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Melbury Sampford

Parish 9

Date of Agreement / Award

Date of Confirmation of Apportionment

Melbury Sampford

[Higher Melbury]



Date on Map

Scale of Map



4 chains

John Martin in the County of Dorset

According to Hutchins the Domesday book records five manors with the name Meleberie. The only one he could reliably place was Melbury Abbas near Shaftesbury whilst he believed the other four were at Melbury Bubb, Melbury Sampford with Melbury Osmond having two manors. The name ‘Samford’ dated back to the 13th century but was possibly preceded by an even older name which some may recognise – Turbeville, the inspiration for Hardy’s d’Urbeville’s. By the 16th century the manor was in the possession of one William Brouning. On his death his widow, Katherine, who was in possession of the manor, married Henry Strangways and it has remained in the family’s possession since.

Melbury House in 1865. Taken from Hutchins 3rd edition.

In 1838 Melbury Sampford was the home parish of the Henry Stephen Fox Strangways, Earl of Ilchester, the sole landowner in it. The rector was Edward Fox Strangways his cousin who sadly was to die in the same year. As might be expected Martin pulled out the stops on this one; the map is particularly fine but his rendering is atypical amongst his maps. It is also drawn to the unusual scale of 4 chains per inch. William Jennings Jnr. signed as the Earls agent and both the original and copy maps bear the signature of Robert Kearsley Dawson. An honour indeed.

There are considerable areas of coppice and pasture within the parish with occasional patches of meadow but no arable. The colour[copy] map on show at Dorset History Centre [1] appears to show no evidence of shading according to the state of cultivation as was normal on most tithe maps. The coppices and woods are beautifully drawn consisting of thousands of trees, hand painted, in five different colours. The lack of field shading would give an overall effect that is very low key were it not for the fact that at the very centre of the map is Melbury House depicted in vivid red. The eye is immediately drawn to it and it is difficult to believe that the effect is not deliberate.

The copy map has a few embellishments lacking on the original. Where a road leads out of the parish there is sometimes a little hand pointing to the next parish. This is a bit irregular as not all roads bear the hand. There is also difference concerning the labelling of some of the tracks – one is named as a halter path on the copy map but not on the original.

There are a few references in the 1838 diary. Note the cost of the commutation work; since this was “on a/c” we might wonder what the final cost was. The landowners were responsible for paying the costs of commutation. There are numerous entries in the 1845 diary where he receives money from various sources, usually referred to as rate of expenses. As there was only one landowner at Melbury Sampford he got his money in one lump sum. Note also the use of stencils which were mostly used on the title of the map and the lettering of the neighbouring parishes.

September 1838 Accounts

Received of the Earl of Ilchester on a/c for Commutation work £100

6th November 1838

making out Particulars of Melbury Sampford for Lord Ilchester

7th November 1838

Melbury Sampford & Melbury Osmond Commutation Attending Sub Commissioner Mr Jerwood at the Acorn Inn Evershot on both Parishes

12th November 1838

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


List of Commutations under the Tithe Commutation Act

1 Strictly speaking what is shown is a copy of a copy.