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The story of Winsham over the last millennium has been that of a community which has been able to sustain a satisfactory, if poor, way of life. Until a hundred years ago it had an economy largely based on agriculture, and was well away from the nearest town, Chard. Because of this, Winsham needed to be largely self sufficient. It wasn't until the end of the first World War (194-1918) that this requirement began to become less important.
A way of life that had survived for hundreds of year began to alter. Change that had started with the growth of railways and the national economy in the 19th Century, gained momentum with the arrival of vehicles powered by the internal combustion engine. At the beginning of the 20th Century, and especially after the Great War, motor cars, lorries & tractors steadily replaced the horse-drawn carriages and carts as a means of faster transport. Local towns became easier to reach.
This gallery attempts to record the effect of these changes on the way of life, by illustrating the growth and decline of village businesses since the mid-nineteenth century up to the present (2013). It records the businesses that supported a remarkably stable population of about 750 people. It deals in the main with the last 150 years of the last millennium, relying on the Millennium Book to reflect the decade or so leading up to the present.
This subject is covered very well in the book ‘The Winsham I Remember’ by W.D. Paull. Now out of print, it is reproduced by permission of his granddaughter Suzanne Butler on this web site. However, for the most part, this wonderful record only tells of Winsham during the first two decades of the last century.
There are also many references to all the inns throughout the Web Museum, especially in the Winsham Memories area. This museum area is aimed towards bringing these references together, and also adding information where possible. Most of this information is anecdotal, but from reliable sources, often with family links to the businesses. We welcome further contributions.
The Kings Arms was most popular especially during World War II. The reason was that the Jubilee Hall was directly opposite. In those days there would be dances on Wednesday and Saturday nights and the locally stationed American troops and our local boys who were on leave would take advantage and enjoy this function. Cider was the popular drink, having disastrous consequences at times (all types of beer of course were on ration and in short supply).
Tommy Ackland was the publican for many years, and it had been in his family for over two hundred years. His mother had run the pub until she was nearly one hundred years old. Tommy died in 1967.
Before World War II he also ran, twice a week, a produce market in the covered yard, but this was a market a little different. He would buy from the Winsham locals all sorts of items in season such as pheasants, rabbits, wild mushrooms, wild blackberries, plovers eggs, etc. Tommy would bundle all his wares together -take them to Chard Junction and put them on the Waterloo train to arrive in the London markets by morning!!
After his death his daughters let part of the premises to an antiques dealer, Mr J. Cross. In 1970 the whole building became a residential property. It was owned by Mr & Mrs Kendon for a short while, and the was purchased by Mr B.P.Botting. In 1992 the Howells purchased the property and lived there until 1997, when the present owners, Rod and Sandy Wells came to the village.
The Bell was tenanted by a well known Winsham family. William Partridge held the tenancy for just under thirty years, from 1924 until 1953. Prior to that Mr Hart had run the tenancy. Ernie Partridge, his son, tells of a happy and lively childhood, with his brothers and sisters. William, in addition to the pub business, used to keep eight cows, which lived in several fields around the village, which he would rent for the purpose. The milk would be sold around the village. During an outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease, he was unable to move his cows for milking. Fortunately they were grazing in the field adjacent to the cemetery, so he was able to tie them up to the Cemetery fence and milk them there! The village milk supply was maintained!
Before the war he also carried on a lively trade in collecting eggs, chickens (alive and dead) from the many small farms in the area, and sending them to market in London.
He also erected a corrugated iron shed in what is now the garden of ‘The Bell’, and on a Saturday night used to sell fried fish & chips. It was popular with villagers and they used to do a very good trade. This continued during the war, but very often rabbit was used as a substitute for fish, which was sometimes hard to get, especially during the early years of the war.
The George Inn, in Back Street, and fronted by the Market Cross and the water pump, was in its later years a tenanted pub, owned by Brutton, Mitchells & Toms. In 1937, the Chard Brewery was closed, having served the thirst of local inhabitants since 1825. Before The George closed in the early 1970s, it had a number of tenants, the names of most still well known in the village today (2013), their families have remained in the community.
Tenants after the Great War included Frank & Ivy Peadon, Reg & Sarah Grabham, whose daughter Linda married Ken Slade, the builder who lived in Fore Street. Then followed Mr & Mrs Spencer Barnes, who in turn were followed by the Cameron family, who had recently returned from Sri Lanka. It is thought that they were the last licensees.
The Knapp Inn ceased to trade in the early 20th Century, when the proprietor Mr Birfield, became tenant of the newly built Victoria Inn at Victoria Street, Chard. The Knapp Inn was on the site of Heron House at Bridge.
Before that the proprietor was Mr William Bonfield. The Inn was well spoken of in the 'Book of the Axe', written 1875 (2nd Edition) by the Victorian gentleman and keen fisherman, G.R. Pulman where the author spoke eloquently about the quality of the food available to the casual way farer.
