The Woodforde Family

A History of the Woodforde Family from 1300



The Man from Salisbury

According to the cartulary, John de Woodford was `a gentleman son besyde Salesbury’ who travelled to Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire in the early years of the 13th century where he married Alice Prest(on), the daughter of a wealthy Melton wool merchant. 

"Here be-gynnyth a trewe Regist(re) copyed out of ffynes and dedes selyd in wax. How that olde John off Wodford the age of that he passed out Of this world was five score yere and seven. And he Was a gentnlman son besyde Salesbury. And Come unto Melton Mowbrey and weddyd a Merchant daughter there and his heyre."

The Register and Cartulary of all the manors and lands of John de Woodford, once of Ashby Folville in the County of Leicester. (Cotton Claudius Xlll)

Woodforde Valley near Lower Woodford

The River Avon near Lower Woodford

Records do exist of other men in this area of Wiltshire bearing the title `of Woodford’. There is a record of a Geoffrey de Woodforde in Wiltshire in 1180 and a Gilbert De Woodford held lands in the area in 1214. In that year he was seised at his death of three hides and one virgate in Woodford. A Sir William de Wodefaud was returned as a knight of the County of Wiltshire in 1307 but there is no evidence of a specific family styled `de Woodford’ existing in the area. 

The manor of Woodford formed part of the ancient estates of the Bishop of Salisbury from before the Conquest until as recently as 1869 when it was transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners who sold it in 1920. As the manor was in church ownership for nine hundred years or more, few land or property transactions took place within the manor and so very few records were created. Unfortunately, this lack of written documentation limits research into the people who lived within the manor.

The Woodford Valley

Another view of the River Avon
and the Woodford  Valley

The diocese of Old Sarum was originally founded by Birinus who in 634 established his see at Dorchester in Oxfordshire from where he evangelised the Kingdom of Wessex. From this beginning grew the later Dioceses of Winchester, Sherborne, Ramsbury and Salisbury. In the time of Bishop St. Headda (676-705) the see was moved to Winchester, and after Headda's death (705) a formal separation took place when the greater part of Wiltshire with areas of Dorset and Somerset were formed into the Diocese of Sherborne of which St. Aldhelm became the first bishop.

Ten bishops in turn succeeded St. Aldhelm before the next subdivision of the see in 909, when Wiltshire and Berkshire became the separate see of Ramsbury, restricting the Diocese of Sherborne to Dorsetshire only.

In 1058, under Herman, who had been made Bishop of Ramsbury in 1045, the two dioceses were again united. Herman survived to transfer his Episcopal chair to Old Sarum in 1075. His successor, St.Osmund, built a cathedral there and drew up for it the ordinal of offices, which became the basis of the Sarum Rite. It was the seventh Bishop of Sarum, Richard Poore, who decided to remove the cathedral from the precincts of the royal castle of Old Sarum to a more appropriate location. 

On 28 April, 1220, he laid the foundation stones of the present cathedral, beginning with the Lady chapel which was consecrated on 28 September 1225. Among those present was St. Edmund, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, and at this time Treasurer of Salisbury.

Entrance to Old Sarum

Entrance to Old Sarum



The Woodford Valley and Old Sarum

The parish of Woodford is situated about two miles to the north of the modern city of Salisbury in Wiltshire near the site of the earlier settlement of Old Sarum. It is possible that a church on the site of the present building existed in Saxon times as the parish boundaries are pre-Conquest in date.  The earliest work in the present church is 12th Century.

Woodford Parish Church

All Saints Parish Church, Woodford

The outer ramparts of the fortifications at Sarum were probably first constructed around 1000 BC and were strengthened during the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age when a barbican was constructed outside the main gate.

The fort experienced little change until the Roman invasion in AD 53. Having subdued local resistance the Romans brought a period of relative stability. At Old Sarum this is indicated by the fact that the hill fort appears to have served as little more than a garrison. The Roman settlement was established some distance from the fort at the bottom of the river valley. It is clear that the settlement established here, though not large, would have been of some importance as four Roman roads converge on the old fort. Most probably Sarum would have been the site of a regular market and other forms of trading which depended on good transport and communications.

The Saxons fought over Sarum in a battle recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles as having taken place in AD 552 when "Cynric fought the Britons at the place now called Salisbury, and won."

Old Sarum fort from cathedral site

Old Sarum fortifications from Cathedral site

These new occupiers of Sarum made use of the fortifications, and subsequently a town grew up. The Saxon settlement must have been of considerable size because it was apparently avoided by the invading Vikings of King Sweyn in 1003. Other settlements in the area were not so lucky. The nearby town of Wilton, only four or five miles away suffered badly at the hands of the Vikings.

The fortress eventually did change hands following the Norman invasion of 1066 and it was then that the most striking remains seen today were first built. The hillfort was remodelled into a Norman Motte and Bailey design. The first wooden fort was constructed in 1069 when the central Motte was constructed. In 1070 William the Conqueror paid off his entire army in the outer bailey of the new castle and in 1089 the major landholders of William's kingdom gathered at Old Sarum to swear their oath of loyalty.

At Sarum, the Normans built a royal castle within the earthworks of an Iron Age hill fort. During the twelfth century a tower and palace were built in the inner bailey. The cathedral, begun in the late eleventh century, was constructed on the north side of the outer bailey. 

Today the area near Old Sarum is divided geographically into the settlements of Upper, Middle and Lower Woodford. It is still partially wooded and the River Avon flows through it on a north-south axis. There are several roads that cross the river at points which could have been the sites of earlier fords.

Old Sarum

Old Sarum

Nicholas of Idmiston

Whilst researching the origins of his family, the 19th century Masonic author and encyclopaedist, the Revd Adolphus Woodford (who was descended from the Northamptonshire Woodford family) commissioned research that led to `conclusive proof’ of a Woodford family descent from a Nicholas Woodford buried at Idmiston in Wiltshire in 1591. This material cannot be traced. However, it is worth noting that Idmiston is situated just seven miles east of the parish of Woodford. If the date of 1591 was an erroneous substitution for, perhaps, 1291, then this claim warrants further investigation.


K.H.Rogers, formerly Wiltshire County Archivist & Diocesan Records Officer (for information on Old Sarum).

For details of Adolphus Woodford see later page under his name.

Dictionary of English and Welsh Placenames.

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© Stephen Butt 2005 - rev 18/09/05