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Leaving aside family members the most important person in John Martin’s life was Henry Stephen Fox Strangways, third Earl of Ilchester.

Henry Stephen Fox Strangways 3rd Earl of Ilchester. John Linnell 1848, Wikipedia

The family seat [or at least one of them] was at Redlynch just outside of Bruton where Martin was born. The Victoria History of Somerset describes the history of the manor in the 17th and 18th centuries: “In 1672 Sir Stephen Fox bought the manor with Bickwick and half Stoke Holloway manor, …. in repayment of a debt. Sir Stephen died in 1716 and was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, also Stephen, who took the additional name Strangways on his marriage in 1735. He was created Lord Ilchester and Baron Strangways in 1741, Lord Ilchester and Stavordale and Baron of Redlynch in 1747, and Earl of Ilchester in 1756.”

The first Earl died in 1776 and not surprisingly was succeeded by the second Earl, Henry Fox Strangways. The second Earl decided to make his principal residence at Melbury, Dorset, and in the 1790’s proposed returning the park at Redlynch to agricultural use. The third Earl set about bringing this to fruition and by the 1830’s the mansion house had been partly abandoned and a part given over to a farmhouse.

The Earl of Ilchester was a direct source of employment for John, and possibly his father as well. It is not inconceivable that his parents decision [if such it was] to send him to study in Evershot was prompted by the second Earl’s planned move to Dorset. The Jennings family had a long association with both Strangways family. William Jennings Snr., who appears to have had an eclectic career including a time as an excise officer, was involved with the inclosure of Evershot in 1786 where the Strangways had extensive land holdings and in 1802 for example, John Jennings was appointed agent to the Earl on the death of James Samson his ‘House Steward’. The second Earl died whilst holidaying in Buxton in the autumn of 1802; “his dissolution was rather sudden, occasioned by a violent attack of the gout in the head.”[1] The title passed to his son who became the third Earl, Henry Stephen Fox-Strangways and some time after this John Jennings was appointed as Land Steward to the Earl, a post he was to hold until his death in 1836. In this role he was succeeded by his own son, Joseph Crew Jennings but it is apparent from the tithe maps that William Jennings was also involved with the third Earl . He signed some of them as agent for the Earl of Ilchester but precisely what role he occupied is not known. If there were House Stewards and Land Stewards there were probably other kinds of Steward as well.

It is doubtful in the early years that Martin had much to do with the 2nd Earl who was often away attending his parliamentary duties but he was to work closely with the 3rd Earl in a number of ways.

The extent of their land holdings is known only to the family but in our story extends over Somerset, Wiltshire and Dorset. Time and again we will find John working on one commission or another for the Earl.

The first reference to Martin working for the family comes in an entry from 1810,

6th February 1810

At Home Auction at the Acorn selling Timber for Mr Strangways

It is presumed that this is a reference to the Earl although the form of address is odd given that the Earl had become Earl some eight years previously, but over the ensuing years the entries suggest a more personal relationship developing. By 1821 he was not only measuring roads for the Lord but also writing up some of his accounts. At Rampisham by this time he was Steward to the Manor, but the Earl’s affairs were an order of magnitude more complicated and probably resulted in a more complex administrative structure.

When John Martin attended the Earl’s rent day in 1827, it is likely then that he was attending in some minor but official role, working for the estate. He received a regular income at this time from William Jennings and so it may be that, in modern parlance, he was being sub-contracted to do this work. This would fit with his role in making out the potatoe rent accounts in November.

11th October 1821

Went to Stapleton to Measure Road for Ld Ilchester

13th October 1821

Writing in Ld Ilchester s accounts

11th January 1827

Attending Lord Ilchesters Rent day at the Acorn

10th November 1827

Making out Potatoe Acct for last year – Lord Ilchesters small tenants

By 1832 there is no question that he was coming into contact with the Earl on a face to face basis albeit over yeomanry business.

23rd January 1832

Went to Melbury House with Ball cartridge and there all the Morning assisting Ld Ilchester about them.

Thereafter he was probably dealing directly with the Earl on a more regular basis, and one senses that the orders are coming more directly from him than before.

