7] There were two additional pieces of land that had to be dealt with. First were the remains of a large area of waste [common] land of about 280 acres. At some time in the past the central part of the common had been effectively divided into a “higher” and “lower” part by a series of old inclosures. Higher and Lower were connected by a rough track known as ‘whist’ lane but both parts of the waste remained to be inclosed together with some odd little scraps of common in the Gold Hill area of the village and the large but detached area known as Gobson Common.

The parish still had a large number of small farmers. There were some 44 “proprietors” in the parish, both free holders and the customary tenants of the manor, the copyholders and leaseholders. Before anything else could be done, the triumvirate had to persuade “two thirds by number and value” of the other proprietors whose consent was needed to inclose. This cannot have been easy for some of the customary tenants also owned freehold land and there were three people owning over 200 acres and eighteen who occupied less than 20. By law this meeting had to be announced by fixing a notice to the “principal outer door of the Church or Chapel of the parish” [8] and in addition by placing a notice in “some Newspaper circulated in the County”. Almost invariably this was the Dorset County Chronicle.

We, the undersigned being three of the Proprietors or Persons interested in certain Open and Common Pasture Lands, called or known by the several names of Higher Common and Lower Common, situate, lying, and being in within the Parish of Child Okeford, in the County of Dorset DO BY THIS NOTICE under our hands, CALL A PUBLIC MEETING of the PROPRIETORS and PERSONS interested in the said Open and Common Pasture Lands, to be holden at the BAKER ARMS INN in the said Parish of Child Okeford on MONDAY the Twenty-ninth day of NOVEMBER instant, at Twelve o’clock at Noon for the purpose of taking into consideration the expedience of Inclosing or otherwise Dividing and Allotting the same Open and Common Pasture Lands, under the provisions of an Act of Parliament made and passed in the sixth and seventh years of the reign of His late Majesty King William the Fourth, intituled “An Act for facilitating the Inclosure of Open and Arable Fields in England and Wales and of the Act or Acts therein recited.

Dated this Eighth day of November, one thousand eight hundred and forty-one.




In the event the meeting did not take place until the 20th December and even then did not run smoothly. Fortunately the award acts as a document of record and describes what happened;

“And whereas a Meeting was accordingly holden in pursuance of the aforesaid Notice on the said Twentieth day of December One thousand Eight Hundred and forty one.….but the person or persons at the said Meeting not comprising two thirds in number and value of the several persons interested in the said open common meadow or pasture lands or fields the Solicitor to the Landowners was thereupon directed to obtain the consent in writing of two thirds in number and value of the several persons interested as aforesaid and then cause a Meeting to be convened for the purpose of appointing a Commissioner to carry the inclosure into effect”

No explanation is given as to why they could not obtain the requisite number of consents but it resulted in a delay of nearly 6 months until another meeting was held on the 9th of May 1842, by which time they had been obtained and at,

“such Meeting Did nominate and appoint in writing under their hands me the said John Martin (not being interested in the said premises) to be the Commissioner for dividing allotting and inclosing the same”.

Martin held his first meeting on 22nd August 1842, again at the Baker Arms “at which time and place all Persons and Bodies Corporate, Politic or Collegiate who shall have or claim any Common or other Rights to or in any such Lands so to be divided” should attend to present their claims. Those claiming rights had to prove “in what Rights and for what Estates and Interests they claim the same respectively, distinguishing the Freehold from Copyhold or Leasehold”. They were also given a strict admonition that any non-compliance with the terms of their tenure would result in them being “totally barred and excluded of and from all Right and Title in or upon such Lands so to be divided respectively and of and from all Benefit and Advantage in or to any Share or Allotment thereof.”

The next meeting on 5th October was held at the Greyhound Inn in Blandford by which time all the claims that had been received had been collated. Unfortunately apart from the Award itself there are no original documents extant so we cannot know who claimed these rights or whose were accepted and whose rejected. The claims had been deposited at the Solicitor to the inclosure, Septimus Smith, in Blandford with copies in the house of Susannah Newman the owner of the Union Arms Inn in Child Okeford. The notice also called for any objections to the claims to “be reduced into Writing” and as women could not own personal property any objections they made had to be signed by “their respective Husbands, Guardians etc”.

On the 12th February 1844 another notice appeared in the Dorset County Chronicle announcing that the layout of the new roads that had been set out and that Martin had “ascertained the same by Marks and Bounds and prepared Maps thereof …… signed by me.” These were deposited with Septimus Smith and again objections were to be put into writing. No more notices appeared until 1846 and as we only have the diary from 1845 we cannot know how the work on the inclosure proceeded.

The diary has some 44 entries devoted to the inclosure. 19 of these days were spent over the arrangements for Net Mead 14 were spent on the final award map and one day on an exchange of lands between two of the proprietors. Some of these are given below following which the award will be described.

