Weymouth-Dorset.co.uk Local History


The parish of Preston, Dorset lies just to the East of Weymouth, along the Preston Beach Road and then Preston Road. It's ancient history is still clearly visible today with the remains of a Roman temple above Bowleaze Cove and a hill fort, Chalbury Camp to the North West, although in the parish of Bincombe it is just on the boundary. Chalbury Camp is of Stone Age origin being a neolithic settlement probably associated with Maiden Castle on the outskirts of Dorchester. Below Chalbury Camp lies Rimbury Hill an ancient burial mound. Many artefacts of burials have been discovered here.

Preston has long been associated with Sutton Poyntz its neighbour, both coming under the Liberty of Sutton Poyntz in civil administration. (For history of the manor, please see the Sutton Poyntz page.) The parish registers of St. Andrew's Church Preston are those of Preston cum Sutton Poyntz and contain entries relating to the inhabitants of the latter. Sutton Poyntz being a chapelry to Preston and being Peculiar of the Prebend of Preston ecclesiastically.

The approach to St. Andrew's Church, Preston is delightful. A lychgate said to be partly constructed using timbers from the burnt down courthouse at Sutton Poyntz, offers a charming place to sit and admire the flowers which adorn the pathway, and of course the church itself. The church is 14th century although built on the site of a Saxon church. The font remains from the Norman church. During the sixteenth century the south aisle was added and the tower was rebuilt incorporating some of the 14th century materials.

St.Andrew's Church, Preston, Dorset

St. Andrew's Church, Preston, Dorset

The village of Preston has some interesting old buildings, some easy to find and others tucked away in quaint settings. The true history and appeal of such places can only really be appreciated by taking a walk along the little paths and narrow roads. Along the route from Osmington into Weymouth however there are some gems to be seen.

Upon entering Preston from Osmington Hill, on the left hand side of the Preston Road stands the local public house, the Spice Ship. The Spice Ship was formerly called just the Ship or the Ship Inn.

On the 1841 census the only publican listed in Preston is James Plowman, with his wife Eliza and their three daughters, Mary aged 8, Ann aged 5 and Jane aged 1, all born in Dorset. James Hayward Plowman had married Eliza Hellier at Preston on 21st July 1831. He was born 1810 the son of James Plowman and his wife Rebecca Thorne Cox.

The Spice Ship public house, Preston, Dorset

The Spice Ship, Preston, Dorset

The Post Office directory of 1849 lists James Plowman at the "Ship" as does Hunt's directory of 1851. A check of the 1851 census however shows James Plowman then aged 40 to be a bricklayer born at Sutton Poyntz, employing a young bricklayer of Weymouth, Charles Pond aged 14. There is a possibility that James Plowman was rebuilding the Ship as the late Eric Ricketts observed in his "Buildings of Old Weymouth - Part Three - The Villages" (1977) that the Inn "appears to be of about 1840 with a very much earlier background of building as still shewn in the survival of no. 232 [Preston Road] to the west, thatched and circa 1740". Kelly's directory of 1855 records James' wife, Eliza Plowman at the Ship.

By the time of the 1861 census however, the Plowmans are no longer there. The Ship then being in the occupation of Joseph P Miller aged 42 born Sutton, and his wife Elizabeth. Kelly's Directory of 1867 shows Joseph Miller at the Ship who is also a farmer. By 1875 the directory entry has changed to show Mrs Elizabeth Miller in his place and she is also a farmer. The 1880 directory shows the same information. The year 1898 lists John Guppy at the Ship who is also the Collector of the Poor Rate.

Being on the main thoroughfare, one would expect an inn such as this to have a long history, perhaps as a coaching inn.

Just along the road from the Spice Ship and into a short lane where the Victorian school has been converted, sits Manor Cottage. This cottage is of much importance in the history of Preston for it was at one time the home of the Wesley family, the founders of Methodism.

John Wesley the grandfather of the founders was born in 1636 to Bartholomew Wesley who was the Rector of Charmouth in Dorset. John found employment in Melcombe Regis and joined some Presbyterians. In 1658 he became Rector of Winterborne Whitechurch, Dorset. It was here that his son Samuel was born in 1662. John Wesley, like many others of the same leaning, refused to comply with the requirements of an Act and lost the living.

