February 19, 2015 by auntkatefirmin
The name Dorothy appears to go back several generations in the Blackford/Seymour families. I have written about Dorothy Sylvester Hall, named for her aunt Dorothy Seymour Blackford (Mrs John Sylvester). The elder Dorothy was named for her grandmother Dorothy Seymour (Mrs William Blackford) who was mostly likely named for her grandmother Dorothy (Mrs John Seymour). I say most likely because there were a number of Seymours and a surprising (to me) number of Dorothys.
I did some quick internet research and discovered that in the Tudor era Dorothy was somewhere in the 50 most common names. Dorothy Seymour Blackford’s 4x great grandmother Dorothy had a daughter who married in 1704, so the eldest Dorothy herself might have been born some time before 1660 – perhaps she was the namesake of a Tudor-era Dorothy. Unfortunately, none of the grandmothers named Dorothy lived to see the birth of their namesakes.
I have many questions about Dorothy Seymour but today I’ll summarize her early days and take a look at some of the visual reminders of her world. Her father, John Seymour, died when she was nearly 11 and her mother, Elizabeth Allen, died when she was not yet one. Her father remarried when Dorothy was about four. All told, Dorothy would have grown up in a household with her two sisters, a half-sister and three half-brothers. She had a brother John who died before she was born.
At least until her step-mother Ann Beckett married Robert Richens in 1739, I’ll assume that Dorothy lived in Badbury, a hamlet in the parish of Chiseldon. Her father was a yeoman and I have some ideas about what that meant about his work and his status in the community, but for now I’ll summarize by saying that I believe Dorothy’s family lived a rural life centered around seasons on the farm with a particular focus on cattle or dairying as beef and dairy cattle are still raised in the area. Her father was well off but so far there is no evidence that specifically details the size of his holdings, how many servants he may have employed or his social and economic standing in relationship to other yeoman in the area. It is very likely that his fields were scattered around the parish as the fields around Badbury were not formally enclosed until 1747. In other words there’s lots of research yet to do!
Even though Dorothy’s time in Badbury was close to 300 years ago, many landmarks remain. To this day the nearby downs are considered to be an area of outstanding natural beauty and in the intermediate years the authors Richard Jefferies and Alfred Williams wrote fiction, poetry, and nonfiction celebrating the beauty and heritage of the area.
Prominent on Dorothy’s skyline was the Iron Age fort, Liddington Castle.
In some eras Liddington Hill was believed to be the site of King Arthur’s last battle, but I don’t know what legends centered around the hill in Dorothy’s day or what other folklore might have been current.
Neither Badbury nor Chiseldon was a market town or held any special attractions in terms of attracting travelers or outsiders. Still, they are located in an interesting area in terms of ancient travel routes. The Roman Icknield Way and the more ancient Ridgeway are routes that crossed the downs just south of Badbury in an overall east-west direction. Before enclosure, when Dorothy was young, the Ridgeway would have been a braid of routes that drovers and others would have chosen from based on local conditions. The Ridgeway also passes by nearby Barbury Castle (another hill fort), the chalk figure know as the Uffington White Horse about ten miles to the northeast, and the neolithic era henge at Avebury about ten miles to the to the southwest.
Ladder Lane leading past Burderop Wood to Wroughton was another local road used by drovers and may well have been travelled by Dorothy as she visited cousins in Wroughton or Seymour relations that later farmed at Burderop Wood.
The ancient route called the Eldene Hegheway linked the Downs with the Thames Valley to the north. It crossed the edge of the scarp where the present village of Badbury is sited. Badbury, Chiseldon & Hodson are all located where the chalk downland meets the clay valley resulting in a line of springs along the scarp. The views northwards towards the Thames are very different than in Dorothy’s day.
This post only scratches the surface – this area has preserved lovely thatched cottages and I’m certain that other local discoveries await. However, I will close for the moment with a woodland scene that comes from a copse on the old Lydiard Park Estate a few miles farther north but essentially the same in appearance as copses where her father would have gathered wood for hurdles, fencing and various domestic needs.