Winterborne St Martin, commonly known as Martinstown, is a village in south west Dorset, England, situated four miles south west of Dorchester, beside Maiden Castle. The village has a population of approx.754 (2001).

Saint Martin's Church dating from the 12th Century with a Norman font is in the centre of the village. Other amenities include a Village Shop and Post Office, Public House (The Brewers Arms) and Village Hall. Bronze Age barrows including the famous Clandon Barrow surround the village and Maiden Castle hillfort is nearby.

A stream (The Winterbourne) runs through the length of the village.

The village is in the UK Weather Records for the highest daily recorded rainfall, which was recorded in Martinstown on July 18th 1955 at 279 mm (11 inches) in a 15 hour period.

In 1268 Henry III granted a charter to Winterborne St Martin (Martinstown), which allowed the village to hold an annual fair within five days of St. Martins Day. The fair, which in times past was a leading horse market and amusement fair, had been revived but the old-time custom of roasting a ram was replaced once durind an event in the 1960's with a 'badger roast'. The 80 lb badger was caught in a snare and many villagers thought they were eating goose. Fairs are no longer held in Martinstown on an annual basis. The Village in recent time has held successful Open Garden Events and Craft Fayres. The village still has a very active Village Hall, hosting many local activities.

After a hundred years silence, bells in the church rang out in 1947. Five new bells were hung as a village memorial to those who died in the war. An earlier peal had been sold to defray debts.

The village fights to retain its rural charm. In 1980, the villagers were 'up in arms' because the vicarage was built in brick. Despite initial opposition, housing estates have now been built too.

The MWMC Cycle group was formed here in 1996.

In 2007 Martinstown won the Best Kept Village in Dorset Award, in the Large Village Category.

*Thanks to an entry in Wikipedia

Moments in the History of Martinstown
1918-1919 – The Ending of War!

The First World War certainly made an impact on the village. There were of course no visual images to show people what was happening across the Channel. Not only was there no television news, but no radio bulletins either, nor did everyone have a daily newspaper. However many of the younger men did enlist in the army, and the result was a severe manpower shortage especially at harvest time. The school log book in 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918 refers to continuous absences among the older boys in the summer months because they had to help with the harvesting.

martinstown sign

The log also records that the children made a collection for the Blue Cross fund for sick and wounded army horses, one pound, sixteen shillings and nine pence was raised.

When at last the war ended on Armistice Day on November 11th 1918 celebrations were planned for the following year. When summer came there would be a horse race along the valley behind Grove Hill. On the appointed day all the riders and horses met on the Green. Harry Bowering, an eight year old boy at this time, can remember and name some of the riders and their mounts. Eddie Mills rode one of Colonel Duke's horses, Horace Mills was on a horse from Ashton called Sunshine, Mr Walbrin rode another, and Benny Forsey from South Rew was prepared to unharness the pony who pulled his cart and ride him, to everyone’s amusement. All the competitors rode off to the top of Grove Hill, to the start, except for Benny who walked up with his steed. Racing the entire length of the valley proved too much for some of the entrants but Benny Forsey and his pony completed the course and was first at the finish, claiming the £2.00 prize!

After this excitement everyone joined the children on the Green where they were enjoying a tea party organised by the vicar’s wife. An accordion provided the music and refreshments were provided for everybody. Such was the never-to-be-forgotten celebration now that peace had come.

It was quite a long time after the fighting finished before all the soldiers returned home. The school log book tells us that one pupil was allowed to be absent on October 14 1919 in order to greet his big-brother soldier on his return. Four of the Martinstown men never did return, and their names are recorded on a plaque on the Parish Office wall. This simple building was erected in their memory as the village Reading Room.

Margaret Hearing

Francis Eddison and Martinstown

Francis (Frank) Eddison was an agricultural engineer, founder of the firm that bore his name and which gained fame across the whole of Britain. He would become to be associated in the late Victorian era with steam ploughing engines for farming and later with steam rolling engines for road construction and maintenance.

Born in the Headingley district of Leeds in 1840, he was the son of a solicitor, Edwin Eddison. Two of his brothers were also trained as engineers and his oldest brother, Robert, worked for the Yorkshire firm of John Fowler and Co, a manufacturer of steam ploughing equipment. Following his brother’s connection with this firm Frank bought two engines for use on his farm in Nottinghamshire and at this time began to use his machines on neighbouring farms, thus starting his work as an early plant hire operator hiring out his machines rather than becoming a manufacturer of the machines themselves.

Frank moved south to Martinstown around 1868-1870 and established his business in the village on a site now occupied by Cowleaze. During this time he also lived in the village, probably at Stevens Farmhouse. His stay in Martinstown is confirmed by his January 1877 inclusion in the list of registered voters living in the village. Frank and his wife Sarah, the daughter of a Nottinghamshire farmer, eventually had eight children, with four of them being baptised in Martinstown church.

The nearby farmers, Henry Duke and Henry Hawkins (of Clandon) did not use his services however, the former having his own steam ploughing tackle and the latter, being a traditionalist, did not approve of ploughing engines. But so many other farmers in the Dorchester area were keen to use his machines that he decided to expand his business by moving to Dorchester in 1877. Here he took over a site on the Wareham Road adjoining the railway, which became known as the Dorchester Steam Plough Works and where the business stayed for nearly ninety years.

IMG 0091At the same time he and his family moved into Dorchester, firstly according to the 1881 Census, to Middle Farm House (now occupied by Sunny Day

Nursery) and then  later to Syward Lodge in East Fordington to be nearer to the works. He lived here until his death.

In the late 1870s and early 1880s there was a sharp decline in farming and Eddison decided to branch out into steam powered road rolling engines as a secondary business which had the other advantage that it provided work during the relatively idle winter months. The whole future of the firm eventually turned on this innovation.

About 1883 he began to suffer a decline in health as a result of developing diabetes and began to hand over the running of the business to others and a new manager was appointed. Frank Eddison died on 8th May 1888, aged 47 and was buried in Martinstown after a service in the church on the morning of 12th May. His coffin was borne by six of his workmen. His gravestone and that of the three of his sons who died very young (namely Gerard in 1877, Robert Edwin in 1881 and Hugh in 1884) can be found in the north east corner of the churchyard.

As to the question why did he request to be buried in Martinstown one can only speculate. In this village he enjoyed a comfortable family life and this was where his successful business started. He may have felt a real attachment to the village. All this was before his health declined and before the tragic loss of three of his young sons.

At this point the firm passed out of the hands of the Eddison family and his wife and young family moved away from Dorset.

Despite the founder’s death the business continued to expand and flourish and became the biggest hirers of road rolling, construction and industrial plant in Britain with the slogan “ Eddison Everywhere.” In a tribute to the founder all pieces of hired equipment owned by the firm clearly bore the name Eddison.

Frank Eddison’s name lives on today with the street name Eddison Avenue in Dorchester. The steam roller in the Kings Road play area of Dorchester which was originally owned by Eddisons and which was donated to Dorchester in the 1960s when it became unrepairable will always serve as a reminder of the man and the firm he created.

Martin Reeves

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