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Sydling St Nicholas

Parish 24

Date of Agreement / Award

Date of Confirmation of Apportionment

Sydling St Nicholas



Date on Map

Scale of Map



6 chains

John Martin

John Baverstock Knight


John Martin

John Baverstock Knight

William Jennings had inclosed the parish in 1819 but Kain attributes the inclosure map to a T Tilbrook and although there is no evidence that Martin was involved in it he clearly knew the parish well as the first entry about it comes from 1821 when he,

6th October 1821

Went to M Newton and Sydling Coursing caught 8 Hares and 2 Rabbits

Looking toward Up Sydling.

Sydling St Nicholas the field in the foreground was known as Church Bottom. On the ridge in the background Roman Centurions had marched along the Roman road, now more prosaically the A37. Did John go coursing on these Downs ?

Oddly there are no newspaper advertisements of any sort about the commutation; it was the first of two that Martin undertook with John Baverstock Knight. The parish was large being just twenty acres short of five thousand acres and the Rector was “The Warden Scholars and Clerks of Saint Mary’s College of Winchester”.

The Sydling St Nicholas website [1] says the following

The earliest mention of Sydling in the Winchester archives is 933. In that year, King Athelstone built the Benedictine Abbey of St. Samson at Milton for the soul of his brother Edwin, and amongst its endowments were thirty hides of land at Sydling, and six at Hilfield as a provision for their table. The Abbot had the right to present a minister to the church, who was to receive tithes as rector, pay a pension of thirty shillings per annum to the Abbey, and receive glebe land. (This was in Church Lane and finally sold off in 1963.) During the Middle Ages the village belonged to Milton Abbey but after the Dissolution of the Monasteries it passed to Winchester College who until recently still owned about twenty acres of land.”

Athelstan was the first king of some kind of united England and it was he who in the 10th century first made the payment of the tithe compulsory in England. In so doing he made not only the tithe itself a form of property but the right to claim the tithe another form of property. The tithes being appropriated to a distant monastery a vicar had to be provided for the parish. Hutchins who must have been aware of the commuted value of the parish [£514.10s] gives a complicated account of the benefice which comes nowhere near this amount. He notes however that the vicar had to appeal to the Queen Anne’s bounty for support. His meagre income was little more than £12 a year. By the time of the commutation however there was no mention of the vicar. The whole lot went to Winchester.

There are no significant differences between the original and copy maps which show some stylistic differences to Martins normal maps. The farms are named as are a sand pit and a furze allotment. In one close by the church there appears to be a large ornamental garden and walk. A large number of green ways are marked on the map and unusually there are a large number of brace signs ∫ [used to indicate that what appears to be detached parts of land are joined] which he does not normally use. This stylistic change may have been because the commutation was undertaken together with John Baverstock Knight and both he and Martin signed the map.

The Sydling Commutation was the cause of some communication between Martin and the Tithe Commission. There were a number of issues. The first was that the apportionment was made not on individual closes but on groups of closes. For example William Dunning a major land owner had over six hundred acres split up into groups of closes varying in size from forty to over two hundred acres in size. These were variously named Shorto’s, Northovers, Phillips, Riddles and Forders and the rent charge was apportioned to these groups rather than the individual closes of which they were composed. This was perfectly acceptable practice until a further amendment act was passed on the 4th June 1840 which tried to stop it by requiring the majority of landowners to apply to the Commission in writing requesting it be done this way. One assumes they might be refused. The act was not retrospective however and providing that the valuer had been appointed before the 4th June and the landowners had requested him to apportion in this way the apportionment would stand. Martin may have had some delight when replying to the Commission that the valuers had been appointed “long before the 4th June 1840” and the landowners had instructed him to apportion this way.

Sydling was a popular place with Martin as he often went hare coursing there and from time to time the Yeomanry Cavalry met at the tithe barn there.

1st March 1827

Went Coursing with Mr J J Crew& Mr E Thompkins at Sydling

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The tithe barn at Sydling St Nicholas. Over three hundred years old by the time the Cavalry met in 1832.

6th March 1832

Cavalry meeting at Sydling Barn [very Wet day-]

1st October 1832

Cavalry meeting at Sydling Barn

4th October 1838

Yeomanry meeting at Sydling Hill

As was his wont he went to any number of local fairs and Sydling was one of them. Traditionally held very late in the year [November] in 1826 it was proposed to move it to Cerne Abbas as space was limited in Sydling. This does not seem to have happened immediately and it was still in existence 12 years later. These fairs gained a reputation unfortunately for what we might call ‘petty’ crime – in particular pick pocketing. Just as in Oliver Twist there seemed to be well established gangs preying on the public and in 1829 one George Peach was bitten by a pickpocket who was in the process of stealing four sovereigns. The criminal John Jones was apprehended and sentenced to fourteen years transportation. There are a few commutation related diary entries.

6th December 1838

Went to Sydling Fair and Examining the Stratton Apportionment

12th May 1838

Received of Mr Dunning for Measuring &c at Sydling £2 6s 0d

10th November


Returned Home [from Allington] by way of Beaminster. Dined with Mr Peter Cox’s – Traced some Sketches for him from the Sydling Maps

13th November

Mr Sheridan – Journey to Maiden Newton and made Exchange between Mr Sheridan and Crewkerne School £1 10s 9d Sydling St Nicholas commutation Attending at Sydling to receive Maps 2-2-0

Martin’s last appearance at Sydling was in 1861,

31st January 1861

Went Coursing Sydling [Two Hares] came home early to see Mr Snook on Somerton

1 It has some wonderful photos of early 20th century life in the village.