Mr Birfield was without doubt a man possessed of admirably acute 20/20 vision when it came to pinpointing the gleam of gold at Leigh. He had unearthed 300 Charles I gold pieces from beneath the roots of a laburnum tree in the gardens at Leigh.
Without doubt the largest business ever to operate within the Winsham Parish Boundary was the Woollen Mill (water-powered) located by the river just below the site where the sewage recycling plant now stands. Standing four storeys high and built from local stone, in its prime in the middle of the nineteenth century it is said to have employed some six hundred workers. During that time the population of the village increased to over a thousand, compared with the 764 in 1805 and 750 at the present time (2012).
Opening in 1830 or thereabouts, its owner was Samuel Ousley Bennett and he produced West of England Cloth, a strong, dense, napped woollen cloth capable of keeping out the wet which was very important before the days of waterproofing. More can be found about this by clicking on his picture.
Sadly, this new found prosperity was not to last. With the massive development of steam powered technology for manufacturing both cotton and woollen cloths in Lancashire and Yorkshire, competition proved too much and the factory closed. It was however reopened in the years that followed, processing flax. However this initiative was not maintained for very long, and by 1914 the building was deserted, only to be used for dances and band practice. During the Second World War it was demolished.
This enterprise was run by a well known Winsham family, the Boaits, who were related to the Acklands and the Courtney’s. It was located opposite the Church, at what is now No 15 Church Street. During Daisy Boait’s time it was a successful bakery. It also sold groceries and sweets. The baker who Daisy employed (and a very good one by all accounts) was a character named George Forsey, who delivered the finished product, twice a week, to the outlying hamlets - Purtington, Hollowells, Cricket St. Thomas, etc. at night, to local farms. According to reliable reports, the horse and cart (a covered wagon), often used to return to the shop, empty, without George. No satisfactory explanation for this was ever given! However, the speculation caused a lot of local amusement!
In earlier years, before the Great War, Boaits also sold salt fish (remember that there would have been no refrigeration), which had to be soaked in water overnight before it could be eaten. Apparently it was very popular. This business which was known to exist at the turn of the last century was still running in the 1950s.
One other function of Daisy's bakery was that she always opened the ovens on a Sunday morning. With the Church opposite, always well attended, many of the churchgoers would take her their Sunday roasts on the way to church and collect them, ready for serving at home, when the church service was over. (Apparently this practice started when Bakers were not allowed, by law, to bake bread on Sundays.)
Christopher Warren moved to Winsham in 1936 or thereabouts, lodging with the Courtenay family. He resurrected the Butchers business at No.1 Church Street opposite, Victory Garage, and married Doris Webb from Kingstone shortly afterwards. Together they built up a good business, although in the early days it was very hard. He had to look outside the village for business, and used to cycle on a delivery bicycle as far as Stoke Abbott for very small returns! Doris manned the shop when her husband was not there, and also cooked meat pies and faggots for sale in the shop. Robert, their son, went to school at Winsham School and his account of his young life can be read in the Reminiscences Gallery.
Around the beginning of the 1900s, the Post Office moved across the road to a substantial building next to the Jubilee Hall and adjacent to 'The Bell'. It employed in addition to the Post Master, and no doubt, an assistant, two uniformed post men, and a uniformed Telegraph Boy. A few years later, it is not known exactly when, the Post Office building was to share the premises with the Police, a situation that continued probably continued until some time in the mid-1920s.
In 1927, the premises were taken over by Mr Ralph Milden, who established the steam bakery. Bread was baked in an outhouse at the back. In 1931 this business extended to become 'Winsham Stores' which then sold groceries as well as bread. This continued throughout World War II, but in 1950 the property was divided up with part of the building (now known as No.7 Court Street) remaining as a shop, and the adjoining part now known as 'Devonsedge', becoming a residential property, into which Ralph Milden and his wife retired.
The Shop was then sold to Arthur Hood, who resold it in 1951 to Arthur Higgins, who in1954 sold it to Mr H.J. Ackhurst, who maintained the business until 1969. Before it was purchased by Mr Ackhurst, it is believed that the shop was tenanted by the Bartlett family, who also ran a mobile shop in a van to the outlying hamlets.
In 1969 it was sold to Joan & Bill Dearle, who ran the business from the late Summer of 1969 until the Spring of 1971, when it was sold to Mr J.F.Cane. In 1972 , ownership passed to Phil & Diana Kershaw who continued trading until 1979. At this point the Winsham Store stopped trading. The shop area was then converted in to living space and this has remained as their home. Diana is now a Deacon of St.Stephen’s, following a long term as a teacher at Winsham School. Phil is the long standing Treasurer of the Jubilee Hall.
