Milton Abbey, Dorset
Church and House

Click on photos to enlarge.
Notes in italics from Dorset by John Newman and Nikolaus Pevsner (2002)
Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

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Milton Abbey was founded about 935 by King Athelstan. ... A larger church was built in Norman times, but  ... destroyed by fire in 1309, and rebuilding must have begun soon. ...
The church lies S of the house and consists of choir, crossing and transepts only. It is like a huge Oxford college chapel. ... The architecture outside as well as inside is singularly limpid. One might call it classic (not classical). What there is of differences of style does not detract from the clarity. ...
The choir with its aisles, of seven bays,
(is) very uniform in style and hardly possible later than say 1325. All the windows of the aisles as well as most of the clerestory are of three stepped lancet lights, cusped, under one arch with the spandrels pierced. ... 

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The E window of the clerestory ... is of seven stepped lancet lights. ... The vaults of aisles and choir are quadripartite and have bosses. The piers have strong attached shafts and round moulded capitals, the arches the typically Dec sunk wave mouldings. ... The crossings and transepts have the same system, although the crossing piers have to each side four, not three shafts.

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What does now change, however, and radically, is the window tracery. It is flowing, i.e. Late Dec, in the S transept and Perp in the N transept. The great S window is of seven lights and thoroughly reticulated in the tracery. The side windows are partly as in the choir, partly simply flowing (of two lights). The N transept must be Middleton's (Abbot Middleton 1481-1525) ... (It) is shorter than the S transept .. and to the N and S one very long three-light window with two transoms. ... He was also responsible for the lierne vaults of both transepts ... and the crossing tower and its fan vault. The tower has to each side two long two-light bell-openings and three pinnacles . ... The W porch is by Sir George Gilbert Scott, who restored the church in 1865. ...
The gorgeous S transept S window by Hardman, designed by Pugin in 1847
(first picture).

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Lady Milton, died 1775, wife of the builder of the house. Designed by Robert Adam and carved by Agostino Carlini. White marble. Daintily Gothick tomb chest. Lady Milton is represented recumbent, Lord Milton pensively contemplates her, his head propped by his elbow (N transept).
Mary Bancks, died 1704 and others to 1725. ... Reredos with inscription on drapery and three putto-heads in clouds over. Detached Corinthian columns and a partly segmental top. ...
Upper half of a St James, c.1500 ...
Baron Hambro, died 1877. Recumbent marble effigy. ... From 1852 to 1933 Milton belonged to the Hambros; in 1954 the house became a boys' public school.

Milton Abbey School 

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The monastic buildings lay to the N of the abbey church ... After the Dissolution they were converted to be the mansion of Sir John Tregonwell, purchaser of the abbey lands. Beginning in 1769 Joseph Damer, Lord Milton and later 1st Earl of Dorchester, employed Sir William Chambers to demolish all but the abbot's hall, and construct a new mansion (1771-4). ...
West facade, overlooking the broad valley.  Chambers, more than most of his contemporaries, was antipathetic to the half-hearted Gothic of the time. So it is not surprising to find that when he carried the Gothic style round to the show fronts (north and west) his gothicism is something less even than half-hearted. Both fronts are of beautifully cut, and now lichened, Portland ashlar, in which even the miniscule carved string-courses have retained their crispness. The compositions, however, are bold. ... The W front with a flat centre part of 2, 3, 2 bays, with quatrefoil attic windows, and triangular gablets over the side parts, a peculiar feature. Polygonal angle buttresses. Pierced top parapet and small finials, the skyline's only punctuation, the parapet repeated from the church. ... Two-storey links lead to three-bay projecting ends. The windows have flattened four-centre heads and hoodmoulds. ... The pinkish-grey of the house is a flat contrast with the church's ochre hues. ...

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The grounds were landscaped by Capability Brown. Today, with school playing-fields in the foreground, one sees a bowl of undulating green sward and field, and the surrounding hillsides clothed in dense wood.       

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Between 1771 and 1790 the Earl of Dorchester swept away the market town of Milton Abbas, which in the Middle Ages had grown up beside the abbey.  ...  See artist's impression above.

The picture is displayed in the church with this note alongside: "An artist's impression of what the medieval market town of Middleton might have looked like. Painted by Commander Hodgekinson who was the first headmaster of Milton Abbey School."  (He was in fact the second headmaster, taking over in 1955. The first headmaster was the Rev. C K Francis Brown who founded the school in 1953).

The Earl rebuilt Middleton, or Milton Abbas, 3/4 mile south-east, see

Milton Abbas

Milton Abbey School Website 

More on Milton Abbey at the Dorset Historic Churches Trust



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