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The Importance of Land.

Of all human desires one of the most enduring is the desire to own land. Today its value lies in the house built upon it but in the past its value lay in the fact that it was your means of survival. For many centuries land was also the glue that bound the whole of society together. If we consider just the period of time after the Norman conquest we find a cascade of relationships all based around land ownership and tenure. The villein held his land from the lord of the manor, the lord of the manor from his overlord and the overlord from the king. It was inevitable then that in time the second most important mark of social status was the possession of land.1 It did not much matter what occupation you followed, or how gifted you were or how much money you had in the bank, it was land that counted.

One of the minor tragedies of English history occurred during one of the major tragedies of English history – the Civil War. During the Putney debates, held in the interval between the two parts of the war, the question of an extension to the franchise arose. Henry Ireton, brother in law to Oliver Cromwell was quick to shoot the idea down, “no person hath a right to an interest or share in the disposing of the affairs of the kingdom…that hath not a permanent and fixed interest in the kingdom”.

The ‘fixed interest’ was of course the possession of land but Ireton qualified matters further by adding the word ‘permanent’ that is to say the possession of land without any limitation on the length of time it could be held, in other words what we call today free hold land. Lease hold land was always considered an inferior holding as it was only ever for a defined duration

The response by Edward Saxby is full of pathos, “There are many thousands of us soldiers that have ventured our lives; we have had little property in this kingdom as to our estates, yet we had a birthright. But it seems now except a man hath a fixed estate in this kingdom, he hath no right in this kingdom. I wonder we were so much deceived. If we had not a right to the kingdom, we were mere mercenary soldiers.” As Richard Overton commented “What happens in the end is a change in bondage is the uttermost intended us.”

Being in possession of freehold land a man became a member of that class of people known as the gentry. At the lowest level of the gentry were the yeomen, men possessing freehold land worth a rental value of forty shillings a year. In possession of such land these men gained the right to sit on a jury or vote for the county MP’s. Women very frequently held land with a value in excess of this but were denied the rights allowed to men. Without land there was little opportunity to take part in society and the hierarchy of wealth is illustrated by the qualifications needed to be a waywarden, not in itself an enviable post. To be considered for the post you had to have either freehold land worth ten pounds a year, or rent from property worth thirty pounds or if you had neither of these a personal estate [cash or personal property] worth one hundred pounds a year.

If land was desirable then acquiring it was not an easy business- at least in the 19th century. As parishes inclosed the land was often consolidated into large individual plots and all too often once the expenses of inclosure were taken out the small landowner found his allocation of inclosed land to be unprofitable. Land fell into the hands of fewer, larger landowners and small plots of land were not commonly available for purchase freehold. Even leasehold was a potential problem as the overseers of the poor would often advise landowners not to lease estates worth ten pounds or more to the poorer sort as this would automatically grant the lessee residence status under the settlement acts. Martin at least was lucky in this respect as when he was young he would have been sponsored by the Jennings family who were already associated with the Earl of Ilchester. He was thus in a prime position to acquire land. The Martin family archives at the Dorset History Centre contains dozens of deeds, leases, conveyances and so on pertaining to the land and property purchases of the family. These add little to our story, which principally concerns the diaries and are not discussed here. Suffice it to say that over the years Martin acquired land in Somerset and Dorset and this account relates only to the land referenced in the diaries.


The first record that we have of Martin being in possession of land comes from the Land tax return for Evershot in 1817. In 1692 King William III needed money- quite a lot of it in fact and so he instituted a valuation of all the property in the land. Conveniently a tax of 1s in the pound of the valuation raised him some half a million pounds. Since that time the land tax, as it became known, had been set at a variable rate, usually 4s in the pound. The valuation of 1692 had been made county by county and each year the county had to apportion its share of the tax amongst its principle landowners. The actual apportionment was done by ‘Assessors’ under the act and between 1817 and 1820 Martin was one of them.

