Contiguous Parishes (our neighbours)
Bradford on Avon - Limpley Stoke - Monkton Farleigh - Westwood
GenUKI - For information on Wiltshire and Winsley.
Dorothy House - Hospice Website.
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre - The Wiltshire County Archives for all historical documents and the place to obtain original copies.
Wiltshire Community History - Historical information for parishes within the Wiltshire County jurisdiction.
Winsley Village Community Website - Information about the village and its amenities.
The Parish Church of St. Nicholas
The Church in its current form dates from 1841, but it still retains the almost detached tower remaining from the earlier (1542) Church on the site. There is a short link from the tower to the south west angle of the church. The tower houses 3 twentieth century bells, and also the Church clock with its distinctive blue face - the clock has been converted to have an electric movement, but dates probably from the 18th century. On the exterior of the tower, at a height of around 10 feet, can be seen the remains of several carved memorial plaques, but unfortunately only two of these can now be read, the others having eroded away ( for detail, please see Church & Tower Memorials Summary). Inside the Church there is an organ dating from 1876, a board displaying the list of vicars since 1846, and a medieval, octagonal stone font. The Church is Grade II listed (listed in 1962)
The 1841 rebuilding was by the order of Reverend Harvey, of Bradford on Avon, and there is a plaque commemorating this on the wall opposite the entry to the church. Other changes over the years have seen electric lighting installed in the 1920s, the interior redecorated in 1973 and the Church re-roofed in the early 1980s. St. Nicholas Photogallery St. Nicholas Churchyard Gallery
The interior of the Church is light and pleasant and has some carved memorials on the walls, and three brass memorials to the Layard family - one of whom was Rector of Winsley 1884 to 1889. The medieval font is placed under the gallery, which now houses the organ. To either side of the fine stained glass window behind the altar are tall stone plaques bearing text.
St Nicholas Winsley is combined with St James South Wraxall and St Peter's Monkton Farleigh as the Benefice Of St Nicholas, St James and St Peter.
Church Memorial Plaques
|Church & Tower Memorials Summary||Cornelius Byefield c1747-1822||Thomas Groom c1792-1854|
|Stone Family 1828-1872||Rev. Lewis Cogan 1862|
Parish Register Transcripts
Registers held at WSHC
The parish of Winsley includes the small hamlets of Turleigh, Haugh, Ashley, Conkwell and Murhill, and part of Avoncliff, and was originally part of the Manor of Bradford. This manor was granted to the Abbey of Shaftesbury by King Ethelred 11, and remained in the ownership of that Abbey until the dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry 8th, in 1535. The current parish was created in 1894, when the parish of Bradford Without ( the area other than the town) was divided.
The parish is close to the Wiltshire border, lying between Bradford on Avon and Bath on a plateau which rises around 150 meters above the River Avon, which forms the Western and Southern boundaries of the Parish. The surrounding landscape of the plateau to the north is generally agricultural and predominantly of fields, lanes, drystone walling and some woodland.
Despite no archaeological traces being found so far there seems to be agreement that, as with other place names in the area, the name of Winsley derives from the Saxon - the original name being Winesley, referring to a clearing (a leah) in the woods which belonged to someone called Wine.
For most of its history the parish of Winsley was largely agriculturally based, although there was a period when stone mining and quarrying played an important part. Agriculture still plays a part today, with several farms and a farm shop in the parish area.
Winsley village is an attractive village of around 2,100 current residents. In terms of architecture it is a village of three parts: the historic core with its narrow streets and old properties of Cotswold stone, the later development along the Bradford Road and the 20th Century housing estate to the north of the Bradford Road. This housing estate also contains the Primary School, the Surgery and the village shop and post office. The largest organisations associated with the village today are the Dorothy House Hospice, and the Avon Park retirement village. Originally, the main road from Bradford on Avon to Bath passed directly through the old village, but the great increase in traffic led to a bypass being constructed to the north of the housing estate in the 1990's. There is a good bus service linking Winsley to Bath in one direction and Warminster in the other, and there is access to trains from either Bradford on Avon or from the Avoncliff halt. Located in the old part of the village are the Village Hall, The Cricket Club, the Bowls Club, a Social Club and The Seven Stars Public House.
Books on Winsley & Hamlets
Winsley from Cecilia to Victoria by Robin & Barbara Harvey. Published 2007 by The Hobnob Press Salisbury.
