The 1926 Glyn Sale of Fontmell Magna

March 27, 2005

After the 1914-1918 war Sir Richard Fitzgerald Glyn owned much land and property south of Shaftesbury, mainly in the parishes of Compton Abbas and Fontmell Magna. He had inherited the estate from his father Sir Richard George Glyn who had died in 1918 after 55 years of the economic control of the village. Like many other Dorset landowners, R F Glyn found the level of death duties and the increasing un-profitability of farming an unwanted financial burden. So he quickly decided to sell up. Sales were held in 1919 (mostly farmland), 1926 and 1927, with the bulk of the Fontmell Magna houses sold in 1926. The 68-page sale catalogue and two detailed plans give an unrivalled picture of conditions in the village at the time of the sale. We also have the realisation details (Western Gazette, May 29th 1926), who bought the properties, and for what price.

Title page of Glyn Sale catalogue

Title page of Glyn Sale catalogue

The Sale (held at the Grosvenor Hotel, Shaftesbury on 28th May 1926) contained 110 lots, and was conducted by Fox & Sons, Auctioneers of Bournemouth. There were 1,690 acres including the majority of the village of Fontmell Magna with 33 enclosures of pasture, arable and orchards; 62 cottages and larger dwellings; 3 shops, one with a Post office, 2 main residences, 15 building sites, 2 water mills, a brewery, 7 farms, an estate office and various allotments. The sale grossed a total of £31,100, which is approximately £809,000 in today’s money.

The properties not included were mostly ecclesiastical, privately owned fields and houses. They included St Andrew’s Church, West Lea (then Wesley Villa), three glebe cottages, Fontmell Rectory and its parkland (the present Badger’s Bank, Grey Cottage, Little Orchard, Prince’s Field and Canon’s Garth), the Hatchery in South St, and the War Memorial. Only the Malt House (now ‘Meriden’) failed to find a buyer. Several properties were withdrawn by Sir Richard’s agent, but, from the realisation list, sale prices were obviously agreed at a slightly higher figure later, as the underbidders probably thought again.

Five of the seven farms were bought by sitting tenants

Moore's Farm

Moore's Farm with farmer's family and staff

for the prices given below; the other two, Manor Farm and Moore’s/Mayo’s Farm to a private investor for later resale. The average rent/acre before the sale of farmland was fifteen and sixpence (£20.15 today), the average annual rent £144 (£4030) and the average purchase price/acre £13 (£338) some six times less than the equivalent price today.

The farms were:
Middle Farm (283 acres) £4250 (£110,500)
Plus Middle Farm House £2200 (£57,200)
Manor Farm (443 acres) £5000 (£130,000)
Blandford’s Farm (9 acres) £675 (£17,500)
Hurdles Farm (40 acres) £1650 (£42,900)
Moore’s Farm and Mayo’s Farm (310 acres) £5000 (£130,000)
Crofts Farm (33 acres) £775 (£20,150)
Hill Farm (329 acres) £1500 (£39,000)

Farm accommodation varied between one and three reception rooms (average 1.7) and between three and seven bedrooms (average 4.1). All farms had separate kitchens and six also had sculleries. For sewage, three farms had no data given; of the remaining four, two had flushing lavatories, one had an earth closet and one a pail closet with cesspit. Two had piped water, one a pump, one a spring, one ‘a tank’ and one a well.

Springhead House

Springhead House

There were some especially interesting properties in the village. Springhead House was bought by Harold Squire, the artist for £1400 (£36,400). The Brookfield site, the garage below it and the Triangle in front of the Crown Inn, was bought by Hall & Woodhouse for £485 (£12,610). The Crown Inn (including the Brewery) was bought privately, as was Cross House (Sir Richard’s own residence) and the Post Office. The School House (not the School, ie the head teacher’s house) was bought by Dorset County Council, as was the Old Toll House (then the residence of the village policeman) for £225 (£5850) and Shaftesbury Rural District Council bought the Mill Dam and its water rights, with ‘adjacent land’ for £500 (£13,000) on a 99-year lease.

The orchards in West Street (including Myrtle and

Myrtle Cottage

Myrtle Cottage

Shaston Cottages), were bought for £500 (£13,000). Perhaps the best bargain of all was the western part of the field in which the Collyer’s Rise estate now lies, bought by the village tailor, William Stainer, for £7 (£182).
Twenty-six properties (29%) were sold privately, so no prices are available, mostly to sitting tenants or their relatives. Of the remaining 83 lots, ten (9%) were bought by outside investors from Blandford, Shaftesbury, Melbury Abbas, Compton Abbas, Sutton Waldron, Bournemouth, Pokesdown and Southsea, plus two firms of solicitors. 53% were sold to sitting tenants, possibly another 10% to close relatives. Two outside investors, H M Hodges and W H Baker, bought 12 properties between them, Hodges (from Southsea) spending over £11,230 (£291,980), or 36% of the total realisations.

