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Chilfrome Inclosure

1821 Chilfrome

The bill for inclosing Chilfrome, was introduced to parliament in November 1814 and was seen through its parliamentary course by a Mr Courtney MP and Mr Morton Pitt MP. It was enacted in March 1815 but oddly there is another entry in the list of private acts of parliament for an Act passed in 1820.

Chilfrome was and is a tiny parish. Hutchins describes it as “this little vill” and at the time of the 1841 census it had about 128 inhabitants living in some fifteen houses [1]. Of the men, aside from two shoemakers, a smith, three man servants, the Rector and six yeomen the rest were agricultural labourers [2]. Of the women only one has an occupation she was a dressmaker. It was also a surprisingly young population there are two 80 year old and two 70 year old’s but there were numerous children. It may have been a small population but it was almost wholly devoted to farming. Hutchins has little more to say of the place. Apart from it holding a ‘wake’ or feast on the Monday after Trinity Sunday [3]. It features little in the newspapers of the time only gaining a form of notoriety when in 1866 the [by then] two land owners in the parish refused to pay church rates.

The “genealogy” of the vill was complicated: Hutchins describes three moieties – Lord Sherborne and a Mr Charles Luxmore owned two parts and were the joint Lords of the Manor whilst the third part belonged to Sir Charles Warwick Bampfield who we also met at Rampisham.

In theory at least this should have been a quick inclosure, the parish was small, less than a thousand acres in total, but it was a genuinely open field parish, with extensive areas of selions. The geographical profile of the parish is of interest. Rising from the River Frome in plan view the overall shape of the parish resembles an egg with a flattened base, with it’s long axis pointing west. The main centre of habitation lay closest to the Frome and a blind valley proceeded west with the land reaching 150m or so on three sides. The northern side formed a plateau from which the land then fell away to the neighbouring parish of Wraxall. The effect of the plateau was to divide the parish effectively into two halves.

On 1st January 1821, some six years after the passage of the act we find Martin “Plotting Chilfrome”. How long he had been working on it before the diary opens is not known. Based on the date on the definitive map, 1823, it would take another two years before this relatively small parish, would finally be inclosed. Curiously the award was never enrolled at the quarter sessions in Dorchester.

Martin may have acquired the work by his local connections. Wm Jennings Jnr. was once again the Commissioner [together with Job Smallpiece]. Lord Stawell, who Martin would have known from the Rampisham Inclosure, had a daughter who was married to Lord Sherborne. John Jennings was clerk to the inclosure and at some time Hutchins records that one of the tenements had belonged to his son Joseph Crew Jennings.

John Martin’s diary entries reveal the full gamut of an inclosure surveyors activities, indeed it is the most complete set of entries for any of inclosures; only a selection are shown but they show the full range of inclosure activities apart from surveying which was presumably undertaken the year before. Note the entries for March and April concerning the sale lots. Land was often sold off to non commoners to help mitigate the expense of inclosure about 18 acres was sold in total. It is the only part of the inclosure activity that also appears in a newspaper notice.

