History of Milborne Port

How did Milborne Port get it’s Name?


Milborne Port is a borough town ten miles from Ivelchester and two miles south east from Sherborne in Dorsetshire. The situation is very pleasant being in a vale nearly surrounded by fine hills and in a heathful soil.  It consists of four streets: the principal one is called High Street and is tolerably wide but irregularly built. In this street is the Guildhall, an ancient building having a door-cope partly of Saxon and partly of Norman structure.  In the middle of the town stands an old market-house (Town Hall), now converted into a warehouse and the arches closed up.  Here are considerable manufactures of woollen, linen and hosiery which employ most of the poor in this and neighbourhood parishes. (1) The principal markets for the good are London, Bristol, Bath, Salisbury and Exeter.   This parish contains about four thousand acres of land (2) and feeds annually about two thousand five hundred sheep.  The enclosed part is mostly arable and produces good crops of all sorts of grain: the soil is stone rush.  There is maul and stone for rough building and for repair of roads: but it is of a soft kind and quickly turns to dirt.  It contains few (if any) fossils.  In the High Street of the town is a well called Town Well (probably this refers to the well generally known as Tap,s Well) which supplies most of the inhabitants with water.  Another spring, called Bath Well, rises behind the church. A third spring, rising at Bradley-Head, forms a brook which turns a corn mill in the hamlet of Milborne Wick.  From the circumstances of these springs and rivulets, and from there having been formerly in this parish more mills than in any other parishes of the county (3), the Saxons gave this place the name of Myll-burn, which is compounded of Mill or MYLEN, a mill and BURN, a torrent: and from the circumstances of it being a borough and market town, the most considerable in this parts, it obtained the additional name of PORT (4), signifying a town, or incorporated vill, by which it is distinguished to this day. The Arms of the borough are a lion passant guardant with the letter R in base.  The manor of Kingsbury-Regis,  a tithing in this parish belongs to the Earl of Uxbridge.  John de Burgh gave this manor to the King whence it received its additional title.

Collinson’s  ‘History of Somerset’, published in 1791.


The Tippling Philosopher


The Tippling Philosopher was named after the brilliant scientist, chemist and philosopher Robert Boyle (1627 – 91) who was the 7th son and 15th child of the 1st Earl of Cork.  Robert was sent to Eton at 9 and to a tutor in Geneva at 14.  He returned to England in 1644, living partly in London with his sister and partly on the estate he inherited at Stalbridge in the Elizabethan Manor at Stalbridge Park. It was at Stalbridge that he began to dabble in chemistry and he built a furnace there to help in his experi -ments. In 1654 he moved to oxford where his lodgings and laboratory were a meeting place for all the young scientists. In later years his talent and genius made Boyle a leading figure in the foundation of the Royal Society.  He is still remembered today, with his famous “Boyle’s Law taught in physics and chemistry courses. There is a road named after him in Stalbridge”Boyle’s Close, to commemorate his remarkable talents.  After he left Stalbridge, the Marquis of Anglesey moved into the Manor House. 

Prior to the name “The Tippling Philosopher” or “The Tippler” the public house was more than likely to have been called “The White Lion”.  The story goes that during the reign of George III when war with France was threatening  an account of how the local inhabitants of Milborne Port  showed their loyalty to the King and their respect for law and order  appeared in a Wilitshire paper; “ Though Milborne Port  is in Somersetshire it is only a few miles outside our county and may well be included in this account of the crisis”. A meeting was held in the  Market Place of the Town, which was well attended, and resolutions were passed to form a society for suppressing seditious and inflammatory publications tending to disturb the public peace’, and supporting a ‘vigorous execution’ of the laws for theprotection of persons and property. These were carried with acclaim. Whether it was the desire of the inhabitants to show their determination to support and carry out the laws of the country and suppress evil-doers’ or whether it was by mere chance that the execution of Tom Paine, a criminal, had been fixed for the same day, local history does not say. 

At 1.30pm that wicked and no doubt miserable Tom “was drawn in a cart through most of the streets and at 3pm was hanged outside the public house known by the sign of “The Tippler”.  Whilst hanging he was repeatedly shot at, and remained hanging while a large party of loyal inhabitants was celebrating the meeting (or was it the hanging?), by having a public dinner in The Tippler, from the window of which Tom was in full view!  After having done themselves well and dinner was over, Tom was drawn in a cart to the top of East Hill and there burned.  At about 10pm. when the fun was over, including the burning of Tom, the party broke up and several of the diners were heard to remark that “They had never known a meeting where ‘greater harmony and propriety’ had prevailed the whole time. 

The change of name to the King’s Head possibly happened because of a visit made by King George III to the Marquis of Anglesey.  During the earlier years (early 1800’s) many inquests were held at the King’s Head but some papers still referred to it as the Tippler.  In 1835 the Marquis lost interest in Milborne Port and sold all his Milborne Port properties including the King’s Head to Sir William Coles Medlycott.  The King’s Head stayed in the ownership of the Medlycott family from 1835 through to 1966 when it was purchased by the brewers from Dorchester, Eldridge Pope. They bought the property along with the Constitutional Club (now the Sports and Social Club) and Club House (now the library and dentists). 

This is just a glimpse of a look at the King’s Head (Tippling Philosopher) that had been at the centre of village life for over 300 years.

We would like to thank Richard Duckworth for this extract from his book “Yesterday’s Milborne Port” Published in 2004 in helping us with this historical information.