Do you have any memories of your time in Milton Abbas? We would love to hear from you.
Send them to: WEBMASTER
If you wish to contact a contributer, please send request to: WEBMASTER
Contribution from :
|Top of page|
Greetings from Melbourne, Australia.
Milton Abbas is a long way from Melbourne, but it’s always remained close to my family’s heart since we left England in 1951.Before then, and on trips back since, we’ve made a point of visiting whenever possible, if only for a couple of hours.My first visit as a child to our ‘ancestral home’ left an unforgettable impression – and the attached piece tries to convey something of that.
Another bunch of memories of Milton Abbas in the 1940s, and beyond…
Bristol was in the throes of the blitz, my mother was expecting another baby, and her Aunty Tilly in Dorset adjusting to life as a widow. The family thought it good that I should go to Milton Abbas for a while, so off I went, escorted by an aunt with Teddy safely in my suitcase. My mother suggested that I remember my manners, as Aunty Tilly had been a lady's maid and was disposed at times to be a little 'particular', but she thought that the custom of bobbing a curtsey if and when 'the gentry's' carriage passed by (usual in the village in her own childhood) was no longer practised. After wartime Bristol the sunny serenity of Milton Abbas was another country… and they did things differently there. You took a walk with a big jug to collect the milk, and another with a bucket to get the water from a pump up the street. I used to collect as much water in my socks and shoes as in my small size bucket, but the ladies who chatted at the pump were usually helpful and friendly. In the little bedroom under the thatch I felt tall for the first time ever but, like Alice, immediately reduced by the huge chestnut tree alongside the cottage. It kept the passage between the cottages in constant shade, grown green with moss, and smelling damp. Aunty Tilly lived at No 57, and had been the wife of John Kennington, the carpenter mentioned in Mary Battrick's memoir. As Matilda Ridout she had been born in the village in the 1860s, and she told me that since then the family had lived in several other cottages there. She said that as houses in the street were repaired one by one, familes had had to move out and along, or over the street. My grandfather's hymn book is inscribed ' 1899. Harry Ridout, 15 Milton Abbas.' After Aunty Tilly's death in 1956 the family was offered her cottage at 57 for £60, but regretfully had to reject it. How my generation gnashes its teeth! From Aunty Tilly I heard several stories about Milton Abbas and the past; one concerned a custom on, I think, the night of the first of May when local unmarried girls went to St Catherine's Chapel to promote their marriage prospects. Their prayer ran, as I remember: St Catherine, St Catherine, give me your aid, And grant that I never will be an old maid. Arn a one, St Catherine, Not narn a one, St Catherine. (I can't recall hearing anything about the success rate of this strategy.) She also had a yarn about a wicked Lord of the Abbey who turned villagers out of their houses and ripped up the cemetery to make a nice lawn for himself, and a famous writer who used to visit the village had apparently written a story about these awful doings. Many years later I found that she must have been speaking of Thomas Hardy and his short story "The Doctor's Legend", and that the events she described so vividly had taken place in her great grandfather's day. The villagers, it seems, had long memories. On a visit to Milton Abbas in 1991 with aunts and uncle we found a damaged gravestone of James Ridout 8 August 1776 propped against an external wall of the Abbey, and concluded that this must be a relic of the wretched Lord's activities. When I look at the photographs of it now, I wonder if it's still there. After several hundred years in Milton Abbas, the other Ridouts have gone.
With congratulations on the website, and best wishes for its future
Update by Carol Sastradipradja December 2013
The Milton Abbas prayer to St. Catherine
A fuller and more elegant version as remembered by an aunt.
St. Catherine, St. Catherine,
O lend me thine aid
And grant that I never
May die an old maid.
A husband, St. Catherine,
A good one, St. Catherine,
But arn a one better
Than narn a one, St. Catherine.
|Top of page|
During the 1970's, I went to a fortnight's summer school, for 3 consecutive years, based at Milton Abbey School, during the weeks it closed for pupils. Those days are imprinted in my memory, and in my heart, forever. The school, the abbey, the grounds, and that beautiful village were something so special, so stunning, and so different from anything us 'townie' kids had ever experienced before. I remember the walk from the school through to the village, the little shop which sold cakes and pop, the tiny chapel at the top of all those grass steps, and walking alongside a field where nosy horses would trot over to see what we were doing. Most days spent there were hot and sunny, but I do recall a particularly violent thunder storm, where all the girls were hysterical & huddled in dormitories together for safety!
