Some village history

Winsford is an ancient moorland village, deep in the Exmoor National Park, famed for the understated charm of its cottages, its ford, the village green and its eight bridges which span both the River Exe and the Winn brook. One of these bridges, called the Packhorse, dates back many hundreds of years and has medieval origins. It is the starting point for miles of moorland walks taking in the local flora and fauna.

Packhorse bridge

The village appears in the Domesday Book of 1085 which lists the presence of 34 smallholders, 41 villagers, 52 sheep and 9 slaves, the whole area being capable of supporting 64 ploughs, despite 40 acres of it being woodland.

Many of the farms in the village - Nethercote, Staddon, Bradley, Halse, Uppcott and Knapsack - still retain their original names since the tax records of 1327.

Wambarrows.  Winsford Hill, where the Anchor herd of Exmoor ponies roam freely is the location of the Wambarrows, a collection of round barrows dating from the Bronze age (c.2000-700 BC). Round barrows comprise of closely-spaced groups of up to 30 rubble or earthen mounds covering single or multiple burials. Despite disturbance to three of the mounds, the five round barrows which form the prehistoric round barrow cemetery on Winsford Hill survive well as a group. The  Wambarrows has been described as among the best known groups on Exmoor. It occupies a prominent position on the summit of Winsford Hill close to a well-used route through the moor and would have formed a striking visual element in the prehistoric landscape.

wambarrows map.jpg

Location of Wambarrows at top of Winsford Hill

Caratacus Stone.  The Caratacus Stone is nearby , close to the top of Halse Lane.  It is an inscribed stone thought to date from the 6th century. It has been a scheduled monument since 1925.

Caractacus Stone

The inscription, in Latin, appears to read CARAACI NEPVS, though experts have stated that a bar above the second A forms a ligature meaning that it should be read as CARATACI NEPVS. It is possible that there was more text on the stone that has weathered away. The inscription, which can be translated as "grandson or immediate descendant of Caratacus", has led to the general opinion that the stone was probably erected as a memorial to a person who claimed the first-century British chieftain Caratacus as an ancestor.

The first mention of the stone was in 1219, when it was described in a perambulation of the Royal Forest of Exmoor as "the Langeston". In 1890 the letter N (which is reversed) was missing from the inscription, but by 1919 the missing piece had been found and was cemented back in place. In 1906 a shelter was erected over the stone, and an excavation in 1937 revealed that the stone was not associated with a burial site.

Click here to read a devonlive.com article on Caractacus and the stone

caractacus map.jpg

The Caractacus Stone

Punchbowl. Given the dimensions and geological deposits found in the huge dip in the side of Winsford Hill known as the Punchbowl, it is suspected that it may have been the only glacier in southwest England during the Pleistocene ice ages

The Punchbowl

Tarr Steps.  Probably the best known example of an ancient clapper bridge -  bridges built out of flat stone slabs lain end-to-end and supported by stone stacks. Tarr steps spans the Barle river nearby, providing some living history that can be used to cross the river as well as providing a great tourist attraction. 

The 17 massive stone planks/slabs that make up the path of the bridge each weigh up to two tons.

The oldest bridge of its kind as well as being the longest, Tarr Steps is a series of a closely connected stone slabs that date back thousands of years. According to local legend, the bridge was built by the devil as a place to lay out and sunbathe until he was seen off off by a local parson. 

The stones have several times in the past been swept away due to strong storms, however they have always been recovered and replaced.  The stones are now numbered so they can be replaced in the correct place should they get washed away again.

Ernest Bevin

Winsford has had some famous inhabitants.

 

In 1881 the village was the birthplace of the Labour Politician and Lord Privy Seal, Ernest Bevin, and during the 1920’s the leading English psychologist Charles Samuel Myers made his home in Winsford Glebe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a more romantic note, it was thought that in the 17th century Tom Faggus, a highwayman and gentleman, was said to have held up travellers near the Inn in Winsford.

Finally, the current Prime Minister Boris Johnson, grew up and went to school in the village.  Several of his family still live in the area.