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Wiltshire Community History

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Winsley

This page is one of 261 pages covering every community in Wiltshire, and is provided by Wiltshire Council Libraries and Heritage. A project to provide a fuller picture of each community is in progress, working on the larger communities first. When these 261, which are modern civil parishes, are completed we will begin work on a further 180 villages and hamlets to provide comprehensive coverage of Wiltshire communities large and small.

From Andrews’ and Dury’s Map of Wiltshire, 1773:

From Andrews’ and Dury’s Map of Wiltshire, 1773


Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham



From Andrews’ and Dury’s Map of Wiltshire, 1810:

From Andrews’ and Dury’s Map of Wiltshire, 1810


Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham


This is a corrected and updated edition of the 1773 map that includes the recently built canals.


Map of the Civil Parish of Winsley:

Map of the Civil Parish of Winsley

1890s
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


From the Ordnance Survey 1890s revision of the one inch to one mile map. The modern civil parish boudary has been superimposed.


Thumbnail History:


The parish of Winsley lies east of the river Avon to the west of Bradford on Avon and is much associated with that town. It was part of the ancient parish of Bradford and, not being a large village, was often linked with Limpley Stoke on the western bank of the river Avon. This river provides both the western and southern boundaries of the parish, which also contains Turleigh, the medieval settlements at Hartleigh, Haugh and Ashley, and the more recent settlements at Conkwell and Murhill. The parish is on a limestone plateau, with Forest Marble (clay and shelly limestone) in the north and east, and a broad sweep of Great Oolite limestone in the west and south. The settlements of Winsley, Turleigh and Conkwell all lie on the latter. The land rises from about 110 metres in the east to over 150 metres in the west, before dropping steeply into the Avon valley.

Winsley village is on an uneven escarpment, which is followed by a minor road between Bradford and Bath. This road is narrow and twisting through the old village and was finally bypassed, to the north, in the late 1990s. Turleigh lies 1/2 mile to the east, separated by a steep, thickly wooded slope, and the road travels through a gorge-like valley with sides 90 metres high. There are many springs in Turleigh, where the limestone overlays a bed of clay. The most powerful of these is the Trows, where the water is a constant 52oF.

There is much evidence of prehistoric activity, particularly in the northern part of the parish. Mesolithic tools, scrapers, implements and a macehead have been found on occasions, mainly near Conkwell and to the south of Inwood. These would have been transitory settlements but six assemblages of Neolithic finds probably indicate longer-term occupation. Axes, scrapers, arrowheads and other flint tools have been found again at Conkwell and on three sites to the south of Inwood. From these finds it seems quite possible that the northern part of the parish was farmed for part of the Neolithic period. Bronze Age finds are confined to arrowheads in four different places but so far there has been no evidence of settlement in this period. Neither has any evidence been found for occupation during the Iron Age, and it may be that this area was fairly empty from Neolithic to Roman times. Doubtless it would have been used for hunting and possibly a limited amount of cultivation.

This area, set between the Roman city of Aqua Sulis at Bath and the substantial villa complex at Bradford would have been occupied and cultivated, particularly from the third and fourth centuries A.D. There was possibly a villa at Murhill and a probable settlement site at Hartleigh. Near the latter a child's stone coffin has been found with a third or fourth century cremation. Pottery, coins, a whetstone and another burial have also been found and it would seem that this part of the substantial Roman estate, with Bradford as its administrative centre, was probably well farmed but fairly lightly populated.

At the moment there is no evidence of Saxon settlement here, but farming must have continued from Romano-British times, as the Roman estate is most likely to have been similar in area to the Saxon estate that was granted to Nunnaminster (St. Mary's monastery at Winchester) in 955. Later this estate was given to Shaftesbury Abbey, in whose ownership it remained until 1540. What we do not know is whether there was any nucleated settlement in Winsley at that time or whether occupation consisted of scattered cottages amid arable or growing land. We are not helped by the fact that there is no separate entry for Winsley in the Domesday Book as, with other local villages, it is included under the Bradford entry. It is possible that one of the two Domesday watermills was in Winsley however.