I was delighted to learn soon after my last visit there, that a TV series was going to filmed at Milton Abbey School – and I think I was one of the most avid fans of To Serve Them All My Days.
I revisited Milton Abbas, the school and village, as a young adult years later, and it was still as amazing and beautiful as ever. I think it always has been, and always will be.
|Top of page|
I was born in 1942 at the Mill House. We were living there because Dad worked at the garage and during Rex Spiller's absence fighting for King and Country Dad ran the business, I believe. He had in fact wanted to join the forces but was prevented from doing so by Tommy Spiller as his was a reserved occupation – mechanics being essential to keeping the war effort going by repairing farm machinery. He joined the Home Guard's Commando Unit but would never talk about it. I do remember seeing daggers when I was very small. After the war we moved a couple of hundred yards to Mill Cottages.
Among my earliest memories, I would only have been two years old, are the GIs camped in the field opposite the garage. I don't know how long they were there but Mum and Dad said that when the time came for the invasion they were packed up and had left within twenty four hours. I have often wondered what became of them, especially as one GI left his music with behind promising to collect it when hostilities ended. He never did.
After the war I attended the village school where, as Mary has already stated, there were two rooms, infants and older children (aged 7 to 15). The toilets were up steps to the rear of the school, being wooden seats over buckets. There were no washbasins in those days. They came later. Eventually the children aged over 11 went to school at Stickland. The head teacher was Miss Ring, of whom, even though she could be terrifying at times, I have the fondest memories. She was an inspiring teacher and gave us all such a good start in life. I do remember drawing the cedar tree but was very sorry to see it felled.
From an early age there was church on Sundays followed by Sunday School which was run by Miss Guy and assisted, if I remember correctly, by Mary Hillier as she then was. The highlight of the year was the Sunday School trip to Weymouth with tea at the Dorothy Cafe. We all looked forward to it for weeks. I remember vaguely Christmas parties at the Vicarage too.
I have very fond memories of Milton Abbas as an idyllic place for young children to grow up.
Pauline Bishop (nee Hatcher)
|Top of page|
Some of my childhood memories from the late 1930's of Milton Abbas
Dale Cottage, now a private dwelling, was a tea- room. Nearby was the sheep dip. I remember seeing the sheep being driven down through the village by the shepherd. Also, close by, at Pond Head, one of the sheds was used by Mr Kennington (carpenter) who lived with his wife at No. 57. As children we would watch him making coffins etc.
There have only ever been two adult swans on the pond (as the lake was called). Always driving away their young when they were old enough to go on their own. We picked primroses and blackberries in this field (Lake Field), owned by Bob and Arthur Fookes. They also owned the farm opposite, which is now 'The Maltings'. I remember fetching our daily milk in our milk can and seeing the milk go through the cooler.
We also picked primroses in the vicarage garden, where our vicar lived (until early 1950), to take to the Mothering Sunday service. The bungalow next to the vicarage was the vicar's gardener, Mr Ted Day. A wonderful garden with flowers, vegetables and apple and pear trees. He always won lots of prizes at the village produce show.
No. 1 was the blacksmiths. I can remember watching them making horseshoes, besides many other metal articles. The shoes were hung on hooks waiting for the horses. The horses were taken up through the alley between the forge and the house to the shed where the shoes were nailed on (Phew! What a smell). Then there were the cart wheels to be bonded. That was done on the grass outside the forge on a large metal ring with a hole in the centre.
I lived at No. 49 where I was born, for two years before moving to No. 4. My father was the local thatcher working on the village houses and hay and straw ricks. I watched dad making spars for thatching. I counted 250 for each bundle. Thatching has been in my family for many generations.
No. 6 was the bakery owned by Mr and Mrs Parsons, who also owned the village store (now the Tea Clipper) where they sold everything from paraffin to butter and sewing needs etc. I can remember Mr Parsons walking across the road from the bakery to his shop with bread and buns to sell, wearing his white clothes and tall white hat. The baking assistant, Mr Bill Butt, helped with baking and deliveries. I would go in to collect our bread and buns from the bakery. They worked on a long table which was in the front, with the ovens on the back wall. The stairs from this room led to the flour store.
