Shipton Gorge Heritage

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History

THE ORCHARD, BROOK STREET, SHIPTON GORGE

 

For a hundred years from 1843 (and probably from much earlier than that) the land is recorded as having been an orchard.

 

The Apportionment or key to the 1843 Tithe Map held in the Bridport Local History Centre describes the land below St Martin’s Church as an orchard in the ownership of the Ilchester Estate.  The Earl of Ilchester was the head of the Fox-Strangways family who had owned most of the property and land in Shipton Gorge since the mid-17th century.  The orchard is described as being tenanted by Abraham Bartlett, a local farmer, who lived in Brook Cottage with his wife and 3 surviving children.  This was just one of 31 orchards, predominantly cider orchards, recorded in the parish.

 

After Abraham’s death in 1847 his wife Hannah Bartlett continued to manage the orchard until 1858, when the tenancy was taken over by John and Richard Major of Loders.  The Majors would have managed the land during an important time for the village because the church was almost completely rebuilt during 1861-62 under the direction of a Dorchester architect to whom one Thomas Hardy was apprenticed.

 

Ordnance Survey maps dated 1891, 1903 and 1929 held in the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester show (by the symbol of trees in a grid pattern) that the land was designated as an orchard throughout this period.  The land would have continued to be rented from the Ilchester Estate, and managed as an orchard, by a succession of village people, until its sale in 1910.

 

On 29 June 1910, at a large auction sale at The Bull Inn, Bridport, 650 acres of land, farmhouses, and most of the cottages along Brook Street, were sold by the Ilchester Estate into private ownership.  The orchard was sold for £170 to Messrs. Palmers of Bridport, the brewers, who also bought The Mason’s Arms.  

 

The land continued as an orchard after the 1910 sale.  Miss Patricia Lawrence, a former resident, has written in a recent letter, “The first time we visited Shipton Gorge was several years before coming to live there in 1938, and I have a vivid memory of looking down from the churchyard on to a sea of apple blossom………I have ‘scrumped’ a Tom Putt there years ago.”  The photograph reproduced here was probably taken in the 1940’s, and shows the land still running right down to Brook Street, and planted with trees in blossom.  

 

For a while after that the land became allotments.  Then in 1967 the land was sold into private hands by the brewery: sections of the former orchard on the eastern, western and northern sides came under separate ownership as extensions to gardens, and for homes to be built on them, whilst the remaining large central part was left unattended for a number of years until it was purchased in 2006 on behalf of the village.

 

ORCHARD HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Land below St Martin’s Church – historical background.

 

The following historical summary might therefore be of interest – as for a hundred years from 1843 (and probably from much earlier than that) the land is recorded as having been an orchard.

 

The Apportionment or key to the 1843 Tithe Map held in the Bridport Local History Centre describes the land below St Martin’s Church as an orchard in the ownership of the Ilchester Estate.  The Earl of Ilchester was the head of the Fox-Strangways family who had owned most of the property and land in Shipton Gorge since the mid-17th century.  The orchard is described as being tenanted by Abraham Bartlett, a local farmer, who lived in Brook Cottage with his wife and 3 surviving children.  This was just one of 31 orchards, predominantly cider orchards, recorded in the parish.

 

    After Abraham’s death in 1847 his wife Hannah Bartlett continued to manage the orchard until 1858, when the tenancy was taken over by John and Richard Major of Loders.  The Majors would have managed the land during an important time for the village because the church was almost completely rebuilt during 1861-62 under the direction of a Dorchester architect to whom one Thomas Hardy was apprenticed.

 

    Ordnance Survey maps dated 1891, 1903 and 1929 held in the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester show (by the symbol of trees in a grid pattern) that the land was designated as an orchard throughout this period.  The land would have continued to be rented from the Ilchester Estate, and managed as an orchard, by a succession of village people, until its sale in 1910.

 

On 29 June 1910, at a large auction sale at The Bull Inn, Bridport, 650 acres of land, farmhouses, and most of the cottages along Brook Street, were sold by the Ilchester Estate into private ownership.  The orchard was sold for £170 to Messrs. Palmers of Bridport, the brewers, who also bought The Mason’s Arms on Brook Street (the Thatch End / Mason’s Cottage building).

 

The land continued as an orchard after the 1910 sale.  Miss Patricia Lawrence, a former resident, has written in a recent letter, “The first time we visited Shipton Gorge was several years before coming to live there in 1938, and I have a vivid memory of looking down from the churchyard on to a sea of apple blossom………I have ‘scrumped’ a Tom Putt there years ago.”  The photograph reproduced here was probably taken in the 1940’s, and shows the land still running right down to Brook Street, and planted with trees in blossom.  

 

For a while after that the land became allotments.  Then in 1967 the land was sold into private hands by the brewery: sections of the former orchard on the eastern, western and northern sides came under separate ownership as extensions to gardens, and for homes to be built on them, whilst the remaining large central part was left unattended for a number of years until it was purchased in 2006 on behalf of the village.

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