12th November 1838

Writing to Mr Madeley for stencil Letters &c and waited on Lord Ilchester with Reference to Melbury Sampford Map

23rd February 1854

Went to Pen & Valued Mogers & Clothiers Land – Waited on Lord Ilchester at Redlynch 3.3.0

24th February 1854

Went to Milton by desire of Lord Ilchester respg a New Farm House for Phippen

John’s contacts with the Ilchester family were not confined to the Earl alone. He worked at Laverstock for the 3rd Baron Holland, grandson to the first Lord Ilchester, and commuted the tithes in parishes such as Maiden Newton and Melbury Osmond where the incumbents were all Fox-Strangways. As well as a primary source of work the Strangways family almost certainly provided John with an extensive network of contacts amongst the local landowners and nobility. The 3rd Earl was, for example, commissioned captain in the Dorsetshire Yeomanry in 1808 and John may have thought it politic to leave the militia and join the cavalry instead.

In the early part of his career the other person important to John was his cousin, William Jennings Jnr. Of course Jennings himself was fortunate to be under the patronage of the Earl of Ilchester who owned land in many of the parishes in which he was inclosure commissioner. Martin’s principal work during 1810 when the diaries start were the inclosures at Bishopstone, Pitton and Farley in Wiltshire, West Wellow and Abbotsbury in Dorset all of which the Ilchesters owned land in. Nepotism however can only go so far; at Bishopstone we know that another survey, Thomas Phillips of Andover was employed on the survey, and Jennings may have been constrained in appointing surveyors when he was acting as commissioner. For example Jennings was Commissioner to the inclosures at Brinkworth 1808, Codford St Peter 1810, Tilshead 1814, Steeple Langford 1820 and Laverstock 1820. In none of them [as far as I can determine] was John Martin the surveyor. [2] However a word of caution is needed here about ‘official’ records ; in most inclosure acts only the commissioners were named and occasionally the principle surveyor but this does not preclude others working on the inclosure. In 1821 we find the following,

19th February 1821

Made Plan of Laverstock for Lord Holland

The Manor of Laverstock was sold after the inclosure was completed and the diaries confirm Martin was involved in the sale. It is difficult to imagine that he did not have some role in the inclosure itself, or why else would he have been commissioned to make sketches of the Manor just a year later? If he had not been involved he would have, at the least, to make some kind of survey thus incurring extra expense.

William Jennings appears to have ceased active work as an inclosure commissioner in the 1830’s and John Martin took up with another colleague, John Baverstock Knight.

This image is a link to a photograph on the Piddlevalley history site

Today his reputation rests on the fact that he was an artist, in particular water colours although oddly although appears to have painted few of Dorset. His images of Corfe and Sherborne castle are not in the public domain .

Tievebulliagh from Knocknacarry John Baverstock Knight 1785-1859 Presented by the Rev. Alfred Pontifex 1910


He was five years younger than Martin and was born at Langton Long just outside of Blandford. He was educated at Joseph Longman’s boarding school in Child Okeford and he too was a part of a land surveying dynasty as his father, John Forster Knight was a land surveyor. He moved to Piddlehinton in 1812 and appears to have been a man divided as his art began to dominate his life. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and gained a considerable reputation. Unfortunately personal circumstances – the death of his father – meant that he had to support his wife, their eight children, his mother and his brother. Art simply did not pay enough and in addition to being the land agent to the Duke of Bedford he returned to land surveying, working on many inclosures and tithe commutations, several of which were undertaken with John Martin. These are dealt with in the text and there are numerous diary entries where he is referred to.

If these were the great men who influenced his life, the diaries are replete with the names of others, who have been long forgotten. There are, too many indeed to be investigated in detail and yet we cannot entirely ignore the men, and occasionally women, who are mentioned in them. For some of them the diary entries are the only evidence they ever existed. There were those, such as the chain men who were employed on a casual basis for various reasons and only appear once or twice. The first record of these comes from the Bishopstone inclosure in 1810,

January 1810

Paid Thos Short for information Bishopstone 5s 6d

Ditto 11s 6d

April 1810

Paid Thos Short for attendg the [Inclosure] Commissioners {5 days} 12s 6d

April 1810

Paid Taylor attendg the Commissioner 5 days 12s 6d

April 1810

Short and Taylor all together 10 days see above vis from ye 4th of April to the 14th.