Outside of No. 7, where I now live, was one of three water taps. So, it was buckets to be taken there and filled full of water, or as much as you could carry, for use indoors. There were wells between some houses, including No. 4 where I lived before being married. I can remember dad and his neighbour, Mr Harry Vacher, drawing water from the well, to be used for washing clothes and taking baths. Baths were had in front of the fire in a tin bath.
At the back of the cottages there were sheds, one was for coal and logs and the other had a copper for doing your washing. This was built of brick and had a hole in the bottom where a fire was lit to heat the water.
The garage now at No. 21/22 was our cobbler's shop, Mr Stainer, who mended our shoes. Opposite this was our Post Office, a wooden construction adjoining the house, with the letter box on the outside.
Next door, above the Post Office, was the bus station, which had its own petrol pump. The buses went to Blandford and Dorchester.
Where our Post Office is now located was another grocery shop, owned by Mr and Mrs Steptoe., who, I remember, didn't seem too keen on serving children.
Sunday School was at the Chapel, which is now a private residence. I attended the Village School. We had individual desks, which were wooden with brass inkwells. The cane was always kept on the Head Teacher's desk, used sometimes, but more often it was the ruler across the knuckles. Hot dinners were brought from Whitechurch where they were cooked. After dinner scraps were collected and my friend and I would take them to Mr and Mrs White in St Aldhelm, next to the Chapel, because they kept chickens. Occasionally we were given one egg.
There were approximately sixty children in all, with two classrooms, Standard 1 for the eldest, with, next door, Standard 2 and Infant class.
The playground was very rough, not nice to fall on, which I once did. In the corner of the playground was a large cedar tree. Drawing lessons were always to draw this tree. We were all very pleased when it was cut down. The School garden had many fruit trees which were a benefit when we had to go gardening.
Between each cottage there were chestnut trees. So on the way to school we collected the conkers and had good contests at school (now not permitted).
We were taken from school on Mr Fookes' truck to the top of Fishmore hill to pick up potatoes in the war.
Opposite the School House gate there was a long wooden house with about twelve steps up to a verandah and a good sized garden. Beside the steps was a rambling rose, it still flowers today although the house has long gone.
Above the school was the doctor's house and surgery, where I went to live as an assistant nanny when I left school.
Opposite the cemetery was our village hall where we had parties etc and, later, dances.
Hill House, which is now called Milton Manor, was the home of Capt and Mrs Angus Hambro. There was a path through their grounds from the Coach House to Hill Cottage where their chauffeur and gardener lived. We had many village fêtes and other activities in Hill House gardens.
Finally, I remember that there lived in one of the cottages an old lady who always dressed in black, even covering her head. As children we thought she was a witch. She always seemed to know all about us and when our birthdays were, but we never received any cards from her
|Top of page|
Recollections of Milton Abbas
I now live in Lincolnshire but I was born in Milton Abbas in November 1940 and spent my first six years living in the village followed by numerous summer and winter holidays up to the age of 15 visiting my grandparents. What follows represents my memories of those years and some of the people living in Milton Abbas at that time.
Grandad hailed from Milborne St Andrew and Gran from the Keepers Cottage situated in Milton Park Wood. Her father (Charles Mills) was the head gamekeeper for the then owners of the Abbey house, the Hambro family of bankers. Grandad (Austin Charles Derrick 1882-1962) was also employed by the Hambro's at the time he met Gran (Mary Derrick née Mills) and worked as an indoor servant. Family tradition has it that he was eventually Sir Everard's valet. He courted and married Gran, the ceremony being held at the Abbey Church on Sept 26th 1907 and conducted by the Rev. Herbert Pentin, vicar of Milton Abbey. They both lived in the Abbey grounds, again, with family tradition stating that they occupied what is now Green Walk Cottage.
