From information compiled by the late Dennis Bicheno

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The Winterborne valley is a most fascinating area for archaeologists. Winterborne Houghton parish alone, contains at least 13 round barrows and 4 romano-british settlements situated between 500 and 700 feet above sea level. An example is Meriden at the top centre of the picture.

Romano-British settlements

The chalk downlands around the East Winterborne valley were well utilised for agricultural activities both before and particularly during the Roman occupation. Meriden, situated at the head of the valley is one of the finest examples of a romano-british settlement in the country. It should be noted that this settlement lies on private land and permission is needed to visit.

To the north of the village is the settlement of Ringmoor and to the south are Bullywood and Houghton South Down. There are other less well defined remains in Delcombe Wood to the west.

It is likely that these farmsteads produced cereals as primitive forms of wheat, rye and oats as well as vegetable crops of cabbage, parsnip, turnip and carrot. Fruit such as plum, vine, apple and mulberry may also have been grown. Sheep, pigs, goats and cattle would have been reared and all produce would have found a ready market in the Roman army and administrative centres. Dorchester would have contained such a centre.

Under Roman guidance the style of house for the agricultural workers on the settlement would have evolved from the traditional round huts to rectangular buildings of wattle and daub in which the family lived in one end and the cattle in the other. There is evidence of such buildings in neighbouring counties e.g. the Devon long house.

The more prosperous farmers might have lived in a villa and enjoyed the relative comforts of underfloor heating, drinking water from a spring or well and some form of sewage disposal. No such villa has yet been found in the Winterborne Valley but there could be sites - perhaps beside the Winterborne - still awaiting discovery.


Apart from the Roman roads and the Romano-British settlements, further fragmentary evidence for the presence of the Romans in the east Winterborne Valley lies in the discovery of a Roman Well at Winterborne Kingston. Some of its contents provided evidence for the existence of a rural shrine in the area.   


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