Milton Abbas, Dorset
Architect: Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (?)
Estate sales catalogue: (1851)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library
Milton Abbas is perhaps the best-known improved Georgian village. Originally lying close to and south of the former abbey church, the old settlement was swept away by the 1st Lord Milton, who bought the estate and village in 1752.
Lord Milton employed Sir William Chambers to rebuild his house. Chambers was also tasked with planning the new village, an unusual commission for an architect best known for great Neo-classical houses and public buildings such as Somerset House, London (1775-80). Chambers designed 40 paired houses in 1773, shortly before he abandoned the whole commission because of his worsening relationship with his client, an unpleasant character whom Chambers afterwards described as ‘an unmannerly imperious Lord’. Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, who laid out the new landscape around Milton Abbey and who may have modified the designs a little, probably carried out the work.
This engraving, dating from 1851, shows the new village as built. The layout is cheerful and humane, the main street, curving and broad. The houses, with their deep thatch roofs and stout chimneys, are substantial, well spaced and sheltered in their valley setting. Though it is unlikely to have been of concern to Lord Milton the new village may well have been an improvement on what the villagers had before.