The total amount raised for Evershot in 1817 was £63 8s 5d2 and of this 5s 2d was paid by Martin on four acres of meadow land owned by one Adam Rowland and known as Rowlands Courtlands. Apart from his wedding to Betty Keech at Evershot in 1782 no trace can be found of Rowland himself3 who was probably a copy or lease holder for lives under the Earl of Ilchester. There are two mentions of him in the diaries from 1821, both in the accounts sections, which record the amount of rent Martin paid him. Curiously Martin had to pay a Heriot of 10s which would normally only be payable to the lord of the manor on the death of the tenant [Rowland] but we know from the Land Tax return for 1823 that Rowland was still alive.

10th October 1821Pd Mrs Rowlands Rent 10s
22nd October 1821Mr Rowlands Rent £12 Heriot 10s Land Tax 5s 2d Lords Rent 5s 10d £1 1s 0d £10 19s 0d

There were several other closes called ‘Courtlands’ at Evershot variously called ‘Bartlett’s’, ‘Critchell’s’, ‘Harding’s’, ‘Pittman’ and; Flower’s; all of which were contiguous. Mills 4 notes that the name dated back to the 16th century and they were originally [probably] part of the demesne land of the manor. By the time of the tithe apportionment Rowland himself was probably dead as ‘Rowlands Courtland’ had by then reverted to the Earl of Ilchester, as owner, and Martin as occupier. Over the years more land followed and a table of all the land owned by him that can be traced through the diaries is given in appendix 3. A simplified version is shown below,

Name [Parish]First Mention in recordsArea to nearest half acre.
Courtlands [Evershot]18174
Frome Hill1821Not known
East Hill [Evershot]1821Not known
Poor Close [Evershot]18212
Nine Acres [Evershot probably]1832¼ acre
Somerton [Somerset]1832105
Porters Land [Rampisham]18321
Marsh Orchard [Evershot]18321
Barrow [Evershot]18384
Chilthorne Domer [Somerset]183812
Westwoods5 [Cattistock]184519
Bluntsmoor [Mosterton]1852Approx 62
Pipershay [Evershot]18525.5
Yarnbarton 6[Evershot]18521.5
 Total218 acres

Frome Hill on the Ordnance survey map is near West Stafford which itself is on the outskirts of Dorchester. It is not impossible that he had land here as it is near Stinsford, one of the other seats of the Earl of Ilchester but given the diary entry it is more probable that Frome Hill is his name for land actually situated in Chilfrome. In any event it never appears again.

5th- 6thJanuary 1821Plotting ChilfromeReced one Yrs Rent of my Land on Frome Hill due Michas last £3 10s

The first record of land being purchased by Martin, as freehold, comes from April 1832 when he bought a thin close known as Porters at Rampisham from Mr William Trenchard. [Plot 490 on the tithe map]. Trenchard owned land in both Rampisham and Evershot and we will meet him again as he was not only a farmer [employing two men] but a butcher in Evershot.

17th April 1832Paid Mr Trenchard for Porters Land at Rampisham £80
23rd April 1832Paid Crew Jennings’s for Deed of Porters Land £8 3s 0d

Porters land is shown in the tithe apportionment as being one and a quarter acres in size which equates to a rate of £64 per acre which in today’s money is somewhere around £4400 per acre. The next entry represents a conundrum as the number of Dorset parishes with the name “Nine Acres” must have been considerable.

16th November 1832Paid my Rent of ¼ acre in Nine Acres 10s

There are two fields that might be candidates; the first was in Evershot and occupied by Thomas Jesty [born around 1780 and died in 1841]. This genuinely was 9 acres in size and does not appear to have been partitioned. On the other hand John Guppy in Rampisham occupied a field of seven acres of which a quarter acre had been given over to a plantation. Neither seem to fit the bill but they are as close as I can get.

Many entries in the accounts section look as if they should be recurrent and yet are not. Game certificates for example were required annually but he records paying for one only in 1827. One of the few consistent entries is his annual payment of rent to the Earl of Ilchester. This first appears in 1832. The only other entry relating to rent comes before that in 1821 and mentions a small sum for ‘Lords Rent’ possibly a heriot of some sort that was needed to allow him to have a sub-lease from Adam Rowland. After 1832 his rent was paid annually, usually entered in the December accounts.