Next, there were those who he was statutorily obliged to work with, inclosure Commissioners, assistant tithe Commissioners and those who for various reasons were appointed with him in particular roles. In general these were a small group of people and they will be mentioned as we go on. Unfortunately the diaries do not throw a lot of light on how he worked with these people. For example he was appointed joint surveyor at Bishopstone with Thomas Phillips of Andover; we know this from the Wiltshire Record Society but to read the diary from this time there is no hint Phillips even existed.

Lastly there are those who appear to have been employed by Martin in a professional capacity. A fine distinction separates the common workmen who are normally referred to by their full name – thus “Thomas Short”- whilst Professional men, and women married to “gentleman” are invariably referred to as “Mr” or “Mrs.[3]This dates back to much earlier times when gentlemen were referred to as ‘Master’, their wives as ‘Mistress’ and those of lower rank ‘Goodman’ or ‘Good wife’.

The first assistant, Mr Palin, appears in the 1810 diary first at Shipton Gorge in March and then at Abbotsbury in November,

8th March 1810

Went to Shipton Gorge with Mr Palin to set him measuring

23rd November 1810

Mr Palin at Abbotsbury for me

25th November 1810

Mr Palin still at Abbotsbury

26th November 1810

Bishopstone casting Mr Palin returned from Abbotsbury

There are no entries in the accounts for any payments to Mr Palin which suggests a very junior role possibly an apprentice but his involvement in the Abbotsbury inclosure raises an interesting question concerning the attribution of the principle output of the surveyors work – the map. More on this topic is to be found in the appendices but from the diaries we can say that at various times his co-workers had a significant input into them.

Chronologically the next person to be named in the diaries is “Mr Watts” and with him at least we are on firmer ground. This entry comes at the end of March 1827 and indicates that he was to work on maps as well as measuring- in this case the Tarrant Hinton Inclosure award.

20th March 1827

Mr Watts came to Evershot this Morng respg Symondsbury & Working upon Tarrant Hinton award Maps

Later in the year we see how much he was paid and also gives his town of origin which allows us to place him accurately.


Paid Mr Watts of Yeovil for Survey £52 5s 6d

Edward Watts was a land surveyor who was virtually contemporaneous with John Martin. Born in 1785 he is first enters our story in 1807 when he was employed by John Daniell of Yeovil to map and survey his lands at Rampisham. He next appears in a newspaper advert of 1819 in which he describes himself as a land surveyor and architect having some 15 years of practice. It is perhaps no surprise that his activities were a mirror, of those of John Martin; one senses that their curriculum vitae would have been identical; “Estates, Tythes and Timber, Surveyed and Valued with fidelity and dispatch _Improvements of Estates planned and the execution superintended_Estates measured and mapped, and maps reduced or enlarged with accuracy and neatness_Designs and Estimates made for all kinds of Buildings.”

These dates throw an interesting light on the career path of surveyors. Watts was 34 yr’s old in 1819 and if he had been practising for 15 yr’s then he would have finished his training when he was 19 yr’s old. It is probable that John Martin knew Watts through his work on the Rampisham survey but in any case Evershot was close to Yeovil and the two would have almost certainly known each other. It is possible that Martin even worked for Watt’s in his time. His career may not have been quite as successful as Martin’s, there are fewer newspaper adverts that name him and he was responsible for only three Tithe Maps in Dorset and ten in Somerset. These maps are however highly attractive and we will see examples of his work in the maps he prepared of Rampisham. In 1827 however he was working for John Martin who paid him £20 in September “on account surveying” and then finally in December a balancing payment of £52 5s 6d. It is possible that he did further work for Martin but of course the next diary is not until 1832 when in January he was paid £20 for “measuring at Upwey” [which was being inclosed] and then a final entry in December: “Paid Mr Watts for measuring and Mapping [my emphasis] in full -£28”. Here is clear evidence that some of Martin’s maps were at least in part made by others.

