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Melbury Osmond

Parish 14

Date of Agreement / Award

Date of Confirmation of Apportionment

Melbury Osmond

[Lower Melbury]



Date on Map

Scale of Map



4 chains

John Martin of Evershot in the County of Dorset.

Melbury Osmond is known also as Lower Melbury from its situation with regard to Melbury Sampford. The name may in fact be a tautology as Hutchins states The most ancient lords of this vill we meet with are the De Melbury’s, who seem to be the same family that sometimes bore the name of Osmund.”

                                   The classic view of the main street from the church

Many Dorset villages claim some kind of a link with Thomas Hardy and in the case of Melbury Osmond it was the parish where his parents were married. He once said of it “Tis such a small place you need a candle and lantern to find it.” Small it may have been but it took a central role in his book ‘The Woodlanders’ when it became Little Hintock. For John Martin it was the parish where two of his siblings were baptised.

The commutation is unremarkable. Martin mapped the parish to the same scale as Melbury Sampford but stylistically he returns to normal. The fields are shaded according to convention and for the second time in his maps we see the parish church drawn correctly.

The church is rather ‘blocky’ and is made in three sections, the chancel to the right not being visible. Martin’s older sister Mary was baptised here in 1776 and his brother Thomas in 1785. Martin himself and his other siblings were baptised in Bruton, Somerset.


Although this church was not the model for Hardy, one can imagine a choir similar to the one at Mellstock, playing in the gallery in the belfry. [See Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy].

There is one other depiction on the map that is worth of note. The Melbury Oak. It is depicted on both maps and was a famous land mark in it’s day. It was said to have dated from the time of Elizabeth 1 and was was to survive into the reign of Elizabeth 2. It was a mature tree in Martin’s day and lasted for almost 200 years more. In 1976 it rather conveniently became unsafe and was felled to to make way for a new carriageway on the A37.[1]

As with Melbury Sampford the majority of the land was owned by the Earl of Ilchester and the Rector was Edward Fox-Strangways. Once again Wm Jennings acted as his agent but apart from church and tree there is little exceptional about either original or copy map. There is only one entry about Melbury Osmond in the diaries which relates to the rate of expenses; i.e. how much the landowners would contribute to the expenses of commutation.

19th March 1838

Writing Letters &c and altering the Melbury Osmond Rate


List of Commutations under the Tithe Commutation Act