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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Southampton

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Myths and Legends
A bunch of flour

Lady Mabella’s curse

Distributing the Tichborne Dole, 1670
The Tichborne Dole has been handed out for hundreds of years
© English Heritage

In 1796 the Tichbornes decided to stop the dole, as through the centuries the dole had become an event frequented by many paupers and vagabonds from surrounding villages – which made the whole event untenable.

But Lady Mabella had the last word. Her curse decreed that if any of her successors failed to distribute her dole, a severe penalty would be inflicted upon them. The family would be delivered a generation of seven daughters (immediately following a family of seven sons), the family name would die out and the ancient house would fall down. This myth was to become reality. In 1803, part of old Tichborne House collapsed into ruins, and at the time, there were seven Tichborne sons.

Misfortune struck the family in other ways too. George, the sixth son, died in 1802, aged only 13. In 1806, John, the fifth son, died in the East Indies. Four years later, Benjamin, the second son, died in China - a bachelor like his brother John. A few years later, Roger (son number seven) died – he was married but childless.

Henry, the eldest son who succeeded to the baronetcy in 1821, fathered seven daughters and in 1826, Edward, the third son, changed his name, so the estate came under ownership of the new family of Doughty. He produced the male heir so desired by the Tichborne heritage but, in 1835, the six-year-old Henry suddenly died. Edward Doughty immediately revived the Dole, and the family has lived at peace, along with the traditional dole, ever since.

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