Apportionment of Land by Inch Candle

 

In the parish of Puxton, Somerset; partly also in the adjoining parishes of Congresbury and Wick St. Lawrence, are two large pieces of land, called the East and West Dolmoors, in which some of the villagers had formerly certain common rights.

This was decided every year by a kind of lottery, held on the Saturday before Midsummer Day.

The Dolmoors were in the charge of two Overseers who held office for a year, and appointed their own successors.

One of their chief duties was to keep the allotments marked out in "Scroves" and "Sixes" by means of posts, which had to be constantly renewed.

 

On a sheet of paper kept by the Overseers; found in 1883 torn in shreds, but carefully fitted together, are figured and described a number of hieroglyphics.

Each of which represented an estate or tenant having the right to one or more of the allotments

 

As per this diagram

 

 

 

The Names of the Marks of the Apples that lay out the two Dolmoors are: -

 

 Five Poleaxes, four Crosses, two Dung Pickes, one handreel, one Horne, one Shell, one Oven, one four oxen and a mare, one five pits, one seven pits, one four pits, one three pits Brandierways, one two pits, one hares tail [perhaps ' Harse ' Tail?] one Ducks Nest, one Evil (or halter).

 

The Names of the Marks of the twelve Apples that lay out the Scroves in the West Moor and the Sixes in the East Moore are:-

 

Two Crosses, two Poleaxes, one four oxen and a mare, one four pits, one two pits, one shell, one Dung Pick, one Ducks Nest, one horne, one Evil (or Halter)

 

The same Apples that Lay out the Scroves in the West Moore also

Lay out the Sixes in the East Moore."   

 

 Early on the morning of the ceremony those who had rights in the Dolmoors assembled in Puxton Church at the sound of the bell, in order to witness the testing of the chain that was kept for the purpose of insuring that the divisional posts were the proper distance apart. The regulation length of the chain is said to have been eighteen yards, measured from the foot of the chancel arch down the middle aisle, to the foot of the arch of the west doorway. Twenty-four apples, on which were cut the " Marks " already alluded to, some of them being as will have been observed; in duplicate, were then taken in a bag to the moor. There the land was measured out, one acre at a time. As each acre was finished, an apple was drawn from the bag, and whatever mark it bore was cut in the turf of the first allotment, which then belonged for the year to the man whose name corresponded with that particular hieroglyphic.

 

  The company then repaired to some house, in which a room had been hired for the purpose, when, in order to raise funds to pay the expenses connected with the allotments, a part of the Dolmoors, variously called the Out Drift or Out Let, was let for the year by a sort of auction known as " Inch of Candle." A piece of candle an inch high was lit, and silence was proclaimed under a penalty of a shilling. A would-be tenant came forward, made his bid for the Out Drift, and laid down a shilling. Any man who made a higher bid, put down a shilling in his turn, when the first-comer would take his coin back. Each fresh competitor tendered his bid and his shilling, thus releasing the shilling of the man before him.

The last bid made before the candle burnt out was taken, and the man who had made it was thereupon declared the tenant of the Out Drift for the ensuing year. The ceremony concluded with a wake or revel, several times alluding to in the Parish Accounts; and a consider­able part of the expenses connected with the Dolmoors was for food and drink and tobacco, consumed apparently at this revel.

 

 

The name Dolmoor is of great antiquity.

In a charter of Edward II., dated 1325, it is recorded that Alicia Ofre gave to Woodspring Priory

Half an acre of meadow in " Estredolmore," and half an acre of meadow in " Westredolmore."

 

 

SOURCE:

The Seaboard of Mendip – 1902 by Francis A Knight Page 229

 

    

 

Page Last Updated:- 06/04/2016