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We're situated in the heart of Wincanton

— About Us & The Area

We're situated in the heart of Wincanton

Relax Eat Drink Stay


Management and the staff would like to welcome you to The Dolphin Hotel, Formerly The Rainbow Inn, a popular Coaching Inn in 1774 the building was probably built by Nathaniel Ireson a potter, architect and mason who rebuilt the majority of the buildings in Wincanton following a devastating fire on 13th May 1707.

The Dolphin hotel is situated in the heart of Wincanton with many attractions such as RNAS Yeovilton - Fleet Air Arm MuseumLongleat Safari Park and Wincanton Racecourse all a short drive away. 

Today Wincanton is a pretty town in Somerset but it was once an important market town. It was once called Wincawel Tun. The word Wincawel is Celtic and means White Cawel (Cawel being the original name of the River Cale. Perhaps the water once rushed past and looked white.)

At the time of the Doomsday Book in 1086 Wincanton was a typical village but it soon grew into a larger and more important settlement. In 1235 the Lord of the Manor was granted the right to hold weekly markets in Wincanton. By the middle of the 14th century, it was a flourishing town. From 1556 Wincanton was also allowed two fairs. (Fairs were like markets but they were held only once a year and they attracted buyers and sellers from a wide area. People came from all over Somerset and Dorset to attend a Wincanton fair).

Like many Somerset towns, Wincanton prospered because of the wool industry. The cloth was woven in the town.

In 1685 the Duke of Monmouth led a rebellion in southwest England against King James II. The rebellion was crushed. Afterwards, 6 men were hanged, drawn and quartered in Wincanton.

Furthermore in 1688 Parliament declared that King James II was deposed and invited a Dutchman, William of Orange to come and take his place. However, some Irish troops stationed in England stayed loyal to King James. There were about 100 loyalist Irish soldiers stationed in Wincanton. William of Orange landed in Devon and marched towards London. A small number of his men were sent ahead to Wincanton to procure horses. They clashed with the Irish troops and 15 men were killed including the commanders of both sides.

In the 18th century, Wincanton continued to be an important market town. The main industry in Wincanton was making woollen cloth. There were also several clockmakers in the town. There were also pottery and brick making industries in Wincanton.

Wincanton was also on the stagecoach route from London to Exeter and many coaches called at the town. However, from the end of the 18th century, the wool industry moved to Yorkshire. The spread of railways across Britain in the 1840s ended the days of stagecoaches.

A famous architect, Nathaniel Ireson (1686-1769) lived in Wincanton from about 1726. He designed several local buildings.

In 1798 a body of men called Commissioners was formed in Wincanton. They had powers to pave, clean and light the streets.

Modern Wincanton

By 1801 the population of Wincanton was 1,722. By the standards of the time it was a large village. 

By 1851 the population of Wincanton peaked at almost 2,500. However like many towns in South Western England Wincanton suffered a drop in population in the late 19th century. By 1901 the population had fallen to less than 2,000.

During the Napoleonic Wars a large number of French prisoners of war were kept in Wincanton.

In 1837 a workhouse was built in Wincanton to house the destitute. However conditions in the workhouse were made as harsh as possible to deter 'idlers' from seeking help from the state.

Wincanton Rural District Council was formed in 1894 but it was dissolved in 1974.

Meanwhile a Carmelite Priory opened in Wincanton in 1889 and the Roman Catholic Church of Saints Luke and Teresa was built in 1908.

In the 1930s Unigate opened a milk factory south of the town.

In the 1970s the A303 was built around Wincanton and traffic now tends to bypass the town.

Sir Terence David John "Terry" Pratchett

Terry Pratchett was born on 28 April 1948 he is an English novelist, known for his frequently comical work in the fantasy genre. He is best known for his popular and long-running Discworld series of comic fantasy novels. Pratchett's first novel, The Carpet People, was published in 1971, and since his first Discworld novel (The Colour of Magic) was published in 1983, he has written two books a year on average.

Pratchett was the UK's best-selling author of the 1990s, and as of August 2010 had sold over 65 million books worldwide in thirty-seven languages. He is currently the second most-read writer in the UK, and the seventh most-read non-US author in the US.

Pratchett was appointed Office or the Order of the British Empire (OBE) "for services to literature" in 1998.  In addition, he was knighted in the 2009 New Year Honours.  In 2001 he won the Carnegie Medal for his young adult novel The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents.

In December 2007, Pratchett publicly announced that he was suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, subsequently making a substantial public donation to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, and filming a program chronicling his experiences with the disease for the BBC. 

Terry Pratchett married his wife Lyn in 1968, and they moved to Rowberrow, Somerset in 1970. Their daughter Rhianna Pratchett, who is also a writer, was born there in 1976. In 1993 the family moved to a village north-west of Salisbury, Wiltshire, where they currently live. He lists his recreations as "writing, walking, computers, and life".  He describes himself as a Humanist and is a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association and an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society.

Visit the Discworld Emporium (The Cunning Artificer)

In this intriguing shop, little pieces of Discworld have been made for 20 years. As a small team headed by Bernard and Isobel Pearson and working closely with the great author himself, they provide the mementoes, keepsakes and artefacts after your mind has wandered through the mean streets of Ankh-Morpork and beyond.

Their shop in Wincanton, Somerset, offers some of the finest Discworld creations, a comprehensive range of Discworld books, and exclusive items not available on the web. They are an ideal starting point for holidays and a popular detour for Discworld fans. 

At the Discworld Emporium, Discworld becomes real. In fact, they are also the official Ankh-Morpork Consulate, an official branch of the Ankh-Morpork Post Office, and Royal Ankh-Morpork Savings Bank branch - all in a town which in 2002, became officially twinned with Ankh-Morpork and now boasts a housing development full of Discworld street names. 

As if that isn't fun enough, we organise events at least twice a year where Discworld fans can mingle with like-minded folk and do extremely silly things in the name of charity. 

All this is just a few doors away; staff will be happy to help with directions or will take you to the shop to meet Bernard, Isobel, Ian and Rebecca.

Contact us

If you would like to make a reservation to dine or stay with us, please make a booking using the buttons below. For queries regarding a reservation, our menus or specific information about The Dolphin Hotel please contact us.