Dorset OPC

Winterborne St Martin

alias Martinstown

Dorset OPC

Winterborne St Martin Church
© Kim Parker 2013

Winterborne St Martin is a tranquil village situated some 7 miles from the coast at Weymouth and 4 miles south-west of Dorchester, beside pre- historic Maiden Castle. The name is derived from the winter stream that runs through the village between the road and the cottages and from the dedication of the church. Originally there appear to have been three settlements in the parish: Martinstown in the centre, Ashton in the east and Rew in the west.

The Iron Age hill-fort known as Maiden Castle (see foot of page), built on the site of a deserted Bronze Age settlement over a Neolithic causeway, and the various barrows dotting the countryside here, such as Four-Barrow hill and Clandon, attest to an immemorial ancestry, older than any written history of England. Archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler’s excavations in the 1930s revealed an Iron Age cemetery at the fort, featuring burials of people who had died violently, including one with a Roman catapult bolt lodged in his spine. He believed Maiden Castle to have been the scene of a great last stand by the Ancient Britons in AD 44, but there is little evidence the Romans ever attacked the fort. It continued to be occupied after the conquest and a Romano-Celtic temple complex was built there in the fourth century.

Like the Romans, once the Normans had conquered England they built monumental religious edifices. The Parish church of St Martin (above) sits in the centre of Martinstown village. The original building was 12th century, but was refashioned in the perpendicular style when the tower was added in the 15th century and finally ‘restored’ in 1905. Inside there is a square Norman font (c1125) of Purbeck marble. A Chantry was founded here in 1367, probably in the north aisle where the Lady Chapel is now sited. There are the remains of a Jacobean pulpit, cut down from its original three decks, and a very rare George II hatchment (died 1760). The 18th century bells were sold to defray debts, but after a hundred years of silence, chimes rang out again in 1947 when five new bells were hung in memory of the war dead.

Since the Norman Conquest in 1066 the Manor has been held by only nine families: fitz Grip, de Lincoln, fitz Pain, Maltravers, Stafford, Howard, Napier, Sturt (later Allington) and Duke. The latter family auctioned off much of the land in 1912. Lordship of the Manor of Winterborne St Martin is still a registered title, however on a couple of occasions unscrupulous solicitors have concocted scams to sell the title of ‘the Barony of Winterbourne St Martin’, which does not exist.

In 1268 Henry II granted a charter to Winterborne St Martin, allowing it to hold an annual fair within five days of the feast of St Martin. For many centuries there was also a weekly market here for farmers to buy and sell animals and other produce. A circular sheep-washing pool (see below) just up the road from the village pub still exists, but these days it is used only for the annual duck race.

Winterborne St Martin Village Green
© Kim Parker 2013

The post of Online Parish Clerk (OPC) is currently vacant
If you would like to volunteer for the role, please contact the OPC Project Co-ordinator
Contributions of additional resource materials for the site are always welcome

Census 1841 Census [Mari Viertel]
1841 Census [Wanda Garrett]
1851 Census John Ridout]
1861 Census [Wanda Garrett]
1871 Census [Wanda Garrett]
1891 Census
1901 Census
Parish Registers Baptisms 1653-1812 [Kim Parker]
Marriages 1655-1812 [Kim Parker]
Burials 1653-1812 [Kim Parker]
Trade & Postal Directories  
Other Records Militia List 1756 [Caryl Parsons]
Martinstown Village Website [External]
Photographs Church Photographs [Interior] [Jan Hibberd]
Monumental Inscriptions  
Records held at the Dorset History Centre
Christenings 1653-1992. Marriages 1655-1671, 1677-1998. Burials 1653-1672, 1679-1992.

Winterborne St Martin Cottage
© Kim Parker 2013

Winterborne St Martin Sheep Dip
© Kim Parker 2013

Aerial photograph of Maiden Castle from the west (1937)


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