Winton Forum


The Mysterious Indian Hut

Nobody seems completely sure as to what it was or what it looked like - but it appears on old maps as a prominent landmark.

Long disappeared, but not completely forgotten, the Indian Hut has from time to time provoked discussion and disagreement.

The one thing we know for sure is that it appears on local maps of the area during the last thirty years of the 19th century. Its location was what would now be the junction of Green Road and Charminster road - just south of the Fiveways pub.

It was generally described as a rough cottage, in some disrepair, occupied by a swarthy looking tramp. There was speculation that he was either Indian or a soldier who had once served in India. Neither seems particularly likely.

Another explanation comes from writer Pascoe Marshall. He says, "In the early days of the eighteenth century smallpox broke out in the villages and up this track at a spot where the Fiveways Hotel is now, was built a wattle and daub hut as a primitive isolation hospital, the patients were taken there and more or less looked after themselves. This structure was called Indian Hut and the name was still used by us natives until the Fiveways Hotel was built; what a chance was missed for preserving a name with a history".

From an 1893 map

The building was already known as the Indian Hut in the 1861 census, and at that time was inhabited by a family of four - 53 year old labourer John Lockyer, his wife Mary Ann and two sons. A sign of the poverty of the times is that ten years earlier Lockyer was living in nearby claypits on Parish relief. Twenty years later his son John was apparently doing time at Pentonville Prison for felony.

The original Indian Hut disappeared under the building developments of the early years of the last century. The last known reference to it appears in the Bournemouth Graphic in a 1906 article on the opening of Queens Park Drive.

A year earlier a reporter from the paper had set out to find the Hut. He described wending his way down the hill from the Richmond Hotel, through heathland and past a gravel pit:

"We are not surprised that we never came across the Indian Hut before in our rambles. It certainly took pains to hide itself well away from the haunts of men. There is only one floor, and above, a long thatched roof with here and there patches of grass peeping out. An old square chimney surmounts the roof, and is the only brickwork perceptible. The walls are rough, the windows low and square, and painted by some unhappy inspiration a bright yellow. Around the hut stand a few Scotch firs, and in the garden, leading down to the little wicket gate, bloom a few chrysanthemums."

To add to the mystery, the route he describes appears to take him past the spot marked on the map - and on to the small original settlement of Charminster a couple of hundred yards further north!

In yet another confusing turn - the name of the Indian Hut survived through a tobacconists shop in Charminster Road - a little bit further south of the original location. It seems that when local residents recall the Indian Hut, and in particular visits to get ice-cream or lemonade, they are referring to the shop and not the building that preceded it. The shop bore the name "Indian Hut" and even had a life-sized statue of a Red Indian chief outside.

It is probable that the name Indian Hut may have been applied to several different buildings in the area of the past two hundred years. The only thing that is certain about it is that it was a place on the map and that people lived there.

Proof of habitation - the 1861 census entry