Thomas Hardy is responsible for the people of Winterborne Houghton being called 'Houghton Owls' His rustic joke in Far from the Madding Crowd concerned bashful Joseph Poorgrass, who lost his way at night in Yalbury Wood, having had too much to drink. In fear at being lost he cried out 'Man-a-lost, man-a-lost' At the same time a passing owl happened to be calling 'Whoowhoo-whoo' and Joseph, now thoroughly scared, replied 'Joseph Poorgrass of Weatherby Sir'.
Although admitting the story against himself he tried to save face by denying he called the bird 'Sir'
'What is right is right' he said, 'I never said sit to the bird, knowing very well that no man of gentleman's rank would be hollering there at that time of night.'
This is where the most western of the two Dorset Winterbornes rises to continue through eight villages bearing its name before it meets the river Stour.
The church of St. Andrew is in flint and dated 1862.
On Meriden Down, one mile WNW of the village is a Romano British settlement, surrounded by a 'Celtic' field system.