John tried to move back to Melcombe Regis but the authorities of the time imposed fines and made it near impossible for him to live there. Impoverished, the family moved around and it came to the attention of the Vicar of Preston and the local landowners, the Gollop family. Manor Cottage became their home in 1663 under the generosity of the Gollops who allowed them to live there rent-free. Two years later the Five-Mile Act came into force that forbade ejected clergy to preach within five miles of any parish. Imprisoned several times, the now wandering preacher eventually returned to Preston where he died in 1678.

Manor Cottage, Preston, Dorset. Where the Wesley family, founders of Methodism once lived

Manor Cottage, Preston

John's son Samuel studied at Oxford and in 1688 obtained his degree and was ordained. He was given a living in Lincolnshire in 1690 and then went to Epworth for the next 39 years. His wife, Susanna, helped her husband with his duties. Everything she did was done in a methodical manner and it was these ways she taught to the parishioners. She called it Methodism. Her sons, the famous John and Charles went about preaching their mother's doctrine. Eventually it spread and gained in popularity. Methodism had been founded as a religion. John Wesley founded the Society in 1728.

A little further along Preston Road is a thatched house dating from 1747 as a stone set above the doorway records. With one end towards the roadside, it does stand out from the rest. This is number 224 and was in former days the village Post Office.

A short distance further on, across the road there is an alleyway called Bridge Inn Lane. What a delight it is to wander down this lane between old cottages, which have such a quaint appeal, to emerge at the River Jordan and the Mill House.

The Old Post Office, Preston, Dorset, built 1747

The Old Post Office, Preston

The Mill House, Preston, Dorset

The Mill House, Preston

The Mill House lies next to the River Jordan, tucked away behind the Bridge Inn. Mrs Sarah Fancy occupied Preston Mill in 1855 and she is described as a miller in Kelly's Directory.

In the 1861 census, William Seare aged 31 born at Affpuddle is a miller living with his sister, Jane Seare aged 33. Also in the 1861 census is Thomas Cox, a miller aged 28 born at Puddletown.

Kelly's directory of 1875 records Daniel Whittle as being the miller at Preston.

The Bridge Inn, Preston, Dorset. Formerly called The Swan, Preston

The Bridge Inn, Preston

Formerly called The Swan, The Bridge Inn was once thatched but still today retains its charm in its picturesque setting. It is recorded in the 1861 census that Hannah Spencer, aged 36, an Innkeeper's wife was living at The Swan with her children Jim H.B. aged 11, Alice J aged 7 and Mary J aged 2.

The Innkeeper, James Brown Spencer is listed in Kelly's directory of 1867 at the Swan Inn. In the directory of 1875 however, the Swan is not listed but Jim Harvey Spencer is listed as a beer retailer at Preston. This would appear to be the son of James as listed on the 1861 census and in all probability it was at the Swan that he carried out his business.

Roman Bridge Cottage, formerly known as Bridge Cottage, Preston, Dorset

Bridge Cottage, Preston

Bridge Cottage or as it is now known, Roman Bridge Cottage is of the 17th century. It lies hidden from the main road just below the bridge and hidden from Bridge Inn Lane in its secluded spot screened by trees. Here there is a small bridge over the River Jordan. It is said to be a Roman bridge, but in a "Pictorial Guide to Weymouth" of the late 19th century it is claimed to be of Norman origin. "This interesting bridge was for a long time styled a Roman Bridge, but the absence of a keystone arch, and the indications in the masonry, have satisfied the Rev. Sir Talbot Baker, Mr. F.Warne and other antiquaries, that the Bridge was constructed by the Normans."

Historical Parish Information


Parish Registers begin:

1693 (Bishop's Transcripts 1592)

Hundred or Liberty:

Sutton Poyntz Liberty

Poor Law Union & Registration District:


Online Parish Clerk Project (external link):

Preston with Sutton Poyntz OPC

Nearby Parishes and Places


Bowleaze Cove


Lulworth, East & West & Lulworth Cove


Osmington, Osmington Mills & Ringstead




Sutton Poyntz






Local Attractions and Places to Visit


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