During their time at the “big house” they produced seven children, six girls and a boy. When Sir Everard died and the Hambro family sold up, they were re-housed at No.5 in the village. They later moved to No. 44 where I was born and then raised by my Gran from age 18 months while my mother worked in London in order to pay my hospital bills from Cornelia and East Dorset Hospital in Poole. This came about as follows: my mother (Ivy Mary Derrick) and father (Corporal William Dymond) met when he was billeted at my Gran's house during the so-called 'phoney' war. He was a regular soldier from Whitechapel in London and they married in April 1940. I was born the following November. By this time, my father had been sent abroad with his regiment - the Rifle Brigade - and been captured in the defence of Dunkirk at Calais, spending the next five years as a POW in Polish and German camps.
In the 50's/60's there came two further moves for Gran and Grandad: from No. 44 to No. 1 Almshouses, and then to No. 27 Catherines Well.
My Gran died in 1970 and was cremated and her ashes were interred by me in the Churchyard where her memorial stone is in the shape of a book. Granddad died of bowel cancer in Dorchester hospital and his remains were buried in the Cemetery at the top of the village.
NB: other members of the family and myself had searched for his grave and never found it, so we were pleased to discover that it had been found and that it had a headstone - although badly weathered.
When I was 18 months old I ran out into the road and was knocked down by a cyclist. The only injury apparent at this time was a grazed and bruised right elbow. However, after a short time my arm began to swell and discharge pus. Doctor Hensel was called from his house just above the school yard and I was sent to hospital. After a short stay, I was diagnosed as having osteomyelitis - a disease of the marrow of the bone - at that time untreatable (and potentially fatal) except by repeated operations and draining and cleaning the area as much as possible.
I therefore spent the next five years being taken to and from Poole Hospital until penicillin was again available at the end of the war (having been restricted for use by the armed forces only) and my illness was eventually cured in 1946. In the November of that year my parents moved to Dagenham in East London and I was taken with them.
Remembrance of the times I spent at Gran's between operations, from '42-'46 and the summer/winter holidays subsequently spent in Milton until I was 15 - the happiest times of my life during that period - make up the remainder of this narrative.
There were two shops in Milton Abbas (as there are now). The one at the top of the village just below the Wesleyan Chapel was called Steptoe's (now the Post Office) and as far as I remember sold hardware and household goods. The other shop (now The Studio but formerly a tea shop) was called Parson's and was run by two widows named Parsons and Lovell who sold groceries, greengroceries and bottles of pop secured by a metal lever with a glass marble for a stopper. It was not unusual to find foreign objects in the drinks and I remember one with a spider in and another containing a beetle.
Both shops, like most shops of that time I expect, were small and crammed tight with goods. The biscuits came from large square tins and were weighed out into paper bags; the cheese came from a whole round with a thick rind (which I ate with relish!) and was cut with a cheese wire; sugar came from sacks and was weighed out into blue paper bags; butter came from the dairy at the bottom of the village (opposite Walter Evans' blacksmith business), and was scooped up from a large container behind the counter, roughly shaped, and then wrapped in greaseproof paper.
Walt Evans was a kindly man who didn't mind the children of the village watching him work - so long as they were a safe distance from the forge and anvil (Health & Safety was alive even then!). The most exciting times for us was when he was re-tyring a wagon/cart wheel and placed the hot iron band around the wooden wheel in the circular trough outside in front of the forge when the water hissed and bubbled away into steam as the iron rim cooled and shrank around the wheel.
The milk came from the dairy, and villagers used to collect it in white enamel cans each day. I believe that the dairy was owned by the Spiller family - but I may be wrong, it is a long time ago.
In so far as I remember, there was no electricity or piped water supply to the village until the 50's, but again, I may be wrong. However, I know that there was no street lighting: oil lamps and stoves (mainly Valor) were used to provide lighting and cooking -supplemented by candles and battery torches- and Gran's radio was powered by a huge glass accumulator/ battery which needed regular re-charging at the garage in Mill Lane.
The village bus was garaged next door to Gran's at No. 42 and was run by Mr Doug Hall. So far as I remember, it used to go to Blandford via Whitechurch and Stickland three times a week - on market days and on Saturday evening for the pictures - and to Dorchester on Saturday mornings. I clearly remember worrying that it was going to go backwards as it groaned its way up the hill out of the village when going to Blandford. It went so slow that it was sometimes overtaken by pedestrians. Mr Hall had a fuel pump on the premises situated near the front of the house, while at the rear was a very large garage with a loft containing old seats etc., which I, and other village children, used to love playing in. Mrs Hall kept a large number of chickens and sold excess eggs to Gran and other villagers.