22nd October 1821Mr Rowlands Rent £12 Heriot 10s Land Tax 5s 2d Lords Rent 5s 10d £1 1s 0d £10 19s 0d
December 1832Paid Ld Ilchester s rent £20 14s 10d
December 1838Pd Lord Ilchester a Yrs Rent of Land £28 4s 10d
31st December 1845Pd a Years Rent to Lord Ilchester due Ly Dy 1845 £27 8s 3d
December 1852Pd Lord Ilchester my rent due Ly Dy & Mic 1852 £28 18s 4d
5th December 1854Pd Yrs Rent Ld Ilchester for land in 9a due Mic 1854 3.1.25 @ 40 }£6 16s 3d
13th August 1861Pd Lord Ilchester a Yrs rent due Ly Dy 1861 £48 1s 0d

The Poll register from 1832 shows that by then he had acquired land at Somerton in Somerset which amounted to some one hundred and five acres. There is an entry from 1821 concerning Somerton but it says little about his ownership of land there. How he acquired the land there is not known but it is significant that at the time of tithe commutation the Earl of Ilchester is the largest land owner and seemingly all of the Jennings family owned land there. John Jennings held approximately one hundred and twelve acres, his older brother William about fifteen and John’s son, Joseph Crew Jennings about one hundred and fifteen acres although these were held jointly with William his cousin and Thomas Robert Jennings, his brother. The Poll register shows that the Jennings family owned the lands as a mixture of freehold and leasehold but that Martin, whose land amounted to some one hundred and five acres, was a leaseholder holding the land with Benjamin Jesty. On Jesty’s death in 1838 his wife Ann joined Martin and it is she whose name appears on the tithe apportionment. The register refers to lands known as Mowries, which also appears in the diaries, and was farmed by a tenant – James Walton who had other lands in the parish. Another farmer William Cox also rented a part of this land although given the amount he paid it was a small part. The 6 inch OS map c 1890 shows a ‘Mowries’ farm but this is not present on the tithe map and today the whole area is covered in houses. Mr Baskett was the solicitor to the Jennings family after Joseph Crew shot himself.

28th January 1845Reced of Mr Wm Jennings 2nd Yrs Rent of Mowries at Somerton due Lady Day 1844 £98 1s 4d
13th July 1852Reced of Mr Wm Jennings on a/ of Monies Somerton due Mic 1850 & Ly Dy 1851 £34 4s 9d sent to W&Dorset this day
4th July 1854At Home on Various matters settled the rent &c with Mr Baskett Reced of Mr Baskett Balance of Accts for monies at Somerton &c see Paper with my Bluntsmoor Accts &c £24 9s 10d and Check to Yeovil D&W this day
20th November 1854Reced Check of Arthur for Mowries Somerton due Mic 1853 & Ly Dy 1854 } £106 1s 3d Pd Mrs Jesty her moiety of Walton rent £50 10s 7 ½ d
21st November 1854Received of Cox of Somerton for Mowries Cary Mead £9 10s 0d Pd Mrs Jesty her moiety £4 15s
18th February 1861Reced of Walton on Acct of rent Somerton due Ly Dy 1861 £95 sent check to Yeovil
19th February 1861Pd Mrs Jesty her Moiety by Check Yeovil £47 10s 0d sent check to Yeovil
10th November 1861Reced of Arthur Wm Cox’s Years rent past of Mowries due Candlemas 1861 £3 10s 5d

The next acquisition of land was also in Somerset, this time at Chilthorne Domer. In the tithe apportionment, for once not undertaken by Martin, he appears as the outright owner of twelve acres of mixed land together with at least one cottage. Unlike so many of Martin’s land dealings the Earl of Ilchester owned no land in the parish and it is not clear how Martin acquired the land or why. The majority of the land, nearly seven acres, were orchards which explains the second entry. Mr Sandiford7 cannot be traced nor the meaning of setting the apple trees.

1st March 1838Went to Chilthorne
2nd March 1838Paid Sandiford setting apple Trees at Chilthorne £3

The remainder of the land was arable and the distance from Evershot meant that he had no practical way of farming the land himself so it comes as no surprise that he had to let the land to a tenant. This was Mr William Bengefield who at 29 years old was already the owner of a cottage and acre of land in the parish. His wife Eliza was slightly older 35 and they were to have two children together. Firstly Martin had to undertake repairs to some of the premises and whilst doing so ran up a hefty bill at the ‘Ilchester Road Public House’ [now the Carpenters Arm’s] run by Matthew Parker.