We do know that by the 13th century there were five settlements in the parish; three of which are now much reduced in size. Winsley is first mentioned as 'Winesley' in 1242 but the name is Saxon in origin - Wine's clearing or open land in the wood. Haugh was the home of John de la Haghe in 1281 and the name would seem to indicate an enclosure or hedge. Ashely was Ashelegh in 1279, being an ash wood, or possibly a clearing. Hartleigh was Hortleye in 1289 and seems to be derived from hart clearing, indicating that parts of the parish were used for hunting in Saxon times, and probably later. Turleigh itself is not named in documents until 1341 as Turlinge but again the name is Saxon and means 'piercing through' - a reference to the deep valley here. Although the settlements are medieval they all have Saxon names and it would seem likely that Winsley at least was occupied in the Saxon period. In 1332 a taxation list shows that 35 people were assessed to pay tax, and Winsley was more prosperous than Broughton Gifford, but less so than Holt. One of the taxpayers was John of Ayssheleghe. It is believed that both Ashley and Haugh were reasonable sized communities until the 15th century, with fields to the north but they later declined. In 1439 a miller is mentioned at Winsley, possibly this would have been on the river Avon at Avoncliffe.

Winsley church was built by 1349 and is likely to have been early Norman. The earliest building in the village is now the 15th century church tower but houses survive from the 16th century. These include the original part of Burghope, Turleigh Manor House from the mid 16th century, Turleigh Farmhouse and the farmhouse now called The Lyns. There was an industrial complex at Turley with the present mill building having 16th century origins, although there had been a tannery here for some centuries. The mill was used to provide the power for extracting tannin from tree bark, and from the early 17th century about 50 people were employed here. Winsley manor house was probably rebuilt in the early 17th century, there is a date stone of 1612, but it had existed for some time before this.

By the early 17th century the chief landowners were John Raynold and Drew Druce and there were probably weavers in Winsley by this time. There were also fisheries in the river Avon associated with Winsley and Turleigh. More existing buildings date from the 17th century including Midway House, Turleigh (1603), Innocks, Uplands and cottages at Turleigh; Little Ashley Farmhouse and cottages at Ashley; Haugh Parsonage Farmhouse; Winsley Manor Farmhouse and a stone barn. In 1678 two mills were said to belong to the curate, so a second must have been built after the 14th century.

Turleigh Manor was built in the late 17th century or early 18th century and by this time both Winsley and Turleigh must have presented a pleasing appearance of stone houses dating from the previous three centuries. The actual manor of Winsley and Turleigh has not been well defined and there is some confusion over its extent; this is being resolved in research in progress at the moment. It is evident that at this time, and earlier, much of the land was the glebe land of the manor of Bradford Rectory. There was prosperity here in the 18th century, reflected by the number of houses built. These included Turleigh Grange (early 18th century), Stoneleigh and Hill House (c.1740). A hamlet grew up at Murhill, probably to house the workers in the stone quarries at Murhill Cleeve and, later, on the top of the hill. Many of the smaller houses in Winsley and Turleigh were occupied by quarrymen, stonemasons and tanners.

In 1801 a quarry was opened at Conkwell by the Kennet and Avon Canal to provide better stone for masonry work on the canal. An inclined plane was constructed down the steep hillside to the canal, so that a laden wagon going down pulled up an empty one to the top. It was found that the Conkwell stone was not very good either and another quarry was opened at Murhill in 1803. A wooden railway was built for wagons to descend to the canal. Stone was quarried here for the canal until about 1808. Brewing and malting had been carried out at Turleigh from the 18th century but most of the parish was farmland. In 1841 at least three-quarters of the land was arable, with pasture land mainly in the river valley, in the fields close to Winsley and Turleigh, and with isolated fields on the level land in the north. By 1841 Murhill House had been created from three former quarrymen's cottages at Murhill.