Next door to Mr Hall was Mr Harris, the village policeman, his son Bobby and I were good friends and often roved about the plantation at the top of 'Lovely Steps' making camps and generally playing amongst the trees or farther out in the fields or on Luccombe Down. The stream at the foot of Luccombe was a great place for catching minnows and sticklebacks using jam jars placed with their open ends facing upstream towards the lake.
Further up the village the Hambro Arms was run by my Uncle (William Oliver Old) through marriage to my Auntie Vi, (Violet Rose Derrick) Gran's second eldest daughter. This was his second marriage, his first wife having eventually died of cancer after being nursed for a very long time by my Aunt, whose full-time job was as the Hambro Arms' cook.
Granddad was a regular customer at the pub and was occasionally made to sleep outside if he came back drunk or too late, Gran would lock the door on him!
Uncle Billy gave up the pub shortly after the War and then ran his own private car hire business from both No. 48 and later No. 18, until he became too old to drive safely. By then, the Abbey house was a private school, and they had moved to No. 32 Catherines Well He and my Aunt worked there in the kitchens for the princely sum of 2/6 (twelve-and-a- half pence) an hour, in order to eke out their pensions. They eventually moved from the village to Dorchester, where one of his daughters (Winifred) lived, after she had married Leslie Frisby, who owned an electrical retailer's in South Street, and was also a professional photographer.
Finally, the cottage round the corner to the left at the bottom of the village - Dale Cottage - which nestles in the dip to the left of Mill Lane was, for most of my time in Milton Abbas, the only place where cream teas and other light refreshments were available for visitors. I often went there when very young and was fascinated by the stream at the bottom of the garden - the run-off from the lake - which was crossed by a small hump-back bridge.
|Top of page|
SOME REMINISISCENCES FROM YE OLDE COYNE DEELER
I first visited Milton Abbas during the summer of 1957, when on a House hunting trip to the West Country. I wrote to the owner of No 50, in response to his advertisement in 'Dalton's Weekly' but I knew nothing of Dorset at that time, we had been trying to find a house in Devon but without success. The last lap of the journey here was via the old Village Bus from Milborne St Andrew, passing the Lake, and turning the corner at what was then Brewery Farm. I was truly amazed at my first sight of the village. Having seen so much of the older parts of Cities etc. Destroyed by enemy action; and also of the 'master' Planners that followed seeing a unique survival of an 18th Century Village. Being a Chronic Asthmatic, I suggested to my mother, that a few new installations before we moved in would be of real benefit, and so we decided on a Toilet in the upstairs Bathroom, also a Shower fitting. The latter caused something of a stir, as it was seemingly the first in the village, and several people, including the Doctor's wife asked to be allowed to see it!
We decided to re design the garden and in most cases, the gardens were dug top to bottom, for subsistence Fruit and vegetables growing. We were mindful of the role we had been told, of a villager earlier in the century who came downstairs one morning, after a very stormy night, went outside, and to his horror, found that most of his vegetable plot had moved down, and was in a mound near to his back door
! In the hope of countering anything like this we planted a row of fruit trees, various bushes' made several grass terrace strips, and finally planted some Laurel stakes slightly thicker and longer than the average walking stick. All have grown well and succeeded in holding the soil in place. The Laurels now have a trunk girth of at least 16 inches.
In 1958, the main Village Stores, was where the 'Clipper Tea Rooms' now operates. It was run by 2 elderly widowed sisters – Mrs Parsons and Mrs Lovell. They had run these stores for 40 years or more, with occasional assistance before retiring, and moving to Milborne St Andrew in the late 1970's. Local people would often order their weeks supplies, and have a good chat at the same time. In the early 1960's, a Captain Evered had a house built at the top of the village street, which is still called 'Little Westwood'. This Gentleman entered the Stores on his first morning here, and commented 'I've just come out of Prison, after 25 years'! and the shop quietly emptied behind him! He must have had an impish sense of humour, as he refrained from mentioning the fact, that he had been the Governor of Exeter Prison!
