A History of Winkleigh

By Tim Lambert

Early Winkleigh

Winkleigh gets its name from two Saxon words. The word wincel meant a corner and the word Leah meant a clearing in a forest. So it was wincel Leah the corner clearing.

William the Conqueror gave the manor of Winkleigh to his wife Matilda. At the time of the Domesday Book Winkleigh had a park. (It was nothing like a modern park it was used for hunting).

Later Winkleigh was split between two families, the Keynes and the Traceys. Both of them erected ‘castles’ (possibly only fortified manor houses) by the village. They are known as Croft Castle and Court Castle. (Although today only mounds remain). During the Middle Ages, a tiny market town grew up between the two castles.

In the Middle Ages Winkleigh gained weekly markets and annual fairs. At that time there were very few shops and if you wished to buy or sell anything you had to go to the market. Fairs were like markets but they were held only once a year and they attracted buyers and sellers from a wide area.

All Saints Church Winkleigh was built in the 14th and 15th centuries, though it has since undergone restoration.

An almshouse was founded by Bartholomew Gidley in 1681. Winkleigh is also known for its 17th and 18th-century houses.

Modern Winkleigh

The village pump was erected in 1832 when the Great Reform Act was passed. It has inscriptions to remember the men behind reform, Grey, Brougham, Russell, and Althorp.

Inch’s cider factory was founded in 1900 by Samuel Inch. (It has now closed). Then in 1940, an airfield was built at Winkleigh. It was used during the Second World War.

At the time of the first census in 1801, Winkleigh had a population of over 1,200. By the standards of the time, it was a large village. The population of Winkleigh peaked in the mid-19th century. However, in common with many towns and villages in southwest England in the late 19th century, Winkleigh shrank. By 1901 its population was a little over 1,000.

In recent years Winkleigh has grown rapidly. In 2023 the population of Winkleigh was about 1,700. Meanwhile, in 2011 Winkleigh was named the best place in Britain to bring up children.