Joseph Damer, 1st Earl of Dorchester

Joseph Damer, 1st Earl of Dorchester (12 March 1718 1798) was a wealthy landowner particularly associated with the reshaping of Milton Abbey and the creation of the village of Milton Abbas in Dorset, south-west England.

Born into a wealthy family (his great-uncle was a money-lender in Ireland), Damer was educated at Trinity College, Dublin in 1734–5,[1] and became Member of Parliament (MP) for Weymouth in 1741 at the age of 21. He later represented Bramber in Sussex (1747) and Dorchester (1754). Damer was created Baron Milton of Shrone Hill, Tipperary, Ireland on 30 May 1753 and Baron Milton of Milton Abbey on 10 May 1762.

He married Lady Caroline Sackville, daughter of the 1st Duke of Dorset on 27 July 1742. Ten years later, he purchased Milton Abbey and embarked on an ambitious project to reshape the surrounding valley.

He replaced some existing buildings at the Abbey with a mansion house (designed initially by architect John Vardy, then by Sir William Chambers, and completed by James Wyatt) for his own use. Landscape gardener Capability Brown was commissioned to remodel the surrounding grounds.

As a wealthy landowner Damer also set about the systematic removal of the neighbouring small town of Middleton and its residents. By 1780, most of the residents had been relocated to a new purpose-designed and built model village, Milton Abbas, approximately half a mile south-east of the Abbey; the town's school was moved to Blandford Forum, 7 miles (11 km) away. The original town was razed to the ground and landscaped, most of the site disappearing beneath a new ornamental lake.

When his wife died on 24 March 1775 at the age of 57 he commissioned the Italian sculptor Agostino Carlini to create a magnificent tomb to her memory in the Abbey Church.

Earlier, in 1751, Damer also commissioned Vardy to build him a London residence on Park Lane. After Damer became the first Earl of Dorchester and Viscount Milton in 1792, this mansion became The Dorchester. Although Vardy's mansion was replaced by an Italianate building during the mid-19th century, the name lives on: today it is a world-famous luxury hotel: The Dorchester.

He had three sons. The eldest, John, born in 1744, married the sculptor Anne Seymour Conway in 1767. She separated from him after seven years. Deep in debt, John Damer shot himself in 1776.[2] The second son, George, born 1746, succeeded his father as Earl of Dorchester.


  1. "DAMER, Joseph, 1st Baron Milton [I] (1718-98), of Milton Abbey, Dorset, and Shronell, co. Tipperary". Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  2. Alison Yarrington, "Damer, Anne Seymour (1749–1828)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 Subscription site

External links

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
John Tucker
John Olmius
Thomas Pearse
George Dodington
Member of Parliament for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis
With: John Tucker
John Raymond
James Steuart
Succeeded by
Welbore Ellis
Richard Plumer
George Dodington
Edward Hungate Beaghan
Preceded by
Henry Gough
Thomas Archer
Member of Parliament for Bramber
With: Henry Gough
Henry Pelham
Succeeded by
Viscount Malpas
Nathaniel Newnham
Preceded by
John Pitt (of Encombe)
George Clavell
Member of Parliament for Dorchester
With: John Pitt (of Encombe) 17541761
Thomas Foster
Succeeded by
Thomas Foster
John Damer
Peerage of Great Britain
New creation Earl of Dorchester
Succeeded by
George Damer
Baron Milton
Peerage of Ireland
New creation Baron Milton
Succeeded by
George Damer
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