Fontmell Magna, East Orchard and West Orchard

December 11, 2006

FONTMELL MAGNA, EAST ORCHARD AND WEST ORCHARD
The civil parish of Fontmell Magna spreads in a long strip from east to west. The eastern end is on high ground at the edge of the chalk uplands of Cranborne Chase, while the western end is on the low ground of the Blackmore Vale and the tributaries of the River Stour. Between Shaftesbury in the north and Blandford in the south most of the parishes run from east to west in similarly narrow ribbons and most are situated at their eastern ends in small valleys that provide the essential reason for the sighting of the original settlements – the plentiful and reliable supply of clean spring water.

Map of Fontmell Magna district

Map of Fontmell Magna district

These nuclear or compact villages (church, manor house, cottages, surrounded by farm land) have hardly changed in layout since the late Saxon period (9th and 10th centuries) and the Domesday Survey (1086) shows Compton Abbas, Fontmell Magna, Sutton Waldron, Iwerne Minster, Iwerne Courtney (Shroton) and Stourpaine to be well established prosperous villages. Several possessed water mills, all recorded plough land, pasture, meadows and woodland.
However, the settlements to the immediate west of these villages have fared less well. Whereas Fontmell Magna and Iwerne Minster are now 3,200 acres and 2850 acres respectively, the adjacent parishes of East Orchard (950), West Orchard (750) and Margaret Marsh (550) cannot really be described as villages now, and perhaps they never were. The traditional classification of rural settlements is village, hamlet and farmstead. Fontmell Magna civil parish is a village and two hamlets, Bedchester and Hartgrove. In the census returns throughout the 19th century Bedchester and Hartgrove residents were included in the Fontmell censuses. But in early 18th century tax returns residents were recorded in as living in East or West Fontmell. There were other variants. The ecclesiastical parish of Fontmell included West Orchard (where St Luke’s Church was a Chapel-of-Ease to St Andrew’s in Fontmell) and East Orchard (where St Thomas’s Church was a Chapel-of Ease to St Mary’s in Iwerne Minster).
The early status of Bedchester is unclear. In his book ‘The Lost

Bedchester crossroads and chapel

Bedchester crossroads and chapel

Villages of Dorset’ (1979) Dr Ronald Good places Bedchester in the category of ‘villages now represented by farmsteads’. Certainly in the 14th century it was a manor in its own right, belonging to Milton Abbey rather than Shaftesbury Abbey (which owned the manors of Fontmell, Compton and Iwerne). The manorial court records of Bedchester dated 1395 (and now located at the Dorset History Centre) support the theory of independence. Exactly who owned Hartgrove is equally confusing. If, in medieval Dorset, it was a few farmsteads attached to East Orchard, then it would have belonged to the Norman baron Hugh Fitzgrip. It seems probable that the manor of Fontmell Magna absorbed Bedchester and Hartgrove at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539.
In 19th century Dorset agricultural workers often moved from parish to parish in search of employment (see our web article on ‘Village Life 140 Years Ago’). Consequently people born in Fontmell Magna (including Bedchester and Hartgrove) may occasionally be found in the census returns of adjacent parishes. We have already published data on inter-village marriages (see our web article ‘Fontmell Marriages in Local Parishes’) and we can now add some further information drawn from 19th century census returns.

East Orchard church

East Orchard church

EAST ORCHARD 1851 CENSUS
Persons born (or baptised) in Fontmell Magna:
John L. BENNETT, aged 70, farmer of 25 acres, employing 2 men
Thomas BENNETT, aged 67, (unmarried brother of above), retired farmer
William BENNETT, aged 32, farmer of 100 acres employing 6 men
Ann BUTT, aged 54, (wife of Samuel, dairyman)
George DENNIS (or Dinness), aged 21, agricultural labourer
Susanna GODDARD, aged 67 (wife of John aged 53, gardener)
John HEARLEY, aged 47, agricultural labourer, his wife Jean, aged 47, and his son William, aged 19
Edward HISCOCK, aged 43, mason employing 2 men and 2 boys, and 2 of his children, Hannah aged 8, and John aged 5
Augustus HUNT, aged 4 and Ann Emily, aged 2 (children of Henry, farmer of 80 acres employing 3 men)
William HUNT, aged 23, agricultural labourer
George LODGE, age 13 and his brother John, aged 12 (sons of James and Susannah)
James M. MAYO aged 63, farmer of 60 acres, employing 2 men, his son John George, aged 19 and his daughter Sarah George, aged 17
Frances MOCKERIDGE, aged 40 (wife of Richard, cordwainer)
John MOCKERIDGE, aged 24, stone mason
Love ROBERTS, aged 42 (wife of Martin) and their son Henry, aged 13
Hester TAPPER, aged 57 (wife of William, farmer of 60 acres, employing 2 men)
Thomas TUFFIN, aged 28, carpenter, and his wife Sarah, aged 26

