The de Newburghs, who eventually gave their name to Winfrith, were a branch of a Norman family of great importance who presumably were part of the victorious army of 1066. Robert de Newburgh obtained the manor of Winfrith from Henry I. At this time the family was known as ‘de Novo Burgo’, a translation of their originating community of le Neubourg in northern France.
One of the conditions of their ownership of Winfrith Newburgh, as it now became known, was the obligation to provide a service to royalty; to whit: ‘to give water to the Lord the King etc. at Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, and to have the basin and towel used, unless the Earl of Oxford happen to be present’.
The de Newburghs were major landowners in the area, and were patrons and founders of the Cistercian abbey at nearby Bindon. Some of the land in Winfrith was given to the abbey, either as gifts or bequests. From the de Newburghs the manor passed to their descendants until it was finally sold in 1641 by Theophilus, Earl of Suffolk, to Humphrey Weld, and so became part of the Weld Estate.
All was not always peaceful in Winfrith in medieval times. Despite the de Newburgh’s patronage, relations between local people and Bindon Abbey were not always good. In 1328 the abbey instigated an assault on Winfrith village, when 500 sheep, 100 pigs, 24 oxen, 20 bullocks, 12 cows and 10 horses were reported to have been seized, as well as corn belonging to the de Newburghs. The next year, in retaliation, a mob from the village headed for the abbey and rifled it of goods and possessions, frightening away many of the monks.
Winfrith Newburgh was almost certainly hit very hard by the Black Death, which arrived by ship at Melcombe Regis in 1348 and killed between a third and a half of the entire population of England. Most parishes in the south of Dorset suffered greatly; in June 1349 alone the parish priests at both nearby Wool and Coombe Keynes perished.
It took the best part of a century for prosperity to return to Winfrith Newburgh and its inhabitants. The three great fields that surrounded the village were gradually brought back into cultivation as the population slowly recovered. As always the growth was in the southern part of the parish; the poorer soils to the north still only had sparse areas of cultivation. Wheat, oats and barley were the main crops, along with the keeping of large numbers of sheep on the chalk downs.