Godmanstone inclosure altering and enlarging the award Maps for the purpose of Exchanges and making Draft of award for Exchanges £5.5.0 Mr Edwards altered the maps


In the 1841 census Edward Watts is to be found living at Hendford in Yeovil with his wife and four children. One of whom was the splendidly named Edward Bullock Watts aged 21 yr’s and described as a land surveyor. Edward Watt Snr. died on 20th January 1849 aged 64 and the business passed to his son. It is not clear if they were prospering at this stage and petitions of bankruptcy were filed in 1847, 1849 and 1853. After that however things seemed to have settled down and Edward Bullock Watts moved eventually to Bath.

Although Edward Watts Snr. does not appear in the diaries again after 1832 their professional lives may have been intertwined. John Martin was probably in Child Okeford in 1837 and was certainly there in 1840. Martin was the apportioner appointed for the tithe commutations at Child Okeford and Manston whilst Watts was at the neighbouring parish of Iwerne Courtney [Shroton]. The three parishes are contiguous and although the Child Okeford and Manston maps are dated 1840 and the Shroton map was somewhat earlier [1838] there may have been an arrangement between them to get the work. Who knows?

The Tithe Commutation act was passed in 1836 and resulted in a dramatic increase in workload. There was an initial hiatus whilst certain legal complications were resolved but by 1838 things were in full swing. To cope with this he placed an advert in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal in June 1837,advertising for an assistant ‘competent to undertake extensive Surveys ’. It is not clear that that he was successful for exactly the same advert reappeared on 3rd February 1838. The 1838 diary records that he worked with no fewer than five surveyors during the course of the year. The first of these was John Pyne [Pine] who was interviewed by Martin on 16th February 1838 shortly after the advert appeared.

Working 1/2 a day on Stratton Particulars – the other 1/2 Writing Letters &c Mr Pine of Gittisham was at my House.

Pyne was born about 1815 in Upottery, Devon, his father also being John Pine a local cabinet maker. Gittisham is near Sidbury and this man is the most likely candidate. He must have got the job for he next appears in the diaries in April,

23rd April 1838

Paid Mr Pyne on a/ £5

24th April 1838

Went to Allington with Mr Pyne for measuring that Parish.

It’s not clear if this was in the nature of a salary or simply to cover expenses at Allington whilst involved in the tithe commutation there. His next appearance is in September 1838 when Martin sent him to Mosterton on that parishes tithe commutation,

12th September 1838

Went to Mosterton with Mr Pine to begin Measuring

Paid Mr Pine to pay Chain Man &c £5

He is heard of once more in September when Martin paid his lodgings at Batcombe,

18th September 1838

Pd Mrs Guppy of Batcombe for Mr Pines Lodging 8s

Mr Pine must have been a success for he was to be employed by Martin for at least three more years as the 1841 census shows that he was working and living in Martin’s household and is shown as a land surveyor indicating that he was no mere apprentice. He does not appear in the 1845 census and Michael Hanson has shown that one John Pyne drew the tithe maps of Foxley in Norfolk and Winterbourne Bassett in Wiltshire, in 1844. Perhaps this should come as no surprise as both Manors were owned by Henry Edward Fox, Lord Holland who was cousin to the Earl of Ilchester. [5]

Michael Hanson [6]takes up Pyne’s story: “By April 1846 John Pyne was living in Warwick Square, Kensington. He soon married Mary Voss (c.1819-1905) of Church Knowle, Dorset, and they were still in Kensington when a daughter, Mary, was born in summer 1847. That year Pyne also mapped the wealthy district of Chiswick, Middlesex and valued the tithes. Another daughter, Catherine Annie, was born at Canford Magna, east of Wimborne Minster, Dorset in spring 1849. So between late 1847 and early 1849 John Pyne left London. He is listed as ‘steward’ in the 1850 jury list for Canford Magna. The 1851 census records his occupation as land agent, born in Upottery, Devon c.1815.” Pine re-enters our story in 1852,

1st May 1852

At Home on Various matters – Mr Pine came respg Arbitration -[Hamworthy]

At this time Pyne was working for Sir Josiah John Guest who bought Canford Manor near Poole in 1846.[7] No work was done by Martin on Sunday’s but on,

3rd May 1852

At Home on Various matters – with Mr Pine looking into the Arbitration papers

The view of Poole published in Hutchin’s first edition of his History of Dorset in 1774.