25th March 1838At Corfe Let my Land at Chilthorne to Mr Bengefield from this day at £24 a year
4th April 1838Pd Matthew Parker at Chilthorne £3 Pd for Thorn Plants 7s 6d Pd Carpenter at Chilthorne for Gate Parts &c £3 2s 6d

The arrangement with Mr Bengefield did not always go well and he appears to have been in arrears on a number of occasions.

23rd October 1838Reced ½ Years Rent &c of Mr Bengefield for my Chilthorne Land due Michas 1838 £14 6s 10d Paid him what he paid for Clover Seeds &c as Bill £1 3s 10d
December Accounts 1838Paid for Apple Trees for Chilthorne of Mr Pyne 28 at 4/3 each £5 19s
14th January 1845Attending to Work People and paying Bill Mr Bengefield from Chilthorne was here and pd Rent on a/ [see last years book]
31st May 1845Reced of Mr Bengefield Arrears to Ldy Dy 1844 and on a/ to Ly Dy 1845 £20 6s 6d Arrear 13.10.1 ½

In September 1845 Arthur had an unpleasant task to perform for his father,

29th September 1845Went to Chilthorne with Arthur who left a Notice at Wm Bengefields for his quitting my Land at Chilthorne

but Martin must have had a change of heart for Bengefield was still his tenant in December and Mr Sandiford was still planting his trees at least up until 1852.

15th December 1845Received of Mr Bengefield Bal of Rent due Ly Dy 45 see Book £36.12.11d
31st December 1845Pd H Sandiford for Apple Trees & Planting at Chilthorne £3 9s 6d
17th February 1852Pd Sandiford for 8 Apple Trees & Planting &c Chilthorne £2 7s
15th June 1852Paid Sandiford Grafting at Chilthorne £1 7s

Although it sounds like a modern and improving technique it appears that the grafting of trees onto a different root stock was by then almost two and a half thousand years old.

1st July 1852Reced of Mr Bengefield Bal of Rent to Mic 1851 £5
20th December 1854Received of Mr Bengefield on further acct to Mic 1854 [£2 9s 7d] still due } £15
6th May 1854[Mr Fountain came as Servant] Planting Mangle in Nine Acres and settled Rent with Mr Bengefield Received of Mr Bengefield Bal of Rent to Mic 1853 £5 16s 7d Do on Acct of ½ Yrs Rent to Lady Day 1854 £15
5th March 1861Reced of Mr Bengefield Bal of ½ yrs rent to Mic 1860 £5 14s 7d Reced of Do on Acct of ½ yrs rent to Ly Dy 1861 £10

The last entries about Chilthorne are when he paid the mowers of the arable lands and sketched his lands, perhaps he was planning to sell the land? In any event by the 1861 census Martin’s small estate was only a small part of Mr Bengefield farming activity as he is described as a farmer of over fifty acres.

1st July 1861Pd the Chilthorne Mower 19 acres at 3s per acre £2 17s
9th September 1861To Chilthorne to get a Sketch of my land from Tithe Map Reced of Mr Bengefield Balance of ½ yrs rent due Lady Day 1861 £8 14s 9d ought to have been 30/s more as I threw him back 3£ when it ought to have been only 30/s mind this next settlement 26th Sept reced £8 14s 9d paid him to much back [reced again] £10 4s 9d

The diaries show that Martin also worked in the parish on the poor rate, as well as paying his own commutation expenses.

