Winterbourne Abbas is village and ancient parish, united with neighbouring Winterbourne Steepleton since 1667, lying in a valley five miles West of Dorchester either side of the old turnpike road to Bridport, now the busy A35. The first part of the name is for the South Winterbourne rivulet, a tributary of the River Frome that rises here. As John Marius Wilson so eloquently put it in his ‘Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales’ of 1872, “the name Winterbourne arose to this parish and to others from the periodicity of streams, issuing from chalk formations, disappearing in summer, and flowing copiously in winter”. The second part of the name is from the Latin ‘abbatis’ for abbot, in reference to Cerne Abbey which was given this manor in 872 from Ethelmer, son of Ethelward, a nobleman of King Ethelred, and owned it until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII. In medieval times it was sometimes known as Watreleswyntreburn from Old English waeter-leas for waterless, referring to the dryness of the South Winterborne river here in some seasons.
St Mary’s Church appears not to have been built, but rather to have emerged higgledy-piggledy over time, and bears the scars of many alterations. Nothing remains of the Saxon chapel that once stood here, but there are a few traces of the Normans, including the foundations of the present structure, the font and the holy water stoop. Nave and Chancel, which today seem so out of kilter, were built in 1250. Of particular note is a 1320 piscina for the washing of the communal chalice, intricately carved with two figures supporting a canopy. The tower, begun in the 14th century, but not completed until the 15th or 16th centuries, has well-preserved gargoyles. One of the three bells, the Benedictum cast c1430 by John Sturdy, bears the impress of a Plantagenet coin. The 1661 Hatchment on the East wall of the Nave is one of the first representations of the Royal Arms after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. Adding to the sense of disequilibrium of the interior, a 1701-built wooden gallery juts out over half of the Nave on the North side. Until 1881 there was a Church Band whose last surviving member, William Durnford, is commemorated by a memorial plaque. He would have witnessed the last great building project of the church in 1894 when it was re-roofed with New Zealand timber, the North Aisle demolished and the pulpit and seating installed.
1841 Census [Lynda Small]
1851 Census [John Ridout]
1861 Census [Wendy Warne]
1871 Census [Wendy Warne]
1881 Census [Wendy Warne]
1891 Census [Wendy Warne]
1901 Census [Wendy Warne]
1911 Census [Wendy Warne]
Baptisms 1791-1812, 1813-1904 [Wendy Warne]
Marriages 1732-1757 [BT] [Rachel Kent]
Marriages 1754-1812, 1813-1837, 1838-1921 [Wendy Warne]
Burials 1791-1812, 1813-1984 [Wendy Warne]
|Trade & Postal Directories|
|Records held at the Dorset History Centre
Christenings 1791-1992. Marriages 1754-1988. Burials 1791-1992.
Visitors to Dorset OPC
Copyright (c) 2017 Dorset OPC Project