12th March 1539. It paid to marry well!

This Post shows how the Strangways Family, did well out of Henry VIII’s monastic dissolutions, as did hundreds of others, by acquiring Abbotsbury in Dorset, and later a title.

It also shows how through marriage to the Strangways, how the Fox Talbot Family acquired Lacock Abbey and how through another judicious marriage between the Talbots and Mansell’s, it later resulted in the giant steel works at the eponymous Port Talbot, South Wales. 

Melbury House

Melbury House, today, home of the Strangways, rebuilt 1546, altered in 1692 and revamped in the 19thc.

Today in 1539 the monastery of Abbatsburie (Abbotsbury) in Dorset, was surrendered by the last abbot Roger Roddon, into the hands of Henry VIII. It resulted in his Commissioner, Sir Giles Strangways, buying the buildings, which included manor house, water mill, land and swannery which originally would have supplied food to the monks, all for the grand sum of £1906.10s.(1)

Abbotsbury Abbey remains showing the large barn to store produce. The abbey was founded by King Cnut's (Canute) thegn Orc. Ref below

The Benedictine Abbotsbury Abbey remains showing the large barn to store produce.
The Abbey was founded by King Cnut’s (Canute) thegn Orc in 11thc. Ref below

The estate of Sir Giles of Melbury, Dorset, eventually passed to the son of Sir Stephen Fox, yeoman farmer and courtier, later Sir Stephen Fox-Strangways who was created by George II, 1st Earl of Ilchester (1704-76).

Stephen took the additional name of Strangways in 1758, in right of his wife’s ancestor, when he inherited.(2)

Melbury is also noted for being the birthplace of William Henry Fox Talbot the pioneer photographer of Lacock Abbey.

Lacock passed by marriage to the Talbots in the 16th century when John Ivory Talbot’s daughter inherited.

The photographer’s father was William Davenport Talbot, whilst his mother was Lady Elizabeth Fox-Strangways (daughter of the 2nd Earl of Ilchester);

The Talbot’s then moved to Glamorgan via the marriage of John Ivory Talbot of Lacock with Mary daughter of Thomas Mansel 1st Baron, of Margam Abbey, Glamorgan.

It was CRM Talbot who was to found the eponymous Port Talbot in South Wales set to become the centre of the enormous mining and steel works complex.

(1) Dorset had a unique pre-eminence in the number and importance of the religious houses founded during the the Saxon period, and no fewer than nine monastic establishments were known to have existed.

(2)  The Strangways had long been connected with Melbury Sampford in Dorset and Kilmington in Somerset (now Wilts). After the last male died in 1726, the Family’s land-ownings and name were to survive through the manoeuvring of Susannah Strangways the sole heiress to the west country estates including Melbury.

She had an affair with Henry Fox 1st Baron Holland (who was the father of Charles James Fox), and arranged a secret marriage between her daughter Elizabeth, aged 13, and Henry Fox’s elder brother Stephen [Fox Strangways]: (A girl then could be married at 12 with parental permission).


William, the photographer, married into another wealthy family when he married Constance Mundy of Markeaton.

Thomas Hardy’s maternal ancestors had been tenants/employees of Melbury and he fictionalised the story of the earls and countess of Ilchester in the frame narrative, ‘A Group of Noble Dames’ (1891).

Ref: wikipedia.org/melbury_house. Pic Ref.

Ref: wikipedia.org/abbotsbury_abbey. Pic by John Armagh.

Ref: Victoria County History of Dorset pp.48-53.

Ref: British History Online, religious Houses of Dorset Introduction.

Ref: Jones’ Views of the Seats and Mansions of noblemen; J Preston Neale et al V2 Google Books.co.uk.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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