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The Dorset Walk: 2 – Stratton & Jackman’s Cross

Teresa Rabbetts takes a walk just north of Dorchester and through the parish records

The church at Stratton, shot from the village green

The church at Stratton, shot from the village green


After the 1662 Poor Law Relief Act or (Settlement Act) an individual had to prove residency in order to belong to a parish; if local justices deemed that a newcomer was likely to require Poor Relief they would be rapidly removed and returned to their home parish. To prove residence an individual had to produce a settlement certificate (obtained by meeting one condition from the following: be born into the parish, to have lived in the parish for 40 consecutive days without complaint, be hired for over a year and a day within the parish, hold an office in the parish, rent a property worth £10 per year or pay the same in taxes, to have married into the parish, gained poor relief in that parish previously or to have a seven-year apprenticeship with a settled resident).  When a man moved, he was expected to take his Settlement Certificate to his new parish in order to prove that his home parish would pay for his removal costs should he need poor relief.  Not surprisingly parishes were unwilling to issue certificates and people tended to remain where they were until The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 took the system of relief away from parishes and introduced Poor Law Unions – also known as workhouses
The Dorset Online Parish Clerk website for Stratton lists the case of William Everett and his family when, in 1792, the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor for the Parish of Puddletown, where they had been living, stated that: ‘William Everett and William his son (by Betty his former wife deceased) aged eleven years and Anne his present wife and Sarah their daughter aged about nine weeks have come to inhabit in the said Parish of Puddletown not having gained a legal settlement there, nor producing any Certificate owning themselves to be settled elsewhere, and are likely to be chargeable to the said Parish of Puddletown.’
Apparently unable to verify settlement in Puddletown the overseers concluded that ‘the lawful settlement of the said William Everett…. is in the Parish of Stratton………….And we do require……………the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Stratton to receive and provide for them as Inhabitants of your Parish.’
William Everett was born in Stratton to Charles and Mary Everett and baptised in 1750.  He next appears in Puddletown when he married Betty Roper on 8 October 1780.  Betty was a ‘Puddletown girl’ – baptised there on 21 June 1752 – daughter of Henry and Hannah Roper.  On 5 August 1781, Betty and William baptised their first son also named William, five years before their second son Charles, baptised on 11 February 1786. Betty (listed as Elizabeth) died on 11 February 1786 after giving birth to Charles, who himself only survived his mother by a few weeks. Almost exactly six years later and William and his surviving son are still in Puddletown, where William married Ann Curtiss on 13 February 1792… in May, their daughter Sarah is born. Like William’s first wife, Ann was born in Puddletown. This is intriguing because – according to the criteria required to gain settlement in a Parish – William qualified not once but twice, both his wives having been born in the Parish of Puddletown.  On 26 May 1792, though, Puddletown Overseers obtain an Order to relinquish their responsibility and assert that Stratton receives and provides for the Everett family. It is in the register of deaths for Stratton we look next – baby Sarah died on 9 March 1794 and two years later, William himself dies. William junior lived in Stratton for the rest of his life, reaching 81 before he died in July 1862, leaving a daughter – Charlotte, an unmarried mother – and four grandchildren Elizabeth, Charles, John and Emily.

How to get there: Stratton is off the A37 just outside Dorchester.
Parking & start: Various roadside areas in the village.
Terrain: An easy walk with clearly marked tracks, a steady climb at the beginning – some muddy stretches & several stiles.
Distance: 4½ miles.
Maps: Ordnance Survey Explorer 117 Cerne Abbas & Bere Regis
Refreshments & lavatory: The Saxon Arms in the centre of Stratton village.

0170 Map - April
1 Leave Stratton by following the road through the village to the far western end and cross the A37 and follow the path northwest over the stile and across the railway, there are steps on the other side which rise to another stile and join the track which rises uphill on the course of the Roman road towards Grimstone Dairy.

 The early part of the walk, after crossing the road and railway line, on the way up to Grimstone Dairy

The early part of the walk, after crossing the road and railway line, on the way up to Grimstone Dairy

2 At the Dairy turn right just before the last barn on the right-hand side.  The track continues to rise to Grimstone Down – pass Grimstone Down reservoir on the right. Go through the gate and follow the path (an indent in the grass rather than a laid track) towards the tree-line at the far right-hand corner of the field. Go through the small gate and follow the path keeping the trees on the right (there is a break in the tree-line after a short distance but this is marked as Private and leads to Wrackleford Estate) – continue through a second gate on a grass/mud track until you reach Jackman’s Cross and stone seat.

The first of two reservoirs on the walk. This one is on the climb up to Jackman's Cross.

The first of two reservoirs on the walk. This one is on the climb up to Jackman’s Cross.

3 The walk continues leading behind Jackman’s Cross through the woods, and becomes a stone path with Kidney Plantation on the right – the path begins to descend slightly and continues to the far side of the field where there is a break in the hedge. There is a signpost here with one fingerpost missing – keep walking across the top of the hill with Watcombe Bottom descending on the left hand side.

Jackman's cross. Once you've see this, the walk is pretty much all downhill.

Jackman’s cross. Once you’ve see this, the walk is pretty much all downhill.

4  Two-thirds of the way across the field there are two gateposts (but no gate) and just as after this point the path divides (only marked on the grass by previous walkers) follow the right-hand fork, (Poundbury can be seen in the distance) which leads to the far right corner of the field. Go through the dilapidated iron-gate and continue on the path with the hedge on the left.  Pass the signpost following the marker which points to Charminster. At the next sign-post follow the route marked to Ash Hill which crosses the centre of a field descending to the far-right corner.  Pass through this gate and remain on the track which descends to Ash Hill.

5 Cross the A37 and turn right, following the pavement back to Stratton. ◗

A chalk stream burbles gently by… the A37. Bradford Peverell can be seen in the distance.

A chalk stream burbles gently by… the A37. Bradford Peverell can be seen in the distance.


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