On the 7th Martin set off for Poole,

7th May 1852

Went to Pool [sic] on the Hamworthy Reference

8th May 1852

To be at Poole 11ok -London Tavern Hotel. At Poole on the Arbitration

The next day he returned home and on the 1st June, after sending his “yellow Heifer to B[ull]”, he spent the day

1st June 1852

Making out the Hamworthy Valuation and sent the same to Mr Pyne

It would appear that the student was employing the master but there is no record of any payment to Martin. It is the last reference in the diaries to John Pine but on 19th June Martin went to Dorchester;

19th June 1852

Ham Renewal -Dorchester 2ok

Went to Dorchester and executed my Award. Mr Welch Solicitor of Poole attended

and the entry may have been to do with this matter. Sir John eventually died and the Canford estate was inherited by Sir Ivor Bertie Guest and Pyne worked as his land agent surveyor and steward until about 1871. A number of newspaper report indicate that he was well respected in this role and eventually died in March 1876.

The second surveyor mentioned in the 1838 diary can hardly be called an assistant; Hezekiah Bartlett Guy was a land surveyor based in Hinton St George near Ilminster and together he and Martin were joint apportioners at Penselwood in Somerset.

20th March 1838

Paid Mr Guy for measuring as per Bill £35.0.0d

1st October 1838

Went to Ilminster with Arthur and called at Mr Guys on my way back

20th November 1838

Sent the Pen Map to Mr Guy and Pasting Paper

Next comes Mr Olver who has several entries but who has not so far been traced. In the late 1880’s there was a T R Olver a land surveyor in Falmouth but it is unlikely to have been him. All the entries concern payments and it is clear he was measuring but where is not known. In total he was paid £144 so it must have been a substantial piece of work.

11th June 1838

Paid Mr Olver on a/c £15

30th July 1838

Paid Mr Olver on a/c £5

1st October 1838

Pd Mr Olver to pay chain man £5

29th October 1838

Pd Mr Olver on a/c £20

19th November 1838

Pd Mr Olver on a/c in full £10

31st December 1838

Paid Mr Olver in full for measuring £94

Next is “Mr Richards” who was sent to Toller and Cheddington to measure there.

28th April 1838

Went to Toller with Edwin and Mr Richards to view boundary’s &c

30th July 1838

Pd Mr Richards to pay chain man at Toller £1 10s 0d

In August Mr Richards undertook repairs to one of the surveying instruments, the cross staff,

27th August 1838

Paid Mr Richards for Toller Mendg Cross Staff &c 9s

3rd September 1838

Went to Cheddington with Mr Richards to Measure that Parish

Paid Mr Richards for paying chain man £5 0s 0d

26th November 1838

Paid Mr Cleall for Mr Richards Board &c when Measuring at Cheddington £6 16s 5d

It must have been crowded at Mr Cleall’s house for the 1841 census records nine residents living in the house. The person mentioned most often in the 1838 diary is Mr Edwards. Again we have no further details of who he was although we know he lived in Yeovil. The first entry is in February/March in the accounts section when he is paid £25 on account of his salary and then

3rd March 1838

Went to Batcombe with Mr Edwards Respg measuring the parish

28th May 1838

Paid Mr Edwards on further a/c of his salary £25

29th May 1838

Mr Edwards Went to Loders to Measure land for Mr Templar

June Accounts

Paid Chain man at Loders Mr Edwards Measuring 2/6d

In July 1838 we get the first definitive evidence that one of his co-workers had a direct input to a map credited to John Martin.

11th July 1838

Godmanstone Inclosure Allotting and enlarging the award Maps for the purposes of Exchange and making draft of award for Exchanges Mr Edwards altered the maps” [my emphasis].