17th January 1845 Went to Chalmington with Mr Steins Plans- And working on Child Okeford Net Mead
20th January 1845 Child Okeford Working on Net Mead went to tea at Mr Wm Jennings Arthur & self
27th January 1845 Allotting Child Okeford Net Mead
29th – 31st January 1845 Working Child Okeford Net Mead
3rd February 1845 Making Sketch of Net Mead &c went out with the Beagles
4th February 1845 Went to Maiden Newton & purchased three Barreners & Two Cows in Calf & working on Sketch of Net Mead
7th February 1845 Sent Plans of Child Okeford Net Mead to Mr Peach Mr Baldwin and Mr Smith & writing Letters
13th February 1845 Looking over Rates &c – Net Mead if the Allotting could be altered
14th February 1845 Fresh Allotting Net Mead
15th February 1845 Making Sketches of Net Mead for Mr Peach and Mr Baldwin
19th February 1845 Mr J Baldwin here respecting Net Mead
27th February 1845 Allotting Child Okeford Net Mead
29th February 1845 Working Child Okeford Net Mead
21st April 1845 Child Okeford inclosure Completing the Net Mead Allotments
22nd April 1845 Child Okeford Inclosure Went to Child Okeford in the afternoon
23rd April 1845 Child Okeford Staking Net Mead
24th April 1845 Child Okeford Viewing the Commons &c and returned Home about 8 o clock
2nd May 1845 Putting the Office to rights sent Mr Phelps of Monkton Valuation of Hillfield Farm and Mr Peach Exchange at Child Okeford between himself and Lord Rivers
16th July 1845 Working on Child Okeford preparatory to making draft of award
17th – 19th July 1845 Attending Haymaking &c and working a little on Child Okeford
21st July 1845 Arthur Deposited the Dewlish Appt Map Making Dft of Child Okeford Award Journey to Dewlish 1 day ½ £3 3 0d”
22nd July 1845 Working on Child Okeford Award and Ricking part of Courtlands
28th July 1845 Ruling New Book for the Fordington Rate and Working on Child Okeford Award all day
29th July 1845 Working on the Child Okeford Dft of Award
30th July 1845 Examining Fordington Rate and Okeford Award
2nd August 1845 Taking off or rather reducing the Child Okeford Inclosure Maps on Vellum
4th 5th, 8th, 12th – 29th August 1845 Working on the Child Okeford Award Map
1st September 1845 Working on Child Okeford Awd Maps
3rd September 1845 Finished the Okeford Award Maps

The final award was presented at a meeting of proprietors held at yet another Inn in Blandford – The Crown – on the 14th September 1846. What remained to be done in the year between the last entry in September 1845 and the reading of the final award we will never be known but it is a remarkably long gap.

The award and annexed map.

The annexed map signed with a flourishing signature “John Martin” in the bottom right corner and printed just above the seam is “John Martin Commissioner and Surveyor 1845”. Photographed by Dorset History Centre

It is worth remembering that what is a historical document to us was a legal document to them. This, together with any copies made had to stand the test of time. As a result the award is handwritten on vellum the only thing [with other forms of parchment] that was known to survive over centuries. It 76 cm wide and 60 cm high about the same size as the Chilfrome maps and it may be that this was a standard size for vellum. It was and is, stored folded and secured by tape. When folded the front of the award bears the inscription “Signed Sealed and delivered by the within named John Martin | the word “Trenchard” having been first interlaced after the word Dillon in twenty four places | in the presence of Septimus Smith [9] Francis Smith”. In the middle is the title – Child Okeford Inclosure Award and an acquisition labelled no I28. Below this is the inscription Received and enroled [sic] in the records of the County of Dorset the twentieth day of March 1847 and initials HE.”

The award comprises 12 sheets stitched together with tape at the bottom; when unfolded the map forms the front sheet. The first page of the text of the award is in fact the last page of the pile of sheets and all the other sheets of the award have to be folded forward before it can be read. As they are hinged at the bottom and are quite large this means that it is difficult if not impossible to read except when standing and leaning over it. Each subsequent page is read by folding it backwards. The text is hand written in a mixture of normal hand written script and a form of Gothic script. At intervals there are parts of the text which are larger, Gothic, capitalised or all three or any combination. There is very little punctuation in the document, no more than three or four comma’s and where there is it is irregular in its application. The text just flows from one subject to another. Capitalised or bold words sometimes denote a new sentence but unfortunately this is not very reliable as words are also capitalised in an irregular way in the middle of sentences.

A sheet from the award. The creases caused by folding can be seen.

The content of the award can summarised as follows:

  1. Legal preamble
  2. Roads to be constructed
  3. allotments to proprietors
  4. Fences etc.


This award begins with what at first sight seems to be a rather grand phrase: ‘To all to whom these Presents shall come I John Martin of Evershot in the County of Dorset Land Surveyor Send Greeting”. It might be thought that these Presents were some reference to the land that was to be given to the villagers but in fact it is a term that is found in most legal documents of the time and the phrase may be loosely translated as “To all whom this legal document may come”.

There was of course no equivalent of the land registry in Martin’s day. Land was ‘conveyed’ to others and as it was the only legal record, not only did it have to be long lived it had to go into precise detail how the conveyancing was done and under what legal authority the commissioner had acted. As a result the first two and a half pages of the Award are given over to documenting the legal framework governing inclosures, the rules by which he operated and how he had proceeded in bringing the inclosure to fruition. The decree of repetition or restatement of various points is considerable.

First comes a recital of all the various inclosure acts that had been passed and which covered this particular award. Three are mentioned, the 1801 Inclosure Consolidation Act, from 1821 the Inclosure and Tithe Apportionment Act [10]and finally the 1836 Common Field Inclosure Act. Of course it was not so simple as this. None of them were named as I have just done but were referred to by reference to the regnal year of the King in whose reign they were passed. Thus the 1801 act is referred to as follows:

“And reciting that an Act was passed in the Forty first year of the reign of his late Majesty King George the third intitled “An act for consolidating in one Act certain provisions usually inserted in Acts of Inclosure for facilitating the mode of proving the several facts usually required on the passing of such said Acts”

He then gives a check list of those who were legally entitled to claim a right of common and which he had considered in making his award. Of these various forms of tenure all of these have been swept away, the only one remaining being a ‘tenant in fee simple”. The modern houseowner may be surprised to learn that this is the legal term for a modern free holder and may be even more surprised to know that it dates back to medieval times.

The award then goes on to describe the necessity of holding a meeting of the proprietors to obtain consents and how this was to be done. Once the consents had been obtained the Commissioner could be appointed and unlike the initial decision to inclose future decisions could be made. He notes that future meetings were to be announced in the same way but that once agreement to inclose had been agreed the law allowed that, at subsequent meetings, decisions, including as to the appointment of the commissioner, could be be made by a “Major part in Number and value of the proprietors”. Presumably this refers to a simple majority. Once appointed he tells us that he has [by Act of Parliament] been “empowered to Divide allot and inclose all or any of the open and Common Arable meadow or Pasture Lands or Fields”, make exchanges of land between proprietors when desired and extinguish rights of inter-commonage which occurred when an area of waste land overlapped and rights of common were shared between several parishes.

