Winterbourne Abbas

Pages 380-382

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 2, South east. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1970.

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In this section


(O.S. 6 ins. aSY 58 NE, bSY 59 SE, cSY 68 NW, dSY 69 SW)

Winterbourne Abbas, a compact parish covering 1,513 acres, lies at the head of the South Winterborne valley 4½ miles W. of Dorchester. It is entirely on Chalk, capped in places with sands and gravels, and slopes from just over 600 ft. in the N. and 450 ft. in the S. to the South Winterborne which cuts across the S. part of the parish from W.-E. The slopes are cut into by a series of deep dry valleys. Flint from the underlying chalk has been extensively used as a local building material in combination with freestone or brick.

Winterbourne Abbas village, the original and still the only settlement, lies in the Winterborne valley near the E. end of the parish. Prehistoric remains include the larger part of an extensive group of barrows known as the Poor Lot Group and also the Nine Stones, a sarsen circle probably of the Early Bronze Age. The parish church is the principal monument.


d(1) The Parish Church of St. Mary (Plate 151) stands in the middle of the village on the S. side of the street. The walls are of Portland rubble and flint with dressings of Portland and Ham Hill stone; the roofs are slate-covered. Some work of the early years of the 13th century survives in the N. wall of the Chancel, the chancel arch and the S. wall of the Nave. The S. wall of the chancel was rebuilt in the early 14th century. In the 15th century the nave was widened on the N. side and the West Tower was added. The North Porch was built in the 17th century. The N. wall of the nave was heightened and the roofs were rebuilt in c. 1900.

The Parish Church of St. Mary, Winterbourne Abbas

Architectural Description—The Chancel (21 ft. by 14½ ft.) has a rebuilt 14th-century E. window of three pointed lights in a two-centred head with a label; the E. wall was largely rebuilt in 1724 and its ends have slight projections to N. and S. In the N. wall are two windows, the E. a lancet light of c. 1200, the W. originally similar but widened and with a round head and W. splay cut back for a squint, now blocked; between the windows is a doorway of the same date, with chamfered jambs and rounded head. In the S. wall is a 15th-century window of two trefoiled lights in a square head; it appears to have replaced a doorway. The original chancel arch is two-centred, of one chamfered order with moulded responds.

The Nave (33½ ft. by 19 ft.) has, in the N. wall, a 15th-century window of three cinque-foiled ogee lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head with a label and headstops. The N. doorway of c. 1200, reset, has plain jambs and a two-centred head. At the W. end of the wall is a buttress dated 1718. The S. wall has at the E. end a 15th-century projecting stair turret to the former rood loft; the lower doorway has a four-centred head, the upper, now blocked, is rectangular. The windows at the E. and W. ends of the same wall are of the 15th century. The one to the E. is of three cinque-foiled lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head with a label. The one to the W. is of three lights with uncusped vertical tracery in a two-centred head with a label and head-stops; the mullions and tracery are entirely of the 19th century; it is cut through the head of an earlier recess. Between the windows is a blocked two-centred 13th-century archway with moulded imposts which appears to have opened into an annexe; set in the blocking is a 16th-century window of two four-centred lights in a square head with a label.

The West Tower (9 ft. by 10 ft.) is of three stages with an embattled parapet and gargoyles. The tower-arch is two-centred and of two moulded orders, partly continuous and partly supported on attached shafts with moulded bases and capitals, the latter carved with foliage and the sacred monograms IHS and M. The W. doorway has moulded jambs and a two-centred head; the upper plinth moulding is continued over the doorway as a label and carved at the apex with a demi-angel; the W. window is of three cinque-foiled lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head with a label and head-stops. The second stage has a small rectangular window in the N. wall. The bell-chamber has, in each of the E., S. and W. walls, a window of two trefoiled lights with blind tracery in a two-centred head; the N. window is of one trefoiled light only. The stair turret is carried up above the main parapet.

The North Porch (8 ft. by 8 ft.) has an outer archway with chamfered jambs and a three-centred head.

