Dorset OPC

Winterborne Tomson


Dorset OPC

St Andrew's Church, Winterborne Tomson
© Kim Parker/Dorset OPC 2015

Winterborne Tomson, often simply referred to as Tomson, is a tiny hamlet and civil parish a little over 6 miles South of Blandford Forum. The winter stream from which the first part of its name is derived flows West to East through the parish and courses on to join the River Stour (after Winterborne Zelston). ‘Tomson’ is derived from Thomas, a long forgotten 13th-century lord of the manor, and the Old English word ‘tun’ for estate. The full meaning of the name is therefore ‘Thomas’s estate on the River Winterborne’.

The Abbess of Shaftesbury appears to have been the owner of the estate, although it was leased out to various noble families, including the Champagne family in the early 14th-century and the Hussey family thereafter. In 1645 Royalist sympathiser Thomas Hussey had his estate here sequestered. However, it continued in the Hussey family until De la Lynde Hussey sold it to William Wake Esq., the father of an Archbishop of Canterbury (William Wake, 1657-1737). In 1750 it was sold to John Spencer, who later became Viscount Althorp & Earl Spencer. He in turn sold it to the Bankes family.

Today the parish consists of little more than a picturesque 17th-century farmhouse, a couple of cottages and the tiny church of St Andrew. Being small may have been to Tomson’s advantage since this gem of a church escaped the rebuilding zeal of the Victorians. It occupies the same floor-plan as it did in Norman times, suggesting the parish was never much larger than it is now, and is the only church in Dorset - as well as only one of four in England – to retain it’s Norman apse.

Without the apse and the little weather-boarded bell turret (housing a bell dated 1668, possibly cast by Anthony Bartlet of Whitechapel), the church might be mistaken for a farm building. Indeed, by the late Victorian era it was providing shelter to donkeys and chickens, being no longer in use as a church. It was close to dereliction when A.R. Powys, secretary of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, decided to lovingly restore it. Thomas Hardy was known to have been fond of the church, so some of his architectural manuscripts were sold to finance the work.

Inside the church the décor is simple and bright, with its uneven lime-washed walls and 3 large windows installed in the South wall in the 17th century. The 15th or 16th century waggon roof is unique in that it curves around the apse. Remains of finely carved bosses can still be seen where the oak ribs intersect. Archbishop Wake gifted the fine oak furnishings – including box pews, pulpit and screen – in the 18th century. He would sometimes turn up unexpectedly to his old home and conduct the services, which must have been daunting for the incumbent.

Perhaps the most unusual item in the parish is the red signpost on the Southern border with Bloxworth. It was painted red to indicate to illiterate prison guards where they should turn off the road to Botany Bay Barn (Bloxworth) - the first overnight stop for prisoners en route from Dorchester to Portsmouth to be transported to Australia.

Winterborne Tomson Manor
© Kim Parker/Dorset OPC 2015

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]
1851 Census [Kim Parker]
1861 Census [Kim Parker]
1871 Census [Kim Parker]
1881 Census [Kim Parker]
1891 Census [Kim Parker]
1901 Census [Kim Parker]
1911 Census [Kim Parker]
Parish Registers Baptisms 1711-1885 [Kim Parker]
Marriages 1638-1890 [Kim Parker]
Burials 1639-1915 [Kim Parker]
Trade & Postal Directories  
Other Records List of Rectors extracted from Hutchins History of Dorset [Dorinda Miles]
Monumental Inscriptions  
Records held at the Dorset History Centre
Christenings 1723, 1770-1811, 1816-1970.
Marriages 1751-2, 1760-5, 1802-27, 1844-1968.
Burials 1769-97, 1812-1915.


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