Having described how the law required things to be done he next describes how he actually conducted the inclosure, it is at this point that he tells the story described above as to how the initial meeting failed to gain the necessary consents and how he was subsequently appointed. He recounts that he took an oath to be impartial [presumably similar to that at Charminster] and that in the course of the inclosure process he had “held divers and sundry Meetings for carrying the purposes of the hereinbefore recited Act into execution in pursuance of and subsequent to public notice duly given in manner therein directed”.

He describes how he carried out his work causing “a true and exact and particular Survey Admeasurement and Plan to be made and completed of the said open and Common Meadows or Pasture Lands and fields hereinbefore mentioned and which are hereinafter divided and allotted contain together by measurement Two Hundred and eighty eight Acres and seventeen perches Statute Measure”.

The preamble ends with him saying how he has “proceeded to set out and appoint the several public and private roads and highways and Public Footways hereinafter particularly mentioned and described” and then unusually in such awards he adds one final clause which relates to one particular field in the parish known as Net Mead and we will discuss this when it appears later in the award.

This ends the legal preamble. Generally at this time lawyers were paid by the line and it is doubtful that Martin prepared this on his own, he would almost certainly have had Septimus Smith help with the wording and it was probably Smith’s clerk who wrote the award itself out.

Halfway down the third page of the award, at the end of one line, without any preceding punctuation is the word “Now” in slightly larger Gothic script, which is then followed at the beginning of the next line by, “Therefore”. In this way the bulk of the award is announced.

“I the said Commissioner DO make this my Award as follows / that is to say / that I the said Commissioner by virtue of the hereinafter recited Act of Parliament passed in the seventh year of his late Majesty King William the Fourth and in exercise and execution of the Powers and authorities therein and thereby to me given and of every other power and authority enabling me in this behalf…”

Roads to be constructed.

What constitutes a road? As Good [11] noted until the late middle ages there were few ‘constructed’ roads, wheeled vehicles were rare and that until the coming of railways the fastest method of transport was the horse. Most village roads existed for nothing other than purely local use. On both tithe and inclosure maps two types of ‘roads’ are commonly depicted.

The first type is bounded by solid lines and, on the tithe maps at least, the enclosed area is coloured light beige. We may assume that these were roads in the modern sense being constructed. Stevenson in 1812 had this to say of these roads; “The turnpike roads in the chalky district, are repaired by flints; but limestone broken to pieces with hammers, is the principal material of which the public and private roads are composed in all the rest of the county. The bye-roads in some parts of the Vale of Blackmoor, and the western division of the county, are miry, and scarcely passable in winter, and the large rough loose stones with which they abound render them very unpleasant in summer.”[12]

The second type of road were not constructed, they developed through habit and use and on the tithe maps are denoted by hatched parallel lines. The area enclosed is coloured the same as the underlying land, usually pasture or meadow land. I term these green lanes.

Photographed on the Duke of Norfolk’s Arundel Estate in West Sussex. Are these roads or not? They certainly lead from A to B but no construction was involved in their creation other than by repeated use over the centuries. If they became to rutted their course would be diverted rather than the path repaired. These lanes, called in this text ‘green lanes’, were, unlike constructed roads, titheable as the animals could in theory graze of the grass in the middle of the lane. They are shown on tithe maps as hatched ====== lines. Roads were shown with solid lines.

Martin begins his award, as all Commissioners did with the roads. This was no mere chance for the 1801 Act required Commissioners “in the first Place, before he or they proceed to make any of the Divisions and Allotments directed in and by such Act, to set out and appoint the publick Carriage Roads and Highways, through and over the Lands and Grounds intended to be divided, allotted, and inclosed”.

The roads, in any inclosure, were not intended to form part of some grand national infrastructure project. Indeed the act is remarkably vague about their purpose- what precisely did ‘commodious’ mean? The clause was of course very sensible, it was better to lay down the roads before the inclosure, and the word ‘publick’ has a specific meaning in that it was intended that anyone should be able to use the roads not just the landowners. However there was a sting in the tail for who was to pay for them? The private roads were paid for by the landowners alone but in the case of the Child Okeford award, the public roads [note how Martin is now using the modern spelling] were to be paid for at public expense;

And I the said Commissioner do hereby direct order and award that the said Public Carriage Roads and Highways hereinbefore described shall be and remain of the Breadth aforesaid between the ditches or other fences adjoining the same and shall be for ever hereafter amended and kept in repair by such persons and in like manner as the other public roads within the Parish of Child Okeford aforesaid are by law to be amended and kept in repair

In other words whether they benefited or not from these new roads, the wider rate paying public had to pay for the new public roads– or at least that was the theory. Commissioners were also authorized to “divert, turn, and stop up, any of the Roads and Tracts, upon or over, all, or any Part of the said Lands and Grounds, as he or they shall judge necessary, so as such Roads and Highways shall be, and remain thirty Feet wide at the least, and so as the same shall be set out out in such Directions as shall, upon the Whole, appear to him or them most commodious to the Publick.”[13] Martin was to make use of this particular clause as we shall see.

