Prehistory and Geology

The shape of the current parish of Winfrith is roughly that of a rectangle, aligned north to south, with the A352 Dorchester-Wool road bisecting it. Coincidentally the A352 follows, if a little to the north, the geological boundary that runs through the parish.

The chalk to the south was laid down during the Cretaceous period between 65 and 144 million years ago on the floor of a clear, warm sea not unlike today’s Caribbean in layers up to 400 metres thick. In a sense, this part of Winfrith began life in the tropics.

The sands and gravels to the north, by way of contrast, were laid down in an estuary by a large ancestor of the river Frome between 23 and 65 million years ago.
The earliest inhabitants were probably Mesolithic hunters and fishermen, who lived in Dorset between 8000 BC and 3500 BC and were followed by Neolithic people from mainland Europe.

More settlers arrived, some of whom may have settled in what is now Winfrith parish, and land was cleared, settled, cultivated and grazed. Most people found homes in the valleys like the Win, with higher ground generally used as pasture for animals rather than as a place to live.


If you have a family history question linked to Winfrith, please email the website editor via the contact email given in the right-hand column.