Winford is a pre-Conquest settlement and the first written record we have of it is in a will, dated 970AD. It is thought that its Old Saxon name, Winfrith, means “a happy holy stream” which would have accurately described Winford Brook at that time. The entry in the Domesday Book tells us that the property of Winford, now listed as Wenfre, formerly held by the Saxon Lord Alfwold had been given to Geoffrey de Mowbray, half brother to William 1, and was valued at the grand total of 25s. Through several changes of ownership, usually dictated by the political climate of the time, Winford continued to thrive, with the brook playing no small part in its development.
Although the area has always been predominately agricultural the brook has, over the centuries been used to power several mills, evidence of which can be found at various sites around the village such as Snuff Mill in Kentshare Lane, its name suggesting its origin, and in Littleton Lane the remains of one of the village’s former mill complexes is centred on Powdermill Farm, which produced gunpowder. The gunpowder works are thought to have started production in the mid 17th Century and 100 years later was the largest powder producing complex in the South West, apparently producing 3,500 barrels of gunpowder by 1762. Also based at Littleton from around 1450 onwards there would have been a Fulling Mill to turn local wool into felted cloth. The Redding pit would have been another source of employment, producing iron ore and redding to be used as a dye. The pit was reopened on a larger scale in 1871 and continued production until well after World War 11.
In former times the layout of the village would have been very different. Church Rd would have been the village high street following the course of the brook and leading to the church and the ancient manor house, now known as Court Farm.
The Church is dedicated to St Mary and St Peter, the two names commemorating the original church and chantry chapel where masses were said for the souls of the wealthier members of the community in medieval times. The nave of the church was replaced in the eighteenth century but the fine fifteenth century tower has survived.
The date over the door of the Court is 1593 but it is assumed that this was one of the re-buildings of the manor which in earlier form probably pre-dates the church and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The cottages opposite the brook are up to Dundry known as “The Drum”, believed to be a link with the Napoleonic Wars. Beyond Court Farm the view is dominated by the aqueduct, a major feat of mid-nineteenth century engineering, perhaps the oldest surviving engineering work of its type in the country, which carries the principle water supply to Bristol via the Barrow tanks from the Mendips. It was not until 1846 that Winford had a school. The Curate, Rev Ward, raised the then huge sum of £324 14s 11d to build a fine school, large enough to accommodate 80 pupils. The Prince of Waterloo is not mentioned in documents until 1816 but it is possible that there was a licensed premises on site before that which was renamed to commemorate the victory of Waterloo. At various times the village has boasted a butchers, a bakery, sweet shop and an active Forge – not to mention the weekly livestock market which was held in the middle of the village and often enlivened by runaway calves or sheep careering down the high street, greeted in equal parts by amusement or dismay depending on whose garden they ended up in.
It is interesting to note from the ancient documents a number of recurring names. Families that have been resident in this area since medieval times and are still active in the community provide us with fascinating links to the past. And we can actually boast a celebrity! Around 1320-30 a master mason was born, known as William of Wynford. He became famous as one of the most influential architects of his time and was appointed Master mason at Wells Cathedral, designing the West Tower and supervising the work. From there he went on to work at Windsor Castle, Corfe Castle, Abingdon Abbey and New College, Oxford. His final commissions were at Winchester Castle and Winchester College where his effigy can be found.
People have always been Winford’s best commodity. Although we live in a very different village today, it is still, at its heart, a rural community with a thriving church, chapel and pub and any number of local associations and services. The Brook, our “happy holy stream” continues to run strongly through our midst.
For a fuller and more detailed history of the Parish: A New History of the Parish of Winford by B. N. Moore ISBN..0 9526702 0 9