In open field parishes there were, of course, customary rules that controlled access to and over the fields, but by and large, movement was free across the baulks and connecting lanes of the fields. The main purpose of the new roads was, allegedly, to allow access to the newly inclosed fields and to optimise the course of agriculture in the parish but in many parishes the right to “divert, turn and stop up” had a much more profound effect on the local population as John Clare wrote,

“These paths are stopt – the rude philistine’s thrall
Is laid upon them and destroyed them all
Each little tyrant with his little sign
Shows where man claims earth glows no more divine
But paths to freedom and to childhood dear
A board sticks up to notice ‘no road here’
And on the tree with ivy overhung
The hated sign by vulgar taste is hung
As tho’ the very birds should learn to know
When they go there they must no further go”[14]

The exact positioning of the new roads was done in collaboration with the local landowners and the commissioner was allowed to designate them as ‘private or public’. One reason for laying out the roads first was that their value and the area they occupied had to be deducted from the overall award. Laying out the roads must have been a delicate balancing act. Naturally the landowners would prefer the roads to run through the poorest quality of land whilst still serving their purpose of providing access to the new closes. The Commissioner had to produce a map of the proposed new roads and issue a notice [attached again to the church door] and advertised in the newspapers following which a meeting would be held to consider objections. As we saw at Bishopstone sometimes the roads had to be laid out again;

10th August 1810 Bishopstone hearing objections to new set out road
13th August 1810 At Bishopstone staking Ladder way Road again the Surveyors having altered it since I staked it out

Although notice had to be given of the construction of new roads, if the road was to be ‘stopt’ no notice was given. The first thing most villagers would have known was when they found “A board sticks up to notice ‘no road here’”. By then it was too late for once the landowners agreed the proposals were put to the local Justices of the Peace who ratified the arrangements.

The Commissioner was also “empowered and required to set out and appoint such private Roads, Bridleways, Footways, Ditches, Drains, Watercourses, Watering Places, Quarries, Bridges, Gates, Stiles, Mounds, Fences, Banks, Bounds and Land Marks, in, over, upon, and through or by the Sides of the Allotments to be made and set out in pursuance of such Act, as he or they shall think requisite”

These private roads were more specifically designed to serve the new closes and were built to a lower standard, their designation incidentally, which may seem anachronistic to us, is still of importance and on a number of occasions researching this topic I have found 20th century legal cases which have been resolved by reference to the original terms of the acts.

In Child Okeford Martin created some thirteen new roads in the village; there were three public carriageways, three private carriageways with bridleways and foot paths, five private carriageways on their own and one public footway. Each of the roads was named and plotted on the map against a letter a – n although for some reason the letter J is missing. The public roads are mentioned first but the form in which they are awarded is the same for all of them. It was not practicable for most surveyors to determine latitude or longitude at inland locations and in any case it would have meant little to the villagers, nor as yet was there an accepted national grid. As a result all positions at this time [not just those relating to roads] were given in relation to a fixed object, usually a neighbouring close together with its occupier.

“One Public Carriage Road and Highway of the Breadth of Thirty Feet called The Shroton Road and marked with the letter a on the Map hereinto annexed commencing at Common Lane Gate in the Higher Common and extending Northeastwards in its present track leading towards Shroton”

The number of different types of road serve to remind us that they were not all designed for the benefit of the wider society. The language is archaic but quite specific: “Which said Private Carriage Roads and Driftways and Public Halterways and Footways I the said Commissioner do hereby declare shall be and for ever remain of the several Breadths hereinbefore respectively specified”.In this he was remarkably optimistic for although the public roads have remained the correct width the private roads have become narrowed in many areas to little more than a footpath.

This map was prepared by a friend and shows the various roads that were to be constructed and extinguished under the act.

Next comes the following: “and I do also declare that the said Private Carriage Roads and Driftways are set out for the use of the Owners and Occupiers for the time being of the several messuages old inclosures and new allotments adjoining thereto”. It sounds innocuous but the use of the roads is limited to those who occupy the messuages [15], “for the time being”. If they gave up the land they lost the right to use the road.This map shows the roads in Child Okeford following inclosure. Existing roads are shown in a tan colour, all others were newly created – or extinguished.

This crop shows no fewer than six of Martin’s new roads. The most significant is the short section of “the Shroton Road” [bottom right], leading out of the parish to Shroton and on to Shaftesbury. Before this time there was no road out of the parish beyond [Cmmn] ‘Lane Gate’.Running past the poor allotments [which close is still partly given over to allotments today] was the Higher Common road and between Mary Locks allotment and the Poor Allotment is the Seymer. Both roads still exist as metalled roads today but the other roads are reduced to overgrown foot paths.

Photo taken at Dorset History Centre by author.

Unfulfilled Plans

In 1841 this area was part of the higher common. The award required it to be divided into eight closes with access to them by the Fontmell Road whch in this crop is the principal road running diagonally \ across the map before turning left at the top.

Prior to inclosure this area formed a part of the upper common. Under the award it was divided into eight closes.

Despite the grand plans for these roads as early as 1850 it is clear that they did not suit the needs of all the proprietors: “At a Vestry of the Ratepayers and Owners of Property of Child Okeford Parish held on the 20th Day of November 1850 in pursuance of notice given for the purpose of considering the proposal of Sir Edward Baker it was agreed that Sir Edward Baker may be allowed to stop up the road described on Mr Martins award as Fontmel [sic] road Sir Edward undertaking to make and keep in repair a Halter path from Gallows Corner to Porters Hill gate”

In fact it is almost certain that none of these eight closes were ever actually formed. The 6″ OS map from 1886 shows the whole area to be one large close. If it had been inclosed at any time we might expect some of these to have survived if the closes had subsequently been sold and the area opened up. There is no such trace and we can only conclude that the villagers changed their minds about dividing it up. It was not the only part of the award that went unfulfilled.

The second public road to be constructed was also to change the village irrevocably. On the tithe map a rough track or green lane is shown crossing the lower common but it was not true highway. Martin’s new road across the common was to be a public road and he had ordered these to be “kept in repair by such persons and in like manner as the other public roads within the Parish of Child Okeford aforesaid are by law to be amended and kept in repair”. What he did not stipulate was who was supposed to build them in the first place.

The Highway act of 1555 placed the responsibility for maintaining the roads on the parishes, but it is not clear who was to build new roads within the parish. For important ‘through’ routes the answer was to come in the form of turnpike trusts, but the trusts, had no remit to build local roads in the parishes. It is not known how this was managed elsewhere but there was certainly a problem brewing in Child Okeford.