My lasting memory of one of the Sisters, Mrs Parsons was that one day I went into the Shop, no one was about, and so I called out. The next thing I saw a seemingly self propelled side of bacon, approaching me via the inner door, but it was in fact being carried by this little old Lady, somewhere in her late 70's and a towering 4 ft 9" or so. She then dropped this side of bacon on the main bench and started to remove the bones with a sharp knife incredible!!
In 1958, the Post Office was situated in what was later Milton Abbas Gift Shop next to St James church. It was run by widowed lady, Mrs Bolt, who remarried in the late 1960's, and who then decided to retire from her position as Postmistress. The Post Office was then transferred to it present location. Further up the village Street, and became part of the 'Top Stores', at the same time, the Post Box and Telephone Kiosk which stood outside were re located to their present position.
There were several activities and aspects of village life that seem to have disappeared, from around 1970, possibly forever!
We arrived in Milton Abbas in 1958; the Village had its own Bus. Which had been supplied by Bere Regis Bus Company, and our own resident driver, Mr Hall? The Bus was housed in the large shed/barn at the rear of his home – No 43 Milton Abbas. He operated a morning and afternoon service to Blandford – 6 days a week, with an extra service – 5 or was it 6 o'clock Saturday Evening, especially for those who wished to see the last house at the cinema, which was situated in East Street, in the premises now occupied by Somerfield Supermarket. The Bus parked alongside the Church Wall on Sheep Market Hill. Bere Regis also supplied a regular service to Dorchester. Mr Hall would also as a service, deliver and collect small parcels, for which he charged 6d (six old pence) per item. When Mr Hall reached retirement age, He and Mrs Hall sold their home and retired to Devon, this was in around 1970. The Bus was then returned to Bere Regis Depot.
Until the late 1960's, early 1970's a representative of – I believe – Lloyds Bank, Blandford would be driven out to No 47 Milton Abbas, where by regular arrangement, the front downstairs room was used as a temporary Bank, every fortnight. The householder Mrs Bolt moved some years later, but the service had ceased several years before then.
Until the early 1970's representatives of the local Hunt, complete with their pack of Hounds would ride down the street, two or maybe 3 times a year and would be given refreshments by the Fookes family at Brewery Farm, now Malting House, and the Malting's area
Until the late 1960's each Springtime, local Shepherds would drive their flock down the Village street, to the field alongside Dale Cottage, near the Lake, where they would divert the stream in order to make a temporary dipping area for their sheep returning the stream to its usual course, after. (N.B. I'm sure that Chris Fookes, now living at Delcombe, could well expound on the above 2 entries if approached and willing).
Finally, on the Social side. Milton Abbas had been an Estate Village more or less until after World War 2, and when the Catherine's Well Estate was built in the late 1940's, many of the Villagers, who were Cottage tenants were moved into the new houses. The cottages that were vacated were put on the market, and were duly bought, mainly by retired couples, several being as Army Officers and their wives in the last 1950's some were bought by teaching staff who were employed at the then newly founded Milton Abbey School who in some cases also had families with them.
There had been some ill feeling generated towards newcomers by the time we arrived, mainly because some the newcomers hadn't behaved in a particularly congenial way towards the older inhabitants.
We encountered suspicion, even hostility on this account, also there was a fact that some scandal had emerged regarding the then vicar which had split the congregation of St James's Church with a large group leaving to become regular worshippers at the Methodist Chapel, situated next to the Hambro Arms (The Chapel is now, a private residence). With hindsight I could say, that this was perhaps about the worst time to be moving into Milton Abbas, it was certainly not an easy time for us! At times it felt as though we were being pitch forked back into the 19th century! There were feudal overtones on accompanying Pecking Order, and a positive Cat's cradle of invisible demarcation lines – a variable minefield for the unwary! My dear old Mother had some really nice, fashionable, made to measure outfits, which she wore to Church and had the remark made to her that she has aping her betters!!! Where could you possibly encounter such an outdated comment in this, the Millennium Year? Remember this was only just over 40 years ago!
Notwithstanding all this, I am quietly confident in the future for Milton Abbas, with so many younger people, there is every cause for optimism.
|Top of page|
My Grandfather Doug Hall was the bus driver (carrier)in Milton Abbas. Holidays were spent there riding on the bus, Attached is a picture of my sister and me.
|Top of page|
|Contact the webmaster with your comments or complaints about this site. Webmaster