Holwell is a parish and scattered village sited on Oxford Clay in the Blackmore Vale 6 miles south east of Sherborne. It was formerly a detached part of Somerset, until it was transferred to Dorset in October 1844. Caundle Brook, a small stream, the principle tributary of the River Lydden, flows through the northern part of the parish and here was located the original medieval settlement. It contains the church, a large early 18th century rectory and a few stone cottages, a thatched store, and an inn on the cross roads by Crouch Hill. Known as The Borough it forms a perfect little hamlet. The church of St Lawrence, which was restored in 1885 is stone built and comprises chancel, nave, aisles, south porch and square embattled tower. The registers date from the year 1653.

The parish was part of Blackmore Forest, and had, within its limits, the principal lodge of that forest. King John appears to have visited Holwell several times, probably for hunting.

A parochial school was built in 1874 for 80 children and there was a post office and Wesleyan chapel. The parish extends to 2342 acres with the soil mainly clay, the land being used mainly for pasture. Higher and Lower Buckshawe form a hamlet one mile south west, Crouch Hill one mile south and Woodbridge two miles north east. The population in 1891 was 377 persons.

Barnes Cross, to the west of The Borough, is the site of the oldest pillar box still in use in Britain. The octagonal box was made by John M Butt & Co. of Gloucester between 1853 and 1856, and is cast with Queen Victoria’s cipher (see below).

Photographs show the church and cottages (The Borough) © Dorset OPC

The new Online Parish Clerk (OPC) for Holwell is Kim Parker
Please place the words 'OPC Holwell' as your subject for e-mails

Sadly on 5th July 2015 Caryl Parsons, formerly the OPC for Holwell passed away. Much of the material on this page was donated to the OPC Project by Caryl, and we are deeply indebted to her for her support and contributions.

Census 1841 Census [Kim Parker]
1851 Census [John Ridout]
1861 Census [Caryl Parsons]
1871 Census [Kim Parker]
1881 Census
1891 Census
Parish Registers
Baptisms 1653-1780, 1781-1840, 1841-1888
Marriages 1655-1726, 1727-1836, 1837-1910
Burials 1653-1726, 1727-1795, 1796-1850, 1851-1930
Register Notes
Parish Chest Holwell Poor Rate 1755
Holwell Vestry Book Extracts 1750-1873
Land Records Holwell Tithes 1776, 1789  
Monumental Inscriptions Monumental Inscriptions index
School Records School Subscription 1870-1874
School Admissions Register 1886-1922
School Log Book 1875-1902 1902-1922
School Managers Minute Book 1903-1949
Directories 1859, 1885, 1903 & 1923
Military Record Holwell Militia List 1799
Miscellaneous Records Holwell Petition 1884   
See also; Name extracts from Woodbridge Estate Survey in 1762 in the parishes of Holwell, Lydlinch, Stock Gaylard, Caundle Bishop, Caundle Marsh. etc.
Resources Holwell Information at Dorset History Centre
Maps The 1891 Ordnance Survey maps of the parish can be seen at the old-maps site, just enter 'Holwell' under place search.

Records held at the Dorset History Centre
Christenings 1653-1888. Marriages 1655-1992. Burials 1653-1970.

Photos (left to right): East end of the church, the old Victorian post box at Barnes Cross and the stocks just outside the churchyard
All photographs © Caryl Parsons/Dorset OPC


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