On the 20th January 1849 the Sherborne Mercury carried the following paragraph:

“Mr Richard Warren, waywarden of Okeford was summoned by the Rev Henry Bower, for having neglected to repair the road leading over Okeford common. Mr Warren said there never had been a road made there since the common was enclosed and therefore the parish was not liable to repair it. If the parish were called upon to put the road in order, they would have to make a new road which would involve an expense of from £1500 to £2,000. The case was adjourned until the next meeting, for the production of the award made at the time the common was enclosed.”

No record of the adjourned case has been found but the award clearly stipulates that it was a public road and a road exists today. When it was built is not known. Warren was summoned again in May 1849 for failure to repair Sandy Lane; one senses he was not happy in his job. The road was eventually constructed but precisely when is not known.

The other roads have fared variably well. The lower common road is now a fully fledged road as is the Shroton road – although renamed the Shaftesbury road. One of the private roads -the Gold Hill Road has become now become part of Ridgeway lane and has become “public” in a part of its course. The remaining private roads have for the most part become overgrown and considerably narrowed. John Martin’s intention that they “shall be and for ever remain of the several Breadths hereinbefore respectively specified” has not been upheld.

The Higher Common road


ONE other Private Carriage Road and Driftway and Public Bridleway and Footway of the Breadth of Twenty Feet called the Higher Common Road and marked with the letter l on the said Map leading out of the Shroton Public Road at Common Lane Gate and extending Northward over part of the Higher Common until it enters the Ridgeway Road


This is the Higher Common Road. As can be seen it has become considerably narrowed from it’s intended width and is overgrown. In parts the drainage ditches on either side still exist. Even it’s name was changed – on the 6” OS map from the 1880’s it is called the Common Drove. This was no doubt a hark back to the old days. When the common still existed there was no “road” here but there was a ‘gate’ to one of the village roads. Doubtless when the farmers brought the cattle into the village they did so via this route thus acquiring the name ‘drove’.

Sometimes proposed roads never made it into the final award. The original notice from February 1844 shows that Martin had proposed two more public footpaths and private carriageways. The carriageways had marvellous names. One was called the Jubbers foot way after an 18th century landowner whose field, of the same name, lay at the end of it. The other was called “Drong”[16]. Oddly although they do not get a specific mention in the award both appear on the map. One hundred and eighty three years later both are remain as public footpaths running in the same line as Martin laid them out.

The 1845 award was not the first time that the waste had been inclosed. There was, cutting into it, a large swathe of old inclosures either side of a road known then, as now as, Ridgeway lane. In addition almost at right angles to these closes there was another swathe of closes that separated the waste into a higher and lower common. In addition a number of dwellings had been built on the waste itself. Several consequences arose from these arrangements.

A narrow green lane [between George Peach and Mary Lock’s old inclosures] connected the upper and lower common. Called Whist Lane it was allotted to George Peach in the award. It was not a significant loss to the village.

At the bottom of Ridgeway Lane was a left over piece of waste known as Gold Hill Common [no 2 on the map]. Oddly enough the Ridgeway Lane terminated prematurely ending in common land. A short section of private carriageway had to be constructed over it. This had the effect of controlling access to the Ridgeway lane. As at Chilfrome no small pieces of open land could be allowed to remain and so the remaining bit of Gold Hill Common was allotted to George Peach. As there were several cottages there as well Martin had to award foot ways to them. Without these the occupants would henceforth have been trespassing.

The most serious loss was the inclosure of another remnant of the waste known as Lego Lane. This was effectively a by-pass for the ‘main’ road through the village. It was important because there was a ford across this road which in heavy rains rendered the road impassable to carts although a footbridge was provided. I am pleased to report that the lane was reopened in 2018 when the local landowner agreed that it should be reopened as a footpath.

There are two final parts to the award governing the roads. The first concerns the grass and herbage that would in time grow on the side of the roads and were to be the property of the proprietors of the allotments adjoining the roads “on either side thereof as far as the Crown of the Road” which begs the question as to what manner of construction was to be employed. Secondly there was the question of who should pay for the private roads. Martin ordered that they “shall be for ever hereafter made repaired and kept in repair by and at the expense of the several Owners and Proprietors for the time being of the several Allotments set out and allotted by this my Award and that every Five Pounds expended in the necessary repairs thereof shall be raised in the Shares and Proportions mentioned in the following schedules And that such Shares and proportions be collected from time to time and the amount expended by the Waywardens of the said Parish of Child Okeford for the time being”.

Each landowner was responsible for a share of the construction of the new roads. It was a £5 rate. For each £5 spent on the roads they had to pay the amount shown.

The Award.

The next part of the award concerns the allotments to the individual proprietors. On the award the name is given on the left side of the document with the numbers of the plots below. A vertical line down the award separates the names and numbers from the award proper which is on its right. There are no horizontal dividers anywhere in the award. The wording of the first allotment is slightly different in form to the others but thereafter is much the same:

Allotments to Henry Luke Dillon Trenchard no 28 AND I the said Commissioner by virtue of the Power and authority aforesaid HAVE set out allotted And awarded by these Presents DO set out allot and award UNTO and for Henry Luke Dillon ^Trenchard Esquire ALL THAT Allotment of land situate in the Higher Common containing Two Acres three roods and thirty seven perches and numbered 28 on the said Map bounded on the East by Shroton Drove on the South by the Ridgeway Road on the West by the Fontmell Road and on the North by an Allotment to John Harvey

There is no indication as to how the order of recipients in the award was decided but usually the first allotment mentioned was the Lord of the Manor’s. Martin allotted 72 moieties of land in the commons to 34 proprietors in total. Most received two or more allotments and when they did the allotments were often divided between the home common in Child Okeford and the more distant Gobson common. 7 proprietors only had one allocation of land in the commons and this, perhaps surprisingly, included one of the promoters of the inclosure – Sir Edward Baker Baker. For all his hard work he received a mere 4 ½ acres. His allotment was not the smallest however which was just over a half an acre with the largest being to George Peach of 15 and a quarter acres.

