Winterborne Zelston - a brief history

Winterborne Zelston, including Huish, is a small parish, of about 850 acres, midway between Wimborne and Bere Regis in Dorset. The village was most likely included within the bounds of an Anglo-Saxon charter for Almer in AD 943 (Finberg (1964), Grundy 1933). Identification of the village in the Domesday survey is difficult to interpret, as there are 34 entries for Winterbyne in Dorset, (Thorn & Thorn (1983)). and involves speculation. Eyton (1878) suggested that the present parish of Zelston may have been Royal demesne at the time, which may explain why it is to be found in the small, and later, Hundred of Rushmore.

St Mary's Winterborne Zelston

The church, which was largely rebuilt in 1865 and provides an interesting warning with respect to monumental inscriptions. Hutchins (1861) describes a brass from within the chancel of St. Mary's at Winterborne Zelston commemorating a former rector of the parish, William Bryyge, who died in 1517. This brass is now to be found in the nearby church at Almer. A report in the Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History Archaeological & Field Club, in 1911, records that the Rector of Almer stated "he found the brass in a house at Stickland and gave the man half-a-crown for it".

The early name for the village was Winterborne Maureward derived from associations with the Maureward family. From about 1350 the name Winterborne Seleston appears, and variants of this name occur until Zelston becomes the accepted spelling. Fagersten (1933), and Mills (1980) attribute the origin of the name Zelston to an association with a member of the de Seles family, but acceptance of the new name was slow. Both names were used between 1350 and 1600.

The manor was held by the Filol family during the 15th &16th centuries. Katherine, the youngest daughter of Sir William Filiol, of Horton in Dorset, married Sir Edward Seymour, brother of Jane Seymour. However, suspicions of infidelity resulted in Katharine being removed to a convent. Her father died in 1527 and his will stated that Katharine was to receive 40 annually for life "as longe as shee shall lyve vertuously and abide in some honest house of religeon of wymen". The will was disputed and as a result of an Act of Parliament the manor of Winterborne Zelston passed into the hands of Katherine's sister Anne, and her husband Sir Edward Willoughby in 1530. Sir Francis Willoughby sold the estates in Zelston to Thomas Hannam in 1582.

As a result was the records of the Filiol estates in Dorset passed into the hands of the Willoughbys of Woolaton in Nottinghamshire, where they remained until the Middleton Manuscripts were deposited by Lord Middleton with the University of Nottingham in 1947. An index to this archive can be seen in the Dorset Record Office.

A rental examined and renewed at the first court of William Filiol at Wynterborn Selston on 30th July 1489 shows John Symonde, John Newbourgh and Thomas Buckeshave as freeholders, while the manor farm was held by Robert Stone. The family names of other tenants at this time were Dyett, Yernecombe, Langeford, Sydenham, Willesham, Blewe, Dyssheler, Geller, Hucker, Gelet and Bemond. The names Fovell, Dyett, Carpenter, Ayssh, Balet, Pelle, Collys, Gelet, Hagger, Colles, Gellete, Gelet, Selard, Browne, Rumer and Stone are referred to as previous tenants or occupiers of property.

Surveys of the Manor of Woodland taken in 1541/42, and 1552 contain names of tenants in Woodland, Mapperton, Winterborne Zelston, Winterborne Kingston, Winterborne Whitchurch, Doddingbere, Bloxworth & West Morden, Langton Wallis, Langton Herring, Winterborne Billet, Little Herringston and Kingston Lacy; and for Knowleton and Wambroke (now in Somerset) in the 1552 survey only.

Family names shown for Winterborne Zelston in these rentals are Appolyne, Billet, Butler or Butteler, Frampton, Frye, Hobbey or Hobbye, Jellette, Lother or Loder, Lyttell or Litel, Mitchell, Phylyppes or Phillippes, Samwyse or Sammways and Symond(e).

Parish registers which run from 1548 show that many names occur in small numbers suggesting that some families lived in the village for only short periods. Names that suggest continuity in the village include Bellows, Chaffey, Frampton, Fry, Hobby, Honeybourne and Squire.

Other records allow the pattern of landholding in the village to be followed, and an Indenture dated on 26th December 1794 between Rev. James Hanham Bart. of Deans Court and James Farquharson of Littleton for the sale of the manor of Winterborne Zelston for the sum of 1400 includes a schedule listing tenants and holdings in the village. Family names in this schedule include Adams, Angell, Browning, Chaffey, Coward, Furmage, Jeffreys, Kiddle, King, Plomer, Rickets, Shitler, Sherwood, Soper, Strong, Squire and Vater.

Estimates of the village population can be obtained from sources such as Muster Rolls, Protestation Returns and Hearth Tax returns. When combined with numbers of baptisms, and the later census returns the results suggest about 50 persons in the parish at about 1550, rising to about 250 by 1810. The village then suffered from rural depopulation with the population dropping to 96 persons by 1951. Much of this decline coincides in time with the construction of the Wimborne & Puddletown Turnpike in 1841. It seems likely that this new road altered the pattern of traffic from north-south through the village, to one of east-west with most traffic passing to the south of the village. By 1981 the population of the village had risen to 122, and with recent building is even higher today in 1999.

In 1909 the greater part of the village was leased by the County Council on a 35 year lease. The land was divided into approximately 50 acre tenancies to be leased as County Council smallholdings. This meant an influx of new families into the village. Minutes of the Council Smallholdings Committee (in the County Record Office) provide an account of families in the village at that time. Following an abortive sale by the Farquharson Estate in 1929 the County Council "failed" to purchase the smallholdings, and most of the village passed into the ownership of Owen Stevens. Subsequent sales of land and amalgamation of the small holdings have produced the pattern of ownership we see today.

Millennium Beacon at Winterborne Zelston


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Page last revised 27th January 2000.

© S. B. Chapman