Winsham is a small Parish situated near the boundaries of South Somerset, Dorset and Devon. About three quarters of its 750 residents live in the village of Winsham, the rest in the surrounding hamlets of Ammerham, Bridge, Leigh, Purtington, Street, and Whatley. It sits in a small sheltered valley formed by the River Axe.
The origins of Winsham are hidden in the mists of time. Certainly it was in existence since long before the Norman Conquest and its name is of Saxon origin. The Fosse Way runs at the edge of the parish so there may be a Roman association, but nobody can be sure of this. The hospitality offered by its natural features suggests that it would have been an ideal place of settlement for any community during recent millennia.
It is a pretty place, situated on a small river, the Axe, and nestling in a small wooded valley, protected from the strong south-westerly winds which from time to time race in from the sea, some ten miles away.
The parish that includes five hamlets, is home to about 750 people, and covers approximately ten square miles. Situated about four miles from Chard, on the road to Bridport, it was agriculture that provided the reason for its continuing existence. A century ago there were many small farms. Now there are many less, and with mechanisation, only a few people working on them. About a third of its population is retired, but importantly for the initial Museum project a good proportion of these belong to the old village families who have lived in the parish for generations. There are some two hundred children, whose parents for the most part now do a wide variety of jobs based away from the parish itself.
Winsham is known to have existed a thousand years ago, because it is recorded in the Domesday Book. Its oldest Church was built in the fourteenth century. A school has existed in the village since the eighteenth century, but the existing school building dates only from the 1850’s,when it had more pupils than it does to day. Winsham also had, for a fleeting moment-about fifty years-a woollen mill, becoming later a Flax mill, situated by the river.
On the face of it, one would be forgiven for thinking that Winsham does not offer much reason or scope for attempting to record its history. You would be wrong!
Despite the existence of Winsham for over a thousand years, it has not produced, as far as is known, any particularly famous people. It has not had any major battles fought over its land, nor has it been the seedbed of any political ideology. In its very ordinariness it is similar to many other villages throughout the United Kingdom. It is, and has been, the home of common folk, whose lives have provided the backdrop to the more ambitious, flamboyant, and clever characters of history whose lives and works more often populate museums displays and the history books.
The purpose of this museum is to record and preserve the evidence of these ordinary lives in order to educate and entertain those that follow. It was launched in 2002, and has attracted thousands of visitors. In 2009 it underwent a major refurbishment, to make it more suitable for Broadband users. It was in 2021 that the Web Museum was transferred to the Parish Council to safeguard and Bethany Fowler spent many months migrating all the information across onto a new, more responsive design she developed, to meet the needs of modern devices.
The people of Winsham have created this museum, and in doing so are pioneers in using the World Wide Web to make available to all a wealth of information and detail about life in a small community. We hope you will find it interesting and instructive, and visit us frequently.
John Sullivan 2002
The first Winsham E-letter appeared in October 2006 and since then it has been sent to subscribers, free of charge, usually once a week. Initially some twenty five households were on the mailing list. This has now grown (2016) to over two hundred, and increases most months as new people move into the village . Currently it reaches over three quarters of the households who are on line (approx 75/80% of all Winsham households ). It also enables past residents of the Parish, and those with family links to keep in touch with what is happening.
The main purpose of the E-letter is to promote activities in the parish by sending a very brief and transitory communication, which can be read and then discarded, the reader noting the items that are of interest . It lists in three columns, the name and location of the event, date and very brief additional information that might be considered necessary.
When more detailed information about an event is available , this information is placed on the Notice board of the Parish Web Site or the new Parish Council web site and a hyperlink is added to the E-letter, so that a mouse-click on the link in the E-letter provides instant access to this detail. This useful facility ensures that the e-letter always remains brief.
A popular feature of the E-letter is the 'village' photograph-different each time, with a short caption. These are usually of an event that has happened since the previous edition. This 'show-casing' of an event often links to more pictures from that event very quickly after they have taken place, sometimes within hours, on the Parish Web Site.
The Winsham E-Letter compliments the Joint Parish Magazine, and does not compete with it. A recognised problem with the Joint Parish Magazine in publicising certain types of events or news, is the relatively long copy date of up to three weeks, that is necessary for it's production. In contrast, the E-letter can be produced and sent out in less than one hour.
This underlines another use for the E- letter. Sometimes information needs to be distributed quickly-information about a lost pet, for example. On another occasion there was a pollution scare relating to the mains water supply. Occasionally it is used to inform the parish of an untimely death. In these cases a 'special edition ' is distributed, usually in the form of a simple e-mail, with no other topic covered.
An important secondary purpose of the e- letter is to encourage subscribers to visit the Winsham Parish Web site and the Winsham Web Museum. In this it has been very successful.
Analysis of visits to the Parish Web site immediately after the distribution of an E-letter shows a dramatic increase.
A major change in mid-2010 was the end of attaching the E-letter to an e-mail, necessitating it to be opened before it could be read. The E-Letter is now copied onto the E-mail 'carrier', which greatly facilitates links to web sites for those subscribers who do not have appropriate software, and can be read fully by just opening the e-mail. No further action is required
The e-letter also carries links to emergency services, and also announces when Minutes of meetings from some village organisations are available on the Parish or Parish Council Web Site, i.e. latest Parish Council and Jubilee Hall Management Committee meetings.
Recent changes and development.
The growth in the village of the influence of the Social Media has already been referred to in web page relating to 'Winsham on the Web'. One benefit of this is that news can get out to the community even more quickly than the weekly e-letter can achieve.
The e-letter which is sent to a subscription list of over two hundred each week can also now be viewed from a link from the Home Page of the Parish Web Site, or from the Winsham Community Facebook page, as a .pdf file. The e-letter also provides conspicuous links via appropriate logos to the Winsham Parish Council Web site, the Community Facebook page and the Winsham Community Twitter Feed, as well as to Winsham Web Museum.
A further recent trend is the use of the accompanying e-mail message to be used to provide additional information on a subject not dealt with on a web page, or that is not suitable for the three column format of the e-letter itself. It is often of a topical nature. In October 2017, the 500th edition of the e-letter was published.
They give an accurate record of the day-to day activities of the village over the period since the Autumn of 2006.The links contained in the archived E-letters below do not usually work, as the original target web page closes. Further coverage of the major events such as Street Fairs can be seen in the 'Winsham at Play' Gallery of this Web Museum. Minutes of Meetings can be found in the Parish Council Gallery and the Jubilee Hall Gallery.