Broadwindsor is a small village, two miles from Beaminster, surrounded by the beautiful Dorset countryside. It is a sleepy little place with a school and a shop and few encroachments from the modern world. There were signs of settlements in this area prior to the arrival of the Romans in AD 43 and the village is recorded in the Domesday book as the manor of Windesore held by Hunger, the son of Odin.
Many of the names of people still living in the village and surrounding farms are recorded in documents dating from the 13th and 14th centuries, when many of the inhabitants were freemen. These names include Hallett, Paul and Studley.
The present church of St John the Baptist dates from 1902, but there has been a church in Broadwindsor since Anglo-Saxon times. Records of the local ministers date back to 1304 and some of the church bells are from an earlier pre-Reformation building.
Broadwindsor’s main claim to fame is that it sheltered the fugitive King Charles II. After the defeat of the Royalists at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, Charles stayed in the village for a night. Apparently the Parliamentarians began to search the building whilst he was there, but were interrupted when a woman began to give birth in the kitchen of the house. Consequently the king was not discovered and later escaped disguised as a woman. The original building was destroyed by fire 1856 but was later rebuilt as a cottage and the George Inn. A plaque identifies the present day building in the village square.
Broadwindsor was at its most populous in the early 19th century but began to decline when it was bypassed by the railway and was no longer on the stage-coach route. The population today is around 1,200. The Broadwindsor Craft and Design Centre is a complex of converted farm buildings, which is well-worth a visit.
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