MILTON-ABBAS, a parish (formerly a market town) in the hundred of WHITEWAY, Cerne subdivision of the county of DORSET, 7 miles (S.W. by W.) from Blandford-Forum, containing 767 inhabitants.
The present appellation of this place is a contraction of its ancient name of Middleton, implying its central situation within the county; the adjunct being given from its ancient lords, the abbots: it was formerly much larger than it is at present. In 1658, the upper part of the town was destroyed by fire, and a brief was granted for rebuilding it in 1661.
A Benedictine monastery was founded here, in the year 933, by King Athelstan, and dedicated to the honour of St. Mary, St. Michael, St. Sampson, and St. Branwalader, the revenue of which, at the dissolution, was valued at £720. 4. 1. The church, which stood northward of the abbey, was destroyed by lightning, on September 2nd, 1309: it was handsomely rebuilt, with the exception of the nave, in the reign of Edward II., and is now used as the private chapel of the Damer family: it consists of the choir, transepts, and tower of the abbey church; the former is in the decorated, and the two latter in the later English, style of architecture.
The conventual buildings, with the exception of the ancient hall, were taken down in 1771, and replaced by the present splendid mansion, called Milton Abbey, erected from a design by Sir William Chambers, in imitation of the later style of English architecture. An ancient chapel, dedicated to St. Catherine, has long been desecrated.
A market was granted by King Athelstan and confirmed by Edward I., who also granted a fair, to be held on the 27th and 28th of July: the market was originally held on Monday, and afterwards on Tuesday, but has wholly declined. In the 22nd of Charles II., a fair was granted to John Tregonwell, Esq., which was held at Windmill-Ash, on the 5th of June, and lasted a week, until its removal to Milton-Abbas, when it fell to decay.
The living is a discharged vicarage, in the jurisdiction of the peculiar court of Milton-Abbas, rated in the king's books at £10, endowed with £200 private benefaction, £200 royal bounty, and £1200 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of Lady Caroline Damer. The church, dedicated to St. Mary and St. Sampson, was built at the expense of the first earl of Dorchester.
Here is a free school, with a considerable endowment: the school-room was burnt in 1658, and rebuilt four years afterwards. An almshouse for six poor persons was founded and endowed by John Tregonwell, Esq., in 1674: the inmates receive a pecuniary allowance weekly, and some articles of clothing and money annually on St. Thomas' day.
Volume 3, page 305