1st -2nd January 1821

Plotting Chilfrome

23rd– 24th February 1821

Making Sketch of Chilfrome for Valuing

26th February 1821

Chilfrome Inclosure receiving claims

5th March 1821

Went to Chilfrome Staking Allottments

24th March 1821

Making Sketches of Sale Lots and Public Roads for Chilfrome

4th April 1821

Went to Chilfrome to find out mistakes in Measuring

6th April 1821

Went to Chilfrome respg Map

10th April 1821

Chilfrome Inclosure valuing lands

16th April 1821

Chilfrome Inclosure Sale of Lands

27th April 1821

Went to Chilfrome finding out State of Property

30th April 1821

Working upon Chilfrome Map

2nd– 3rd May 1821

Numbering Chilfrome Map &c

4th -5th May 1821

Making Particulars Survey of Chilfrome

9th May 1821

Completing Map Names &c as corrected yesterday

10th – 12th May 1821 + several other entries, 11 days in total

Scaling Chilfrome

19th23rd June 1821

Chilfrome Inclosure 4 o/k [o’clock] dinner

26th June 1821

Making Collecting Sheets for Chilfrome

27th June 1821 + 3 other days

Working upon Chilfrome casting &c

17th July 1821

Working upon Chilfrome Inclosure

27th July 1821

Went to Chilfrome examining claims with Farmer Guppy

1st – 3rd August 1821

Working upon Chilfrome Rough scheme

It is probable that Farmer Guppy was an umpire to the inclosure; such men acted as an independent valuer to ensure fair play was done for all. Meanwhile the work continued, and in Mid August, from the 14th -17th, there was a meeting of the landowners. He was not present for all of the meeting as on the 16th he went to Loders to witness the signing of the award.

14th August 1821

Chilfrome Inclosure 4 oclock dinner

17th August 1821

Chilfrome Meeting Broke up & went to Froome [sic] to Measure Land for J Petty

23rd August 1821

Working upon Chilfrome taking up Roads &c

24th August 1821

Staking Road over the Down

25th August 1821

Do and Measuring off the same

27th August 1821

Finally taking up Roads on Map and preparing Fair Scheme

28th August 1821

Making Fair Scheme dined at Mr J J[ennings]

30th August 1821

Finished Fair Scheme

31st August 1821

Allotting Chilfrome my Brother George came to Evershot.

3rd – 4th September 1821

Working upon Chilfrome Fair Allotting

6th September 1821

Fair Scheming Chilfrome

12th September 1821

Allotting Chilfrome & giving Instructions for advertisement

17th -21st September

Fair Scheming Chilfrome

Oddly enough although there is an advert from March about the sale of lands I have found no such advert from September. It was not all work for him whilst staying at Chilfrome though, there were country sports;

24th September 1821

Shooting at Chilfrome

26th – 27th September 1821

Staking Sale allotments at Chilfrome

28th September 1821


There was a hiatus for most of October before work began again,

31st October 1821

Chilfrome Inclosure

Sale of Lands

1st – 3rd November 1821

Chilfrome Inclosure Meeting

5th November 1821

Altering Allotments on Chilfrome Map [charge]

6th November 1821


13th – 20th November 1821

Allotting Chilfrome

21st November 1821

Staking Allots at Chilfrome

23rd November 1821

Staking Allotments at Chilfrome

26th November 1821

Subdividing allotments on the Map

27th November 1821

Went to Chilfrome to Stake Allotments forced to return on Acct of Rain

29th November 1821

Staking Allotments at Chilfrome

30th November 1821

Staking Allotments at Chilfrome

1st December 1821

Went to Dorchester to purchase Thorn Plants for Chilfrome Glebe [charge]

4th – 6th December 1821

Staking Allotments Chilfrome

6th December 1821

Finished Staking Allotments at Chilfrome

7th December 1821

Went to Corscombe about Thorn Plants and at Home

14th December 1821

At Home dividing Mr Whittles Allotment for him &c

20th December 1821

Went to Chilfrome and subdivided Mr Whittles allotment for him

There are two maps concerning the Chilfrome inclosure held by the DHC. Neither appear to be the definitive map  that was annexed to the award; both appear to have been prepared as private commissions for Lord Sherborne and a Mr Charles Luxmore.

Kain notes that the original map is on parchment or vellum and was enrolled in the quarter sessions. In fact examination of the quarter session records from 1800- 1873 do not record the awards enrolment at all. These maps, appear to be made of paper and are very fragile; at some stage they have had to be pasted onto canvas by the history centre for support. They are also quite faded and in parts discoloured but one can imagine how vivid they would have been in their time. The first map of interest is a pre-inclosure map showing the lands owned by the Lords of the Manor whilst the post inclosure map only those of Lord Sherborne. It is obvious from the pre-inclosure map that large areas had already been inclosed but there is plenty of evidence of the open fields remaining. It is not certain that a definitive map actually exists. If it does it does not appear to be the one stored at the History Centre.