Around 1831 a Committee of Public Health was set up, following the example of Bradford, to deal with the prospect of a possible cholera outbreak. Although cottages here would not have been as insanitary as some in the town the committee carried out improvements in ventilation, whitewashing walls, and drainage. The parish was included in the Bradford Poor Law Union in 1834 and the poor would have been placed in the workhouse on the other side of the river Avon at Avoncliffe, from where they could look across to their former homes. On a brighter note, before the introduction of the Penny Post in 1840, a letter carrier brought letters to the villages in the 1830s. There was probably a beer retailer in Turleigh in the 1840s and the premises became the Prince of Wales by the 1860s. Owing to its powerful spring at the Trows, Turleigh had an early supply of piped water, with two standpipes. In the early 1880s the major industry of Turleigh ceased when Turleigh mill and tannery closed. The parish had become part of the Bradford Sanitary Division, later Bradford Rural District Council, in 1872. On 10 July 1894 the parish of Bradford Without was created, being all the ancient parish of Bradford other than the urban area. On 11 August 1894 this divided into five separate parishes, one of which was Winsley, covering the area of the modern civil parish much as it is today.

A major employer came to the area in the early 20th century with founding Winsley Sanatorium in 1903. It was enlarged between 1911 and 1919, when 45 patients could be accommodated. It was enlarged again in 1934 to house 134 patients. It had opened in December 1904, with 16 patients, for tuberculosis and similar illness. It was set up for residents of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Bristol but later gained an international reputation. As Winsley Chest Hospital it was also very much a local institution for most of the 20th century. Another local institution began in 1920 when the Turleigh Club was given in trust for the village by Major Scarth. This provided a club, reading room and garden for the villagers, and remained in use until 1979.

Conkwell Grange was built for J. Thornton in 1907 and an estate created. To the south-west, at Murhill, large quantities of strawberries were grown until the mid 20th century and the area became well-known as a stopping off place for strawberry teas, although most were sent to London via Limpley Stoke railway station. In 1934 there was an exchange of odd pieces of land between Bradford and Winsley parishes to tidy up the boundary. The villages received mains water in the 1930s and this was followed by piped gas. A sewerage system was installed in the early 1940s.

After the Second World War changes occurred locally. The Prince of Wales in Turleigh closed in 1952 and in 1953 Winsley House was bought by the Sutcliffe School of Bath as premises for their school for maladjusted children. By 1959 the rise in traffic had led to the need for a bypass being acknowledged as a means of relieving Winsley's narrow twisting village road. This bypass project lasted nearly 40 years, attracting national attention after part had been built, leaving traffic that used it to find its way out of a modern housing estate. The post-war housing boom was responsible for two large estates to the north-east of the old village. Tyning estate, with a shop,, and a short section of the bypass were built in the 1960s, but in 1968 the bypass was abandoned for a programme of road widening. Turleigh shop and off-licence had closed in 1968, leaving that village with only its club. By 1975 the need for the Chest Hospital was diminishing and it was renamed Winsley Hospital. It became Winsley Centre in 1977 and closed in 1985.

In the early 1980s Church Farm Estate was built at the north-westerly end of the bypass. The Winsley Hospital was sold in 1988 for £1.8 million and has been redeveloped as the Avon Park Care Centre offering residential and nursing care for the elderly. The Sutcliffe School closed and in 1992 Dorothy House bought the buildings and have made them into a hospice, which attracts much local care and fund-raising. In the late 1990s the bypass was finally completed and Winsley village now only has local traffic in its narrow streets. In the early 21st century Bradford on Avon Rugby Club has built pitches and a clubhouse to the north of the bypass and the grounds are also extensively used for both junior rugby and soccer training and matches.

CouncilWiltshire Council
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Population 1801 - 2011

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Newspapers from 1738: These newspapers covered this community at different times. Newspaper titles in bold text are either the ones you should check first for information about this community.

 

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Folk Arts:

Folk Songs from Winsley

Folk Biographies from Winsley

Folk Plays from Winsley

History of Buildings: The collections of the Wiltshire Buildings Record are housed in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.

Listed Buildings: The number of buildings, or groups of buildings, listed as being of architectural or historical importance is 54. There is one Grade I building, the Dundas Aquaduct, and one Grade II* building, Turleigh Manor.

English Heritage and National Monuments Record

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