Milton Abbas, the First Planned Village in England

Dating back to 1773, Milton Abbas is a village in Dorset, eight miles south of Blandford and eleven miles northeast of Dorchester. Under the instructions of Lord Milton, the town of Middleton was, literally, moved elsewhere.

Aerial view of Milton Abbas from north.jpg Middleton was originally within the grounds of Milton Abbey. Joseph Damer, Lord Milton, 1st Earl of Dorchester, order the town of Middleton demolished and moved into the adjoining valley, known as Luccombe Bottom, reportedly because Middleton was too close to his estate’s manor house and obstructed his view of the surrounding countryside. [This was not so bad as it first may appear. The old village was run down and dirty.] The new village was called Milton Abbas. Most of the existing villages were removed to the new homes. Damer commissioned Sir William Chambers as his architect and Capability Brown as his landscape gardener to design the new village. Both men had previously worked on the Abbey.


‘Cob stitch’ repair on old traditional cob cottage in Devon, England ~

milton-abbas-7648[1].jpg The new village contained 36 identical thatched cottages. Each cottage was to house two families. The house were constructed from cob,  a natural building material made from subsoil, water, fibrous organic material (typically straw), and sometimes lime. Cob is fireproof,  resistant to seismic activity, and inexpensive. The houses were painted yellow and a horse chestnut tree was planted between each dwelling. A church and almshouses were situated across from each others. The almshouses were moved from Middleton. They dated back to 1674. The church was consecrate in 1786. It is built in the Georgian Gothic style.  The 14th-century abbey church is now a part of Milton School, which has taken over the mansion built by Lord Milton.

Construction on the new village began in 1773 and continued until 1780. There was a single sloping street lined with thatched-roof cottages, each evenly spaced one from the other.


Abbey Church of St Mary, St Sansom and St Bradwalader ~

“Milton Abbey was founded by King Athelstan (925-39) to commemorate the death at sea of his brother Edwin. All the early buildings, as well as documents, books and relics were destroyed in a fire in 1309 caused by lightning. The present huge 14th and 15th Century church comprises only the chancel, tower and transepts, as the eastern chapels were demolished, and the church nave was never built.

“… Milton Abbey is rated by John Phibbs, the leading expert on Capability Brown, as one of the top five Brown landscapes in the whole of England A new feature will be displays recording the History and Heritage associated with the Abbey. ranging from the foundation by King Athelstan, the first king of all England, to the monastic period, the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry V111, to the dramatic tenure of Lord Milton, who destroyed the old town of Middleton, created the village of Milton Abbas, and hired Capability Brown to create the glorious landscape that we all enjoy today. With all these elements to enjoy, no wonder it has been described as ‘The Milton Abbey Experience’.”


76267141.jpgThe official Milton Abbas website tell us: “Most of the houses are now single dwellings instead of double – in the 19th century they were very overcrowded – it is said that 36 people lived in one of the cottages.” In a 2011 census, Milton Abbas civil parish had 263 dwellings, 232 households and a population of 755.



Britain Express

Milton Abbas History Group

Milton Abbas Village

A Vision of Britain

Visit Dorset



About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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