Fittings—Bells: three; 1st by George Purdue inscribed 'HALLVIA 1604 GP RR'; 3rd by John Sturdy of London inscribed 'Sit nomen domini benedictum', c. 1440 (Walters, 106). Bell-frame, partly old. Font (Plate 8): round bowl of Ham Hill stone, stem with cable necking and central and four attached shafts with moulded bases on square plinth all of Purbeck marble, c. 1200. Gallery: On N. side of nave—resting on later iron supports, front panelled with balustrading above under moulded rail, front beam inscribed 1701, staircase at W. end. Glass: In nave, in S.E. window, in situ in tracery, two quarries in silver stain; in tower, in W. window, two fragments; all 15th-century. Inscriptions and Scratchings: Outside—above E. window, initials and date 1724 D.S.; on N.W. buttress 'Peter Bishop Church Warden 1718'. Monuments and Floor-slabs. Monuments: In nave—on E. wall, (1) to William Davis, 1814, and William his son, 1840, stone tablet with cinquefoil arched frame; on S. wall, (2) to Grace wife of Charles Henville, 1847, white marble tablet on veined marble backing. In churchyard—W. of porch, (3) to Elianor wife of Henry Clapcott, 1719, table-tomb with fielded panelled sides and ends; (4) to [S]arah wife of William Clapcot, 1704, and Henry Clapcot, 1716, table-tomb with arcaded sides and scrolled ends. N.W. of tower, (5) (6) to John Best, 17 . ., and to Mary wife of John Best, 1743, pair of table-tombs with incised arcading on side panels and shaped ends. S. of nave, (7) to Catherine wife of John Henvil, 1787, table-tomb with fluted angle pilasters. Also five other table-tombs of the 18th and 19th centuries. Floor-slabs: In chancel—(1) to Robert Forseth, 1717; (2) to John Studley, pastor, 1658; (3) to Elizabeth wife of George Browne, 1678. Niche: In nave—in E. wall on S. side of chancel arch, recess with square head. Piscina (Plate 4): In chancel—in S. wall, with two-centred head and continuous moulded jambs under triangular crocketed label with carved figure-stops and a large foliated finial, one moulded shelf and octagonal dishing to drain, mid 14th-century. Royal Arms: In nave—on E. wall, framed and painted Stuart arms in lozenge-shaped panel, with initials C.R. and date 1661, frame inscribed 'feare God Honour the King'. Stoup: In nave—in N. wall, square projecting bowl. Tiles: In chancel—15th-century slip-tiles with designs including fleurs-de-lys and a shield with a hart between three phaeons in an invected border.


d(2) Cottages, two (25 yds. N.E.), of two storeys with walls of coursed rubble and dressed flint and with a thatched roof, were built in the 17th century. They were originally a single house of one storey and attics which was heightened in the 18th century and extended to the E. in the following century by the addition of a cottage and barn.

d(3) Cottage (100 yds. W.N.W.), of one storey with gabled attics, walls of banded stone and flint and a thatched roof, was built in the late 16th century. The ground floor comprised two rooms: the hall to the W. has a ceiling sub-divided by chamfered beams and wall beams into four panels; the parlour lies to the E. and retains a three-light hollow-chamfered mullioned window on the N. side. A similar window remains in the gabled dormer of the chamber above. Alterations of the late 18th or early 19th century include the addition of a further cottage to the W. masking the original gable wall and outer doorway.

d(4) Cottages, two (90 yds. N.E.), of two storeys with banded flint and brick walls and a thatched roof, are of the early 19th century. Each cottage has a central doorway into a living room with a staircase behind, flanked by a storage room or stable formerly with a separate external door but now entered from the cottage.

d(5) Cottages, two (25 yds. N.), of two storeys with brick walls incorporating some flint at the back and a tiled mansard roof with half hips, were built c. 1830. The S. elevation was symmetrical but a shop window has been added to the W. cottage.

d(6) House (100 yds. N.W.) is of late 19th-century date but retains a fragment of late 16th or early 17th-century walling in coursed flint and rubble at the E. end.

d(7) House (150 yds. W.N.W.), of two storeys with walls of banded stone and flint and a tiled roof, was built in the early 19th century. The S. elevation, rendered in stucco, is symmetrical with a central doorway and bay window above; bay windows have been added to the ground-floor rooms flanking the door.

d(8) Lodge (609903), standing 1½ m. N.E. of Bride Head in the parish of Little Bredy, of one storey with walls of Portland stone ashlar and a slate-covered roof, was built c. 1837, probably to the designs of P. F. Robinson, and later extended to the S. It is designed in a castellated style (Plate 58), similar to Bride Head (fn. 1) which it serves; the plan is square with projecting angles, those facing the carriageway rising above the embattled parapets to form miniature turrets with blind cross-loops and arrow-slits.

d(9) Barn (40 yds. S.W.), with walls of banded flint and stone, is of 17th-century date. It was enlarged in 1722 and bears a stone with this date; it was further enlarged and re-roofed in the late 19th century.

d(10) Barn (200 yds. W.N.W.), on the S. side of the main road, with walls of banded flint and rubble, was built in the early 19th century.

b(11) Field Barn (598913), of chalk blocks faced externally with brick or flint and rubble roughly banded, was built in the mid 18th century; it is rectangular on plan, 56 ft. by 18 ft., with a porch on the N.; the interior bears many graffiti on the walls, 1775 being the earliest date.

Earthworks, Etc.

Mediaeval and Later Earthworks

d(12) Strip Lynchets, two (60669088 to 60639111), remain ¾ mile N.W. of the church. The sloping treads are 6 yds. and 4 yds. wide and the risers, shown by disturbances to be packed with flints, are up to 9 ft. high. The maximum length is 230 yds. and they run out at both ends. By 1840 the area was enclosed as meadow. (Tithe Map (1840); R.A.F. V.A.P. CPE/UK 1934: 5096.) See also Ancient Field Group (1).

Other Earthworks and Allied Monuments

(13) Long Barrow, p. 432

(14–54) Round Barrows, p. 461

(55) Enclosure, p. 504

(56–7) Stones, p. 515

Ancient Field Group (1), p. 623


  • 1. Dorset I: Bredy, Little, Monument (2).