These maps have not survived well, they have had to be remounted and the number of document weights needed to flatten them indicates how curly they have become. The image has had to be edited and the colours enhanced in this picture of the pre-inclosure map. Note the ‘hachuring’ [in blue] which was an early attempt to denote the contours of hills. The represent the edges of the ridges that form the valleys. The principal habitation lies at the bottom of one of the blind valleys with a central ridge where the W is. On the other side of the ridge where ‘NORTH’ is there is a gentle slope down to lower Wraxall. The central ridge and surrounding ridges were uncultivated and formed the common pasture or waste.

Here we see the left hand valley with the village at its base, surrounded by the higher ridges to the left and the central ridge at the top of the picture. This was down land note how, in order to improve drainage, the selions on the left hand side slope downwards to what, in Martin’s day, constituted a small stream. This may have been a ‘winterbourne’, a stream that was dry for much of the year and only ran in wet weather, most obviously the winter months. Near the village the 6” OS map from 1887 shows two springs feeding it near the village but Martin shows it arising further up the valley. A more substantial road leads out of the village towards Wraxall and runs up to the central ridge. As this was almost certainly common pasture on the downs it did not need to go further. It might be wondered why the selions on the right hand side, which are larger and fewer, do not run in the same direction as those on the southerly, left hand side. The answer is that although they are strip like they are not in fact open field selions. The photograph below reveals their true nature.

These are strip lynchets and hint at cultivation back to very ancient times. Lynchets like these are found throughout Dorset [and elsewhere] and are terraces on the side of a hill. They are often found in association with small square inclosed fields that are known to date back to Celtic times and many have assumed they were made by them. However it appears that they also appeared in Roman and Anglo-Saxon times and the exact age can only be determined by excavation of the terrace bottom. There are extensive examples around Worth Matravers and some, near Lulworth in Dorset go back to the Bronze age. They were probably formed by ploughing in one direction so that the soil was gradually moved outwards to form the terrace. Although most are now given over to pasture their original use was for arable crops and this was the case in John Martin’s day. Another set of lynchets is shown here at Bradford Peverell which shows more clearly the flat terrace on which crops were grown.

As these maps were made for two specific owners, Lord Sherborne and Mr Luxmore only their lands are shaded and named. The selions have been colour coded according to the tenures, those in gold being ‘in hand and upon lives held entire’. The red are ‘held in individual moieties’. The exact meaning of these terms can only be guessed at but it is interesting to note that there was no clear distinction between ‘open field’ farms and inclosed farms. It was what we might call a mixed economy in that the farms had a mixture of both old inclosures and strips.

This is the legend on the post inclosure map. Note how he outlines the right lateral and inferior edges of the colours to give a slight 3D effect. Rarely for inclosure maps he has signed it himself.

Post inclosure all the selions have gone. Even the strip lynchets appear to have disappeared although in reality all that has changed is that the ownership of the land has been rearranged so that the new owners possess land down the hill rather than along it. The road that ended on the ridge has now been extended to run over the common, to meet the old Roman Road which ran along the ridge and is the base of today’s A356. Labelled by Martin as Greenway Lane it had a spur to serve the new closes [shaded green right upper map] created on the down. Down the left edge is a list of the landowners. The most obvious change though is in the arrangement of the roads in the village centre.

Pre-inclosure [left hand image] the roads around the centre of the village are undefined. The roads leading to it are bounded but at the cross roads the ===== appearance indicates that the road is merely a track, crossing what was almost certainly a small village green. One can readily imagine in medieval times the villagers livestock being folded there over night for protection. From the green, leading upwards [west] are what I designate ‘green lanes’[4], rough cart tracks at best. To the right the road is more defined and is the Wraxall lane, indicating it’s final destination. Heading out of the village and upwards is the road to the common. The winterbourne flows through the village centre at what must have been fords. A spring is seen to feed it in the lower reaches. Note too the wide T junction above plot 50. This seems strangely wide and may have been another place where sheep or cattle were folded at night. The significance of the red line bounding some of the fields is not known.

