[Religion - Poplars report]

The Poplars report

The following article, researched in response to an application to build four houses on the site of The Poplar Inn , was reprinted in the October 1998 edition of Three Towers.

Fovant Meeting House and Burial Ground

We know from a document in the Salisbury Meeting House that there was a Quaker Meeting in Fovant, a small Wiltshire village to the west of Salisbury, between 1678 and 1717, although the numbers there cannot have been large.

The Quaker Records in the Dorset County Record Office in Dorchester provide some small pieces of information about the early Meeting at Fovant. The Register of Quaker Births in Wiltshire contains two entries for the village, Robert Day born on the 26th of the 9th month of 1695 and his sister, Rachel, 4 years younger, whose birth date is given as the 18th of the 12th month of 1699. They were the children of Osmond and Elizabeth Day, coopers of Fovant. The Register of Quaker Marriages contains only one entry for the village, also with the name of Day. This is Elizabeth Day, shown as a spinster of Fovant, whose marriage to Thomas Martin of Fordingbridge took place in Salisbury on the 13th of the 6th month in 1721.

Then we have the will of Elizabeth Dunn, clearly, since she owns land, a fairly prosperous member of the Fovant Meeting. The will is dated ‘this seven and twentieth day of March AD 1705’, (the Quakers were now beginning to use the names for the months). The relevant section of the will, slightly paraphrased, reads as follow:

‘I Elizabeth Dunn of Fovant, a widow being at present infirm in body but of sound and perfect mind and memory … do give and devise a certain piece of land now bounded out in my orchard in Fovant aforesaid for a burial ground for my brethren called Quakers wherein I do appoint my Executor and trustees to inter my body when deceased with free liberty of ingress and egress for any Quaker whatsoever to be interred within the place aforesaid without any contradiction of my heirs but any money or profits shall remain with my heirs’

Elizabeth Dunn died in 1708, 3 years after making her will. Hers is the only entry for Fovant in the Quaker Register of Burials for Wiltshire where her death is recorded as occuring on the 26th of the 3rd month of 1708, but although her death is entered, her place of burial is left blank.

However we do have in the Dorset Record Office a small bound book containing a record of Quaker burials in Wiltshire listed in order of their sites. The book is undated but must be at least 150 years old. It contains the following entries for Fovant.

Abell James 22.7.1709
wife of James 10.11.1702
Dunn Elizabeth 26.3.1708
Hillard William 22.7.1702

The only other reference to Fovant that I have been able to find in the Record Office is a schedule made in 1852 concerning Elizabeth Dunn’s orchard which has the following note attached: ‘The above piece of ground has been for many years lost to the society of friends and cannot now be identified in 1848. J.R. (John Rutter)’

Assuming that the land known in the village as the Quaker Burial Ground was in fact Elizabeth Dunn’s old orchard, it would thus seem possible, or even likely, that when the builders come to dig the foundations of the houses they propose to build there they will uncover the remains of the 4 Friends list above.

Jim Attfield - October 1998
Dorchester Society of Friends

A detailed archaeological survey, made prior to any development, found no evidence of burials. A complete report on the archaeology carried out may be found in the Reference Library at Trowbridge, under the references ASI 3087/1, W000007991 and FOC 930 BL

Content last updated
11 June 2006

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