Turleigh 2000, a Portrait of a Wiltshire Village. Published 2000 by Ex Libris Press of Bradford On Avon in association with the Turleigh Trust Millennium Committee.
Bradford on Avon & District - The War Years (1939-1945) by Jack H Mock. Published 1997 by MAKJOK publishing. This book has a listing of the men in the Winsley Home Guard, and other Winsley references. (pages 15-18,20-26,36,63).
1837 - April 1936 Bradford Registration District
April 1936 - Present Trowbridge Registration District
Buildings and Land
Avon Park Retirement Village
Avon Park Retirement Village occupies the site of the former Winsley Chest Hospital (Winsley Sanatorium), originally the site of the upper quarry of the Murhill quarry workings. The retirement village was built in 1994 and comprises 99 flats and cottages, plus gardens, services and guest facilities.
The core of this Grade II listed building is possibly medieval, but the majority is is 16th/17th Century, with 19th/20th Century additions. The rear wing, originally the service wing, is now a separate property called simply Burghope: the part of the building which retains the name of Burghope Manor is run as an Hotel.
Dorothy House Hospice
Dorothy House Hospice moved to Winsley from Bath in 1995, to the site of the former Sutcliffe School (closed 1991). The current building includes the original (1902) Winsley House, plus modern additions & extensions, and is set in attractive grounds. There are 10 beds, and staff also carry out work in the community to enable patients to stay in their own homes as long as possible.
The Manor House
The building is Grade II listed. It is mostly early 17th Century, altered in the early 19th Century, and with a 20th Century western addition dated 1905. The original house is long and low, built of stone with stone slate roofs, and was built for the Knatchbull family. There are links to the family of John Kent of Devizes who purchased it circa 1612 and, on his death in 1630 left it to his eldest son Thomas. The building is currently divided into 3 separate properties called The Manor House, Winsley Manor, and the 1905 House.
There is a small nature reserve - named Murhill Bank - in the parish. It is home to several special species of wild flowers and insects.
Originally thatched, the old brew house adjoins the inn, a previous landlord having the misfortune to drown in one of the vats. Many of the old beams can be seen; a collection of copper and brass decorates one of the bars. Beside the old-world garden is the coach-house with a mounting block still in place. The inn is famous for its skittle alley, one of the finest in the country, which houses a unique collection of over 120 different beer trays. Most of the building dates from the 18th and 19th Centuries, with a large 20th Century addition to the south front, with mentions in records from 1755. Following a major refurbishment some years ago, the Seven Stars is now a restaurant as well as a public house.
Site of Special Scientific Interest
Alongside the Murhill Bank nature reserve is an area of steep woodland which was once the site of Murhill Lower Quarry and the Winsley Drift Mine. This is an area of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because it is a home to the endangered Greater Horseshoe Bat and four other bat species.
Winsley Social Club
The social Club is housed in the former village school building, close to the parish church in the centre of the old village.
Winsley Cricket Club
Founded in the 1920's. The current modern pavilion built in 2004 replaces one destroyed by fire. The club is active, and includes a youth section. The club is located at the edge of the village and the plateau, with extensive views.
Winsley Bowls Club
Founded in 1903. The club is located next to the village hall and the Seven Stars public house, in the old part of the village.
Crime and Legal Matters
Primary age children attend Winsley Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary School.
Secondary school children generally attend St. Laurence School, Bradford On Avon
Between 1950 and 1991, the Sutcliffe School was in the village, occupying Winsley House (now the site of Dorothy House Hospice). Sutcliffe School was a school for boys with difficulties, originally founded in Bath circa 1848.
Until the 1860s there is no record of any school in Winsley, but fundraising was successfully begun then and the Winsley Parochial School officially opened in 1869. School logbooks are extant for a period from 1873, and record amongst other items the names, salaries and responsibilities of teachers. Pupil numbers in the 1880s averaged 75, and rose gradually until the early 1890s when enrolment exceeded 120. At that time, the children learned reading, writing, arithmetic and scripture and also singing, with the older children being taught some history and geography.
The numbers attending seem to have been assessed as too large for the school building, and an extension to enlarge the infant's space was built during 1893/4 allowing the school to officially accommodate 130 children.
