Weymouth-Dorset.co.uk Local History

Winterbourne Abbas

The Coach and Horses public house, Winterbourne Abbas, Dorset.

The Coach and Horses, Winterbourne Abbas

Lying along the South Winterbourne river, approximately five miles west of the County Town of Dorchester, Winterbourne Abbas is a delightful little village, only spoilt by the never-ending traffic that thunders through it on the main A35 road to Bridport. However, if one takes the time to take a walk around there are some quaint old buildings to be found. The parish comprised 2470 acres and had a population of 206 in 1841.

The Coach and Horses public house has been serving customers under that name since at least 1814 when it is mentioned in records concerning the bankruptcy of Joseph Hawkins of Radipole.

Recorded in Hunt's directory of 1851 the landlord was John Purkis who also appears on the census of the same year aged 46 with his wife Elizabeth, also 46 and two children, Henry aged 9 and Eliza aged 6. He employed at least two people, Frederick Hopkins the ostler aged 42 and Jane Hardy, house servant aged 23. John Purkis is listed in the Post Office directory of 1855 at the Coach and Horses when it also described as a Posthouse. By 1859 however, John Purkis had left the inn and it was then in the occupation of Samuel Warren who also traded as a wheelwright and blacksmith. The directory of 1875 lists John Thomas Warren as the innkeeper. He was the son of Samuel Warren, born in Beaminster in 1834.

The Coach and Horses was mentioned in the Times newspaper in November 1876 in connection with a poaching affair and murder that had taken place near Yeovil just over the county border in Somerset. Two men answering the description of two murderers being hunted were reported as being at the inn and were traced in the vicinity. Whether they were caught nearby is not stated.

By 1881 the occupation of the Inn had passed to John Daw who was still there in 1895. John Daw is listed on the 1881 census aged 36, an innkeeper and also a farmer of 40 acres. His wife Sarah, aged 37 was from nearby Toller and their children, Arthur W aged 3, Laura M aged 2 and a 6 month old son Alda M were all born at Winterbourne Abbas. Living with them was a cousin, Sarah A Hiscock aged 33 born at Toller and a 19 year old servant from Bridport, Charlotte M J Whittle. John Daw appears in directories of 1889 and 1895 at the inn.

It is an old coaching inn on the old turnpike road from Dorchester to Bridport. Once complete with stables, it surely must have been the call for many a traveller. Frederick Hopkins mentioned in the 1851 census would have tended the travellers' horses while their masters took refreshment. The pub did have a unique charm of its own until 2012 when it was much altered internally and the flavour of its history lost.

St Marys Parish Church, Winterbourne Abbas, Dorset

St. Mary's, Winterbourne Abbas

Tucked away quietly by the side of the road is St. Mary's parish church, an ancient building with Norman foundations and a square tower dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. It is an interesting little church with some rather unusual features. One of the three bells has an impression of a coin of the Plantagenet period stamped on it. The chancel dates from around 1250 and there is a Royal coat of arms on the north wall of the chancel arch of Charles II dated 1661. On the south side of the Sanctuary there is a piscina dating from c.1320 with a pyramidal hood and two figures supporting the canopy. A delightful Jacobean gallery bears the date of 1701.

The living was a rectory which included that of its neighbour, Winterbourne Steepleton and was a gift of Lincoln College, Oxford. The church had its own band for a long time before finally being disbanded in 1881.

The Baptist Chapel was built in 1872 and bears the date on the front. It became disused and converted into living accommodation. As these lines are written the old chapel is up for sale.

Adjacent to the Baptist Chapel there is a row of cottages, the middle one of which was once the village Post Office. In 1851 the Post Office is listed in Hunt's directory and is said to be "at Thomas Brown's" with letters arriving at 7.30am and despatched at 6.10pm. Thomas Brown is also shown on the census of that year as the Post Master. A few years later in 1855 the Post Office is in the hands of Mrs. Ann Rolls who continued to run it until at least 1881. While Ann Rolls was busy with the Post Office her husband, John Rolls was busy farming 16 acres and dealing in cattle and he is listed as a farmer in the directory of 1889. By that time the Post Office was being run by Richard Rolls, a Winterbourne Abbas born man who also traded as a grocer and by the time of the 1901 census he was a farmer as well. The directory of 1911 shows Mrs Elizabeth Ann Rolls, the wife of Richard, running the Post Office and grocery.

The Grange on the opposite side of the road is not mentioned in directories until 1895 when Mrs. Stilwell was living there and was the Honorary Secretary of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild for Church Needlework, in which capacity she continued until at least 1911.

Baptist Chapel at Winterbourne Abbas, Dorset

former Baptist Chapel, Winterbourne Abbas

The Old Post Office (centre cottage)at Winterbourne Abbas, Dorset

The Old Post Office

The Grange, Winterbourne Abbas, Dorset

The Grange

Winterbourne Abbas is surrounded by ancient barrows, most notably the Poor Lot group of which some are now no longer apparent having been ploughed to a level well below their original height. One very special feature remains however and that is what is probably Dorset's best example of a standing stone circle. Known as Nine Stones, the circle lies beside the A35 isolated from the village to the west and surrounded by trees. Amid the constant thunder of passing traffic the circle retains an air of tranquillity of its own. This area generally contains a considerable amount of ancient burial chambers and once-standing stone circles.

Nearby is the source of the River Winterborne that gives the village and others along its route the first part of its name. As the name implies, it is a small river which usually only runs during the winter and becomes a dry ditch in summer. The second part of the name, Abbas, comes from having been land formerly held by the Abbots of Cerne until the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century.

The area and the village itself have always had close connections with the nearby parishes of Little Bredy and Long Bredy as is evident from the ancient remains, but also through the Lords of the Manor.

The Duke of Norfolk's son, Thomas Howard was granted the Manor by his cousin, Elizabeth I in the late 1550's but the male line failed and the manor passed to the Meller family of Little Bredy. In time, it passed to the Clapcott family and subsequently to a daughter who became the wife of the notable Warren Lisle. The Land Tax assessments of 1798 show The Honourable Mrs. Lisle as the largest landholder in Winterbourne Abbas. However, by 1864 a major part of it was once again in the hands of the Lord of the Manor of Little Bredy, Robert Williams whose seat was at Bridehead. (See Little Bredy page).

The Williams family altered and rebuilt much of the Bridehead estate including the building of lodge houses at the junctions of drives made to the house and the turnpike road. In 1837 such a lodge house was built at Winterbourne Abbas. The Lodge is shown on the 1851 census in the occupation of Ann Samways, a widow of 63 and her daughter Mary 28. In 1881 the Lodge was in the occupation of the John Hicks and his wife Maria.


Transcripts of Trade Directories for Winterbourne Abbas - 1851,1855,1859,1875,1889,1895


Historical Parish Information


Parish Registers begin:

1754 (1731 BT's)

Hundred or Liberty:


Poor Law Union & Registration District:


Online Parish Clerk Project (external link)

Winterbourne Abbas OPC


Nearby Parishes and Places

Little Bredy



Winterborne Came

Winterborne Monkton

Winterborne Herringston

Winterbourne Steepleton


Local Attractions and Places to Visit



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