16th July 1838

Poorton Commutation Working on Particulars casting values. Mr Edwards worked two days on Particulars casting

19th July 1838

Mr Edwards making out Particulars for Agreement 10/- s

Mr Edwards was to work for him until the end of the year but as so often with Martin we have but the barest details.

15th October 1838

Paid Mr Edwards what he paid for me for coals £1 1s 0d Paid him further on a/c of his salary £25

31st December 1838

Paid Mr Edwards of Yeovil what he paid for me at Chilthorne Domer £9 11s 3d” and “Paid Mr Edwards in full £30

This may not have been quite the last of his employment as in

April 1845

Pd Mr Edwards what Edwin owed him & I myself owed – 16s 3d

and £1 6s 9d

At the time of the 1841 census there were four occupants of Martin’s house. Martin himself, Edwin his son who we have already come across, John Pyne and an apprentice Jas [James] Preston Fitzgerald who is recorded as being 15. [8]

Fitzgerald was baptised on 23rd January 1825 [9], his father James [aged 41] is noted to be a ‘gentleman’ and his mother Anne a mere 19. Sadly she was to die at the age of 22. ‘Fitz’, as Martin called him, married in June 1854 and sadly his first daughter died aged two but he had two further daughters and a son – Frederick Preston. If his age is correct then it is likely that he had only just arrived in Evershot for it was at this age that most would be land surveyors started their apprenticeships. He is not mentioned in the 1845 or 1852 diaries but is mentioned transiently in 1854.

11th March 1854

Mrs Arthur and little man went to Torquay. At home on various matters [Edwin and Fitz came] ordered 25 of coals

14th March 1854

[Elizabeth Dunford came as Servant Girl]

At Home on Various matters

[Edwin and Fitz left]

Ten days later they were back again, although there is no mention of where they had been

24th March 1854

At home on various matters. [Edwin and Fitz came]

On the 30th Edwin left and next day,

31st March 1854

At home on Various matters -Dined at Arthurs with Fitz. [Fitz went to Torquay with Arthur]

We have no idea why they went to Torquay and in so far as the diaries is concerned it is the last we hear of Fitz. In fact he had a long and successful life. In 1848 he is found in London, in Russell Square when he witnessed a will and signs himself as an engineer. In the 1851 census he was living in St Pancras and is shown again as a civil engineer. In 1857 he was one of the stewards at the funeral of the Earl of Ilchester and by 1861 he is living in Bruton where he is recorded as – Land Agent [Civil Engineer]. He was probably already, although it does not say so, the steward to the 4th Earl. The 1871 census confirms he was by then land agent to the Earl.Throughout the period he was first a Lieutenant in the 23rd Somerset Rifle Volunteers and clearly held in great esteem. In 1876 he was presented by the officers of that regiment with a purse of sovereigns and a silver salver on the occasion of his move to a ‘more distant part of the county’. The newspaper reports that “Much regret is felt at Mr Fitzgeralds departure and the tenants on ord Ilchester’s neighbouring estates are amongst the foremost subscibers to the testimonials.” The move does not appear to have been occasioned by a happy event as in his response he noted “They all knew under what circumstances he had to leave the neighbourhood and the testimonials…were doubly gratifying for it showed the him he possessed their sympathy and good wishes.” By 1881 he is to be found living in Wellington, Somerset and has “no occupation”. His wife Agnes died in 1904 at the age of 80 and he himself died at the age of 91 in 1914.

The fact that two such young men as Pine and Fitzgerald were trained by John Martin seems to speak to the respect that he himself was held in by his contemporaries.

Finally we must mention one of Dorset’s unsung hero’s; Benjamin Jesty.

Benjamin Jesty Snr. Wellcome Collection / CC BY (

In March 1821 the following note was made in the records of the Overseer’s of the Poor.

Dr Hodges attendg Jos Groves at Maiden Newton

Inoculating his 5 children with the small pox

£1 19 9d


Smallpox -it sounds innocuous enough but historically it was a viral infection that killed a third of all its victims. The most famous English person to be infected was Elizabeth I who survived but was said to have been scarred by the extensive blistering that occurs with the disease. As the virus only affects humans it was successfully eradicated by worldwide vaccination the last case being recorded in 1977. It was called it small pox to distinguish it from the great pox – or syphilis.