After 1902 the school was taken over by Wiltshire County Council and became generally known as Winsley Church of England School. From 1931 children over the age of eleven were educated in nearby Bradford on Avon and the Winsley school became a school for infants and juniors only. School enrolment in the 1950s was between sixty and seventy pupils, but with the building of much new housing in the village in the 1960s the number of pupils increased substantially - resulting in the building of a new school in the Tyning estate in 1972. With the teacher's house in the old village having been sold as a private residence in 1951, and the old school building having become Winsley Social Club, education in the village had completed a move from the centre of the old village to the surroundings of the new.
Emigration and Migration
Employment and Business
Winsley Sanatorium/Winsley Chest Hospital
In the period between the early 1900's and the late 1980's, some Winsley people found employment at Winsley Sanatorium. The sanatorium was built on the village outskirts at the edge of the plateau on the site of the disused upper quarry of the Murhill Quarry workings. Opened in 1904 to treat patients with TB, the sanatorium was originally small - taking less than 20 patients. It was enlarged in the years before World War 1 to take 40 patients, and again in the 1930's to take between 130 and 140 patients, when it became known as Winsley Chest Hospital and had an international reputation. The hospital closed in 1982, and the land was sold in 1988. The site has been redeveloped as the Avon Park Retirement Village.
Stone Quarrying & Mining In the Parish
In the nineteenth century, stone mining and quarrying was an important source of employment in Winsley, Murhill & Conkwell, with the Conkwell quarry opening in 1801, and the quarries at Winsley & Murhill opening in 1802/3. The initial purpose of the quarrying was to supply stone for the construction of the Kennet & Avon canal (opened in 1810) which passes through the valley close to the foot of the plateau, but stone from the Upper Murhill Quarry was used in the façade of Bristol Temple Meads station, and also for the construction of Roundway Hospital in Devizes ( built 1851, closed 1995). Stone for the building was transported to Devizes via the Kennet & Avon canal. Quarrying had ceased by the start of the twentieth century, and the site of the upper Murhill quarry became in turn Winsley Sanatorium and then Avon Park retirement village.
Traces of the inclined plane used to lower wagons containing stone down to the canal can still be seen in the woods at Conkwell, and the remains of a tramway built in 1804 for the same purpose can be found at Murhill.
The area of the Winsley and lower Murhill quarries is now an SSSI, but traces of the quarried faces can still be seen in the woodland, as can barred and closed-off tunnels. Clearly to be seen are adits at the base of the lower quarry, which were used to drain water from the underground part of the workings. It is recorded that the lower quarry was sometimes referred to as the 'engine quarry' because of the steam-powered machinery used there.
Non Conformity and Other Places of Worship
Winsley Methodist Church
The Methodist church was built in 1903/4, replacing an earlier building which dated from 1808. The Church is a Grade 11 listed building and currently comprises of the Chapel, a schoolroom and a kitchen. Services are 10:30 a. m., and there is a Sunday School and also a regular weekend coffee morning and book sale.
People and Parish Notables
Census Returns Transcripts
1851 (Chapelry of Winsley)
Elections and Polls
Poor Law, Charity and the Workhouse
The parish of Winsley came under the Bradford Poor Law Union (known from July 1895 as the Bradford On Avon Poor Law Union) which covered 75 Wiltshire parishes. Poor from the parish would have gone into the workhouse at nearby Avoncliffe. The building at Avoncliffe had originally been industrial buildings for weavers, one room deep and 3 stories high and possibly dating from the 1790's. These buildings were bought by the Poor Law Commission and converted in 1836, and then extended and adapted in 1837 to house up to 250 inmates. At that time, the building was organised with the Workhouse Master's quarters at the centre, females to the eastern side and males to the west. A block was added at the rear which contained the kitchen, dining room and chapel.
The workhouse closed in 1917, and the few remaining inmates were transferred to Warminster Workhouse.
Subsequently the building was rented as a hospital by the Red Cross, and then was sold in 1923 to become the Old Court Hotel (at which point the gatehouse and part of the east wing were demolished). Since the late 1950's the building has slowly been converted to exclusively residential use.
War, Conflict and Military Matters
Winsley War Memorial is located in the heart of the old village, alongside the Bradford Road and across the road from the Parish Church of St Nicholas. It is in the form of a tall, short-armed cross with a wreath around the top, standing on a plinth which in turn stands on a square, 3-tiered base. The inscriptions cover both World Wars and are to be seen on the plinth and the base. This inscription honours those who served and survived as well as those who died.