Cottages opposite to the former Methodist Chapel

Cottages opposite to the former Methodist Chapel

Of the cottages, the average sale price recorded for 10 larger ones (i.e. 2 reception, 3 bedrooms) was £343 (£8918) and for 26 smaller cottages recorded (1 reception, 2 bedrooms) was £87 (£2262). The average annual rent for all 62 cottages sold was £7-2-3 (£185). In relation to the eventual sale price, the sitting tenants would need to wait 17.4 years, excluding interest on capital, to recover the savings in rent, and I am informed 20.5 years with interest included. Interestingly this figure of 17.4 years is identical to the same period for the average of the farms purchased by their tenants. One tenant, however, Mrs Ford of Greengage Cottage, 5 North Street still bought her rented cottage (3 pennies per week) giving a theoretical payback time of 153 years. She paid £100 for it (£2600).

Living Accommodation in Cottages

Cattle on the A350 passing Collyers Cottage

Cattle on the A350 passing Collyers Cottage

Downstairs
6 (10%) used the kitchen as a living room.
37 (65%) had a living room and kitchen.
12 (21%) had two living rooms and kitchen.
No data for 5 cottages.
Bedrooms
Only one cottage had one bedroom.
13 (24%) had two
31 (57%) had three
9 (17%) had four or more, including attic rooms.
No data for 8 cottages.

Sewage
None of the cottages had a flushing toilet.
36 (72%) had earth closets (one shared)
14 (28%) had pail closets with cesspit (one shared)
No data for 12 cottages. Amusingly, one description – for the want of a full stop – reads ‘… outside is an e.c. (earth closet) at present occupied by Mr E. Andrews’.

Outbuildings
90% of the properties had woodsheds and 16 (26%) had outside washhouses rather than indoor sculleries. Besides the 7 farms, 21 cottages (34%) had pigsties – so the porker was a good source of meat. Only one (substantial) cottage had a stable. They all had ‘good’ or ‘ample’ gardens and must have been largely self-sufficient in vegetables and apples. Only one cottage had a poultry house mentioned – presumably chickens had nesting boxes and the run of the garden.

Orchards
From the two plans issued with the catalogue, ‘in-by’ land was 65 acres, the remaining 1585 acres being fields and downland, and part of Fontmell Wood. Of these 65 acres, 20 acres (31%) were orchards. Ingman’s detailed plan of the village (1774) suggests the percentage then was over 50%. Today, sadly, it is less than 1% but at least one owner is starting to replant one of the old orchards (Stainer’s Orchard).

Water Supply in Fontmell in 1926

Communal tap for water supply

Communal tap for water supply


The Glyn Estate instituted catchment water from springs above the village to the north-east, which led into a covered brick and cement reservoir (Lot 67, ‘Piney Wells’) from which 5 communal taps were fed by gravity situated in North St., Lurmer St., Church St. and West St. The Lurmer St. tap is still there but non-functional, and a complete example can be viewed at Springhead (see illustration). The late Ann Locke can remember, when a child at this time, people collecting all their water supplies in buckets, often several times a day, in all weathers and that frost problems occurred in severe winters. The thatched pump outside Pump Cottage is a relatively recent replacement. This piped supply also delivered water direct to at least six favoured properties on the Glyn Estate, but to outside taps only. Thirty-six (46%) of the sale descriptions made no mention of water supply – as there probably wasn’t any. Three properties obtained water from streams. Besides the three overshot water wheels in the mills, there was another one supplying water power by means of linked shafts across Church St to the dairy at Moore’s Farm. This was also an overshot wheel 18 ft in diameter, served from the ‘Parish Pond’ (as described in the catalogue) next to Watermill Cottage. This wheel also drove the saw bench machinery in the adjoining lot (47a) bought for £30 (£780).

The fishing rights from Springhead to Hurdles Farm (1 mile 350 yards) were bought by RW Borley, the owner of the Grosvenor Hotel, Shaftesbury (and later of the Ashcombe Estate) for £450 (£11,700) a considerable sum even today.

Tenants were obviously glad to be able to purchase their rented homes. 53% took up the opportunity and a further 10% seem to have been bought by close relatives, although this needs further research into names and residency. Compared to present day property prices, houses were much cheaper in relation to the national average wage, in the region of 4 to 6 times cheaper. So too were annual rents, but not nearly to the same extent, even so some lessees must have found it a struggle to find £100 pa out of their rural yearly income in post-Great-War Dorset. The fact that well over a third of the value of the farms and village properties were snapped up by ‘outsiders’ for obvious onward sale confirms the good value of the rural housing market at that time.

NOTE: The adjusted cash figures are from Munby, How Much is That Worth? Brit. Assoc. for Local History (1992) updated to 2005 at 3% inflation pa.

Author: John Gadd