The earliest preventative treatment, known to the Chinese in the 10th century was inoculation- the introduction of a small amount of fluid from one of the blisters under the skin of the patient. Although it was safer than the natural disease it had serious side effects and was responsible for killing about 1 in 50 patients treated. Nevertheless compared with the thirty or so that would have died from the disease this was considered acceptable.

In 1736 a man named Benjamin Jesty [Snr] was born in Yetminster, Dorset where he owned a dairy farm. Jesty had observed that two of his dairymaids who had previously contracted cowpox did not subsequently develop smallpox when they nursed ill relatives with the disease. In fact this appears to have been widely known as a report in the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette from 1829 noted that “In all the dairy counties, such persons were selected to attend as nurses those patients who were ill and dying of small pox it having been traditionally known that they were invulnerable to variolation”. [smallpox].”

In 1774 a smallpox epidemic broke out in the vicinity of Yetminster. He must have been aware of the principles of vaccination, even though it was not known how or why it worked . He was certainly aware of the hazards however for he chose to use the fluid from a cowpox blister as by so doing, “he avoided engrafting various diseases of the human constitution such as the evils, madness, “lues” and many bad humours.”

Using a darning needle he scraped away some of the content of one of the blisters on the cows teat and inoculated himself, his wife and his sons Benjamin [Jnr] who was two years old and Robert who was three. None of them developed smallpox although all had sore inflamed arms. In many respects this was a remarkable experiment, not the least for the fact that a smallpox epidemic occurred at the same time as an outbreak of cowpox. The latter was a rare disease, Jesty himself “had only seen the complaint three times during his life” and he reckoned on an outbreak occurred every twenty three years or so.

When people learned of his experiment, Jesty was subject to much abuse and he was later to say, “That he was so laughed at and ridiculed by the inhabitants of the village for introducing a bestial disease into his family that he gave it up and thought no more about it.” Indeed he felt it necessary to move to Worth Matravers on the Isle of Purbeck. Meanwhile in 1798 Edward Jenner published “An inquiry into the causes and side effects of the variolae vaccinae”. He had in effect repeated Jesty’s experiment – some 25 years later – and, as he got into print first, this traditionally marks him down as the inventor of vaccination against smallpox.

In 1803 a local vicar in the Isle of Purbeck, Andrew Bell, learned of Jesty’s experiment and wrote to the ‘Royal Jennerian Society” in London to apprise them of what he had done. His letter found it’s way into the hands of Dr George Pearson a rival of Jenner’s who had established the ‘Original Vaccine Pock Institute” in opposition to Jenner. Jesty and his son Robert went to London to explain what he had done. Pearson also took the opportunity to inoculate small pox in them both and they failed to develop the disease. Pearson reported this to the Edinburgh Medical Society who awarded Jesty a “pair of gold-mounted lancets, a testimonial scroll and 15 guineas for his expenses and commissioned the famous artist Michael Sharp to paint his portrait.”[10] Jenner meanwhile won a grant of £30,000 from parliament for his efforts.

Benjamin Jesty Snr. died in 1816 aged 79 and his wife Elizabeth erected a tombstone in Worth Matravers churchyard with the following inscription: “Sacred to the memory of Benjamin Jesty of Downshay who departed this life April 16th 1816 aged 79 years. He was born at Yetminster in this county and was an upright and honest man: particularly noted for having been the first person know that introduced the cowpox inoculation and who from his great strength of mind made the experiment from the cow on his wife and two sons in the year 1774.”

Benjamin had a large family including four sons and a daughter and there are references to several of the family in the diary but the two who were vaccinated by their father get a number of entries.

Robert became a farmer at Woodstreet farm in Wool and from the entries in the diaries it is clear that they had a close relationship with Martin. He often stayed there and they are the only entries, apart from her death where Mary [Mrs] Martin is mentioned. Robert himself first appears in March 1827 when they went coursing together.