18 parcels of land were given to 16 of the proprietors in the field known as Net Mead and for two of them this was the only land they received and this field will be discussed later. Although his adopted family were the historic lords of the manor Henry Luke did not gain much from the award being limited to two allotments in the home commons of just under 5 ½ acres and one in Net Mead of just over 3. We should not feel to sorry for him however as the next twelve allotments are to his tenants; as he was the ‘reversioner’ he would gain in the event their tenancies fell in.

In a previous section we saw how the awards were made in principle but unfortunately we have no details, as, aside from the award itself, no other documents appear to have survived.

Net Mead.

On the 23rd April 1845 John Martin spent the day “Staking Net Mead”. The field known as Net Mead is surrounded on three sides by the river Stour. During the winter months it floods so regularly that it acts as a water meadow; in the summer the result was a lush hay harvest. The tithe apportionment lists 16 ‘joint owners’ who between them held some 65 strips in the field. The field was not, in practice, divided up literally into strips but they were marked out at their ends with mark stones. Some of these survived into the mid 20th century and older villagers remember them; today they have all gone.

For the greater part of the year the field was left well alone, no animals were allowed to graze on it until the hay had been mowed in June or July. The exact date of the harvest varied according to the weather but when it happened it had to be done by all the proprietors at the same time. The strips were mown in turn and each man took his own hay away. The hay was known as the foreshare and when it had been cleared away the proprietors were allowed to ‘depasture’ their cattle on the field.

This of course had to be done in common as there was no practical way of separating the animals. The proprietors at Child Okeford decided that this was a workable solution ;

And Whereas the several allotments in the open and common Meadow hereinafter allotted and divided called Net Mead being small and expensive and inconvenient to inclose the Proprietors and Persons interested therein are desirous of stocking and depasturing their Allotments in the said Net Mead after the foreshare thereof hath been cut and removed and of sharing such produce as may grow thereon under proper regulations and they having made such application to me in this behalf as is in and by the said several Acts or one of them required I have determined on an attentive view and full consideration of the Premises to award order and direct all the said Allotments in the said Net Mead to be laid together and to be stocked and depastured in Common


A map from 1834, the basis for the tithe map, [which is not reproduced for copyright reasons] shows that the field was divided up into virtual strips.

The tithe apportionment shows Martin numbered the plots or doles the same way and gave their nominal sizes. Fifty two of them were referred to in the apportionment as ‘an acre’, nine as a “quarter acre”, two were a “half acre”, one was “three quarters of an acre” and one ‘small bit’ of one perch. In fact none of these nominal areas was accurate when compared with the measured area. Most ‘acres’ were in fact half acres, as indeed was one of the half acres; the other half acre was in fact a quarter acre. None of the strips appear to have been permanently allocated to a particular owner. Other legal documents concerning the meadow refer to it as “lot mead” suggesting that each of these doles was allocated on the basis of drawing lots [a common enough method]. This ensured that the strips rotated through the owners so as to ensure an equitable distribution of good and bad areas of the field.

After inclosure the strips were ‘laid together’ but how the allocations were made is not clear. Sixteen out of thirty four owners who received an allotment of land also received an allocation of the foreshare but the situation was extremely complex. For example only two out of the ten copy holders under Henry Luke Dillon Trenchard received a part of the foreshare. Fourteen of the owners were allowed to depasture their cows after the harvest but they were a slightly different fourteen to those awarded the foreshare. Likewise there was no direct link between the size of the foreshare and the number of cows that could be depastured; John and Edward Rossiter had none of the foreshare but were able to depasture 5 cows whereas Mary Goodfellow and John Harvey had small amounts of the Foreshare but were not able to depasture any of their cows.

The award map shows these new allocations but look closely and it can be seen that the lines between are plain indicating they do not have any hedges.

As some of the awards in Net Mead were very small it would have been difficult to fence them so they were left uninclosed and when haymaking we must assume thee individual plots were marked of with mearstones as they had been before. Subsequent generations have divided the field into three but it is still used as meadow and remains the only part of the parish registered as common land under the 1965 Commons Registration Act.

Exchanges and Fences.

After the allocation of the land in the common fields and in Net Mead the award comes to an end with an exchange of land between two owners, the stocking of the field known as Net Mead after the hay harvest had been cut and finally the arrangements to be made for fencing the allotments.

There was only one exchange of land and that was between George Peach and Lord Rivers. Most inclosure acts allowed for the exchange of lands presumably with the intention of allowing lands to be better consolidated. It might then be wondered why the Commissioner did not simply ensure such consolidation when making the original award.

This exchange was unusual in several respects: George Peach was granted a little over 7 acres of land in Gobson Common which he exchanged for a field of a little more than 2 acres of old inclosure belonging to Lord Rivers in the Higher Common, off Ridgeway Lane. This might seem unequal but was presumably related to the relative value of the lands in different parts of the parish. The last part of the award concerned the fences and his instructions are quite clear. Martin stipulates that the,

“said several and respective Allotments except the Allotments in Net Mead aforesaid Shall be well and sufficiently Fenced by the respective owners and proprietors thereof with proper Banks and Quick set Hedges on such sides of the Boundary Lines thereof as are described by the representation of the Hedges thus delineated on the said Map” “

He even goes on to give a practical example of what he means

“for Example the Fences of the Allotment numbered 14 on the South and West sides thereof to be made by John Baldwin the Owner thereof and that all the said fences shall be completed on or before the thirty first Day of December One Thousand Eight Hundred and forty seven And I do hereby order and direct that all the Fences so made shall be for ever thereafter kept in repair by the respective owners proprietors or occupiers of the said Allotments for the time being.”


In earlier years Martin was used to providing the Thorn plants himself. In December 1821, whilst working on the Chilfrome Inclosure, he had travelled to Dorchester to purchase Thorn plants for the Rectors glebe land and in January 1827 he “Went to Yeovil and Purchased 30.000 Thorn Plants of Male of Lambrook at 15s to be delivered at Bincombe”

Last things.