EAST ORCHARD 1871 CENSUS
Persons born (or baptised) in Fontmell Magna:
William BARNES, age 28, carpenter, and his wife Keria, aged 26, shopkeeper
Thomas BRADLEY, aged 33, agricultural labourer
Ann BUTT (see 1851)
Annie CROSSER, aged 13, nurse maid (to Stay family)
Jane GRANT, aged 49, nurse
Emily HARDIMAN, aged 9, and Elizabeth, aged 9 months (daughters of Tom and Mary)
Harriet HISCOCK, aged 57, boot bender (wife of Robert, aged 58, bootmaker)
Edward G LODGE, aged 35, agricultural labourer
Frances MOCKERIDGE (see 1851)
John MOCKERIDGE (see 1851)
Robert RIDEOUT, aged 42, agricultural labourer
Love ROBERTS (see 1851)
Mary A. ROBERTS, aged 56, glover, (wife of Charles, aged 58, agricultural labourer)
Elizabeth SMALL, aged 73, needlewoman
Catherine A. STAY, aged 8, Mary E., aged 7, Frances E., aged 4 and George, aged 2 (children of Robert and Mary, farmers of 200 acres, employing 6 men and a boy)

EAST ORCHARD 1891 CENSUS
Persons born (or baptised) in Fontmell Magna:
Thomas BRADLEY (see 1871)
George FELTHAM, aged 30 general dealer
Beatrice HATCHER, aged 12, and David, aged 8, grandchildren of Sarah Stacey
Sarah J. HISCOCK, aged 23 (wife of Charles) and their children Robert, aged 4, Fred, aged 3 and George, aged 1
Frederick HUNT, aged 20, miller and Tom, aged 16 (sons of Edwin and Mary, millers)
Kate HUNT, aged 19 (daughter of Dinah)
Mary JEANES, aged 19 domestic servant
Eliza LEMON, aged 47 (wife of George T. agricultural labourer) and son John, aged 22
Edward G. LODGE, aged 54, agricultural labourer
John G. MAYO (see 1851)
Frances MOCKERIDGE (see 1851)
John MOCKERIDGE (see 1851& 1871)
Harriett POLDEN, aged 78
Mary A. ROBERTS (see 1871)
Frances A. STAY (see 1871)
Sarah STACEY, aged 58, washer
Mary WRIGHT, aged 61, widow, and son Walter, aged 33

WEST ORCHARD 1871 CENSUS

West Orchard parish church

West Orchard parish church


Persons born (or baptised) in Fontmell Magna:
James FIFETT, aged 70 agricultural labourer
Sarah GALPIN, aged 28, school mistress
Mary A. PLOWMAN, aged 41, dressmaker

WEST ORCHARD 1881 CENSUS
Persons born (or baptised) in Fontmell Magna:
Mary A. PLOWMAN (see 1871)
Jane ROBERTS, aged 31, (wife of Henry, 32, agricultural labourer)

WEST ORCHARD 1891 CENSUS
Persons born (or baptised) in Fontmell Magna:
Jane ROBERTS (see 1881)
Elizabeth WELDON, aged 54 (wife of James, 54, dairyman)
In sharp contrast to East Orchard, West Orchard had very few Fontmell-born entries. If we compare the two parishes in 1891, East had 24 out of a total population of 166 (14.45%) and West had only 2 from a total of 115 (1.73%). In that same year Fontmell Magna had a population of 637. Today the Orchards and Margaret Marsh have a joint Parish Council.

Author: Editor