Post inclosure [right hand image] the village green has gone and has been turned into closes numbered 130-134. Note the outline of the old green lanes. These have now been hedged so that only the owner or his workers can access the closes. Even tiny patches of land whose provenance was not known were inclosed and similar examples will be seen at Child Okeford. The area above field 50 has also been inclosed, it’s extent being no more than a quarter of an acre. On the tithe map this piece is shown as a coppice.

The lay out at the crossroads in Chilfrome is unchanged today. The buildings the other side of the road are ‘new having been built since 1821.

This detail from the upper common is of great interest, some of which will have to wait until we discuss the tithe commutation of the parish. I have orientated the map to lie with North more or less upwards. It can be seen that the central down land ridge has been divided into closes and from the road a short spur [middle right] leaves to serve the closes on the far valley. By 1841 one of the long term effects of inclosure will be seen as this short spur serves a newly created farm. It is present on the tithe map, standing in splendid isolation amongst the closes. It has no name in the tithe apportionment but by the time the 6” OS map was made it was called the Higher Chilfrome Farm.[5]

All over the country farmers in parishes that had inclosed found themselves distanced from their land. In the days of the open fields where land was scattered throughout the open fields the village was usually the optimal place to live, minimising the distance to travel to and from the strips. After inclosure the owner might find his new lands clustered together at some distance from the village causing great disadvantage to him if he lived so far away. As a consequence there was often a flurry of new building after inclosure as farmers left their villages to take up residence in isolated farms close to their lands. When this happened at Chilfrome is not known but in 1841 the landowner is one John Whittle who also owned land in Toller Fratrum one of the parishes neighbouring the most southerly of ridges in Chilfrome.

The fate of the roads is of some interest. Prior to inclosure there was little need to access the higher downland which was presumably common given over to grazing. The most important connections for the village were to Cattistock to the east , Maiden Newton to the south and Wraxall to the North. After inclosure the principal route out of the village ran towards plot 135 where the road divided. It went upwards [in reality west] to the common and onwards to the right towards Wraxall. The road above 127 and 128 has been elevated from an ‘open’ green lane to become a hedged road.

By the time of the tithe map [1842] plot 135, a plantation has filled in the gap to the left narrowing the road to the common. By the time the 1887 6” OS map was compiled all that remained was a foot path. The green lane out of the village running past plots 127 and 128 became and remains the principal road out of the village. The old lane has now become completely wooded, a track remains but is now just a footpath/bridleway.

Prior to inclosure this was ‘major’ junction of green lanes . Inclosure filled the space in with a tiny coppice resulting in an upside down Y junction. By the time of the tithe map the left hand part of the Y was obliterated and has remained so. Access to a very muddy lane remains at the brow of the hill.

The Wraxall lane now leads to another farm created amongst the new closes but then becomes a rough track. The lower drove up the valley remains a green lane and is blocked by a metal gate although accessible to those on foot. It now belongs to the Ilchester Estate.
The big creation was the road that extended over the common to join what is now the A356. It is just over a mile long about 20′ wide and very straight.

If it’s long and straight and running between two tracts of fields [the other side of the hedges] it is almost certainly an inclosure road.

The post-inclosure map appears to have been prepared for Lord Sherborne and on the left hand side of the map is a list of the various estates in land that he owned in the parish.

The hedges, post inclosure, have gone although marked by the occasional tree. They probably stand on embankments made at the time of the inclosure. Prior to inclosure this area was made up of hundreds of individual strips and with the eye of faith it is just possible to make out isolated remnants.
We leave Chilfrome with a view taken from the road looking out over what had once been a myriad of open fields

Next        Child Okeford Inclosure

Previous Rampisham Inclosure

Other Reference to Chilfrome.

1 In 2013 Dorset Council estimated it’s population was about 40. I would have estimated somewhat more.

2 Probably , the census is unhelpful in describing what most except the head of the household did.

3 In the western church this is usually around the middle of June.

4 See the next section on Child Okeford.

5 By the time of the 6” map was made [1887] Greenway lane had been renamed the Upper Drove Road and the one rising from the village the Lower Drove Road.