On 20th March 1847 the award was enrolled at the quarter sessions ;

The award of John Martin of Evershot in the County of Dorset Landsurveyor the Commissioner appointed for dividing allotting and enclosing the open and Common Meadow or Pasture Lands or Fields in the Parish of Child Okeford in the County of Dorset dated the Thirteenth day of January one thousand eight hundred and forty seven was brought to the Office of the Clerk of the Peace for the said County and was required to be enroled amongst the Records of the said County pursuant to the Statutes in that case made and provided the same is enroled accordingly the Twentieth day of March one thousand eight hundred and forty seven

Note the complete absence of punctuation and spelling differences compared with today. It is not clear if a copy was made for the Clerk but the precise whereabouts of the award itself between 1845 and 1895 remains a puzzle. There is no mention in the vestry minutes of the equivalent of a parish chest where documents would traditionally have been stored and it seems to have disappeared for a while. There are no entries in the vestry minutes relating to the inclosure award except when Sir Edward Baker Baker wanted to downgrade the Fontmell road. We have no idea what practical effect it had on the villagers.

In 1895 the vestry was replaced by newly formed Parish Councils and at their inaugural meeting on January 4th 1895 it was decided that all the parish books should be handed over to the newly appointed clerk. Meetings were only held thrice a year and so it was not until July that the Clerk, Mr Clench, reported that he had made inquiries as to the award’s whereabouts, but with no success. It was believed to be held by the ex- Waywarden of the village, [Mr Warren infra vide] but he had not replied.

In October 1895 the clerk reported that the award had been traced and was held by a Mr Forester who was prepared to relinquish it to the council. The council agreed that a “suitable tin box” should be purchased to preserve the award in, the key to the box being kept by the clerk. In January 1896 the clerk, with what sounds like a flourish, produced the award and the box at the council meeting and in October he acknowledged that he was in possession of the award and the book of particulars or field book. Presumably the award stayed with the council until the minute books and other documents passed to the County Records office in or around 1978. The field book unfortunately has not been traced.

The Child Okeford inclosure was only a partial inclosure. The field known as Net Mead was divided into allotments but the common of shack persisted. Over the years the number of owners reduced but under the 1965 Commons Registration Act two the field was registered as Common land. By this time it was divided into two parts: one part was owned by two owners and the other by one owner.

Gobson Common.

Gobson Common. The map has been orientated to West Upwards


Gobson Common was a mysterious and distant part of the parish of Child Okeford. Nobody knows how it came to be a part of Child Okeford and it is difficult to imagine that many people from the main village ever visited it. Even today it is a [compartively] remote and hidden part of Dorset, although there is a large mushroom factory which occupies plots 45 to 50 [approx].

Martin specified several new roads here. The central road, the Gobson Common Road survives in part, although it is now just a continuation of Angers lane which led into the common at the bottom. It’s connection to Dirty gate survives as does the road to Broad Oak near the bottom. The road past Lord River’s allotment has disappeared and the road to Hile farm gate is now a green lane as is the road at the bottom to Fipen Oakford [Oakford Fitzpaine.]

As early as 1851 the allotment to the poor caused problems for the parish. Numbered 63 on the map it amounted to two acres. A part of the allotment had been let to one Job Trowbridge for the sum of 2d / lug [17] As he was two years in arrears, never having paid a penny, the Overseer of the Poor reduced it to 1d/lug. This did not have the desired effect and he was brought to Blandford County Court where he claimed that he had been given the land in exchange “for the right to the furze” that grew on the common.

In the account of the trial something of the culture shock wrought on a local community by inclosure can be seen from the following statement from James Rose:

“I am a labourer. I live at Sturminster Common. I have known Gobson Common for fifty years. I have known Job Trowbridge’s father for fifty years. I have known him cut the furze on the common and he sold it for what he liked. I have known Job ever since he was born. I know nothing about the award. I have never known any rent paid for it…Any one living on the common had a right to cut the furze.”

Needless to say Trowbridge lost the battle although his descendants may have won the war as we will see. The Trowbridge’s appear to have been a bit of a thorn in the side of the parish because in 1867, another Job, took them to court for failing to maintain the road leading to the close. This seems to be a bit of a theme with the roads in Child Okeford. By now the family were paying their rates if not their rents and this time they won, the court ordering the road to be repaired.

In 1876 the government decided to put an end to these divided parishes, as they were known, and rationalise parochial boundaries. In the early 1880’s the Ordnance Survey was planning to survey the whole country, and this spurred the Local Government Board to make an inquiry into Child Okeford. Held in the Board Room of the Workhouse at Sturminster the inspector in charge noted that there were only a few houses in Gobson common and that the children living there went to school in Okeford Fitzpaine or Sturminster. Faced with two alternatives the inspector took the advice of the representative in the room. There was only one and he was from Sturminster Newton. His arguments won the day and in October 1883 Gobson Common and Angers farm were transferred to the parish of Okeford Fitzpaine.

Between 1888 and 1913 the Ordnance Survey set to work and Gobson Common disappeared from the map to be renamed Oakford Common.

In October 1897 the newly formed Child Okeford Parish council was caught off guard when it received a letter from Mr Henry Fudge of Gobson Common. He in turn had been written to by the Okeford Fitzpaine council who advised him that “the Land held by you and which formerly belonged to the Parish Officers of Child Okeford being now transferred to the Parish Council of Okeford Fitzpaine through the Local Government Act. The rent therefore of the said Land becomes due and payable to the aforesaid Parish Council of Okeford Fitzpaine and you are henceforth required to pay the amount due hereon to them and to no other.”