13th March 1821

Went to Stoke respg Poors [sic] Rate Slept at Woodstreet

16th June 1821

Went to Woodstreet Mrs Martin there

17th June 1821

At Woodstreet

18th June 1821

Returned Home from Woodstreet

6th March 1827

Do – went to Woodstreet in the Evening charge

7th March 1827

Coursing at Woodstreet with Mr Robt Jesty

18th March 1827

At Home Mr Jesty of Woodstreet here

29th July 1827

Went to Wood Street respg Wraxall

At Home

30th July 1827

Returned from Woodstreet

21st August 1827

Making out Fair Bill on T Hinton Inclosure

Mrs Martin went to Woodstreet

25th August 1827

Returning home slept at Woodstreet [Martin had been at Blandford to hear the reading of the T Hinton inclosure].

26th August 1827

At Woodstreet and slept at Mr Robt Jesty’s at Fordington

Paid Servants at Woodstreet & Fordington 3s

In August Martin and Jesty concluded a deal about Wraxall farm, after which, later in the month, a bit more recreation.

30th August 1827

Went to Ninehead respg Wraxall with Mr Robt Jesty Slept at Mrs Baileys

1st September 1827

Mr Jesty took Wraxall Farm this Morning for Term of 12 Yrs from next Mic at £840 the Tenant paying the Land Tax &c

19th September 1827

Returning Home slept at Woodstreet

20th September 1827

At Woodstreet went to Woodbury Hill Fair

Expenses at Woodbury Hill Fair 5s 6d

21st September 1827

At Woodstreet went coursing with Mr Jesty

22nd September 1827

Returned Home

Expenses at Woodstreet and Dorchester on my way Home 2s 6d

Robert was to die in 1834 on his farm at Wraxall. Benjamin Jesty Jnr, the other son vaccinated by his father, was born in 1772 and apprenticed as a butcher in 1793 which probably explains some of John Martin’s diary entries,

17th December 1832

Doing Various Jobs sold my old Cow to Mr Jesty for Six Pounds

December accounts

Paid Mr Jesty’s Bill for Meat Pigs &c £8 4s 8d

In 1818 he had married Ann Jennings, sister to William Jennings Jnr. and Mary whose husband was of course John Martin and they jointly owned land in Somerton. Benjamin Jnr. died in July 1838 although as ever with Martin, work carried on as usual,

13th July 1838

Messrs Walford & Sons

{Mr Benj Jesty died aged 66}

Attending on Mr Clarke of Tintinhull at Evershot Examining Parish Books &c respecting Rates £1 1s 0d

and haymaking Ricked Pipershay except ½ an acre

19th July 1838

Poorton adjourned meeting.

Mr Benjamin Jesty Buried at Bubdown

In his will Benjamin Jesty left “eight hundred pounds in the funds in the 3 P cents” held in trust to his brother in law, John Martin, one of his other brothers, Thomas Jesty of Holywell farm and Robert Stiby of Sherborne [unknown]. Martin continued to farm the lands in Somerton with Ann Jesty who inherited the rest of the estate. She was to die in 1860 three years before John Martin.

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Previous The move to Dorset.

1 The modern reader with gout can be reassured that this was a misdiagnosis as gout does not effect the head.

2 Sandell R E Abstracts of Wiltshire Inclosure Awards and Agreements 1971 Wiltshire Records Society

3 This was a common social convention it seems.

4 Martin varies the spelling between Pyne and Pine.

5 Wikipedia

6 Hanson “Attribution of Dorset and Devon Tithe Maps.” Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries September 2017.

7 In October 1852 the Shepton Mallet and Wells Journal carried a report of a meeting concerning a railway at which John Pine Esq “appeared less in a professional character than as the agent of Sir John Guest”,

8 There was a strange convention in this census. Up to the age of 15 the age is the actual age. Over the age of 15 however the age is rounded up or down to the nearest 5 years. Thus John Martin’s age is given as 60 although he was actually 61.

9 The baptismal record is dated 23rd January 1825.

10 ‘Who Invented vaccination?’ Robert Jesty, Gareth Williams Malta Medical Journal vol 23 is 2 2011. It is suspected that one of the authors is a relative of Benjamin Jesty!