24th January 1845Packing Bottles &c and working on the Chilthorne Poor Rate
9th June 1845Paid Mr Pearce for Chilthorne Commtn Expenses £3 3s 1d

During the 1830’s Martin gradually acquired [usually as leasehold] more pieces of land in the neighbourhood. He bought a small plot, Porters Land at Rampisham as we have seen and Marsh Orchard and Barrow at Evershot. This last piece of land has an interesting piece of history attached to it, albeit well before Martin’s time. In 1610 legal action was taken in Chancery against the manor for the men of the parish “in all ages” and for “tyme out of mind” had been used to erecting archery “butts to shoot at [as by the lawes of this realme they ought to doe] and to exercise themselves in the lawfull game and exercise of shooting..” The lord of the manor at the time, Edmund Hardy Esq, responded by saying that the butts had not been used for some twenty years and that the real purpose of the case was “to make a ” bowling place ” in the close and that they had actually played bowls there on the ” Sabbath day,” as well as on other days of the week.” 8The outcome of the case is not recorded.

The 1840’s saw him occupying land in Cattistock, actually very close to Evershot, called Westwoods and the 1850’s addingPipershay and Yarnbarton to his inventory. His final big purchase was in 1852 Martin when he bought a farm at Mosterton. It can still be identified on the OS map as Bluntsmoor Farm today. It was in fact two farms, the higher farm was tenanted by George Cottell who is mentioned in the August 1852 entry but oddly does not appear in any census until the 1861 census. He was married to Ann and they had two children. Cottell held about fifteen acres whereas the farmer at the lower farm, Thomas Thompson had forty seven. He appears several times in the diaries.

17th April 1852Went to Bluntsmoor & reced ½ yrs Rent Reced ½ yrs Rent Bluntsmoor due Mich 1851 £39 2s 6d
3rd June 1852Reced of Mr Dawbney for Book of Reference & Field Poor Rate & Tithes of Mosterton £6 Pd my Rate on the above 6s 1 ¾ d
24th August 1852Pd Mr Cottell for Stone for Bluntsmoor Stall Ho £2 11s 8s
21st October 1852Went to Bluntsmoore [sic] and reced ½ yrs rent of Farmer Thompson & for 4 acres of Oats sold him at Coker
17th January 1854Pd Mr Baskett see Bluntsmoor Papers [no sum shown]
12th April 1854Went to Bluntsmoor & settled ½ yrs Rent with Farmer Thompson Received of Farmer Thompson Bal ½ yrs Rent due Michas 1853 £39 9s
13th April 1854At Home on Various matters Bought Rick of Hay late Mr Wm Jennings 22.10.0 Farmer Thompson takes ½
1st May 1861At Home [Farmer Thompson here] Reced of Mr Thompson ½ yrs rent due Mic 1860 £42 11s 9 ¼ d
7th November 1861At Home received Thompson’s rent New Servant Girl came £4 a year Reced Mr Thompson Bal of ½ yrs rent due Lady Day 1861 £25 5s 1d reset ½ yr to be £46 11s half yr

There are a few other ‘odd’ entries relating to his land. There are numerous ‘Mr Hine’s’ in Dorset particularly around Beaminster and there is a Hester Hine a landed proprietress in nearby Maiden Newton but none seem to fit the bill. Mr Lovibond too is an enigma. It is not a common name and there was a Henry Lovibond in Somerton who was an inn keeper but more probable as a candidate is George Lovibond a 50 year old farmer in East Chinnock but it is not known what of John Martin’s lands if any either of them farmed.

12th April 1852Reced of Mr Waman Balance of Rent to 29th September 1851 when he quitted my Land at Coker £33 10s 10d sent Check to W & Dorset
16th April 1852At Home on Various matters Sent Mr Haine Check for £12 8s 0d Balance of ½ yrs Rent due 25th March last Rent £4 Ld Tax 19s Pay int 13s
7th May 1854Reced Mr Hines Rent of his Land at F Vauchurch £27 4 11 ½ d
17th May 1854Pd Mr Hine his Rent of Frome Vauchurch Land when I gave up the business to Mr Hine £27 4s 11 ½ d
4th March 1861Reced of Mr Lovibond on Acct of ½ yrs rent due Michas 1860 £20 0 0
17th April 1861Reced of Mr Lovibond Balance of ½ yrs rent due Mic last 1860 £17 15s 9d sent C to Yeovil
24th September 1861Reced of Mr Lovibond on Acct of ½ yrs int due Lady Day last 1861 £20
18th November 1861Reced of Mr Lovibond Bal of ½ years rent due to Lady Dy 1861 £16 12s 4d