One can imagine the reaction of Mr Fudge and the CO parish council. They in turn wrote to the Local Government Board appealing the case. They pointed out that when the land was enclosed [they now used the modern form ‘enclosed’] “a portion of the common was set apart for a parish allotment. The Land has long ceased to be used as an allotment but the rent of the lands is spent in Charity for the benefit of The Poor of Child Okeford.” Their argument was that under ‘The Divided Parishes Act’ where a piece of Charity land was made over to another parish the new parish would have civic responsibilities over the land but not ecclesiastical ones and the Rent still belonged to the Child Okeford Charities. It would appear that they were right for no more is said on the matter until the 1950’s. By this time it appears that the original allotment to the poor had reverted back to allotments that were leased out and in 1953 the minutes of the Child Okeford Parish council note that the tenant of the ‘Gobson Common Allotments’ had not paid his rent [due 6 months earlier] and that if he did not pay up his tenancy would be terminated. The name of the tenant was Trowbridge. No more is heard on the matter until in March 1962 the parish clerk reported receiving an enquiry from someone interested in buying the land at Gobson Common.

Since the name ‘Gobson Common’  had long since disappeared it is no great suprise that the council knew little about the land. They had to ask the Clerk to investigate the title to the land and in May 1962 they wrote to both the Land Registry, to see who owned the land and to the tenants, Trowbridge and Upshall advising them the council was considering selling the land.

By October 1962 the council had instructed solicitors and met Mr A Trowbridge who was prepared to purchase the land for £35 an acre and pay all the legal expenses. The offer had been accepted BUT “a satisfactory conclusion to the tenancy by the late W J Trowbridge was necessary before the sale could be effective”. Mr W J Trowbridge was the tenant in debt in 1953. It was not until February 1964 that the title to the land was established but the status of the tenancy was in doubt. In a method of verification that went back centuries in practice the clerk to the council ,who had only been in post for ten years, advised the council to obtain “a further declaration from Mr Pride the longest serving member of the Council” stating that Mr W J Trowbridge had paid rent until his death.

In June 1964 a parish meeting consented to the sale of the land. John Martin had originally granted two acres in Gobson Common “UNTO and for the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Child Okeford for the time being/in trust for the Poor of the said Parish for ever”. Well the ‘for ever’ did not last quite as long as he envisaged and in January 1965, after holding a minutes silence, on the occasion of Sir Winston Churchill’s death, the council decided to put the money it obtained from the sale “to enlarge the stage and provide some stage lighting at the village hall”. Even that did not last as the stage was removed by later generations and the lighting taken down.

And so finally the link between Angers farm, Gobson common and the village was broken. On the other hand the land had returned to one of the families who had been dispossessed by inclosure.

Finally what was the effect of the inclosure on the parish? It is likely that the majority of people in the parish knew little about what was going on: as James Rose said “I know nothing about the award.” As we have seen after John Martin left the parish several parts of the award, the inclosure of part of the higher common and the construction of the lower common road’ never took place at all. Certainly there seems to have been little protest at the time of the award: the situation at the end of the century was completely different.

A controversy arose in 1890 when Hambledon Hill, the dominant feature of Child Okeford, was fenced in by the Syndercombe Bower and Portman families. This caused an outcry locally with several letters appearing in the local press. One letter encapsulates what many in late Victorian England felt about the inclosure process. The anonymous writer, “Antiquarian”, refers to “the scandal of the recent enclosure of historic Hamildon [sic] Hill where the recreation ground enjoyed for centuries by Child Okeford and neighbourhood has been “wired-in” and the people’s sweethearts, wives and children ruthlessly “wired-out” by Mr Claude Portman”. His letter was addressed to Mr Arthur Arnold MP for Salford and supporter of the “Free Land League” who had spoken at Blandford.

Antiquarian clearly felt Mr Arnold was not doing much despite his fine words as he continues “They ‘daren’t do it now’ they cried. What I daren’t enclose? Let them go to Hamildon Hill and see. Hamildon Hill once thronged on Sundays with happy faces of children, released from Sunday School, with fathers and mothers enjoying a quick walk, now a dreary “wired-in” tract, a useless waste, yet with pages of ancient history on every inch of it; and lifeless too, except for the burly form of a gamekeeper, kept on guard to frighten peaceable citizens from what they have long deemed, their prescriptive play-ground, enclosed not recklessly but deliberately.”

By this time the loss of amenity that inclosure had brought to so many parishes across the country was all to clear. In fact Mr Portman was not inclosing the hill in the strict sense of the word and in any case it had never been common land. Encapsulated in this story however is one of the fundamental issues about inclosure. Across the nation many people had been denied access to land by inclosures. From a legal perspective few were commoners and so they were strictly speaking trespassing. But they had done so for so long they believed they had the customary right to enjoy their equivalent of Child Okeford’s  ‘Hill’. At Child Okeford the loss of amenity was limited to their exercise but across the nation the loss of access to common land was much more serious ; it reduced many independent yeomans to paid servitude.

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1 Hutchins 3rd edition.

2 From old english Neat meaning beast, meaning cow.

3 See section on Tithe Commutation for details of this map.

4 A History of Private Bill Legislation: (Vol 1 of 2 Vols) Frederick Clifford Routledge 2013

5 Child Okeford The End of an Era 1815-1860 John Housley

6 Child Okeford 1815 -1860 Child Okeford The End of an Era.

7 Severalty is when land is owned by one person or body. The term was particularly apposite in the case of inclosure as it derived from the fact that the owner was severed from other owners.

8 If there was no church or chapel in the parish then it had to be attached to the door of a neighbouring parish.

9 Septimus Smith was a solicitor in Blandford and his son, Francis was his clerk.

10 Not to be confused with the 1836 Tithe Commutation Act.

11 Good R. The Old Roads of Dorset 1966 [first published 1941].

12 Stevenson W. General View of the Agriculture of the County of Dorset 1812 Board of Agriculture report

13 1801 Inclosure Consolidation Act

14 From The Mores John Clare

15 A dwelling house with land attached to it for the occupants use.

16 Another name for a narrow lane.

17 An ancient measure of land area equivalent to about 40 square metres sometimes today used in measuring allotments. However in the 1790 survey it is used to measure length of fences.