Winsham, although close to the railway line, might have turned out differently if it had been possible to persuade the railway company to build a station, or at least a halt. The village was thrown into an uproar when the track was laid around 1860, between Crewkerne and Axminster-a single track affair that is still in use today (2013). The navvies used to drink at the local hostelries, and trouble would follow. A newspaper report tells of, on one occasion, an angry crowd of them chasing our local policeman across the fields after he had tried to enforce closing time.
Despite these inconveniences, and several attempts by the Parish Council in the early 1900s, the GWR could not be persuaded that it would be economic to provide the facility. The railway runs at the bottom of the village. This picture dates back to 1910. Ian Monkton tells us that the line was never part of the GWR.
The line was built by the London & South Western Railway (L&SWR) as their main line from Waterloo to Plymouth via Okehampton, and to its branches in Ilfracombe, Bude and Padstow, and as such carried the famous 'Atlantic Coast Express' every day. It was built in 1860 as single track, but within 10 years it had been doubled and remained that way until 1967, when it reverted to a single track. On nationalisation in 1948 it became part of British Railways Southern Region until 1963 when all lines west of Salisbury were transferred to British Railways Western Region. In preparation for privatisation it became part of Network South East in 1986, and today is operated by South West Trains.
Churchill's was located in Fore Street opposite the Manse. It is believed to be located on land owned by Manor Farm. It started as a blacksmith and forge and in later years run by Fred and Neddy Churchill. Fred was the blacksmith and farrier. As years went by, and the business of shoeing of horses fell away, they then embraced the motor car, selling. petrol and carrying out repairs to motor vehicles, tractors and associated farm equipment.
They also sold paraffin, and charged the batteries that were needed for powering radios. Mrs Churchill was a dressmaker, who did a lot of work in the village. After Neddy Churchill's death in 1966 a lifetime interest in the business transferred to Ray Ashman, an employee. Sadly Ray died in middle age in 1983, when the business then passed to Raymond (Ringo) Gough. The business was sold in 1997 to Dave Woodland, Woodland Autos. The business is now run by his son Richard.
Woodland Autos is now a modern 'state of the art' vehicles maintenance business. It also carries out the regular MOT tests required by law.
The original building and business dated from the late 1940s. However its roots precede this date. It started with Ed Partridge, and his wife Hilda (Meech), running a taxi & minibus service during the war. They lived in what is now known as Victory Cottage, next to an open space. After the war, the idea came to them to build a garage, calling it Victory Garage. Its main purpose was then to be a service area for the small fleet of Bedford passenger coaches that they were then running, called Victory Coaches. These ran for a few years, and then continued with the minibus services that had started during the war.
During this period there was also a small shop selling sweets and confectionery at the side of Victory Cottage. This came to an end in about 1959. However the link with the automotive business did not end. Tony Meech then opened in 1959 his second hand car business: T. Meech Car Sales. This successful business remained in Winsham until 1969, when it moved to Furnham Road, Chard, where it continued until his retirement until 1991.
Shortly after Tony Meech's move, Ray Ashman, the new proprietor of Churchill's, in Fore Street, bought the premises. Roger Beer took over the premises in the early 1980s, and has been there since, with Nick Boyland's Rhino Trikes opening its doors at the rear of Victory Garage in 1992. Roger Beer has also played an important part in the life of the business; he was Chairman of the Parish Council from 2007 until 2012, and has been an active member of the Winsham Street Fair committee for many years.
In 2018 the garage closed and development started, to use the space to build a small close of houses: Victory Close. See the stages of development in the photos below courtesy of Helen Fowler:
In Fore Streetwas Art Manning's Garage. Described in Robert Warren's memories of Winsham.
'I must mention Art Manning’s garage, the first on the right going up Fore Street . It was an emporium of absolute junk! He brought the daily papers to the village, provided the distilled water for wireless accumulators and sold petrol from a very old pump where he hand pumped the fuel up to a large glass measuring cylinder until the required amount was shown and then discharged it by gravity into the car’s fuel tank. He was a character and used the oldest phone that I have ever seen in use; a voice horn on a long plastic stem and an earpiece on a long lead. Furthermore he always blew into it noisily before talking.'
'There were two cobblers (shoe makers) in Winsham before World War II, one was Mr. Frecknall, he lived and had his shoe repair business at the Malt Houses in Court Street, his was the last house in the row towards the pathway to Broadenham. The second and most interesting was Dan Butler. He operated from a back room in his home, thought to be the house number 36 Church Street. Dan was also one of the local Royal Mail delivery men and delivered for Fore Street, High Street, Broadenham and Back Street. Appleby's shop was then back incorporating the Post Office'. (Dennis Summers)
* All marked with an asterisk are mentioned in 'The Winsham I Remember' by W.H. Paull.